01/19/04 — Barkley and team win weight challenge

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Barkley and team win weight challenge

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on January 19, 2004 2:02 PM

Monika Barkley of Goldsboro and her weight-loss team won the Dr. Phil weight-loss challenge today.

This means each team member can take someone with them on a four-day trip to a spa of their choice. The trip is worth $7,000.

The results, which aired today, were actually taped last week.

News-Argus reporter Barbara Arntsen visited Mrs. Barkley in Los Angeles last week.

LOS ANGELES -- The elevator doors slide open in a posh Los Angeles hotel, and Monika Barkley of Goldsboro bursts out, clad in form-fitting blue jeans and a clingy tan shirt.

She walks confidently through the lobby of the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel, high-heeled sandals clicking lightly on the marbled floor.

Mrs. Barkley settles briefly on the red amoeba-patterned sofa, grinning widely while she pulls off one of her shoes.

"Aren't these the coolest shoes?" she asks. "They're my Christmas gift from the Dr. Phil show."

The Italian leather sandals, sporting a fancy designer signature on one heel, were bought with a gift certificate from the show.

In September, Mrs. Barkley was one of 13 people selected from over 7,000 entries nationwide to participate in Dr. Phil McGraw's Weight Loss Challenge. The 13 members were split into two teams, and team members offered support to one another through e-mails and phone calls.

All of the participants travel to Los Angeles at least once a month to tape shows documenting their weight-loss progress. Those shows are later aired on Dr. Phil's television program.

At the taping this week, the participants will learn which team lost the most weight over the holidays. The winners will walk away with an all-expense paid spa vacation for two worth $7,000.

"We weigh in tomorrow morning," Mrs. Barkley says, "but we won't know the results until the next day, when it's filmed. We were told that we're running neck and neck."

Mrs. Barkley's team has elected to hold a strategy session tonight in one of the hotel rooms. All the participants are known only by their first names.

Jim, a disc-jockey for a Chicago radio station, is pulling on a new pair of boots as the others begin to file into his hotel room. Team members spend a few minutes comparing their new shoes.

Jim takes control of the meeting.

"We are all within one or two pounds of the other team," Jim announces. "I don't want anyone to freak out. Be proud of what we've all done. If it's not good enough to win the vacation, that's OK."

OK or not, the competitiveness is evident in the hotel room as team members throw out ideas ranging from imbibing a "California Colonic Cleanser" to showing up at the weigh-in in their bathing suits.

Finally the team members reluctantly agree that these ideas aren't in keeping with the seven keys outlined in Dr. Phil's book.

The team, except for Mrs. Barkley, agrees to wake up early to do a half-hour of cardiovascular exercise.

"I swell after doing cardio," she says. "I'll do my cardio tonight."

But they all agree that they'll show up to the weigh-in hungry and thirsty because any extra weight could cost them the competition.

The next day the 13 participants are up early to head over for a full day of filming at the studio. The first order of business is the weigh-in.

"We didn't get to even see what we weighed," Mrs. Barkley said later. "They blindfolded us and led us in, one at a time."

By Monday night, the weight loss participants are tired from a full day at the studio, but they still have the show to tape on Tuesday.

At the studio

A long line has already formed outside the Paramount Studio gate by 7:30 Tuesday morning as a crowd waits to get into the Dr. Phil Show, or one of the other six television shows filmed at the lot.

The show, filmed at Stage 29, is the site of the former "Arsenio Hall Show" and shares its office building with "Entertainment Tonight."

More than 200 people work on the Dr. Phil Show, which is taped before an audience.

Louis DiCenzo, publicist for the show, says that the show requires a big staff because the stories often involve a lot of research.

The show is filmed August through May, three days a week.

Security is tight. Cameras and cell phones are left at the gate. Even the weight-loss participants go through a screening process and have their baggage checked when they come in.

Today there will be three shows taped, though only two of them involve the weight-loss participants.

Most of the weight-loss challengers are gathered in the "Green Room," but Mrs. Barkley's still upstairs having her makeup put on by the show's makeup artist.

After posing for a few pictures for the News-Argus, Mrs. Barkley joins the other challengers as they get ready to go on stage for the taping.

The audience is ushered into the very cool auditorium. The room is kept cool to ensure that no one is tempted to sleep. A staff member of the "Dr. Phil Show," comes out and warms up the audience -- not literally.

As the crowd's excitement level, Dr. Phil and his wife, Robin, appear backstage so he can get "miked up." His wife gives him a quick squeeze, and she is ushered to her usual seat in the audience.

The video screens footage of Dr. Phil walking backstage, and the audience hears Dr. Phil say, "I want you to get excited about your life."

A partition is raised on stage, revealing Dr. Phil, who quickly moves upstage toward the audience. After a quick wave to everyone, he immediately begins talking.

As the crowd gazes up at the video screens, Goldsboro Mayor Al King's face fills the monitor, reading a proclamation.

And later, it was revealed that Mrs. Barkley and her team will win the trip to the spa of their choice. They lost a combined 109.5 pounds, averaging 18.5 pounds a person. The other team lost a combined 122 pounds, but on average its members lost only 17.4 pounds.