H-E-B competitor becomes 'Healthy Hero' (video)


Oct. 7, 2012 at 5:07 a.m.
Updated Oct. 8, 2012 at 5:08 a.m.

SAN ANTONIO - An orange T-shirt masked Reuben Ybarra as he stepped onstage and, with a smirk, tossed the shirt aside. In spiffier duds - an orange vest and matching bow tie - he strutted his stuff before a cheering crowd.

The 2012 H-E-B Slim Down Showdown wrapped up Sunday with a finale at San Antonio's Pearl Stable. Four months and 85 pounds after the start, Ybarra walked away with the event's Healthy Hero award.

It was an honor created especially for him and one that came with a $3,000 check.

The Victoria resident lost the most weight of all 24 contestants and improved in every health measurement, including cholesterol, triglycerides, body mass index and percent body fat.

Ybarra, 46, said it felt good to know his hard work made a difference.

He began his endeavor at 344 pounds and, with support from family, friends and fellow contestants, found ways to improve his eating habits and become more active.

It wasn't about dieting, he said, but making better decisions.

His current meal plan, which includes regular meals and snacks, allows him more food than he ate before.

Getting active also helped, said Ybarra, who found a love for aqua Zumba. It was the perfect mix for a guy who loves both water and music.

"When I'd have a stressful day at work, I remember telling people, 'Man, I can't wait to get out and go to aqua Zumba,'" he said, smiling. "They said, 'I remember when you used to say "I can't wait to go out and get a drink."' It really has changed."

Kristen Kastner served as Ybarra's coach, mentoring him weekly via phone. She said she was proud of the progress he'd made.

"Eighty-five pounds. Who does that?" she asked, a wide smile spread across her face. "And the right way. That's the key."

Jasper Pino stood misty-eyed as he watched Ybarra, his partner, visit with family and friends after his big win.

"I had no doubt in him," he said, colored lights flashing around him. "I know what we all discovered in Reuben a long time ago. Now is his time to share that with everybody else."

Pino worked alongside Ybarra the whole way, preparing meals, working out and making shopping lists healthier. Throughout the four months, he saw results in himself, too.

"I've trimmed up and muscled up," said Pino, whose blood pressure and cholesterol were high at the journey's start. "Last week I followed up and everything is in perfect order."

Pino wasn't the only support Ybarra had present. A slew of family and friends sat in the audience, cheering, waving signs and wearing orange "Team Ruby" T-shirts.

Among those fans? Ybarra's mother, Alice Ybarra.

With a recent 70-pound weight loss success of her own, she said her son's accomplishments put her beyond words.

"I hope he continues," she said, clutching an orange foam finger. "He was a winner already, but I don't want him to go back to the old ways."

That's something both mother and son agree on.

Reuben Ybarra said he hopes to continue keeping active, eating healthy and embracing the lifestyle he said he's found he enjoys.

As for the $3,000? He has plans for that, too.

While most will go into savings, he said he hopes to devote a bit to a trip of some sort, and to donate some to charitable organizations.

He said he looks forward to a life very different than the one he once led. That's a life with more clothing options at retail stores, without seat belt extenders on plane rides, and a life of healthier overall decisions.

"It's not over," he said. "We're not done."



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