Guard weighs in as diet winner

Washougal mayor edges Camas leader in yearlong contest




Camas resident Laina Harris receives prizes Saturday for losing the most weight -- 93 pounds -- in the yearlong "Camas and Washougal on a Diet" competition. The contest was led by Camas Mayor Scott Higgins, left, and Washougal Mayor Sean Guard.

WASHOUGAL — After Mayor Sean Guard was declared the weight-loss winner Saturday over Camas Mayor Scott Higgins by the slimmest of margins, he got on his bicycle and pedaled over to Amnesia Brewing for a victory pint.

Giving up trying to enjoy light beer will be the only thing he changes following the end of “Camas and Washougal on a Diet,” Guard joked. As for other healthy swaps — snacking on vegetables instead of chips, riding a stationary bike while watching television instead of sitting on a couch — he’ll stay the course.

Higgins agreed.

“It’s a journey that I’m going to keep doing,” Higgins said.

Guard, 50, lost 17 pounds during the 12-month campaign, dropping from 235 to 217.

Higgins, 41, lost 20 pounds, from 300 to 280. At 6-foot-1, he’s four inches taller than Guard and so percentage-wise, Guard won by one point.

Approximately 450 community members joined the mayors in the challenge, which was capped Saturday with a 5K run/walk.

Washougal residents, on average, lost 4.4 pounds while Camas residents averaged a three-pound loss.

Both mayors had hoped to lose more weight, and acknowledged their ups and downs over past year. The announcement of their initiative made national news as an example of what communities are doing in the face of a national obesity crisis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2011, two-thirds of adults in Washington are overweight or obese.

In Clark County, two-thirds of adults and a quarter of children are overweight or obese.

According to body mass index, a way of estimating body fat based on height and weight, both mayors are still considered obese.

Outside of the number on the scale, they noticed other positive changes.

Three months into the challenge, Guard said, his cholesterol dropped 25 points. His blood pressure — once so high he wasn’t allowed to donate blood — was no longer a concern.

Higgins said his cholesterol and blood pressure numbers had never been a problem. Once he started eating healthier food and smaller portions, however, he noticed he had considerably more energy.

Higgins said he felt the pressure of having everyone in the community knowing he was trying to shed pounds and people constantly asking him about his progress.

“You don’t want to lie,” said Higgins, a minister. Higgins said he’ll keep trying to take 10,000 steps a day and making healthier food choices, keeping his breakfast a blend of low-fat cottage cheese and Greek yogurt and having salads at lunch.

Both mayors worked with trainers, an approach that also helped Liz Stiles, 58, who logged the most miles out of the residents who joined the challenge. She was acknowledged for walking 821 miles, but said she really walked 1,800 miles. She just stopped officially logging her miles after she reached her goal. She said having a friend to walk with was a great motivator. Her trainer, Karen Bell of KT Bell Fitness & Nutrition in Washougal, also provided much-needed encouragement during weekly visits.

“She gave me moral support when I would have only lost three-tenths of a pound,” said Stiles, who lost 64 pounds during the challenge.

93-pound winner

The overall weight-loss winner was Laina Harris, a Camas woman who once weighed as much as 420 pounds and whose transformation has been chronicled in The Columbian. Harris has lost 93 pounds in the past year, and was rewarded Saturday with a $500 gift certificate for Camas boutique Lily Atelier. Other prizes will enable Harris to get her teeth cleaned and whitened at Orchard Hills Dental, her hair cut and colored at Hair by Krystee and take five free yoga sessions at Body Bliss in Washougal.

Organizers of the challenge, Michelle Clark of Fat2Fit Northwest and Stephanie Millman, said Saturday that they will keep scheduling walks, runs and other community events to keep people inspired.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or