Eight weeks ago, Diane Thomas and Kristen Carmona were complete strangers and wouldn’t have given each other a second look if they crossed paths at the grocery store.

Now, the two women are not only friends, but Heritage Park Fitness’ Biggest Losers.

“When people were picking their partners, we saw each other in the parking lot and decided to partner up,” Thomas said. “We both wanted to be healthier and lose some weight and we knew it wouldn’t be easy.”

The duo lost a combined average of 8.3 percent body fat, earning them the top spot in this year’s contest.

“We are ready for the next challenge,” Carmona said. “I’m now off my blood pressure medication, and I can fit into clothes I couldn’t fit into before. I’m motivated to keep going.”

The competition kicked off Jan. 13, and participants had their “before” photos taken, body fat measured and weight recorded.

“In the past, first and second place were pretty close, but this year they were the clear winners,” said Kristen Dunlap, the gym’s wellness coordinator. “We are super proud of them.”

Of the 96 people who signed up, 57 finished the challenge.

With the contest now in its sixth year, gym owner Mike Sheppard decided to change the format and add the team component.

“We kept motivating each other,” Thomas said of what kept them on track. “I am so much stronger now than when we started. I lost fat and gained muscle.”

After experiencing dizzy spells earlier this year, Carmona, a 35-year-old mother of two, finally forced herself to see a doctor.

“I was told my blood pressure was ‘through the roof,’ and the doctor said if I dropped some weight it would help with the blood pressure,” Carmona said about her “aha moment.” “I was shocked. I’ve never had high blood pressure. It was time for a change.”

Determined to make that change, she called her insurance company and found out that between her high blood pressure and current BMI percentage, she qualified for weight-loss surgery.

However, in order for her to have the procedure, her doctor said she needed to exercise and eat right before she could go under the knife.

During the eight-week challenge, Carmona and Thomas hit the gym six days a week, alternating between cardio and weight training.

“You can work your butt off in the gym, but if you don’t change the way you eat, it will all be for nothing,” Carmona said.

The winning team took home gold medals, a plaque and a weekend getaway to Dallas.

“People just need to get moving and make a change,” Thomas said.

Contact Vanessa Lynch at vlynch@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7567.

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