Kids can be so cruel.
Robert Ugofsky, 42, knows firsthand how mean they can be and how deep their words can cut.
“Every time I drop off my 8-year-old son at school, the kids point at me and laugh,” said Ugofsky, holding back tears. “Then they make my son cry by saying things like ‘your dad is fat.’”
Determined to no longer be the center of ridicule due to his weight, Ugofsky was one of 90 participants who signed up for Heritage Park Fitness’s biannual Biggest Loser contest in Harker Heights.
“My goal during this contest is to drop a shirt size,” he said. He wants to go from a size 9 extra large to an 8 extra large.
The contest lasts eight weeks. During the kicked off on Jan. 13, participants had their “before” photos taken, body fat measured and weight recorded, and met their partners and team trainers for their “first chance” workout.
Heritage Park Fitness holds the contest twice a year, once in the fall and once after the holiday season.
Last fall, participants lost a combined 600 pounds.
With the contest now in its sixth year, gym owner Mike Sheppard decided to change up the format and add the team component.
“We try to make this better every year and the team aspect will keep people motivated and honest so they can reach their goals,” he said.
The weight-loss contest is open to the public and gym membership is not required. Members pay $35 to enter the contest and nonmembers pay $45.
“This gives people who want to try the gym on for size an opportunity to see what we offer and to work with our trainers,” Sheppard said. “Our clients have been very receptive to the challenge and take it very seriously.”
The contestants get three weigh-ins, nutrition advice, trainer-led workouts, challenge workouts, motivational and educational clinics and before and after pictures in addition to losing weight and inches.
“A lot of our challenge participants are repeat participants because they like the bonds they make during these eight weeks,” said Jessica Davis, the gym’s head trainer. “A lot of people feel like they are in it alone, and by signing up for this they get the support and motivation they need to be successful and stay on track. We want our clients to reach their goals and will support them in anyway we can.”
Ugofsky weighed in Jan. 13 at 524 pounds. His doctors want him to get down to 250 pounds so they can repair a hernia that hasn’t healed properly since it was operated on in 2012. But Ugofsky has other reasons to lose weight.
“My son is a pretty big second-grader,” Ugofsky said about his son, who weighs 100 pounds. “Hopefully if he sees dad eating healthy he will start eating better, too.”