Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Since its inception seven years ago, H-E-B’s annual Slim Down Showdown has inspired and equipped more than 200 Texans to lead healthier lives. This year’s program was no different.
At the weight loss competition’s finale Saturday afternoon at the Alamodome, a number of the 28 contestants said that while they entered the competition to improve their overall physical and mental wellbeing, they also did so to set a positive example for their families and friends.
“I started this journey for my kids, to be a good role model for them,” said Alberto Treviño III, who works at an H-E-B store in Brownsville. When his name was announced Saturday as the male H-E-B Partner, or employee, grand prize winner, his family and friends in the audience jumped out of their seats, cheering in support.
“When I saw their faces…,” Treviño said, the emotion leaving him speechless.
Over the past 12 weeks, Treviño and his fellow contestants – H-E-B employees and community members from around the state – participated in a six-day wellness program, or “Fit Camp,” to learn healthy eating and exercise habits, and then returned home to put what they learned to use. Participants documented their progress in blog posts and took part in H-E-B Community Challenge events in their hometowns, such as 5K races, Zumbathons, and food demos.
The experience left Treviño nearly 40 pounds lighter and feeling “like a really different person,” both physically and mentally, he said.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Treviño’s son Jacob, 12, who was brought to tears when his father’s name was called as one of the four contest winners who took home $10,000. “He’s done so much.”
Female community grand prize winner Sara Sanford from Austin cited her son as her motivation to improve her health.
“He is the whole reason I’m doing this and [the $10,000] is going into an account for him,” she said after the event.
As of Saturday, Sanford had lost 28.2 pounds and hopes to lose 50 more in the next few months. The other contest winners – Daniel Avila, male community member winner from Brownsville, and Alejandrina “Becky” Castro, female H-E-B employee winner from Kingsville – lost 58.6 and 32.8 pounds, respectively.
The entire group lost a total of 840 pounds, according to H-E-B officials.
Equally as important in the competition as exercising and healthy eating is community outreach. As a group, this year’s participants published 882 blog posts and organized more than 110 community fitness and wellness events in their cities.
The outreach is meant to foster community and support and inspire more people to adopt cleaner diets and exercise more. For Sanford, building a robust support base, especially with her family, made her success in the program possible.
“With the family support I had – my wife lost about as much weight as I have – without that accountability it would have never happened,” she said. “… The biggest thing I’ve learned is open yourself up and ask for help when you need it.”
Local contestants this year included Danny Montes, Patrick Jimenez, Alex Darke, Ashley Johnson, and Amy Petett. Petett told the Rivard Report in January that the Slim Down Showdown was “the perfect opportunity to hit the reset button” on her health.
Initiatives like the Slim Down Showdown are crucial in promoting healthier lifestyles – especially in cities like San Antonio, where too many people struggle with obesity and diabetes. Local health officials believe that negative health impact rates among Hispanics and other minorities are likely to continue to rise if people don’t take action.
As Texas’ largest food seller and largest private employer, H-E-B has a responsibility to help “create a healthier Texas for all,” said H-E-B Health Promotion Manager Monica Garza.
“We want to help people live the fullest life possible for as long as possible,” Garza said, a desire that led the grocer to create the Slim Down Showdown in 2010.
The Slim Down Showdown finale event was the perfect addition to a day of promoting health and wellness for local families as part of the annual H-E-B Alamo Run Fest, a two-day event that includes a half marathon, 10k, 5k, and 1k, and a health expo in the Alamodome. The Slim Down contestants showed that, despite life’s everyday challenges, leading a healthier life is not out of reach.
“One of my biggest motives for doing this contest was to be able to be a true testament [to the fact] that it can be done and to showcase that in 10-12 weeks you can … turn your life around,” Avila said. “And now for the rest of my life I can always tell [others] ‘You can do it, because I did it.'”