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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Cottonwood Heights Rec Center’s Biggest Loser enjoying new fit life

Feb 28, 2017 09:33AM ● By Kelly Cannon

Rebecca Brannon after participating in the Biggest Loser. Brannon lost 65 pounds in eight months. (Rebecca Brannon/Resident)

By Kelly Cannon | [email protected]
In August 2015, Rebecca Brannon was unhappy. She had taken a trip to Yellowstone National Park and when she got back, the photos of herself made her so unhappy. Not only was Brannon overweight, but she had also been going through a year of extreme pain in her feet. It was getting to the point where her doctors were talking about giving her injections to alleviate the pain.
“It was quite obvious in the photo that I was unhappy,” Brannon said. “I looked at the photo and said, ‘Enough is enough. I shouldn’t have to go through this. I can make some changes.’”
Brannon had seen advertisements for the Biggest Loser program at the Cottonwood Heights Recreation center for over a year. She decided joining the program would be her first step toward getting healthy and fit.
“It really helped to have a network of people there who were supportive, to see some previous winners in that program who, despite being more than 10 years older than I was, were far more fit,” Brannon said. “It told me I could get fit too. I really found the existence of older participants to be very inspirational.”
Sponsored by the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center, the Biggest Loser program is similar to the television show of the same name. However, according to Brannon, it doesn’t have the same shortcomings of the show in that they don’t urge participants to lose weight at an unhealthy rate.
“Instead, they help you understand that through adjustments in your diet and exercise, you can slowly take it off and keep it off,” Brannon said. “The program includes guidance on both nutrition and exercise and entertaining friendly competition, similar to the ‘Biggest Loser.’”
Participants in the program have two exercise classes per week, and every other week they participate in a special exercise regiment, such as a scavenger hunt or rotating through different workout stations. Over the course of eight months with the program, Brannon lost 65 pounds, going from 202 to 137.
“When I started the program, I literally could not get off the floor without using my hands. I couldn’t hold a plank any longer than eight seconds and that was on my knees,” Brannon said. “And then over time and persistence, I can hold a full plank and I’m taking master’s swimming now. I feel better than I have in 20 years.”
One of the benefits to the Biggest Loser program is the support system that naturally develops not only with others in the program but also through other residents who go to the recreation center. Brannon said when they learn you are part of the Biggest Loser program, they offer encouragement and support.
“If you don’t make it to aqua aerobics, they’re going to ask where were you. They want you to be around to basically bolster each other up,” Brannon said. “You build an even bigger network of people who know what you’re trying to do and they’ll comment on it and be very support of it to try and keep you going. It was very effective.”
Brannon especially wanted to thank Amy Wildermuth, the vice president of academic affairs at the University of Utah, where Brannon is a professor in the engineering department.
“I was very grateful I was able to talk to the administration at the university and after having several years of extremely high performance, I kind of burned myself out,” Brannon said. “I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the good things in life so I could be productive at work without bringing myself down. I asked to take some time off without pay. She was instrumental in making that happen.”
Brannon recognizes most people don’t have that kind of opportunity to take work off to focus on their health, but she is now back at work and still finds ways to get to the gym and maintain the friendships she made in the program.
Even though it might be embarrassing to show the “before” picture of her weight loss, Brannon said she hoped it would inspire others.
“I hope others can experience the joy that I’ve had having gone through that,” Brannon said.
For more information about the Biggest Loser program, visit