BY SYDNEY ALTMAN
The scale is brought into the room and immediately the participants become anxious. They have been exercising constantly and monitoring their diet more than they ever had before. Each hopes that the time and dedication spent toward achieving their goal of shedding pounds was worth it. As one contestant steps onto the scale, the weight bar teeters back and forth until it finds balance. When the numbers show significant weight loss, the contestant knows that all of his hard work paid off and that he is one step closer in obtaining a healthy lifestyle. Though this may sound like the hit television show The Biggest Loser, it is actually a competition among teachers at Cooper City High School.
After noticing how many CCHS staff members were leading an unhealthy lifestyle, TV production teacher Alfredo Pichardo and media center specialist Brian Kelly devised a competition. The goal of the competition was simple: to lose weight. In order to participate, individual teachers had to pay $10 dollars, which would be saved and given to the winner upon completion. To ensure that the teachers had proper guidance, a CCHS coach or fitness expert was assigned to them, acting as a personal trainer. The competition was five weeks long and each week participants were weighed in, tracking each person’s progress. Since weight is relative to each individual, the percentage of weight lost is what was used to determine the winner.
“Mr. Kelly spearheaded it and I just took over and made it into a CTV competition to make it more exciting,” Pichardo said. “A lot of teachers need to lose weight and they needed that push to get going. This could help a lot.”
Although losing weight is clearly the best prize, participants and trainers were given an added incentive to participate. The winning trainer got the prize money while the weight loss champ won a six-month membership to the JCC gym. The second place teacher won a three-month membership.
In total 10 staff members are took on this weight loss challenge. They were required to work out at least one day a week but due to hectic schedules, each competitor’s level of dedication varied. For one CCHS teacher, this contest was a forceful push in the right direction. English teacher Michael Hrabak, once an active man, realized that he had been neglecting his health and physical fitness.
“I wanted to do this to get in shape for my wife and kids and just to live a better life,” Hrabak said. “It’s a lifestyle change; it’s not about winning, it’s about changing our lives. Winning is just a bonus.”
Taking full advantage of this opportunity, his trainer, Coach Danny Carlisle, had him on a strict exercise regimen; he lifted weights every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and performed cardio Monday through Saturday, allowing only Sunday for his body to recuperate. He was also on a strict diet, proving that Carlisle took his responsibility very seriously.
“When you work out with Coach Carlisle there is no limit,” Hrabak said. “You have no choice; you have to work out hard. I hope it’s a permanent change, not just a 5 week change.”
Hrabak dropped weight weekly under his plan, making him a top contender in the contest. While he is fully committed to changing, other teachers faltered on their plans. Since Pichardo is the senior class sponsor, his chaotic schedule caused him to put working out on the back-burner. He did not met regularly with his trainer, football coach Arthur Taylor. While he didn’t work out, the self-proclaimed bread lover restricted his diet, which allowed him to drop weight quickly.
“I could say it’s a lifestyle change because you learn how to eat,” Pichardo said. “The problem is I’m probably going to come back and eat bread again. But at least I’m going to try to maintain my weight.”
Whether the competitor decided to take advantage of the trainer or not, having one was a huge advantage in this challenge. But, due to the lopsided contestant/trainer ratio, some contestants were forced to train solo. Without that guidance, they had to be self-motivated and willing to go above and beyond to obtain the desired results. Since the participant is working alone, the prize money that would go to the trainer would be pocketed by them, in addition to the JCC membership.
One teacher who worked alone, social studies teacher Corey Flanigan, had the enthusiasm to reach her goal. Flanigan kept a pair of pre-pregnancy jeans, hoping that one day in the near future she will be able to fit into them. When she heard about the competition, she immediately entered.
“I wanted to lose the remaining baby weight after having Sofia and this competition gave me the motivation to work out,” Flanigan said. “Being weighed in front of students and teachers is definitely motivation.”
In order to fit into those pre-pregnancy jeans again, she did some form of physical activity every day, such as walking and running. In addition to physical exercise, she changed her diet to include more portion control and weight watchers’ ideology. The lifestyle change is important to Flanigan, but passing up her favorite dessert – cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory – will continue to take a lot of restraint.
In addition to Hrabak, Pichardo, and Flanigan, the other CCHS staff members that took on this challenge are Kelly, Robin Weaver, Sue Petty, Pam Bates, Marianne McDonnell, Leslie Rivera, and Juanita Farmer.
No matter their shapes, sizes, ages, or motives, the one thing all of these teachers have in common is their desire to create a healthier lifestyle. Only one person will become the biggest loser, but each participant will walk away with a prize: a new active and healthy life.
CCHS BIGGEST LOSER RESULTS
Robin Weaver – 7.46% (1st Place)
Marianne McDonnell – 6.34% (2nd Place)
Alfredo Pichardo – 4.76% (3rd Place)
Sue Petty – 3.83% (4th Place)
Leslie Rivera – 3.38% (5th Place)
Corey Flanigan – 3.15% (6th Place)
Michael Hrabak – 2.49% (7th Place)
Juanita Farmer – 2.27% (8th Place)
Pam Bates- 1.08% (9th Place)
Brian Kelly – .81% (10th Place)