A group of students play the game, "Just Dance" in the Alamo Heights Junior School courtyard. Photo by Joan Vinson.
A group of students play the game, "Just Dance" in the Alamo Heights Junior School courtyard. Photo by Joan Vinson.

David Nungaray said one of his students inspired him to enter the H-E-B Slim Down Showdown. The annual, 14-week weight loss competition is no simple task. It goes beyond losing weight to teach contestants the basics of a healthy lifestyle through nutrition, cooking, and exercise classes.

It’s about changing your life.

Nungaray, an assistant principal at the Alamo Heights Junior School, was inspired to bring the inaugural Heights Health Expo to the school on Thursday to educate the public about the importance of leading a healthy life.

One of his students, a young girl, he said, came crying to him one day because she had been bullied by a classmate. She was teased because of her weight.

“I had this realization that (obesity) is not just a problem that affects me, it affects kids too,” Nungaray said.

Nungaray took matters into his own hands to bring the lessons he has been learning through the Slim Down Showdown program to his students and the community. The perimeter of the junior school gym hosted a variety of health and wellness classes and was lined with informational booths ranging from the San Antonio Botanical Garden to Methodist Healthcare. Kids got to get outside for fun fitness activities. According to the smiles on student and community faces, the event was a resounding success.

Nungaray is also on his way to more success: The grand finale for the Slim Down Showdown contest is May 9. Win or lose, he has found a diet and exercise balance that will last a lifetime.

“People will see me sometimes eating a piece of pizza and they will ask, ‘Are you cheating?’” Nungaray said. “What I’m learning more and more by working with the folks at H-E-B is that it’s about moderation, not deprivation.”

He doesn’t dwell on what he’s missing, instead focusing on what he’s adding to his life – nutrition, activity, even cooking skills.

In 2012, Nungaray went from 315 to 240 pounds. Two years later, he gained it all back. Today, he’s back down to 256 pounds, and is shedding off more every week.

Nungaray said his grandmother died because of complications related to diabetes.

“I’m educated enough to know that if I didn’t change the course of my life, I’d end up being another statistic,” Nungaray said. “And in a city like San Antonio, there are a lot of us that can become a statistic and I wanted to beat the odds.”

San Antonio was ranked as the second fattest city in the country, but efforts by Metro Health and other partners have shown definitive results. In recent years the city’s adult obesity rate has dropped from 35% to 28%, meaning 87,000 fewer adults are sufficiently overweight to be rated obese.

The 35 community members and H-E-B employees — called partners —  competing in the fifth annual Slim Down Showdown can literally feel those results. During the 2014 competition, 30 contestants lost a total of 1,100 pounds – an average of about 37 pounds.

Judges at the awards ceremony on May 9 – which is always a raucous party with friends and family cheering contestants on as they walk down a runway – will judge the contestants on three components: overall health improvement, online engagement, and overall participation.

Grand Prize, $10,000-winners – one from the partner group and one community member – will be selected based on overall health improvement, participation and fan engagement. Both Healthy Hero winners will receive $5,000 for demonstrating the most progress on health markers including body mass index, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels. H-E-B has also selected five “Second Chance” partners – one from each of the five previous seasons – to compete again this year. The Second Chance winner will receive $2,500.

2015 will be the first year Slim Down Showdown coordinators are tracking contestant weights on the website as part of the Slim Down Showdown Challenge, an online healthy living course that aims to reach more than 2 million Texans and drive people to engage in the Showdown even if they’re not competing.

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Contestants Gear Up for H-E-B Slim Down Showdown 

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More than 1,000 Pounds Lost, More Than 30 Lives Changed

Former Rivard Report Assistant Editor Joan Vinson is a San Antonio native who graduated from The University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She's a yoga fanatic and an adventurer at heart....