470-plus pound Rockland man rallies community in weight loss effort

Posted Oct. 27, 2010, at 2:54 p.m.

At almost 473 pounds, Chad Ridge, 36, of Rockland says people always are giving him advice on how to shed some of that weight. They tell him to try specific diets, get gastric bypass surgery or try out for NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” It’s taken some time, but he’s listening now and has begun his weight-loss quest, which started by creating an audition tape for “The Biggest Loser,” but quickly is growing to be much more.

“I’m an outgoing person,” Ridge said. “People tell me I’m funny, so I guess it was natural for me to audition for the show.”

After attending an open audition in Boston, “The Biggest Loser” casting directors encouraged Ridge to send in a tape. With help from Rick Winslow of Wav Media in Rockland, Ridge created a video and uploaded it to YouTube, where it got more than 2,000 views in a week.

Ridge and his boss, Jim Gamage, owner of All Aboard Trollies and Limousine, devised a support plan in case Ridge didn’t make the cut for “The Biggest Loser.”

After finding out that he didn’t make the show, Ridge said he decided to create his own weight-loss regimen and started the Chad Ridge Right Choice Challenge.

Ridge said Rockland community members have inspired him to take the first step to try to lose weight.

“This has become bigger than the TV show and bigger than me. I have to find some way to lose the weight,” Ridge said.

Working with a team of four, all of whom donate their time, Ridge plans to implement a more healthful lifestyle and lose 200 pounds in two years. His team includes John Jeffers, a local psychiatrist and life coach, Steve Roberts, an artist and “life coach by trade,” Gamage and Winslow.

Daily workouts include a 6:15 a.m. walk along Rockland’s boardwalk and a noon walk on Main Street. Community members are invited to join Ridge on his mile-long walks. He said local running and walking clubs already have reached out to him.

On his first official walk Friday, Oct. 15, Ridge said he was met with lots of community support.

“It means the world to me. It’s overwhelming. It’s not just those four people, it’s the community. I have people honking their horn, waving at me from restaurants, coming out of their businesses to congratulate me,” Ridge said. “The support is coming from everyone in the community.”

The Trade Winds Motor Inn donated its pool and fitness facilities to Ridge, and he is hoping a licensed personal trainer will donate services and help him develop a weightlifting plan. Ridge also works with psychologists from Pen Bay Healthcare to help him with the mental aspects of his weight loss endeavor.

The Chad Ridge Right Choice Challenge also includes monthly challenges. The first is at 9 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 7. Pending clearance from a doctor that he is healthy enough, Ridge will walk the Mount Battie auto road.

“I don’t expect everyone to walk the mountain with me, that’s my personal challenge, but if they’re at the top as I come over the hill, or at the halfway point, it will mean a lot,” Ridge said. “If I can do that at 472 pounds, that’s a huge undertaking and I hope it will motivate other people to do the same thing.”

Ridge said he hopes the challenges will become community-oriented, such as raking the yard of an elderly person or repairing the Rockland boardwalk. He hopes that by spring, he will be able to start a softball league.

“One thing people don’t realize is that for obese people, it’s uncomfortable to be around people while playing sports because I sweat a lot and smell bad. If we had a league, hopefully, people would feel more comfortable,” Ridge said.

Ridge said he wouldn’t be able to do this without the support from others, so he wants to pay it forward.

“It’s more than just obesity. I’ve talked to people who have cancer, alcohol problems, depression; they’re all motivated by this story,” Ridge said. “They say they’re motivated to take care of themselves, because every choice helps.”

To watch Chad Ridge’s progress, visit www.chadridge.com.

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