Camas, Washougal aim to kick weight

Cities launch yearlong weight-loss challenge

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Camas Mayor Scott Higgins and Washougal Mayor Sean Guard faced off Wednesday, belly to belly, to encourage their communities to take control of their health.

The two leaders came together at Capt. William Clark Park in Washougal to launch the yearlong community weight-loss challenge, “Camas and Washougal On A Diet.” Sparked by the national obesity epidemic, the challenge will offer free nutrition seminars, community activities and daily exercise events in an effort to help residents of the two communities lose 10,000 pounds in 12 months.

At Wednesday’s event launch, the mayors each stepped on the scale at the park, and Guard announced their starting weights to the crowd of a couple dozen people. Guard weighed in at 235 pounds. Higgins weighed 300 pounds. They then took an inaugural walk along the dike.

“I’m excited that in a year from now, I’m going to look different than I do now,” Guard said.

Guard’s family has always had challenges with excess weight, he said, so Guard never tried to go on a diet or lose weight. But, over the years, the weight has started to catch up with him, he said.

Guard will work with health coach Michelle Clark, executive director of Fat2Fit Northwest, to drop the extra weight while maintaining his busy schedule. Guard’s goal is to lose 50 pounds by his 50th birthday on Aug. 10.

“I want to see people out exercising,” he said. “I want to be one

of those that’s out here moving.”

Higgins said he joined the challenge for several reasons.

“The first reason’s pretty obvious,” Higgins said. “Look at me.”

In addition, Higgins said he plans to lead the city’s nearly 150 employees through the challenge. The city’s health insurer offers a 2 percent discount for employers with wellness programs and events in place, which means savings for the city.

On a personal level, Higgins, 40, said losing weight will help improve his energy levels as he juggles a busy schedule as a mayor, minister, husband and father.

Higgins will work with personal trainer Ashley Clinton, who operates her own personal training business.

While the mayors of the neighboring cities are the faces of the campaign, the communities’ residents are also invited to join the challenge.

The challenge website allows community members to create their own free, confidential profile where users can document their starting height and weight and keep a diet and exercise journal.

Local businesses are also joining the effort. All Pride Fitness in Washougal, Fearn Natural Health on 192nd Avenue and Advocare in Camas are offering to measure and weigh anyone participating in the challenge. Fearn Natural Health is also hosting free nutrition seminars every Tuesday from 6 to 6:45 p.m. and Wednesday lunchtime walks, starting at noon at the business.

Volunteer dog walkers and their four-legged friends from the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society will meet at Capt. William Clark Park everyday at 11:45 a.m. to walk with anyone who wants a companion. And every Wednesday at 6 p.m. the Camas Bike Shop will lead a bicycle ride on city trails.

The website has a calendar with more upcoming events, including 5Ks with the mayors, walking groups and a kids adventure camp. The site also offers healthful recipes, exercise suggestions and nutrition information.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com.