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Paulson drops 31 percent of body weight

Ray Paulson is two-thirds the man he was three months ago.

The Verndale resident dropped an astounding 86 pounds to become the 2008 Wadena's Biggest Loser. The weight loss is a 30.68 percent decrease from Paulson's starting weight of 280.6 pounds.

"I'm overwhelmed ... on winning this," he said. "But I give all my thanks to the Lord."

After receiving his prize Paulson addressed the audience gathered on Saturday morning at Wadena Evangelical Church, the host for the competition.

"I couldn't have done any of this without him," he said referring to God. "He was my counselor, my teacher and my coach."

Paulson also thanked his competitors for their motivation. Second-place finisher Dennis Castona, who won $500, and third-place finisher Geri Butler, who won $300, pushed him by keeping him wondering what they were going to do each week, he said.

Contest organizer Susan Mohs pointed out that anyone who thinks they're too old to lose weight should look at the winners.

"Our top two gentlemen are not spring chickens," she said, adding, "no offense."

To which the 56-year-old Paulson responded, "spring chicken legs," referring to his newly slimmed down limbs. An audience member gave an enthusiastic "woo-hoo."

Losing the weight was a full-time occupation for Paulson, who is retired from 31 years with Ford Motor Company. Neighborlyness, a punching bag and Snap Fitness all played a role in his impressive weight loss.

For the last six weeks of the competition his day started at 3:30 a.m. so he could help his neighbors on their farm. His neighbor's wife went in for major surgery and then his neighbor broke his arm, Paulson said.

"So they were both handicapped to do their chores," he said.

Paulson works in the summer helping local farmers, but he has the winters off, he said. So he chipped in with hauling grain, cleaning calf pens, cleaning the barn and feeding the elk.

"It was hard work," he said.

After two hours of chores he showered, and he and his wife went to Snap Fitness in Staples for two and a half hours before she went to work, he said. Then he went home and punched the heavy bag for an hour and a half before returning to Snap Fitness in the afternoon for two to three more hours.

"Luckily, I'm retired," he said. "If I had a job like some of these people have there's no way you could ever do this to the extent that I did."

Paulson's intense approach to losing weight extended to his eating habits.

He started off the competition by eating only 1,000 calories a day, he said. He later decreased that number to 750 and then to a mere 200 calories a day for the last week of the contest.

When addressing the audience, he admitted his extreme calorie cutting wasn't the right way to lose weight.

"I haven't eaten much and I don't feel real good," he said.

He quickly added, "But I feel good now," he said displaying his $5,000 check.

Paulson plans to pay for a motorcycle he recently purchased and pay his taxes with his prize money, he said. He is also going to give some money back to Wadena Evangelical. His wife can have the rest, he said.

Paulson is excited about the $5,000, but he said the real reward has been getting off diabetes and blood pressure medication.

Paulson's wife, Janet, is happy for her husband, she said.

"He's just got determination," she said. "Once he makes his mind up to do something he does it, he really does."

Paulson thanked her for helping him count calories and for working out with him.

"I helped him, but God helped him the most," Janet said.

And how was Paulson going to celebrate his big win?

A chocolate cake with chocolate frosting made by his wife awaited him at home, he said.

"I didn't eat on Easter and I didn't eat on my birthday," he said. "I'm going to make up for both of them today."

2008 Wadena's Biggest Loser top 10 finalists

1st place: Ray Paulson lost 86.1 pounds, 30.68 percent of his total body weight

2nd place: Dennis Castona lost 73.1 pounds, 27.88 percent of his total body weight

3rd place: Geri Butler lost 63.4 pounds, 27.08 percent of her total body weight

4th place: Mark Turner lost 77.4 pounds, 21.80 percent of his total body weight

5th place: Kristine Tellers lost 51.5 pounds, 20.84 percent of her total body weight

6th place: Sara Ross lost 36.9 pounds, 19.39 percent of her total body weight

7th place: Annette Lillquist lost 64.2 pounds, 19.35 percent of her total body weight

8th place: Ray Kern lost 73.8 pounds, 17.69 percent of his total body weight

9th place: John Gravelle lost 41.8 pounds, 16.58 percent of his total body weight

10th place: Connie Devault lost 29.71 pounds, 16.22 percent of her total body weight

The total weight loss for the top 10 contestants was 598 pounds for an average weight loss of 59.8 pounds per person. The 10th through 4th place winners each won a $100 cash prize. The total weight loss for all 74 contestants who started the competition was 1,332 pounds with an average weight loss of 18 pounds per person.

To see a complete list of the results and before and after photos go to