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DRC/David Minton

Student taking life back through contest

Profile image for By Rachel Mehlhaff / Staff Writer
By Rachel Mehlhaff / Staff Writer

One bowl at a time

Texas Woman’s University student Albert Wright is taking back a piece of his life each day, from his attic ladder to his dodge ball game.

Wright has struggled with being overweight throughout his adult life. And he’s noticed over the years that he’s become less active while supervising children at work.

“I realized I lost so much being overweight,” said Wright, who played football in high school.

Early in his career, he would play games with the kids, he said. That’s part of the reason he wants to get back to playing dodge ball.

He also wants to get back his attic ladder, which broke while he was putting up Christmas decorations this winter.

The decision to reclaim his health was sparked when Wright became a contestant in the Genghis Grill Health Kwest, a two-month contest in which each contestant eats at Genghis Grill once a day and adopts a healthy diet as well as an exercise plan.

Contestants share their journey on a blog, and people vote for their favorites.

“Basically, I needed some motivation,” Wright said.

Wright is ranked ninth out of 70 contestants and has lost about 9.3 percent of his body weight, said Chiara Granado, spokeswoman for Dallas-based Genghis Grill.

“Albert had been trying a bunch of different diet plans,” said his wife, Brooke.

He lost 30 pounds in the first 30 days of the competition, and he’s gone down three shirt sizes, Brooke Wright said.

Part of his weight-loss regimen has been working out at All Around Sports Fitness Bootcamps in Lake Dallas. He does a boot camp twice a day.

He blogs each day about something he wants back, such as his favorite pair of jeans.

Today is his last day of the competition.

When he started 60 days ago, Wright said, it looked like “Albert Wright and a weight loss competition,” but it’s grown into much more.

“It’s not just about me,” he said. “It’s about us and my community.”

People stop him and tell him about their own weight loss stories, he said.

A question Wright often gets is: “Are you tired of eating at Genghis Grill?”

His answer is no.

As of Friday, he’d eaten there 59 times, and he’d eaten 59 different meals, he said.

“They’ll make it however you want it,” he said.

He and his wife were fans of Genghis Grill before the competition.

If Wright wins the competition, he could collect $10,000. And he plans to give a portion to a nonprofit he and his wife started called Angels Exist, which helps families with terminally ill children.

Through the competition, Genghis Grill is trying to promote healthy dining, Granado said.

“We pushed this as a healthy awareness campaign,” the spokeswoman said.

But it’s still up to customers to choose healthy options, she said, and not indulge in tons of meat.

Cindy Kleckner, a dietitian at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, said, “eating out has become such an important thing in our lives.”

In the 1960s and ’70s, people spent 26 percent of their food budget on eating out, she said. Now it is 48 percent.

“In that time, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of obesity,” she said.

People often think of eating out as a time to splurge, she said.

“We’ve really got to learn to manage it,” she said. “If that’s something we are going to continue to do, we really need to manage it.”

Kleckner said there are different ways to look at competitions like the one Genghis Grill is offering. On one hand, a little competition can be good, she said. On the other hand, there’s no cookie-cutter approach to dieting, she said.

Offering an incentive as Genghis has done means contestants are more likely to follow through, Kleckner said.

It’s important that contestants don’t just look at the meal they’re eating at Genghis Grill, Kleckner said, but that they watch what they are eating at home as well.

“If they’re encouraging weight loss outside of the Genghis Grill, I think it’s a good approach,” she said.

It also would be good if each contestant had an opportunity to meet with a registered dietician, she said.

“It’s always nice when they can offer an education component,” she said.

She said the restaurant recommends appropriate serving sizes, and it offers nutritional information on its website.

She cautions people to watch sodium intake, especially when eating out.

The 2010 recommendation for sodium intake is 2,300 milligrams a day, she said.

“You potentially get a lot of sodium when you’re eating this kind of cuisine,” she said, adding that it’s all about what people choose.

The lemon pepper at Genghis Grill has 400 milligrams of sodium per serving. But there are ways around it, she said, such as choosing the Cajun seasoning.

A program like the contest can work if it’s done in conjunction with an overall healthy diet and physical activity, she said.

Kleckner’s advice: “Don’t approach it as a 60-day challenge, but as an opportunity to make some lifestyle changes.”

And that’s the way Wright is approaching it. He and his wife have moved the couches out of their living room, and now it’s filled with workout equipment.

Between Sunday and Tuesday he will weigh himself again, and Genghis will choose a winner by Friday.

But Wright is really looking forward to what he and his wife will get back.

“His journey isn’t over. That’s the cool part,” Brooke Wright said.

RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is



To vote for Albert Wright, visit