The Press Newspaper
Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes you win when you lose…just ask the participants in 13abc’s recent Extreme Weight Loss Challenge.
When the TV station’s annual competition ended last month, Robin Chlebowski, of Walbridge, was crowned the biggest loser and she couldn’t be more thrilled.
The challenge started last October, with more than 170 people putting it all on the line in an attempt to lose weight and win prizes.
Though the TV station had been issuing calls for participants in the weeks before the Extreme Weight Loss Challenge started, Chlebowski hadn’t heard anything about it.
“One morning, I turned on the news and they were talking about it being the last day to register for the challenge,” she said. “I was only half listening until they said part of the proceeds from the $25 registration fee went to ALS.
“My grandma passed away from ALS, so I took it as a sign,” she said.
“I didn’t even know they had done this in the past or anything and I thought, you know what…what could it hurt?” she said. “They said come after 5 and join in, so that’s what I did.”
At 38, Chlebowski, had been struggling with her weight most of her life. In early 2010, she was diagnosed with skin cancer and subsequently underwent surgery. The treatment was successful and today, she’s cancer-free. “The whole thing sent me into a depression,” she said. “At the time, Ben and Jerry were my best friends and I gained a ton of weight.
“In May of that year, I got on my scale and it briefly flashed 367 pounds and then it went dead… I believe it really only went up to 350,” she said.
Frustrated, embarrassed and fearing for her health, Chlebowski decided she needed to do something. “I even considered lap band surgery, until I read that a possible complication of the procedure could be death,” she said. Her research also noted that lap band patients are required to stick to a 1,200-calorie-a-day diet for the rest of their lives. “So I decided to pretend that I had the surgery and from that day forward, track my food in a food diary and do the 1,200 calorie thing.
“I bought a little book called ‘The CalorieKing’ and wrote everything down,” she said. “I know a lot of people use the apps to track their food, but I’m old school…I like putting pen to paper. I felt it made me more accountable, because I had to do the work of writing everything down.”
Chlebowksi’s efforts paid off and within a year, she lost almost 100 pounds.
“Then the summer came and I was a little lackadaisical, and gained back a few pounds,” she said. “Then when this challenge came up in October, I thought it would be just what I needed to get me to my final goal, which was 155.”
At the Extreme Weight Loss Challenge’s initial weigh-in, Chlebowski tipped the scales at 255, making her goal an even 100.
“13abc reporter Kelly Heidbreder, who led the challenge, told us that typically, people lose, on average, 80 pounds during the challenge, so I was excited,” Chlebowski said.
Throughout the challenge, participants competed on a point system, earning points based on weight loss and performance in monthly group challenges, as well as extra credit points for getting in one workout or class per month at Super Fitness.
“Each month, half of us would get eliminated,” she said. From October through May, Chlebowski continued her food journaling and worked out regularly at home on her elliptical machine. She also joined a local running club, the Toledo Roadrunners. “I had been running off and on since college, though not so much when I was at my heaviest,” she said.
“Toward the end of the challenge, in the last couple of months, I bumped my workouts up to twice a day,” she said. “And I stuck to the 1,200 calories for the most part, except for the very end, though I never went too low because I didn’t want to lose the weight in an unhealthy way.”
It turns out, the often-prescribed formula of eating less and moving more worked for Chlebowski and she was often at the top of the point charts at the challenge’s monthly events.
“There were a few people who were on my tail, and I found that motivating…I guess I didn’t really know how competitive I was,” she said.
Her efforts were featured on regular segments of the 13abc news programs. “Yeah, despite the fact that I had my hair pulled back, was sweating most of the time and was always wearing that bright yellow competition shirt, I actually loved being on TV, she said. “I told myself, in the end, I’m only going to look better so I can’t care what I look like now.”
“In the end, it came down to just four females,” Chlebowski said. “Prior to this year, I think males had really done better. I thought it was cool we had ‘girl power.
“Though we were competing, the support from everyone involved in the challenge was amazing.. I’ve gained get lifelong friends…it’s become like a family,” she said.
“Toward the end, we were all saying that it really didn’t matter who wins or loses because we’re all winners in the end,” she said.
At the final weigh in, held May 6, Chlebowski registered 153 pounds, beating her goal by two pounds. She was crowned the winner May 21, based on her total points earned. She received a trophy, a yearlong membership to Super Fitness and a treadmill for her efforts.
“I’ve never met my weight loss goal before, so when I did, I thought, “what do I do now?’” she said. In the meantime she’s gained back a few pounds, which is ok with her “I think 153 was a little too thin for me,” she said.
She remains confident she can keep the weight off. “I’ve broken up with Ben and Jerry for good, and the workouts have become a regular part of my life. I’ve also run more 5Ks than I ever thought I would.”
She’s also trying to live up to the proud boasting by her mom. “I think the people she works with are tired of hearing about me,” she said.
She’s also looking forward to the 13abc’s next Extreme Weight Loss Challenge.
“It starts up again in October, and I’m going to get involved with helping to coach and motivate the participants,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be a motivational speaker, to help other people.”