The Biggest Loser: Ararat takes new fitness craze seriously

THE residents of Ararat were insulted when they were told they had been chosen to star in a program focused on weight loss.

The city, which was labelled ‘Arafat’ by many, is now in the midst of a fitness craze, even after the last of the TV crews from The Biggest Loser have left town. 

In an interview with The Courier, Ararat Rural City mayor Paul Hooper said it was confronting to be told the city had been selected as the one of the perfect candidates for a show about losing weight and getting fit. 

“I was insulted, bloody oath I was,” he said. 

“A reasonable portion of our town took it that way, they were quite insulted and offended.

“While it hurts in the short term to be called ‘Arafat’, hopefully in the long term we might be looking at it and saying people are referring to us as ‘Arafit’.”

That hope might not be so far from the truth. 

The Courier visited the city earlier this week and spoke to dozens of residents about the lasting effect of the show. 

"I was insulted, bloody oath I was. A reasonable portion of our town were quite insulted and offended."

The large majority said they believed the city had changed for the better and there was a noticeable difference in the number of people exercising. 

“I can’t force people to get off their arse and walk,” Cr Hooper said. 

“These people have got off their backsides and are doing it by themselves and for themselves.

“They are bringing other people along for the journey.”

Part of the program involves 526 local residents who were all given pedometers to monitor their progress, however the show will focus mainly on 14 hand-picked contestants who will take up most of the screen time. 

“It will all be about them and they are very embarrassed about that. But it is not just about them,” Cr Hooper said. 

“It is about the 500-odd people, and more importantly all the encouragement and support everyone has put into those 500 people.”

The council has taken this opportunity to jump on board the fitness and health craze and is looking at various programs to ensure it doesn’t stop once the show has aired. 

“We want part of that to continue,” Cr Hooper said. “We are either serious about changing the culture of the place we live in, or we are not. 

“I am personally very committed to it and so is the previous mayor. 

“You might only get a chance like this once in a lifetime, to make a significant difference to the health of your community and there is no point doing it unless you are 100 per cent committed and doing it long term.” 

As people across the country sit down to watch the program on Sunday, Mr Hooper said the city would be preparing to hand out another 500 pedometers to residents as part of a state government initiative.

 Helen Brain, Ararat
"It is really up to the individual if they want to keep it up."
 Aimee Stewart, Ararat
"I am hopeful it keeps going, it is hard. It is up to people but I think local businesses need to encourage people as well."
 Mick Wallis, Ararat
"I have noticed an improvement, I get up early and have noticed on a daily basis, people are out exercising. It has been amazing."
 Jason Stocks, Ararat
"I know one of the guys on the show and he was in here the other day buying a truck tyre for his exercises, and that is off his own bat."
 Julie Munday, Ararat
"I think it will, I have a daughter who was doing the walking part and a granddaughter on the show and I know both of them are still doing it."
 Bertha Grant, Ararat
"It is really up to what you put in your mouth and it is still up to the individual."

matthew.dixon@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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