Kindergarten teacher Jeni Royal almost didn’t participate in the weight-loss group at Fuller Elementary School in Tempe. She missed the first weigh-in, but the school’s P.E. coach, Bob Kohl, said he could make an exception.
That was in the fall, and now that the school year is over, Royal has lost 72 pounds, the most of anyone in the 27-member group, which lost a total 267 pounds.
Kohl came up with the idea to organize a weight-loss group after watching shows like “Celebrity Fit Club” and “The Biggest Loser.” His friend also had just lost 60 pounds, and Kohl thought he could do something similar at the school. Each person contributed $15, and the winner and runner-up of the weight-loss challenge would receive prize money.
“This went way beyond my expectations,” Kohl said.
“When I put it out there, everybody did it and stuck with it,” he said.
There was no set plan for weight loss, though most ate sensibly and exercised more. The group conducted weighins every two weeks.
“Weigh day was payday,” Kohl said. “It’s very rare to get the comment ‘Oh no, it’s payday,’ ” but that’s what happened on some weeks.
Royal said the key to her success was the support of her fellow teachers and “the response — when people didn’t recognize me.”
Trading fast food for vegetables and fruit prepared at the beginning of the week, Royal said the healthier lifestyle has even helped her children lose weight.
Royal recently received her prize for winning the competition — a $200 check.
Matt Strauss, a fifth-grade teacher and runner-up in the competition said his 29-pound loss has increased his energy level.
“Now I’m getting up in the morning and feeling good,” Strauss said.
Strauss rides a stationary bike about 100 miles each week while he watches television. Plus, he’s switched from regular soda to diet soda to cut calories, and measures the portionsizes of his food.
He attributes his success to having a support group.
“I don’t think I ever would have focused this much if it was just me by myself,” Strauss said. “We all pushed each other.”