Start the Journey
Contestants come to The Biggest Loser Ranch for a variety of reasons. Yes, the grand prize (and the bragging rights) provides some motivation, but every Biggest Loser is looking to win big in other ways. For the Season 9 contestants--the heaviest cast in Biggest Loser history--it's about winning back their health, their lives, and the ability to be the person they've always wanted to be.
At 403 £ds, Gray Team member Koli Palu says he knew he needed to change his life because "death is at my doorstep; it really is." Lance Morgan, the 365-£d Texas rancher, says he felt he had two options: Get healthy or end up in "a pine box." For twins James and John Crutchfield, weighing in at 485 and 484 £ds respectively, coming to The Biggest Loser Ranch was about not becoming another statistic in a family that has seen numerous members suffer from obesity-related health issues such as diabetes, stroke, and gastric bypass surgery.
As the title suggests, this book is about reclaiming health--and you! Since the end of Season 8, more than 18,200 £ds have been lost by contestants on The Biggest Loser. And when they shed all that extra weight, they also shed things like blood pressure medication, type 2 diabetes, depression, and all the inhibitions that have kept them from living their fullest, best lives--both mentally and physically. Twenty-five-year-old Daris George, who came to the Ranch for Season 9 with his mom, Cheryl, says that taking off his shirt and showing the world what he had become was one of the scariest things he'd ever done. Change is never easy, especially when you don't recognize yourself in the mirror. But every season on The Biggest Loser, we watch as the contestants fight hard to take back ownership of their lives. And once they get a taste of what it's like to feel healthy, happy, and just plain good--they never want to revert back to their old habits. As Season 9's Maria Ventrella says, "Overcoming your fears is so important. If you don't overcome them, you'll just bring them about in a different way." Brown Team James Crutchfield
AGE : 30
STARTING WEIGHT: 485 £ds
HOMETOWN: Orlando, Florida
STARTING WEIGHT: 484 £ds
HOMETOWN: Orlando, Florida
With a combined weight of almost 1,000 £ds, the Crutchfield brothers nicknamed themselves the "half-ton twins." Brown Team members James and John have been overweight since they were 10 years old. Amazingly, they've always been within a few £ds of each other. Though they played sports in high school, now that they've turned 30 and their weight has reached an all- time high, the twins are no longer able to participate in activities they once enjoyed.
Before he arrived at the Ranch, James landed in the hospital with soaring high blood pressure. He could no longer go dancing with his wife or even take long walks. "This isn't how I wanted the world to see me," he says.
John, who has a 1-year-old son, worries about his family's history of diabetes and obesity. Recent deaths in the family haunt him. "My dad died, then 2 months later my grandma, then a sister, then a friend. My mom had a mild stroke and is overweight and wheelchair bound. I felt cursed and turned to food for comfort." The first word spoken by his baby boy was "Da- da," and John refuses to leave his son fatherless.
The twins say they no longer want to use food as a source of comfort. And after arriving at The Biggest Loser Ranch and embarking on a healthy new lifestyle, they're turning things around.
Today, James says he feels much better. "I am active and go to the gym every single day. I am capable of so much more than I expected. My life has been made better because I realize I can do this. I know what to do. I have all the tools to succeed and live a long, healthy life with my wife. This whole process has brought my wife and me closer."
The twins can now swim and bike long distances and are more positive about their future. "I've gained an understanding of my body and its capabilities," says John. "Eating all that healthy food, it really makes a difference! I have a lot more energy and am more positive and excited for the future. I've gained a new lease on life."
The two continue to push each other to get healthy and to make sure their health causes no further family heartache.
STARTING WEIGHT: 233 £ds
HOMETOWN: Aspermont, Texas
STARTING WEIGHT: 365 £ds
HOMETOWN: Aspermont, Texas
Melissa and Lance Morgan are the first to admit that weight has taken a toll on their marriage. "We made a commitment to each other 10 years ago. We need to go back to who we were then, because we're just not there anymore. Our weight is seriously affecting us as a couple," they admit. "We're really at a point where we say things like 'Shut up, don't talk to me.' We don't have respect for each other."
Lance admits that before they arrived at the Ranch, "it had gotten to the point that all we did at home was eat and bicker."
Melissa packed on 40 £ds in the early years of their marriage and added another 20 after the birth of her children. While she was busy with law school, the family ate takeout. For Lance, his weight cost him his job as a professional scuba diver when he could no longer pass the required physical. "We can't afford to sit back and pretend that our weight is not an issue," says Melissa. "I'm an attorney. I have to project confidence in front of a jury. And I feel like a moose in the courtroom."
Now that they've embarked on their weight-loss journey together, "it's about forever," says Melissa. "It's not so much about the game as it is about health and fitness. This is an emotional and psychological change for me. I'm an emotional eater. And I know that food doesn't fix anything."
