Losers will be winners in 'UST Weight-Loss Challenge'

Losers will be winners in ‘UST Weight-Loss Challenge’

The biggest losers will be the biggest winners in a University of St. Thomas weight-loss program that starts next month.

The “UST Weight-Loss Challenge” is sponsored by the university’s Human Resources Department and is based on the NBC television program “The Biggest Loser.”

The contest, being conducted in coordination with LifeTime Fitness Corp., will involved 16 to 18 staff or faculty members who will participate in an eight-week weight-loss contest to see who can lose the largest percentage of weight. First place wins $500, second place wins $250 and third place wins $150.

Each participant will participate in three personal-training sessions per week at a LifeTime facility in Eagan or Woodbury. They also will meet with a nutrition coach for a half hour each week.

Participants must attend all sessions, and missing more than two will result in disqualification. Each will receive a monthly lifestyle journal to track their progress and will have free use of LifeTime facilities for two months, which includes daycare if needed.

Staff and faculty can learn more about the contest by attending the Human Resources Fair this week, or at information sessions next week.

The Human Resources Fair will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15, in the third-floor lounge of Murray-Herrick Campus Center in St. Paul; from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, in Rooms 201-202 of Opus Hall in Minneapolis; and from 11 p.m. to midnight Thursday, Feb. 16, in the Rogge-Leyden Room of Murray-Herrick Campus Center in St. Paul.

The Weight-Loss Challenge information sessions will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22, in Room 126 of John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts in St. Paul; and from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, in Room 301 of Terrence Murphy Hall in Minneapolis.

Interested employees are encouraged to file an application form. The applications will be reviewed by Human Resources and LifeTime staff members to select the 16 to 18 contestants. They will be selected March 8, and the contest will run from March 13 to May 5. A body-composition test and weigh-in will be held at the start, at six weeks, and at the end. A ceremony will be held May 10 to announce the results.

At least statistically, St. Thomas could gain a lot if employees lost a lot, or even some.

The combination of physical inactivity and obesity is the second-leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and, according to Peter Ronza, the compensation and benefits manager for Human Resources, this represents a huge economic burden to employers.

According to the American Public Health Association and the United Health Foundation, the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. population has risen from 11.6 percent in 1990 to 23.1 percent in 2005.

Obesity, Ronza said, is linked to higher risk for a range of illnesses that include high blood pressure, heart disease, type-two diabetes and cancer. Millions of lost work days and doctor visits are linked to obesity, and obese employees, nationally, cost 52 percent more in annual health care costs compared to healthy-weight employees.