some text UTC junior Andrew Byrum is competing in a national weight-loss effort.

A diet that requires you to eat at a restaurant once a day seems just too good to be true, doesn't it?

But it's working for University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student Andrew Byrum. In three weeks he's lost 19 pounds.

Byrum is Chattanooga's contestant in Genghis Grill's Health Kwest. The restaurant chain's weight-loss competition began Feb. 1 and ends March 31.

The restaurant specializes in Asian stir-fry served on a buffet from which diners may "build a bowl" by choosing their own protein, veggies, starch, sauces and seasonings.

Byrum, a junior from Maryville, Tenn., is a computer-science major at UTC. Mocs sports fans may not realize they are already familiar with his work: Byrum runs graphics and sometimes a video camera for Mocs athletic events and fan site

Byrum said he was motivated to lose weight because his "freshman 15" had blossomed to a 50-pound weight gain over two years. His starting weight of 272 --along with a $10,000 cash prize -- motivated him to throw his hat in the contest and change a sedentary lifestyle.

"Being a computer-science major, I spent most of my time in front of the computer. Sophomore year, I was more motivated to be active in daily life. However, I didn't have a routine exercise plan, and I didn't eat healthy," he said.

Contest rules state that in addition to eating at Genghis Grill once a day, contestants must adopt a healthy diet and exercise plan. They are charged with sharing these lifestyle changes in a blog that the public may read online and vote for their favorite contestant.

Andrew said his favorite dish at the Grill is a bowl with chicken, a little shrimp, red and green peppers, onions, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms and Island Teriyaki sauce. If he omits a starch, the bowl totals 420 calories. When he adds a starch, he said he chooses steamed udon noodles.

As the contestant sponsored by the Market Street Genghis Grill, Byrum gets his daily bowls for free. He was issued a punch card with 60 bowl allotments (one for each day of the contest).

Because Genghis Grill bowls hold generous servings, Byrum said he quickly learned the first tip for weight watchers when they dine out: Ask for a to-go box, divide the meal in half and take the remaining portion home for a second meal.

He said the remainder of each day's diet is filled with "as many fruits, vegetables and whole grains as possible."

"For breakfast, I have been eating whole-grain cereal. For a snack, I might have an apple or granola bar," he said.

Byrum said he began working out with his friend, Eileen Alexander, who was training for a marathon. Now he's working with a trainer at The Rush.

As of last weekend, Byrum was 29th out of 80 contestants nationwide.

One-quarter of his score is based on the public's votes, one-quarter on his blog posts and the remaining half on the amount of weight lost. His goal is to lose the 50 he's gained while at UTC.

Anyone who has ever dieted knows how hard it is, much less having to share your feelings about it to the public. So show your support for our local contestant by checking out his blog and voting for him at