MISSION – Since the early days of the new year 27 contestants have been working hard to lose weight as part of the H-E-B Slim Down Showdown.

Up for grabs is a $10,000 grand prize for a male and a female. This is the seventh year the grocery chain has hosted the 12-week statewide contest.

The winners will be announced at the H-E-B Alamo Health and Fitness Expo in San Antonio.

Iliana Vela, a floral manager at the H-E-B in Alamo, has struggled with weight for the majority of her life especially after high school. She is one of the 27 contestants competing for the $10,000 grand prize.

“Right now was the time for me to make the change and that's what led me here,” she said.

Vela filled a questionnaire online as part of the application process and also had several interviews but ultimately was chosen for the contest. Vela began her application process in February 2015 but she did not receive a reply until August.

But in August she was notified that she made the first cut of 45 applicants.

One of the main questions during the interview was what inspired Vela to apply for the contest, what was keeping her from losing the weight herself and what she was hoping to gain from the Slim Down.

The Mission native hopes to gain a healthier lifestyle. Last July Vela was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

“A lot of (the inspiration) was I needed the extra coaching and extra push to go ahead and lose the weight,” Vela said. “That's my biggest motivator, to get healthy.”

Vela is grateful she now has her family and coworkers as a support system to help her along the way with the Slim Down Challenge.

Not only do they continue to support her but they were needed most after the fit camp H-E-B hosted in San Antonio.

To help her along the way with contest but mainly to begin a better lifestyle H-E-B Registered Dietitian Andie Gonzalez gave Vela a tour of H-E-B showing her what was best for her to consume.

Up until the tour Vela had lost 11 pounds just by dieting and exercising.

Vela is grateful she is a contestant but her ultimate goal is just be healthier and perhaps encourage people to not let fear get in the way of becoming healthier.

“I want to encourage people that are maybe going through the same thing and are afraid to apply (for the contest) or they're afraid to tell people about their weight,” she said. “Just do it.”