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Biggest Winner changing students’ lives

left: Tyler Hokanson before participating in the Biggest Winner competition. Right: Hokanson after participating in the Biggest Winner competition. Spring semester applications for the Biggest Winner competition are due April 29 in MC 101. Participants must have a doctor’s approval to participate.
left: Tyler Hokanson before participating in the Biggest Winner competition. Right: Hokanson after participating in the Biggest Winner competition. Spring semester applications for the Biggest Winner competition are due April 29 in MC 101. Participants must have a doctor’s approval to participate.

Wellness Activities held a closing ceremonies banquet for their weight loss competition, the Biggest Winner, on March 30 at 6 p.m. in Hinckley 286.

Tyler Hokanson, a freshman studying engineering technology, was awarded first place among the male contestants.

“The whole process has been amazing. All of the wonderful people I’ve met and the ability to know that I can do anything have really meant a lot to me,” Hokanson said. “Weight loss is a process, and it can be slow.”

Hokanson said he had already competed during fall semester and considered not competing again but was compelled to come back because of a meeting with his bishop about getting his mission paperwork started.

Hokanson said he originally came to BYU-Idaho intending to get two semesters of school done and then serve a mission, but that plan seemed to be in jeopardy when he was told he would need to lose some weight first.

“I was pretty discouraged,” Hokanson said. “I weighed 300 pounds, and [my bishop] said I had to get down to 244. In my mind I was like, ‘That’s a huge number.’”

Hokanson said that the 10-week competition provided the motivation to map out and hit smaller fitness goals that kept him from being distracted and disheartened by the seemingly impossible mark set by his bishop.

“They want to make a life change, but they don’t necessarily know how,” said Lisa Robison, the wellness activities faculty advisor.

Chase Harrison, a senior studying business management and the competition’s coordinator, said it falls to him to ensure that the contestants have everything they need to meet those goals.

“Each team of six or seven contestants is assigned two [fitness] trainers who design their workouts, and two nutritionists,” Harrison said. “They work out every day for at least an hour.”

Harrison said each contestant is required to undergo a skin fold test to check their body fat percentage and receive a doctor’s note clearing them to participate.

Robison said she loves to watch the contestants’ initial nervousness disappear as they get deeper into the competition and start to form friendships.

“They discover that there are other people out there in the same boat as them,” Robison said. “It’s the most heartfelt and touching program on campus.”

Harrison said Hokanson’s experience was the most rewarding and impactful thing he was able to see this semester.

“He lost 20-something pounds last semester, then came back again and lost over 30 pounds, and now he can go on a mission,” Harrison said. “[This program] truly changing lives for the better.”

Hokanson said the experience he had in the competition during fall semester prepared him to put in the extra effort this time around.

“Coming into this semester, I knew I had about 30 more pounds to lose, so I hit the ground running hard,” Hokanson said. “I lost 35 pounds this semester, and it’s just been incredible the difference that it’s made.”

Hokanson also said that he knows he’s not done with the journey yet, and he has enjoyed discovering new activities to be involved in.

Hokanson said he recently spent three days on a backpacking trip near the Salem River.

“Before, I would have been too tired; I didn’t think I had the physical ability to do any of that. Now, I feel like I can do anything,” Hokanson said “It’s not over. It’s a constant process, but now I’m looking forward to it.”

Hokanson said that while the experience of losing 60 pounds in two semesters was empowering, it was capped recently by the completion of an even greater goal.

“On Tuesday when my stake president said, ‘You’re ready to go on a mission,’ suddenly it was all worth it,” Hokanson said. “I’m going on a mission. That’s the most important part for me.”

Hokanson’s mission papers were submitted April 1.

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