Ewa Woman In Top 10 In U.S. Health Contest

By Shannon Rosenberg

Ewa Beach resident Dawn Villanueva was selected as one of the top 10 finalists out of 1,200,000 contestants in the Dr. Oz Transformation Nation: Million Dollar You national health challenge, which wrapped up last month.

When Villanueva, 40, began the contest she weighed 156 pounds and struggled with poor eating habits.”For me it wasn’t about the contest, it was about getting healthy,” she said. “I was concerned over my husband’s health, because he had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I was turning 40 and I didn’t like how things were going for me or my family.”

Dawn, Ariel, Abigail and Ariel Villanueva Jr.

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Dawn, Ariel, Abigail and Ariel Villanueva Jr. before running a 5k race. Photo from the Villanueva family.

The contest launched last September, beginning with the initial weigh-in. Participants were required to carry out a seven-step program that would help transform their overall health. It challenged participants to lose weight, learn family health history, sleep hygiene, stress reduction, fitness, and form a relationship with their doctor. In order to become a finalist, they would have to lose 10 percent of their body weight and reach a healthy BMI (body mass index) between 18.5 and 24.9.

Although it was a tough regimen, Villanueva dedicated herself to the Weight Watcher’s diet and started running every day. “In the beginning it was definitely an adjustment,” Villanueva admitted. “I had to learn how to control my food portions, and I realized that serving sizes are a lot smaller than you think.”

Her husband was able to lose weight previously on the LA Weight Loss Diet. Because of poor eating choices, however, it wasn’t long before he gained it all back. “I felt responsible for his weight gain,” she explained. “I prepared the meals we ate, and I went shopping for the groceries. I felt like it was my fault that my family was becoming unhealthy.”

Villanueva decided that the health challenge was going to become a family effort. She cooked healthier foods, put an end to unhealthy snacking, and got the family to participate in evening jogs. When she was chosen as a finalist, it wasn’t just for her own transformation, but also for transforming the health of her husband and two kids. And it wasn’t long before all the hard work began to pay off. Within just two months, she had reached her ultimate weight goal.

By her final weigh-in, had reached 112.8 pounds. She had lost 43.4 pounds in less than a year, and her husband joined her with a loss of 43 pounds. “It’s absolutely amazing. We made a lifestyle change, and we’re planning on sticking to it forever.”

Villanueva was flown to New York May 7 and featured with the other nine finalists on the Dr. Oz show. It was then that she realized she had become a role model for women throughout the country. “Knowing that women look up to me is only going to make me work harder to stay healthy,” she said. “Everyone needs to not take their health for granted. Don’t put off what you can do today for tomorrow.”

The grand prize winner was chosen through public voting and was released May 23. Although the slimmed-down Ewa Beach woman was not the million-dollar winner, she has won in many other ways.

For more information on the Transformation Nation Health challenge or tips, visit