Biggest Loser Competition inspires healthy changes

Sometimes being a loser is a good thing. In some cases, it might actually win you a competition and a healthier lifestyle to boot.

The Campus Recreation Center (CRC) just began this year’s installment of its annual Biggest Loser Contest.

The program is modeled after the hit TV show, The Biggest Loser in which contestants fight through 12 to 16 weeks of daily grueling workouts. While the contestants in the CRC competition don’t have to endure quite the same level of intensity as the television contestants, they do still benefit from the comradery and accountability that comes with getting healthy not only with trainers, but with your peers.

Competition participants are given counseling, training and guidelines and attempt to lose as much weight as possible by the end of the program—in this case, Apr. 16. The competition officially started Jan. 25 and has a duration of 12 weeks.

Though the program is described as a contest, Morgann Wagner, the program’s coordinator, says it’s as much about the journey as it is the end.

“We try to make it more of a program that educates the participants on a healthy lifestyle, healthy habits and knowledge, so that they can be successful and stick with these things after the program is done. Each year we do the program, there is a ‘Biggest Loser’ winner, but for most of the participants, that is not the number one reason they take part in the program,” said Wagner.

The competition, as well as the chance to get in shape with accountability is a big draw to both Tech students and its faculty and staff. Last year the program drew 20 faculty and staff and seven students. This year, the program has grown, as the Campus Recreation Center (CRC) has received 34 applications, split about evenly between students and faculty and staff members.

The program’s success record has been quite high. Wagner said, “Last spring’s program was very successful and we are hoping to build on those successes for this semester’s program. All participants made it until the end of the program and I think every one of them would tell you that they enjoyed the program,” said Wagner.

Patrick Chang, Graduate ME, took part in the Spring 2008 Biggest Loser Challenge and lost a total of 25 pounds during the program.

“I reached my heaviest [weight] during my senior year of college. At around that time, my father was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes and hypertension, due in large part to his poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle. I realized then that I needed to change the way I lived,” said Chang.

“At the beginning of 2008, I made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and began to go to the CRC. On the very first day I went to the CRC, I was drinking at the water fountain and I stumbled upon the ad for the Biggest Loser Competition roughly one day before the applications for the program was due. I took the ad as a sign and decided to enroll right away,” said Chang.

After the program ended, Chang lost another 30 pounds, bringing his weight down to its all-time low of 168. He says that though he gained a bit of the weight back transitioning from college to grad school but, he plans on getting his weight down to 165, then building his weight up again with muscle mass.

Though Chang won’t be involved in this year’s program, he still keeps in touch with his personal trainer and is planning on participating in a half-marathon with him and some of last year’s participants.

The program itself is not a commitment to take lightly. Participants are expected to want to lose 20 pounds, commit 8 hours a week to the program (including three group workouts each week) and maintain food journals and activity logs. Their progress will also be regularly monitored via bi-weekly weigh-ins.

Participants must also be beginner exercisers and provide proof that they have had at least one physical from a physician in the last year and are physically fit enough to participate in the program.

“The Biggest Loser program tries to put [fun, motivation, exercise, challenges and healthy dietary habits] together for the participants. All these play a role in becoming healthier and sticking with it,” said Wagner.

The programs coordinators arm its participants well for the challenge, though. After signing on, participants are given physical assessments, personal training, nutrition education, a group fitness membership at the CRC and motivational coaching. Also included in the $175 student fee and $200 faculty fee are seminars on nutrition with a registered dietitian and a seminar presented by doctors from Stamps Health Services.