PORTLAND, Maine — Fans of “The Biggest Loser” don’t have to fly to California or sweat it out with a celebrity trainer to win the battle of the bulge in 2012.

Maine’s own version of the NBC reality show, minus the TV cameras, will kick off Jan. 1, 2012, with a weigh-in at the Portland office of Dr. Lou Jacobs, who organizes the annual weight loss challenge. Last year, 132 people took part, and participants have shed thousands of pounds since the event kicked off five years ago, Jacobs said.

“They remove medicines from their cabinets,” he said. “They adopt healthy changes that they stick with.”

To compete in the three-month program, participants pay a $25 entry fee that’s used to fund two grand prizes based on the highest percentage of body weight lost and greatest overall transformation.

If the challenge reaches 300 participants in 2012, the April 1 payoff will total $7,500, enough to quell the common complaint that “The Biggest Loser” participants get to skip work for three months and focus solely on weight loss, Jacobs said. The payoff breaks down to $2,500 a month, a full paycheck for many, he said.

“The two resolutions people have are to make more money and to lose weight, and hopefully this year we’ll be doing both,” he said.

Last year, two winners each took home $1,650 in prize money. Jason Tupper lost 68 pounds and nearly 25 percent of his body weight, while Jake Whitaker dropped 83 pounds, more than any other challenge participant. This year’s challenge is dedicated to Whitaker, who died in November after a battle with lymphoma.

Jacobs, a chiropractor and acupuncturist, said he established the program on an impulse but as part of a longstanding effort to return common sense and prevention to a health care system fraught with quick fixes and pills.

“It was last minute,” he said. “I was watching ‘[The] Biggest Loser’ and I was like, ‘I should do this for my patients.’”

Beyond weight loss, the program is built on motivating, educating and inspiring participants, Jacobs said. He has teamed up with Health Coaches of Portland to offer participants classes, discounted services and expert advice on topics from goal-setting to nutrition.

“We want to give people the willpower and the excitement to take the first step,” Jacobs said.

For more information on the weight loss challenge, visit www.weightlosschallengeme.com.

Jackie Farwell

I'm the health editor for the Bangor Daily News, a Bangor native, a UMaine grad, and a weekend crossword warrior. I never get sick of writing about Maine people, geeking out over health care data, and...