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Faculty begins weight-loss competition by Samantha Masunaga by Supervita

Group focuses on acquiring healthy diet, exercise habits through the contest.


For 33 UCLA staff members, losing has never felt so good.

Inspired by the NBC television series, "The Biggest Loser," these participants have launched their own weight-loss competition, complete with financial rewards.

Calling themselves "The Biggest Loser Buddies," the group meets each Monday for a weigh-in on a scale located in the School of Public Affairs.

Each participant is required to pay $5 per week and the individual who loses the highest percentage of weight that week is rewarded with $40. The financial rewards continue each week and include a prize of $125 awarded at the halfway point of the competition and a grand prize of $1100 for the "biggest loser" at the end of 16 weeks.

Second place winners will receive $400 and third place winners will be awarded $300.

This year's competition began on Jan. 6, with the first weigh-in on Monday. This week's biggest loser recorded a 6 percent weight loss, said UCLA staff member Bernetta Riley. The competition will continue until April 27.

The tradition began last year, through the joint efforts of Riley and fellow UCLA staff member Pamela Harris.

After watching "The Biggest Loser" on television, the women were inspired to challenge themselves and what began with two soon became a 10-person group.

"It just keeps getting bigger each time we do it," said Harris, an academic coordinator for the School of Public Affairs.

"We just wanted to be healthy," added Riley, human resources director for the School of Public Affairs.

An important aspect of this group is the camaraderie.

"We encourage each other and talk about what we do," Harris said. "We motivate each other, share ideas and encourage each other to keep going."

This solidarity is reinforced through brown bag lunch meetings, as well as group presentations by UCLA nutritionists and fitness experts, she said.

Participants in the contest span multiple departments, including engineering, earth sciences and housing. Despite these differences, Harris said there is a high level of support amongst the group.

This level of support, as well as the development of friendships, quelled several participants' anxiety in joining the competition.

"I was really nervous about the first weigh-in," said Patricija Petrac, administrative assistant for the Center for the Study of Women. "But everyone is so supportive. It's been really motivating."

This fellowship between contestants in the competition has been a major factor in participants' decisions to stick with the challenge.

"It's the camaraderie and the chance to exchange ideas," said Teri Delgado, the director of academic personnel for the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. "Losing weight is a plus, but it is making long term changes ... instead of just dieting."

Although the financial rewards are a major motivating factor, many participants have additional motives for their involvement.

"I have a three year-old daughter," said Jason Espinoza, a management service officer with Housing Project Management. "I want to be able to keep up with her and being overweight has slowed me down."

In response to his busy lifestyle, Espinoza has tried to add a fitness regimen to his daily routine. By teaming up with his vanpool colleagues, as well as his co-workers, he now ensures that physical activity and work are not separated.

"We share our daily nutritional intake and when possible a walk through campus," Espinoza said. "Each of us (is) trying to incorporate our daily commute and job functions while striving toward a healthier self."

Through changes in eating habits, incorporation of fitness into the daily routine and an awareness of how weight gain occurs, this group hopes to become healthier and enact long-term changes.

"I want to get healthy to see a change, to feel better," Harris said. "If you feel better, you'll feel good about yourself."

© 2007 ASUCLA Student Media

For more information, please visit this articles web page.
This article was published on Wednesday 14 January, 2009.
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