Some McNeese State University Cowboys and Cowgirls are tightening up their belts after a "Biggest Loser" challenge that involved everyone from the president to faculty and students. Two of the top performers are proving that lifestyle changes are possible, even with chaotic schedules.
When MSU President, Dr. Philip Williams, moved to Lake Charles three years ago, he said it only took six weeks to pack on the pounds. "I'll have to confess that yes," he said, "I put on 15 pounds very quickly. I love the food here!"
Dr. Williams was not alone, falling into some unhealthy habits along with some of the other faculty and staff members, as well as students. It is no secret that college life goes hand in hand with sleep deprivation, stress and eating on the go - plus chaotic schedules.
That is something MSU sophomore, Hailey Veillion, also wanted to change. "I used to wear jackets all the time because," she said, "I felt like it would hide problem areas and I was always self-conscious."
Enter MSU/CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital health educator, Kelly Darbonne, and the Biggest Loser competition. "We want to see them making those changes during the time of the program and try to help them incorporate that into a lifelong process," she said.
That is done through education. "We do seminars about fitting in fitness, about healthy eating, we also have weekly weigh-ins to keep them accountable," said Darbonne.
One of the keys to success for the Biggest Loser contestants started with some basic steps, little things like taking the stairs on campus instead of the elevator and parking farther away in the parking lot. "When I get up to the third floor I'm not completely out of breath anymore," says Veillion, "it feels amazing. I have so much more energy."
Veillion won the Biggest Loser challenge, dropping 24.5 pounds and six inches from her waist. "It's definitely given me the determination and motivation to keep going," she said.
That motivation has also carried over for Dr. Williams, now a whopping 35 pounds leaner and four inches thinner in the waist. "My assistant knows there's going to be a time - it may be after work - but if I know I've got a function after work I've got to find that hour during the day to get that exercise in or things aren't right," he said.
President Williams is also proving he can be president of push-ups, going from a painful eight reps to a strong 30. "I'm very proud of myself!" he said.
Each Biggest Loser competition lasts 10 to 12 weeks. Both Dr. Williams and Hailey Veillion say they have the tools to keep the weight off, thanks to health education.