BELCOURT The diabetes prevention program on the Turtle Mountain Reservation here will be resuming what has become a much talked-about challenge.
The third annual Total Body Transformation Challenge, which challenges tribal members to become more healthy by losing weight, is scheduled to begin Feb. 1.
"This challenge is to give motivation to our enrolled people," said Jessica Ferris, a diabetes educator with the Turtle Mountain Tribal Diabetes Prevention Program. "This promotes self-esteem, it helps you feel better about yourself. It's just going to help them all the way around."
The idea was brought in by Vincent McCloud, a former tribal councilman, in 2010, to promote health and fitness, and the tribal diabetes program picked it up, Ferris said.
The way it works is that a person can enter for $20 students enrolled in the Turtle Mountain Community Schools are exempt from this fee and the initial weigh-ins will start on Feb. 1 and continue through Feb. 10. Weigh-ins are held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the program's office, located in the tribal fitness center. Contestants are allowed to miss one weigh-in, but the first and last weigh-ins are mandatory, Ferris said. The contest is six months long, with the final weigh-in happening on Aug. 10.
From her office, which is located in the tribal fitness center, Ferris said that she can witness a lot of competitors working out in the center. Exercise, as well as diet, are the two key factors to gaining the upper hand in the challenge.
"It has to be both," she said. "You can't just diet because you have to tone yourself up."
The contest is broken down into four different age groups -- ages 12 to 17, 18 to 35, 36 to 55, and 56 and older -- split between the men and women.
The prevalence of diabetes among American Indians is high, and the Turtle Mountain Reservation is no exception. Ferris noted that diabetes is a problem on the reservation: about 10 percent of the tribal population on the reservation have diabetes, and more than 50 percent of the total population on the Turtle Mountains are overweight or obese. Ferris believes these numbers are in relation to about 17,000 that live on the reservation.
The overall results of the contest have been phenomenal, Ferris said.
"One lady lost six inches around her waist, six inches around her hips and she lost 36 percent body fat," she said, regarding a contestant from last year's competition.
The rewards of the challenge are not only health-related, but financial, too. The total raised from registration is then split, 50-50, with each half going to the top winners between the male and female categories, Ferris said.