Philadelphia — Naomi Williams has experienced a major loss, and she couldn't be happier about it.
"I started out at 240 pounds, and today I'm 159," said Williams, who received a miniature Liberty Bell on Tuesday for being the biggest loser among 20,000 Philadelphians who exercised and cut calories in a five-month campaign to shed the city's image as a bunch of fatties stuffing their faces with cheesesteaks, hoagies, Tastykake pastries and pork scrapple.
The 76 Tons of Fun campaign began Feb. 7 with the goal of getting Philadelphians to lose a collective 76 tons in 76 days. But the program was extended as more corporate sponsors and participants signed on.
The city ultimately decided to hold the final weigh-in on Tuesday. Participants were stepping on the scales all day, with their lost poundage to be tallied by today.
Williams joined a gym in January but became motivated by the city's campaign.
"Now I work out five days a week. I have a personal trainer. I stay away from pretzels, pasta and a lot of carbohydrates," the 45-year-old lawyer said. "And I feel great."
Louise A. Bungy, 45, dropped from 205 pounds to 154 pounds in 18 months.
"I ate everything: fried chicken, cheesesteaks, you name it, I ate it," she said. She credited the campaign with giving her the idea to take a brisk 30-minute walk every day with her co-workers.
In 1999, Men's Fitness magazine pronounced Philadelphia the nation's fattest metropolis, based on the number of fast-food joints and health clubs.
The city teamed up with basketball's Philadelphia 76ers on the weight-loss campaign, highlighting ways of shedding pounds and giving participants charts to track their progress. Health clubs offered discounts, businesses sponsored lunch-hour workouts and restaurants offered leaner dishes.
"We've got the greatest restaurants, we love good food, but we were too fat," 57-year-old Mayor John F. Street, who weighed around 250 pounds as a young man and is now down to about 190.