A County's Successful Meltdown

David Goldman, top, followed by his 9-year-old son Sean, waves as he boards a plane at the Galeao airport, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009.
AP
A northern California county is on a diet. More than 1,000 people have taken part in the eight-week countywide meltdown.

Tuesday night was the final group meeting, and the total county weight loss is a staggering 7,500 pounds.

It all began when local columnist Carole Carson, who was writing about her personal weight loss program, asked in her newspaper column for folks to join her. The meltdown took the town by storm.

Carson tells The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm, "I was pretty confident that I could maintain myself, I wondered if other people wanted to join us or join me and do the same thing I had done. I put a challenge out in the newspaper and, lo and behold, people showed up."

Everywhere in town, people were exercising and eating healthy, even sharing the ultimate secret - their weight.

Here's how the meltdown worked: People divided themselves up into teams of about five or so, such as the people in the workplace or neighbors, or Carson just arbitrarily put them together. The teams gave themselves names and would stay in touch all week, emailing, sharing recipes, diets etc. Everyone was able to go on any diet they wanted.

Then once a week, all the groups got together for a big countywide meltdown. It had the feel of a revival meeting or a huge Weight Watchers group. At the meetings, the groups stood up and disclosed how much weight they lost. Besides big applause, they got prizes and encouraging words from motivational speakers.

Carson ran all the meetings and helped find a speaker. And it all paid off. "At the end of eight weeks, we had lost 7,500 pounds," Carson says.

Fellow dieter Renee Lawson was one of the people who benefited from this meltdown. Proudly she says, "My group was Losing With Style. We lost 97 pounds. We won last night. We lost the most weight. There were five of us. And our way of doing it was we just ate less and moved more and really encouraged each other because if you don't have someone to help you, you're not going to lose the weight."

Lots of gyms gave discounts or free memberships for the duration of the meltdown. Several restaurants started meltdown menus. And even the mayor of one of the towns joined and publicly promised to lose 100 pounds.

Lawson says having the support from the whole town helped a lot. She says, "When you would go to a store, when you would go anywhere, there was a meltdowner watching you and they knew what was in your grocery cart and you could not go to a restaurant without somebody knowing what you were eating. When your whole community is watching you, you're going to lose some pounds."

Many of the dieters say they will continue on with their group past the meltdown. In addition to losing weight, people are promising to stick with the exercise and the healthier eating. It's a big lifestyle change and people hope to stick with it.

Carson says, "From day one, this project has had a life of its own. We're already planning phase two. We'll meet in a week to begin to take it to the next level. We know the best is yet to come. We're just getting started."