Glenda Brown feared she was continuing down the same path as her parents, who died of weight-related health problems.
So this spring, the 25-year-old senior took control of her own body and enrolled in UCF’s “Biggest Loser” program. Modeled after the popular weight-loss televised competition with the same name, the program is designed to give students the skills and motivation to make healthy lifestyle choices during and beyond college.
“I decided I wanted to up my chances of living and experiencing life,” said Brown, who’s majoring in Sociology. “Before, it had seemed like I was starting to go down the same road as my parents.”
Since enrolling in January, Brown has lost nearly 22 pounds, and she hopes to lose 120 by the end of her weight-loss journey.
Brown’s father passed away from heart failure when she was 2. She lost her mother 15 years later. Overcoming the mental and physical struggles of getting in shape hasn’t been easy, but she has found her stride in UCF’s 12-week weight-loss challenge.
The Recreation and Wellness Center has administered the “Biggest Loser” program for the past three spring semesters. The 16 students participating in this semester’s program, which runs through Wednesday, April 20, have lost a combined total of 214 pounds.
“Maintaining healthy lifestyles can be critical to a successful experience at UCF,” said James Wilkening, director of the rec center. “The Biggest Loser program expands our efforts to provide an outlet for our student body to stay active and involved.”
Participants in the program are divided into two teams of eight. Each team is assigned two personal trainers — who also are students — to guide workouts and eating habits. Nutritionists and counselors also are on hand.
Unlike the television show, there are no eliminations in UCF’s version. Instead, students’ weights and body fat percentages are measured each week. The team and individual competitor with the best weight loss figures win prizes at the program’s end.
For 18-year-old Communication major August Bennett, trading infrequent workouts and unsuccessful attempts at yo-yo dieting for the structure of the “Biggest Loser” has been a winning strategy. A daily fitness routine and 1,700 calorie-a-day diet, which he tracks using an iPhone application, are now his way of life.
“I’ve made some major changes, and I’m doing things I really didn’t think I could do before this competition,” said Bennett, who has lost more than 20 pounds so far. “For me, this is just the beginning.”
Teams attend twice-weekly workout sessions with their trainers, and each week they also participate in a team challenge, such as a run along Gemini Boulevard, parking garage relay races or hill climbs. Working with trainers helps participants build the knowledge and skills needed for safe, effective workouts, while encouraging teamwork as each student pushes hard toward a common goal.
For most “Biggest Loser” participants, though, the greatest challenge will begin when the program ends this week and they maintain their own fitness routines.
Brown says she’s armed with the tools and motivation to keep the weight off and enjoy a healthy future.
“If you aren’t digging in deep and motivating yourself, it’s hard to make a change,” she said. “I’ve had a team to be accountable for, and I’ve had a program to be accountable for, but most importantly, I now have to be accountable to myself.”