About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star
The biggest loser: Hilary Ucciardi
Hilary Ucciardi is 21 pounds lighter and $360 richer because of the Biggest Loser contest here at The Free Lance-Star.
The newspaper, like dozens of other employers across the country, sponsored its own version of the hit television show. Companies have found that sponsoring programs such as Weight Watchers and Biggest Loser at work encourages employees to lose a few pounds and get more exercise.
The NBC show, in its ninth season, pits super-size contestants against one another to see who can lose the most weight. The show has spawned copy-cat versions in more than a dozen foreign countries, as well as a Biggest Loser store, Biggest Loser club and Biggest Loser ranch.
The version here began in January and lasted for nine weeks. Employees organized and ran it, and participation was voluntary. The cost was $10, with entire pot going to the person whose percentage weight loss was greatest. The contest attracted 36 contestants who lost more than 220 pounds.
Participants had to weigh in at the beginning and end of the contest. Weekly weigh-ins were optional. Each participant was assigned a number, and everyone could see the full roster of players and weight losses on an Excel spreadsheet that circulated. A blog done by one member of the newspaper’s wellness committee offered helpful eating tips and recipes.
Ucciardi, 32 and a resident of Caroline County, works in the marketing department. She entered the competition to lose the weight she gained when she was pregnant. Her son, Cody, is 1 year old.
She began the contest at 137 pounds and ended it at 116 pounds, a loss of 15 percent. Now she can wear the clothes she wore before she was pregnant. “It seems like a new wardrobe to me,” she said.
How did she do it? Ucciardi said she kept an eye on portion sizes and the kind of food she was eating. Her goal was to eat no more than 1,000 calories a day. She walked several times a week during her lunch break and cut out almost all processed foods and sodas. An iPod Touch application helped her keep track of how many calories she was eating.
“I didn’t realize how competitive I am,” she said.
The newspaper plans to sponsor a second contest for employees, beginning in May. Ucciardi said she does not plan to enter. Her weight is exactly where she wants it to be.