I will never say my decision to start losing weight was an easy one. I had a pretty terrible three days and it led me to focus on myself and making sure I was happy. While I had never been fully content with my weight, I never let it hold me back from living my life. As a full-time graduate student, my process always starts with research, so I looked into credible lifestyle change advice and recognized dieting fads weren’t going to lead me to real, sustainable results.  At work, I started observing what people ate. The key is moderation. I started tracking my calories, meal prepping, and going to the gym.

Between school and two jobs, timing was everything and freeing up that time was crucial. Interning at the Celanese office in Dallas also gives me access to a gym facility, which really helped me stay committed while simultaneously avoiding rush hour traffic. I had changed my diet, started working out and after 4 months and 40 pounds, I received the email that put my journey into overdrive.

“The Biggest Loser” popped up on my screen, asking for participants in the annual employee-led competition. At first, I felt tentative in joining. Before, if I made my weight loss journey I felt it ended with failure due to my self-generated worry of not wanting to disappoint. Then I read there was a cash prize for the winning team, and as a masters student the trope of never having enough money rang truer than ever, so I joined.

I don’t know what motivated me to become our team’s captain: I’d like to say it was fueled by everyone’s general disinterest in the role, coupled with my confidence in knowing how to lose weight. Either way, I became team captain and was excited to help push my team to success; albeit there was some hesitation due to the fact that I was an intern leading a group of employees with varying levels of experience. It didn’t go quite as planned. By the end of the second week my group was dead last, and for personal reasons, one of our members had to drop. This left my group in an unfortunate circumstance of being too small to fairly compete AND with low team morale. So, we had to find another person who would want to join the team post-start date. That’s when Mark Rohr joined and that’s when the only-found-in-movies scenario of the intern leading the CEO began.

As the leader, I felt the best way to motivate my team was to share my experience with losing weight. This often required delving into personal experiences like weight fluctuations that discouraged me along the way and maintaining motivation. I sent recipes, emails about special weight loss methods, and small updates. I offered all the support I deemed helpful enough to share, while simultaneously realizing everyone also had their own way of losing weight.

The idea of being the team lead for Mark made me incredibly nervous at first, especially when I had to remind him to send in his results for the week. However, as the weeks passed I realized that initial worry was placated by a grander purpose; we were all there because we wanted to get healthy and they all trusted me to be the leader. After that, being more honest and open became easier. Sending direct emails reminding them to send in their weekly results didn’t seem rude or pushy, but helpful and considerate. Stopping by their workspaces didn’t seem imposing, but rather caring. Being the team captain was a guiding role rather than an overbearing one. While my teammates constantly thanked me for being team lead, I honestly can’t thank them enough for their hard work. It’s because of them that we went from being in last place to the winners (or “losers” if you will) of the Biggest Loser Competition. Participating in Biggest Loser was easily one of the best choices I’ve made in the last year. It created a support system that allowed me to make positive changes on the inside and outside. The overall environment at the office became more focused on positively commenting on the changes people were seeing — a quiet motivation for me — and lastly, for the first time I saw my work life and my personal life combine into one goal. And while the competition ended more than 3 months ago, the positive, encouraging environment hasn’t changed. I’m 75 pounds down now and there’s not an end in sight.

Pictured left to right: Sandeep Seth, Rosangelica Castillo and Mark Rohr. (Team members not pictured: Cindy Moseley and Stephanie Blakley.)