In what seems like the crazy plot from the next big reality TV show, Shape Your World Society is giving 30 women in Langley the opportunity to improve their health, fitness and self-confidence in a dramatic way.
The society’s Total Makeover Challenge, which kicks off Jan. 19, is a four-month development journey where women will receive free fitness training, weight-loss coaching, financial makeovers, organization seminars, businesses seminars, personal-growth classes and much more.
Open to all women ages 19 and up, “it’s supporting the inner as well as the outer,” said Anita Voth, Langley City co-ordinator and board member.
“It’s not a beauty pageant. Sometimes it can kind of look like that, because you get free hair (styling), and free makeup and you get to lose weight. And honestly, a lot of the women enter because they want to lose weight, and they’re not thinking about the inner stuff.
“But once they get in and start working on themselves and working with other women all going towards the same goal, that’s when the inner stuff becomes more important to them than the outer.”
For some women, the challenge has been transformational. Since it began in Abbotsford eight years ago, many participants have gone on to change careers, run marathons or volunteer with charities, Voth said.
“It’s really fun when we watch the transformation of these women,” she said.
“One woman, who will be speaking at this year’s event, won second place and she went on to volunteer with BC Games. She said she would never have had the confidence to do something like that before the program.”
The Total Makeover Challenge is divided into three segments, with many seminars and challenges in between, to help the women in different aspects of their lives.
The first, titled The Biggest Loser, is focused on creating workout routines, receiving nutritional advice and changing eating habits. After six weeks, each participant’s results will be evaluated and 15 will be chosen to go on to the next round.
In the second segment — The Apprentice — the women are divided into groups of five to organize a fundraising event. They must pick a team leader, write a business plan and learn to work with each other to pull the event off in just a three-week period.
Many of the women also have full time jobs and have to care for their families while doing this.
“The focus in The Apprentice is three teams doing these fundraising events, but they are still working out (and) they’re still getting nutritional talks along the way,” Voth said.
“It’s adding more. They get really busy in the second segment.”
After this challenge, the top five are announced at a cocktail dinner, and one previously eliminated participant will be brought back into competition as a wild card.
In the last segment — Top Model — the final six ladies receive Toastmasters lessons, learn how to walk confidently and how to dress for their body types, learn hair and makeup tips, and receive a free photoshoot.
All of this leads up to the final event, a fashion show, where the winner will be announced.
“They have their new body’s now, but it’s more about their new confidence and all the things they’ve learned making them into a stronger woman,” Voth said.
“Most of them would never in a million years get up and do a fashion show at the beginning of the program, and now they’re doing it.”
The winner receives a getaway for two, a gym membership and a professional photoshoot — and all on top of nearly $30,000 in donated prizes that all of the contestants earn along the way.
“It’s hard because some weeks they’re exhausted, and they have families and they’re adding this to already busy schedules,” Voth said.
“After they do it, then they go ‘oh okay, that’s what it did in me. That’s why it pushed those buttons.’ And the funds they raise go to next year’s challenge, so all of the stuff they get is because the girls last year did all of the fundraising for them.
“That’s the pay it forward part.”
This is also the first year the Total Makeover Challenge has expanded to Langley, and Voth says the support from both the business community and past contestants has been “amazing.”
“Women love to be with other women in supporting each other, so we can all try to lose weight on our own, or take a personal development course on our own, or try Toastmasters, but there’s no program that combines all those things together — and for free,” Voth said.
“I think honestly everyone needs a total makeover —everyone would love it.
“It just gives you a whole new network of friends and a network of community because of all the businesses that are supporting it. And when you feel that community, you give back to that community. That’s why a lot of the women move on to volunteers with different things.”
Applications to participate in this year’s Total Makeover Challenge are being accepted until Jan. 15 and are available online at http://langley.totalmakeoverchallenge.com/. Cost is $30 to apply.
“You have to be ready for this,” Voth warned.
“Not every woman who wants to lose weight is ready for something like this. They have to be ready to put themselves out there and be real and to go through a transformation.”
Photo: Naomi Hughlett was last year’s winner of the Total Makeover Challenge in Abbotsford. The photo on the left shows Hughlett before starting the challenge, and the photo on the right shows her four months after. Credit: Submitted images.