Harlingen women enter H-E-B Slim Down Showdown

HARLINGEN — It’s a little scary, but Michelle Giles remains resolute to participate in a program to exercise and learn better eating habits.

“You’re going into something that’s completely foreign because you really don’t know what to expect,” said Giles, 47, one of 30 participants in the Sixth Annual Slim Down Showdown held by H-E-B.

The Showdown is a 12-week contest to provide contestants with the information they need to develop a healthier lifestyle. They also can win cash prizes.

Participants from throughout Texas will begin the challenge Jan. 17 with a week-long Fit Camp in San Antonio. They had to fill out a lengthy online application and submit a picture and video. Participants were chosen based on their willingness to share their experience with others.

Experts from H-E-B, Methodist Healthcare, Gold’s Gym and the Cooper Aerobics Center will work with the participants. H-E-B manages the contest, including overall nutrition and fitness, a news release says. After the camp, participants will be coached on better eating habits, including better selection of foods, healthier preparation and portion control.

Two of the participants, including Giles, are from Harlingen. The other is Chelsea Childress.

“I am excited, really excited,” said Childress, 27. “I can’t wait. I want to learn about things like how to read nutrition labels and do tailored workouts.”

Childress said after she graduated from college in 2009, she was no longer getting her exercise on the college dance team. Her eating habits changed and she gained weight. She wants to start preparing food at home instead of eating out. She’d like to lose 40 pounds.

She was delighted to learn she’d been accepted into the program.

“I’m really excited to meet people who have the same goal and the willingness to change,” said Childress, who works at the Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System. She’s the executive assistant to the director.

The willingness to change is crucial to success in the program, said Stacy Bates, registered dietitian for H-E-B.

“They have to have the mental readiness to change,” Bates said. “There’s no magic bullet. It’s not just meals, it’s not just exercise.”

A healthy lifestyle involves these and many other factors, she said.

Giles has struggled with her weight her entire life, partly because she doesn’t have an active thyroid. She is on medication, but her body still turns everything into fat.

“I can burn the calories but it takes a lot more effort, a lot more discipline, I guess you could say,” she said.

She says she needs to lose about 100 pounds but she’s aiming for 50.

The main thing she wants to change is her eating habits.

“It’s mostly the things that I eat and the way they’re prepared at home,” she said. “I just want to learn how to cook healthier, eat healthier. You learn how to balance, I guess, your meal.”