Students, faculty weigh-in, win big in Biggest Loser

Portland State’s Biggest Loser weight-loss competition ended last month with 97 students, faculty and staff losing about 800 pounds collectively.

Portland State’s Biggest Loser weight-loss competition ended last month with 97 students, faculty and staff losing about 800 pounds collectively.

Over 180 people signed up for the contest in January and weighed in by teams of three. At first, weigh-in teams either set a goal of losing 5 or 10 percent of their team’s total weight. Out of the initial 67 teams that registered for the competition, 24 teams participated in the final weigh-in, as well as 25 additional people alone or without their entire team.

Toeutu Faaleava, director of academic affairs at PSU, lost the most weight of all the contestants, and received a $100 cash prize. The teams that lost the most weight received a $900 cash prize per team. The prize money was awarded after the original grand prize, a trip to Hawaii, could not be arranged. The prize money came from the $45 registration fee that each team paid when the contest began.

Staff members Kam Barron, Onnie Grananos and Mike Gostomski made up the team that lost the most weight in the 5 percent weight-loss category. Six of the other teams in this category met this weight-loss goal.

Jahed Sukhun, PSU director of user support services, lost over 16 pounds in the 12-week competition. Together, he and teammates Tiah Marston and Kristine Wise lost about 65 pounds, making them the “biggest losers” in the 10 percent weight-loss category. They were the only team to lose at least 10 percent of their weight.

“It was a really good experience,” said Sukhun, who also helped coordinate the contest. “We built a lot of excellent relationships between participants.”

Debbie Kirkland, executive assistant of finance and administration and program coordinator at PSU, played a big part in coordinating the contest. Kirkland later began referring to contest as the “fit club” for its more positive connotations, and e-mails and newsletters were sent regularly to participants, she said.

“We tried to encourage people all along the way with communication about what they could do on campus,” Kirkland said.

Events for the competition included a weekly group walk and a “Biggest Loser’s Night Out,” where contestants gathered for bowling and video games, and donated Subway food in the Smith Memorial Student Union Viking Gameroom.

Ken Coleman, a former contestant of NBC’s Biggest Loser reality television show, visited campus for the January weigh-in. Coleman helped kick off the contest and dined in the Ondine building, where he gave participants tips on achieving healthy weight loss and staying motivated.

Additionally, those involved had the opportunity to get some free exercise equipment.

“We were able to give out a lot of freebies,” Sukhun said.

Kirkland said the fitness competition garnered a lot of support from the community. Local health providers Kaiser Permanente, Providence and Legacy Emmanuel donated pedometers and water bottles. Local vendors like Subway, Starbucks and 24-Hour Fitness made donations as well.

Both Sukhun and Kirkland said they were not sure why so many contestants did not attend the final weigh-in. Kirkland said there is no way to know whether people lost interest or just did not weigh in at the end.

“They might have lost interest, some of them maybe gained weight…I don’t know,” Sukhun said.

Though only half of the initial participants finished PSU’s Biggest Loser contest, Sukhun said he was happy with the results, because many people, including him, were motivated to become healthier. He said PSU hopes to hold another similar competition as early as July or August, which Sukhun said he hopes will attract different people.

“We decided to get it going knowing that it wouldn’t be perfect,” Kirkland said. “We can always do more-we always want to promote wellness.”

In general, Kirkland said, more faculty and staff participated in the contest than students. She said that the new recreation center that is projected to open in two years may help attract interest to future competitions like the Biggest Loser.

Sukhun said the competition helped him to have a more active lifestyle. He said he still walks several miles at least three times a week, and is planning to walk the Portland Marathon in October.