Updated: November 12, 2017

Thanks to a grass-roots campaign called Fight the Fat, Dyersville, Iowa, is 3,998 pounds lighter than it was four years ago. The 10-week, team-oriented program inspired 383 men and women in this meat-and-potatoes Midwestern town to shed their unhealthy habits and get fit for life. Bobbi Schell, co-author of The Town That Lost a Ton (Sourcebooks, 2002) and one of the program's creators, says Fight the Fat's success boils down to these three factors:

The buddy system "Whether there are two people or 20 on a team, having built-in support keeps participants motivated and focused. It's a group challenge, and no one wants to let the team down. Plus, you realize you're not alone."

Interval training "Exercise can be intimidating for beginners because they don't have the strength to do it well. Interval training -- injecting short, measured bursts of high-intensity exercise into a workout -- increases strength and endurance no matter what level you're at. Workouts fly by and you never plateau. Best of all, it doesn't bore you to death, the way straight cardio can."

Portion control "This is most people's biggest diet problem. Once they realize what an actual serving size looks like compared to the gigantic portions they're used to consuming, eating a healthy, lowfat, high-carbohydrate diet is a lot easier."

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