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BIGGEST LOSER: 2018 winners announced
by MATTHEW CHRISTIAN
 
FLORENCE, S.C. - Thursday will be a day that Brian Kress will never forget. In addition to March 29 being his birthday, Kress found out Thursday evening that he was Florence’s Biggest Loser of 2018.

Katie Cullen won the category of most inches lost.

Florence’s Biggest Loser is a 10-week competition sponsored by the United Way’s Burn and Learn Initiative, which provides fitness training, nutrition advice, and other support to Florence residents who sign up for the competition.

Going into Thursday night’s finale at the Leatherman Senior Center, Kress knew he was in the running for the Biggest Loser award. Each week, the competitors are shown a list of the top 20 competitors who have lost the most percentage of weight. The competitors were not, however, shown the amount of weight that they were losing so he wasn’t quite sure he would be at the very top at the finale.

“I had a pretty good idea that there was a high likelihood that I would win, but there’s still a chance that somebody [else] could [win],” Kress said. “So I felt pretty good about the weight loss.”

He lost 50.8 pounds.

A few minutes before 7:30 p.m., United Way director of marketing and initiatives Rachel Baggett ended any thought that Kress had of a last minute surprise winner by calling Kress’s name to announce him as the Biggest Loser of 2018. As winner, Kress was given $500 courtesy of Health Facilities Credit Union.

As Kress sat back down after a brief speech, the other competitors sang happy birthday to him.

Winning the Biggest Loser award, Kress said, was only the first step for him to change his lifestyle. He hopes to one day have a “six pack” of abs.
Kress’s father and mother, Bill and Nancy Kress, were at the finale Wednesday at the Leatherman Senior Center.

“It was quite a change,” Bill Kress said after the finale.

He said obesity has been related to many health problems and he was glad his son had taken steps to improve the quality of his life.
Brian Kress planned to sign up for the competition in 2017 but had a sudden change of plans when a job move forced him to temporarily relocate to Charleston. He heard about the competition on the radio and decided to sign up to improve his life and physique. Kress had played soccer in high school and for two years of college and did not like the shape his body had taken in recent years.

For 10 weeks, Kress committed himself to eating right and exercising.

“Probably the thing that helped me the most is being very careful about what I eat and eating regularly,” Kress said. “I eat six times a day because I always want to keep my metabolism going so that my body is constantly burning the fat.”

Three other competitors received awards Wednesday night.

Katie Cullen lost the most inches around her waist, 16, in the competition. A mother of 16-month old twins, Cullen found it difficult to get into the routine of going to the gym and exercising. Thanks to the competition, Cullen is now in the habit of exercising three to four times a week.

Windy Sitton won the true grit award for the competitor who showed the most heart during the 10 weeks. Sitton and Kress had a friendly competition during the 10 weeks, something she believed push Kress to victory.

Michael Hesbach won the fan favorite award for raising the most money for United Way. Hesbach raised $632 for the organization.

Overall 54 competitors participated. Combined, the competitors lost 893 pounds, lost 535 inches around their waists and raised over $19,000 for United Way in 10 weeks.
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