Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

A diverse group of folks anxious to lose weight and improve their overall health commit to an intensive wellness program with a cash payoff at the end.

But this is not the latest season of a popular reality show.

Instead, it’s the latest installment of the H-E-B Slim Down Showdown; a homegrown 12-week challenge where folks across the state have the opportunity to be one of the 25 finalists and earn a $10,000 grand prize.

Originally conceived as an internal contest for the company’s more than 75,000 employees, the Slim Down Showdown went public last year when 24 finalists dropped a total of 956 pounds over the four month period. In addition, the contestants averaged a 33 point drop in cholesterol, while the most significant weight loss was posted by Reuben Ybarra of Victoria,TX who dropped 85 pounds during the program.

Alison Spangler receives her winnings.
Alison Spangler emotionally receives her winnings at last year’s contest finale in October. Photo by Shane Kyle.

[Read stories on the Rivard Report about last year’s competition: “H-E-B Slim Down Showdown Challenges Contestants to Peel Off the Pounds” and “956 Pounds Lost, Many Friends Gained During HEB Slim down Showdown” by Melissa Ludwig.]

That’s no doubt an inspiration for this year’s class, who you can meet and follow on their personal blogs by clicking here. And while we certainly wish everyone the best of luck, we won’t hold it against our readers if you happen to pull just a little more for the five contestants directly from San Antonio; Ashley, Brittany, Juan, Nancy, and Ronnie.

Contestants in HEB’s Slim Down Showdown visit the Culinary Institute of America last week for healthy cooking advise. Photo by Tom Trevino.

The River City contingent, along with the rest of the contestants just completed an intense, week-long orientation process which included medical screenings and a series of comprehensive seminars which covered everything from goal setting, nutrition, workouts, and shopping tours to emotional eating and how to handle their new healthy lifestyle once they get back home.

“It was tough and an emotional roller coaster,” said San Antonio contestant Ronnie Guest. “I shared feelings with my new group of friends that I’ve never shared with anyone… I tried new foods that I could have never imagined eating, worked out through the pain, but all in all, it was a life changing and life saving experience.”

And what about the epiphany that usually comes with going through such a rigorous program?

“My ‘a-ha’ moment came when I was able to recognize the connection between what goes in via calories consumed, and what goes out via calories expended through workouts,”  Guest said. “It was really an eye-opening moment.”

Contestants learn about food preparation at the Culinary Institute of America. Photo by Tom Trevino.

With orientation now behind him, Guest and the rest of the contestants will now have several months to put their new-found knowledge and skills to the test. Winners of the 2013 Slim Down Showdown will be announced at a special ceremony during a Healthy at H-E-B Family Expo on April 6 at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center.

Over the next several months, Tom will be following up with the contestants, reviewing the specifics of their new diet and exercise programs. Stay tuned for more!

Tom Trevino is a writer, artist and wellness coach based out of San Antonio. His column, “The Feed,” addresses health and fitness issues and dispense practical advice for San Antonians attempting to wade through the often-confusing diet and fitness world. He holds a B.A. from the University of Texas, with training and certification from the Cooper Institute. He has a fondness for dogs, the New York Times, and anything on two wheels. When he’s not writing, training, or cooking, you can find him wandering the aisles of Central Market.

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. She was the San Antonio Report's...