February 23, 2009

‘Healthiest Loser’ competition gets under way

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Nineteen contestants. Ten weeks. Creating healthier bodies. That’s the Saluki’s Healthiest Loser contest at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. And, the first big challenge is today, Monday, Feb. 23.

Network television’s “Biggest Loser” program is very popular, chronicling week by week the efforts of contestants to lose weight and avoid being voted off. The SIUC competition is similar but with some major differences. They won’t vote anyone off. All 19 contestants are in it for the long haul.

More importantly, stepping on a scale won’t determine the battle’s winner. This competition is really about improving overall health, so a point scale will determine the top three finishers, winners of Banterra Bank Book Scholarships of $500, $300 and $200. Contestants must participate in the vast majority of the training sessions and lecture series to qualify for a top prize. They earn points for such factors as percentage of lean mass/muscle gained, increases in flexibility, drops in blood pressure and increasing repetitions when lifting weights.

“We are so excited about the interest and enthusiasm of the students seeking opportunities to make healthy lifestyle changes!” said Lynne Thompson-Cundiff, assistant fitness director for Recreational Sports and Services at SIUC. The inaugural Saluki’s Healthiest Loser contest, like its televised counterpart, has already proven very popular, with 120 applicants for 19 slots.

The first of the weekly challenges at the SIUC Student Recreation Center is at 7:30 p.m. today. It’s a 500-step challenge. Contestants will compete in four-person teams and the first team to complete 500 steps on a four-inch step bench will be the winner. Subsequent weekly challenges are set for 6 p.m. each Sunday at the center. SIUC students are welcome to come cheer on the contestants, Thompson-Cundiff said.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover any of the Saluki’s Healthiest Loser challenges. The first is at 7:30 p.m. today, Monday, Feb. 23, at the Student Recreation Center. The rest of the weekly challenges in the 10-week competition will be each Sunday at 6 p.m. at the center. Contact Gary Tisdale, assistant director of marketing for RSS, at 618/453-1225 or via e-mail at gtisdale@siu.edu to arrange coverage of any of the challenges.

The challenges are as diverse as the contestants. There will be an obstacle course, a water-related challenge, a rowing calorie burn, a boot camp fitness challenge and much more. There’s a weekly theme, with contestants keeping logs, getting ample tips and even recipes to help them, and then wrapping up with a challenge. For instance, one week they’ll log memories of a time when they fought off the urge to eat a high-calorie favorite food and another time when they succumbed to temptation. Then, they’ll log their calories for a day and the team members will try to “row” off half of their daily caloric intake during the challenge.

Saluki’s Healthiest Loser participants get a program valued at $800, including 30 workouts with a certified personal training, fitness and health assessments, medical screening, group sessions with nutritionists and counselors, group fitness classes, information about nutrition and fitness and a T-shirt. The collaborative effort involves Recreational Sports and Services, the Student Health Center, Counseling Center and Wellness Center, as well as the Department of Kinesiology.

“It’s a terrific opportunity to collaborate with other departments for a holistic approach to achieving their goals, not to mention the added benefit of collaborating with academics to assist a student with her graduate research. We are hopeful that all 120 applicants receive some motivation and education to better the quality of their lives either through direct participation in our groups --contestants, research, or Counseling Center -- or online with our list serve. We are truly grateful for our sponsors who believe in programs such as these to help benefit students,” she added.

Saluki’s Healthiest Loser contestants, listed by hometown with major, school year and team color, are:


• Bloomington: Tanena Sandefur, a junior elementary education major, green team.

• Carbondale: Danielle Armstrong, a senior public relations major, orange team.

Amarnath Nagaram Chengal, a graduate student in electrical and computer

engineering, blue team.

Christine O’Dell, a senior workforce education and development major,

yellow team.

• Chicago: Kumberly Milan, a graduate elementary education/curriculum and instruction major, blue team.

• Du Quoin: Beth Perrin, a senior majoring in psychology, red team.

• Goreville: Bridgett Harrison, a graduate student majoring in forestry, orange team.

• Makanda: Karen Orlandini, a junior health care management major, red team.

• McHenry: Brian Placzkowski, a junior plant and soil science major, blue team.

• Monticello: Daniel Kolb, a junior majoring in administration of justice, green team.

• Mulkeytown: Jeffrey Reece, a doctoral graduate student in education/ workforce

education, red team.

• Oak Forest: Jay Coronado, a junior Spanish secondary education major, blue team.

• Park Forest: Shenetra Franklin, a junior majoring in paralegal studies, orange team.

• Rantoul: James Brubacker, an undeclared major graduate student, orange team.

• Rockford: Amara Reese, a freshman aviation flight major, yellow team.

• Sheridon: Mike Brown, a senior automotive technology major, yellow team.

• Woodridge: Joe Janowiak, a senior aviation technologies major, green team.


• Mesa: Danny Wenger, a senior majoring in journalism and Spanish, red team.


• Lufkin: Ashundra Castle, a graduate student in medical education preparation, green team.