H-E-B Slim Down Showdown Transforms Body and Mind

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“Dad, I want to get a fat belly like you.”

Those words from my five-year-old son were the catalyst for a weight loss journey that would utterly transform my life. At that point a year and a half ago, I weighed 330 pounds. It hurt to bend over and tie my shoes. I got to work every morning and slammed an energy drink for breakfast, then didn’t eat all day until I hit a drive-through at night for a double cheeseburger with large onion rings, washed down with a three-liter soda.

Ruben and Melanie pose for a photo as they begin training for the 2013 H-E-B Slim Down Showdown. Courtesy photo.

Ruben and his wife Melanie pose for a photo as they begin training for the 2013 H-E-B Slim Down Showdown. Courtesy photo.

I had tried dieting before, basically starving myself with weight loss shakes and pills until I lost 20 or 30 pounds, then gaining it all back because I couldn’t sustain it. I knew that if I was going to lose weight the right way and keep it off, I needed help.

Luckily, I work for H-E-B, a company that cares about the health of its partners (employees). I applied and earned a spot in the H-E-B Slim Down Showdown, a contest my company puts on every year to help customers and employees make major lifestyle changes.

Even though I was hopeful, I carried a lot of self-doubt into Fit Camp. During the weeklong program, dietitians, trainers and other specialists taught us how to eat right and exercise, with advice and calorie budgets based on each person’s level of need and ability.

When I returned home, I pushed myself to my limits. I was at the gym every day by 4 a.m. for a two-hour workout, then back at 5:30 p.m. for the same. I did that seven days a week for 10 weeks.

For food, I would take most of my meals and snacks with me for the day. My girlfriend Melanie enjoyed looking up healthy recipes, and we would cook in batches together on the weekends so that all our meals were ready and planned for the entire week.  Melanie was there with me every step of the way, joining me for evening workouts even though she hated the gym.

When people ask what motivated me to keep going, I tell them it was that comment from my son about getting a fat belly. You can say that was my fuel.

At the end of the 10-week competition, I had lost 90 pounds and Melanie had dropped 60. As we walked down the runway together for our big reveal at the Slim Down Showdown finale, I got down on one knee and proposed to her in front a screaming crowd. Oh, and I won the contest’s $10,000 grand prize.

Coming off of that crazy high, I was a little worried that I might slack off, but the good feelings have just kept coming. To keep things fresh, I have set new goals for myself. In all, I ended up losing 130 pounds.

With the fat off, I am now lifting weights and building body mass, getting new stretch marks from pumping up muscles I never had.

Melanie runs about three days a week and has gotten really into healthy cooking. We put the $10,000 away for a down payment on a house.

Ruben Cavazos stands with his blushing fiance, Melanie Cryer, and his two stage-shy sons just moments after he proposed marriage to her on stage at the 2013 H-E-B Slim Down Showdown award ceremony. Courtesy photo.

Ruben Cavazos stands with his blushing fiance, Melanie Cryer, and his two stage-shy sons just moments after he proposed marriage to her on stage at the 2013 H-E-B Slim Down Showdown award ceremony. Courtesy photo.

The most mind-blowing aspect of this journey is not how it affected my life, but to see how I am impacting the lives of others. My mother, who has always struggled with her health, has lost 50 pounds after seeing me change my life. My Dad, after watching my Mom, is now going to the gym as well.

My coworkers, who saw me drop the weight in real time, have started going to the gym with me and asking for advice. Even giving little tips here and there seem to make a difference. At the gym, the staff members have put my picture on their “wall of fame” and whenever they are trying to sell a membership, they bring the prospective client around to talk to me. It makes me laugh, but I’m happy to do it.

When I see someone at the gym struggling as I did at the outset, I always go up and talk to them and offer a few

Ruben and Melanie for an "after" photo after their incredible weight loss. Courtesy photo.

Ruben and Melanie for an “after” photo after their incredible weight loss. Courtesy photo.

tips or encouragement. I can only hope it helps them stick with it. When I make a connection, I notice that people come back and talk to me again.

Today, my strength is not just physical in nature. I have gained a mental strength that has fueled my ambitions and my confidence. Every day, I wake up at the crack of dawn with a natural high, ready to hit the gym and get after it.

In May, I am doing the Spartan Super with a team. My boys, now 6 and 7, want to do the Spartan Kids race. Now, instead of a fat belly, they want muscles like Dad. (Don’t worry, I told them, it’s too early to start lifting weights.)

My advice to anyone who wants to lose weight is to do it right, through exercise and healthy eating. Skip the pills and shakes, there is no magic bullet. You can do the same Slim Down Showdown program I did from home by registering at heb.com/slimdown. It’s all there for you online with recipes, tips, workouts and a mobile weight tracker.

Second, find an exercise you really like and keep setting new goals for yourself. Find something that motivates you, like that comment from my son, and let that drive you until you find your footing and get into a routine.

And third, hold yourself accountable. Stop making excuses. It’s your choice if you want to put that burger in your mouth or go home and cook a healthy meal.

RELATED STORIES:

Slim Down Showdown: Creating a Culture of Health

H-E-B Slim Down Showdown: Let the Weight Games Begin

The Feed: Winners, Losers and Healthy Eats

956 Pounds Lost, Many Friends Gained During H-E-B Slim down Showdown

H-E-B Slim Down Showdown Challenges Contestants to Peel Off the Pounds

2 thoughts on “H-E-B Slim Down Showdown Transforms Body and Mind

  1. Great weight loss story. I hope that ” Ruben Cavazos stands with his blushing fiancée, Melanie Cryer ” keep up the good job.

    The determination this couple had sort of reminds me of my own weight loss. For the most part…I gained weight due to bad habits. Plus, depression when my father passed away at the time. That was my comfort zone to overcome his passing. The wrong kind of food and lack of an effective workout program to keep a well balanced body weight/height proportion. I was a member of a gym at the time. Whichever, I did not use the machines, weight stations effectively. So I just fooled myself.

    I will never forget what a doctor told me at the time of my heavy body set, when I went to see him about a bad cold I couldn’t shake off at the time. He took my lab test(s) and said that my cholesterol was dangerously high. That along with my extremely high blood pressure at the time I got my lab result made him fear for my life. He said the combination of my overall lipid test/blood pressure was enough for him to fear that I would very likely have a stroke/heart attack just stepping out on his office sidewalk. But what really made me think about a healthier lifestyle change was a comment he made. In accordance to him…he stated that Hispanic ( especially those who are prone to cardiovascular disease and have a family history of such a gene. ) men once they reach their mid 30’s start having heart attacks/strokes. And allot of times they don’t survive these occurrences. Or just as bad become paralyzed either one side of their body or maybe both sides. So from this Hispanic ( myself ) man’s point of view what he said made me think really hard. Since I was overweight along with a family history of heart disease not to mention diabetes from both side of my family tree. And I was wheezing just to get a breath of air at them time. Made me think that the doctor was right! As the Spanish phrase goes ” El asusto de mi vida. ” ” The scare of my life. ” and this combination made me carryout a personal commitment. Besides since I am single who would take care of me. Nobody but myself is responsible for me.

    So I applaud Ruben and Melanie and all other folks who are making a healthier lifestyle change for yourselves. I wish you all the best in your endeavor.

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