Camas, Washougal mayors halfway to better health

Six months into weight-loss challenge, each man has lost more than 8% of body weight

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Six months into a yearlong weight-loss challenge and Mayors Sean Guard and Scott Higgins have each shed more than 8 percent of their body weight.

In May, Guard, the mayor of Washougal, and Higgins, Camas' mayor, helped launched the Camas and Washougal on a Diet campaign aimed at tackling the growing obesity numbers that are reaching epidemic proportions across the country.

Last weekend, the duo celebrated the six-month point by joining the second annual Everyone Walk event at Camas High School. The 24-hour walk, which began at 9 a.m. Saturday, was led by assistant Camas football coach Dale Rule, who has lost 140 pounds, mostly due to walking.

Guard walked eight hours at the event Saturday, cutting his walking short due to achy muscles and blistered feet. In his six hours of walking at the event, Higgins logged 20.4 miles.

Saturday's festivities also included an official weigh-in for the mayors. At the event launch, Guard weighed 235 pounds. Higgins weighed in at 300 pounds.

Now halfway into the campaign, Guard is down 20 pounds, equal to losing 8.5 percent of his body weight, and Higgins is down 25 pounds, an 8.3 percent loss.

Higgins' weight crept up a few pounds since the last weigh-in at Camas Days in late July, while Guard shaved off a few more pounds.

"I weighed in a little higher than Camas Days, and that's reflective of having a tough summer," Higgins said. "But it was also motivation to get more focused."

Higgins said he's lost weight, then gained it back in the past. He stays focused on the shorter efforts -- the 10- or 12-week weight-loss blitzes — but struggles with staying on course for longer terms. Higgins has struggled to regain his diet and exercise discipline since going on a family cruise in August.

"The other times I've been successful, it's been like it was my full-time job to lose weight," Higgins said. "This is different. All my other full-time jobs are taking precedent."

The last few months have been difficult for Guard, too. Particularly, the end-of-summer barbecues.

Guard's plan since the beginning has been to make small changes that he can sustain, rather than implement radical diets or exercise regimes.

"The little changes are becoming habits, and I think that's where I'm catching Scott," Guard said.

Those little changes include walking more than what's needed for day-to-day activities, drinking water rather than soda and cutting fast food out of his diet. He's substituted light beers for micro brews and swapped before-dinner snacks of chips and salsa for carrots and broccoli. And rather than another slice of pizza at dinner, Guard said he opts for an additional helping of vegetables.

Guard said his adjustments aren't only paying off on the scale; at a recent doctor's appointment, Guard learned his cholesterol was down 50 points.

Guard and Higgins already have a game plan ready for the approaching cooler and wetter months.

Guard has a stationary bike in the family room so he can ride the bike while he watches TV. Higgins has a treadmill and a stationary bike in his home.

The Camas and Washougal on a Diet organizers will also shift gears and offer more free indoor events for the community, said Michelle Clark, a health coach for the campaign. Organizers are also working with the Camas and Washougal school districts to launch a kids program, she said.

The challenge website has a calendar with upcoming events, healthful recipes, exercise suggestions and nutrition information. The site also provides free, confidential profiles where community members can track their own exercise and weight loss.

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