By Esme Murphy, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — On Tuesday night, at least some Democrats and Republicans will sit together at President Obama’s State of the Union Address. State lawmakers followed suit Monday.

They stood side by side, and took on a challenge to eat healthy, lose weight and stay fit. And they were joined by a couple of reality show stars to launch the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge.

“Who really wants to weigh 400 pounds,” asked O’Neal Hampton of Richfield. “No one does.”

He sure didn’t. And neither did St. Paul’s Jesse Atkins. So now, these Biggest Loser alumni are helping Minnesotans with a weight loss competition of their own. There are 14 different divisions. Some for the state’s biggest companies signed up, and so did the legislature.

“We are firmly committed to not only participating, but to beating the Senate wholeheartedly,” said Senate Majority Leader Matt Dean.

It will be a bipartisan competition between the House and the Senate, not between the parties.

“I think it sends a message to our citizens,” said Sen. Terri Bonoff. “That we think this is serious.”

With tempting foods like Swedish meatballs at the Capitol cafeteria, and more meetings than time to work out, lawmakers say fitness can be a struggle during the session. But it will be worth the work.

“The reality is this is something, regardless of partisan lines, that I think everybody understands,” said Rep. Paul Thissen, the House Minority Leader. “The most important thing we can do to keep healthcare costs down is for all Minnesotans to stay healthy.”

They’ll get points for healthy eating and exercising, along with weight loss. And, the winner will be announced April 15.

“It’s the House against the Senate,” said Sen. Julie Rosen. “And I tell you what, if you were a betting guy, I’d put money on us. The Senate.”

The contest was created by Alliance For A Healthier Minnesota. Almost 18,000 people have already signed up.


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