Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Regina Vella, left, and Tracey Reidy, right, applaud for Vicki Rice as she reacts to being named the winner of Gwinnett's Losing It on Thursday. The 12-week weight loss competition was started by Sandi Porter as a way for local Gwinnettians to lead healthier lifestyles.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Vicki Rice's goal was to be comfortably wearing her version of the proverbial "little black dress" come Thursday night, as she gathered with 12 new friends and their families.
She made it.
In the finale ceremony held at 550 Trackside in Lawrenceville, Rice was named the winner of Gwinnett's Losing It, a 12-week weight loss competition aimed at achieving emotional and physical well-being.
The Grayson resident lost 26 pounds and 16 inches, celebrating her new title with a dozen fellow contestants.
"Now I just know that if I do it from my heart and if I set my mind to this is what I'm going to do," Rice said, "the rest will just fall into place."
The competition was put into place by Sandi Porter, the founder of local fitness organization Start With the Inside. True to its name, Porter's fitness philosophy centers on first finding emotional peace.
For Gwinnett's Losing It contestants, it must have worked -- during the quick, 12-week period, they lost a combined 253 pounds.
"It was a chance for them to see they're not alone in this journey," Porter said.
Alongside Rice, there was Kriss Johnson, a grandmother who has now competed in her first two 5Ks. There was Lori Anderson, who lost more than 20 pounds and is no longer on blood pressure medicine.
Mickey Hamilton, the lone man competing, lost an "untold" number of inches and a group-best 52 pounds.
Johnson, also the reigning champion of "Atlanta's Biggest Loser," stressed that the contest was just the beginning.
"It is not over for us," she said. "We will be continuing, we will be accountable, and we aren't stopping."
Rather than the focus being placed solely on the sheer weight lost, a winner was decided after the three-judge panel weighed four criteria: weight loss, before and after photos, a series of personal essays and regular progress reports.
"I have done every weight loss program there is out there," Rice said. "Believe me, I have done them all. But to take Sandi's philosophies and to look at me, what are my problems, how do I correct myself ... I can't put it into words."
Rice said Thursday that she was waking up early this morning to drive to Charleston, S.C. -- to compete in her first 10K race.
"You already have the prize that you need," Porter said. "You have your body, and you have your life back."
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