H-E-B’s seventh annual Slim Down Showdown Weight Loss Challenge got off the ground last week as 28 contestants from across Texas completed the program’s five-day “Fit Camp” in San Antonio.

Along with classes in healthy cooking and fitness training, contestants underwent medical screenings and one-on-one coaching to set goals for the 12-week weight loss contest.

Amy Petett, who has worked for H-E-B for 18 years, said the program was “the perfect opportunity to hit the reset button” on her health.

“In February of 2015, I had reached my heaviest weight of 298 pounds, and at that point I knew I didn’t want to get into the 300s,” she said. “I started having issues. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and pre-diabetes.”

Last year, Petett lost 30 pounds on her own, but soon the weight started to pile back on. The emotional support the program’s health experts, alumni, and other contestants provide, she said, has made her more confident that she can drop her weight below 200 pounds.

“We’re here to improve our lives and make long-term permanent changes,” said program alumnus Zachary House in a speech to contestants.

House won last year’s $10,000 prize for his health improvements, public engagement through his blog, and participation in sponsored activities. Since he began the program, he’s lost more than 85 pounds, no longer needs diabetes medication, and dropped from an XXXL shirt size to a large.

Though his main motivation was being a healthy husband and strong role model to his newborn son, he added, “I didn’t realize how much I was going to like shopping at regular clothing stores.”

Holding up one of his old shirts for the crowd, House spoke of his self-doubt and the need to stay committed but treat oneself with compassion when old habits inevitably resurface.

“When you reach those times, you really get to choose: ‘Am I going to wallow in self-doubt or shame, or am I going use this as an opportunity to double down?’”

2016 H-E-B Slimdown Showdown winner Zachary House presents to this years graduates giving advice on how to stay committed to their goals.
2016 H-E-B Slim Down Showdown winner Zachary House presents gives this years’ graduates advice on how to stay committed to their goals. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The Slim Down Showdown originated in 2010 as a program for H-E-B employees, but the company expanded the contest to the larger community two years later. Since its inception, it has inspired 185 participants to lose about 4,000 pounds. In 2016 alone, contestants dropped 879 pounds and logged 30 million steps.

Three years after winning the 2014 contest, Ashley Trimble says she’s the healthiest she’s ever been.

“I had kind of resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be unhealthy and fat for the rest of my life,” she told the Rivard Report. “And then I lost three grandparents to weight-related illnesses.”

At the time in her mid-20s, Trimble said the program opened her eyes to the severity of her health issues.

“We met with a doctor who basically told me by the time I was 30, I would have diabetes and high blood pressure and be living a really low quality of life,” she said. “And that was really scary for me because I’m so young.”

Over the next two-and-a-half months, participants will share their experiences by blogging and participating in H-E-B Community Challenge events in their hometowns, such as 5K races, Zumbathons, and food demos. Four winners will be announced at the program’s closing ceremony on April 1.

2017 H-E-B Slimdown Showdown contestant Brandy runs down a row of H-E-B employees and volunteers before receiving her graduation certificate.
2017 H-E-B Slim Down Showdown contestant Brandy runs down a row of H-E-B employees and volunteers before receiving her graduation certificate. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Daniel Kleifgen graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., he came to San Antonio in 2013 as a Teach For America corps member.