Big-time weight losers visit BlueCross BlueShield in Chattanooga

Big-time weight losers visit BlueCross BlueShield in Chattanooga

September 18th, 2013 by Alex Green in Local Regional News

Dave Nielsen, left, participates in an introductory fitness class with employees Jean Cooper, center, and Tara Linehart at the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee fitness center in Chattanooga. Nielsen and his twin sister, Rebecca, both former contestants on the television show "Extreme Weight Loss," participated in fitness classes with employees to help draw new people to try a class at the fitness center.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.


• Find partners: Find people who support your weight loss. Be accountable to them.

• Adopt the 90/10 rule: Eat right, exercise right 90 percent of the time, allow yourself 10 percent wiggle room.

• Allow high-intake days: Give yourself a higher-calorie intake day, and work out harder the next day to offset the extra calories.

• Remember stumble doesn't equal fail: Don't let a slip-up derail your entire effort. Bounce back, continue good habits.

• Gain momentum: Get positive momentum and keep it. Maintenance is hard, but keep making progress.

David Nielsen and his twin sister Rebecca together tipped the scales at 850 pounds when they bravely agreed to participate on ABC's reality show "Extreme Weight Loss" more than a year ago.

The siblings, who dropped a combined 418 pounds, told employees at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee on Tuesday that none of the weight loss journey was easy, and no one should expect it to be.

"Your problems don't go away just because you lose the weight," Rebecca said. "Everyday we live our life like an alcoholic who has to live in a bar."

BlueCross employees shook their heads, sometimes in agreement, sometimes in pity and sometimes in disbelief as the Nielsens -- Prairie View, Wis., natives -- shared their story.

Both were in college when the yearlong filming of their effort began. They each took a hiatus from classes to commit full time to weight loss, a necessary sacrifice, they acknowledged.

Sara Martin-Rauch, wellness program coordinator at BlueCross, said the company brought the Nielsens in because they are an "inspiration" to people who battle weight problems.

"These are people who had a lot of barriers to overcome," she said.

The Nielsens' message was part motivation and encouragement. Taking weight loss one day at a time, staying on the wagon and continually working at healthy eating and exercising will gradually produce results. They reminded their audience that they didn't lose hundreds of pounds overnight.

"Commitment is what's important," Rebecca told a morning lecture crowd.

Commitment doesn't come by losing a bunch of weight on a fad diet, either, they said.

Success comes by making goals and reaching them. David said at the office where he worked, he would stroll by the snack table, pick up a doughnut and throw it in the trash.

"That's a major victory," he said.

To reach their exercise goals, the two made up games. When pumping gas, they continually see how many laps one can make around the car before the tank is full. It started out as eight. Now it's up to 30-plus.

David admits soda is his weakness. At lunch Tuesday, he had a protein bar and caffeine-free Pepsi in the BlueCross cafeteria.

He and Rebecca said going to a restaurant like McDonald's is tough, even if it's only for one drink. It's a blessing and a curse, they said.

"It keeps us honest," Rebecca said.

And staying true is really what it is important. Staying true even if there's a slip-up on eating right. Staying true even if it means getting a phone call every morning at 4:01 a.m. to hear it's gym time.

"It's all about that momentum," David said.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at or 423-757-6731.