Today, the benefits of weight loss are rolling in. "I feel so much better," says Lance. "My feet don't hurt all the time, I can walk for more than 30 minutes, and I can breathe! I am looking forward to getting out and doing things with my kids instead of just sitting around the house with them."
"We made a commitment to our community," Melissa remarks about their weight- loss goals. "We have a huge amount of support back home. We want to bring back what we learn here and get it out to our community in Texas. We want people to understand that you don't need to eat a 44- ounce anything."
Reflecting on her new level of fitness, Melissa says, "Before I came to the Ranch, I refused to push through to the next level. Today, I know that I have the ability to push through. It's really mind over matter. You just have to find your drive and desire."
Melissa Morgan, Season 9
Health and fitness were my main reasons for being on The Biggest Loser. Today, my blood pressure is under control without medication. I can climb stairs or walk a mile without being completely out of breath. I'm going to be 40 in February, and I want my next 40 years to be full of life.
STARTING WEIGHT: 243 £ds
HOMETOWN: Lafayette, California
STARTING WEIGHT: 264 £ds
HOMETOWN: West Hollywood, California
Patti Anderson has the dubious distinction of having about the worst case of diabetes that The BiggestLoser medical expert Dr. Robert Huizenga has ever seen. She arrived at the Ranch on nine medications, and teammate and daughter Stephanie was quickly following in her mother's footsteps. Based on her Biggest Loser Know Your Number Health-score, Dr. Huizenga predicted that Stephanie would develop the disease before she turned 36.
Patti battled being overweight as a child and lost her dad suddenly when he turned 55. Today, she wants to enjoy as many healthy years with her family as possible. She truly understands now what Dr. Huizenga told her the first week on the Ranch: Type 2 diabetes is reversible through diet and exercise. "It made me incredibly sad to see what we had done to ourselves," Patti laments.
For Stephanie, the challenge will be finding a balance between taking care of herself and being in a high-pressure job. "I'm going to find ongoing motivation in my friends and family who believe in me," she says. "Those are people who want me to succeed and who support me every step of the way."
Stephanie already feels more energetic now that the weight is coming off. "Mom told me not to limit myself. And I'm not going to."
STARTING WEIGHT: 372 £ds
HOMETOWN: Rohnert Park, California
STARTING WEIGHT: 403 £ds
HOMETOWN: Rohnert Park, California
Koli Palu and Sam Poueu were inspired by the successful weight loss of another pair of Tongan cousins--Season 7's Sione and Filipe Fa. Coming from a culture rife with obesity-related diseases, Sam and Koli know they have their work cut out for them.
"I'm going to sit down with my family and have a long talk about nutrition, the kind of food we should eat, and the 50-£d bags of rice in the house," says Sam. He and Koli work as bouncers at night and Koli says, "We'd grab the quickest thing on the way to work. I never thought about what I put in my mouth. Now I'm weighing everything and counting calories."
The Gray Team cousins coach football, and Koli says he used to put his team through some hard workouts that he couldn't do himself. That's all changing. "As a coach, I know our bodies are amazing things," says Koli. "I need my football team to understand that you can go that extra step. This is more of a mental game, a mental toughness. As long as you push yourself, the physical part will be there."
STARTING WEIGHT: 413 £ds
HOMETOWN: Ann Arbor, Michigan
STARTING WEIGHT: 298 £ds
HOMETOWN: Ann Arbor, Michigan
"I did more in my first 3 days on the Ranch than I'd done in 20 years, and I'm still alive," laughs Darrell Hough.
"It was an intense first workout," adds daughter and teammate Andrea. "Every muscle in my body was crying out. I was an athlete growing up. I played sports in high school. That's what saved me from gaining weight. But after that, the weight piled on. I'd forgotten what it's like to be an athlete. I'm excited to get that back."
Darrell remembers being an overweight kid who wore "husky"-size jeans. "I had to roll them up--they were for someone taller," he says. "In junior high, I weighed in the 200s. In high school, I was well into the 300s. Obesity runs in my family. But in my family, I felt totally loved and accepted. It was outside the family where I got teased. I played sports but always got picked last because I was the slowest."
"He's been overweight my whole life," says Andrea of her father. "It's never hindered my love for him, but I want him to be healthy. I want to be healthy. I want us to get healthy together. So this is a dream come true. He's realizing he's able to do it. He got in the pool the other day for the first time in 20 years. He hadn't wanted to wear a swimsuit in public."
"Through workouts, I'm finding my problem is mental," says Darrell. "My fear of what's going to happen has been dictating my participation in everything. If someone wanted to go canoeing, I would be afraid my back would hurt. I'm excited to stop that cycle.
"You need to take fitness and weight loss as seriously as you would take your job," he says. "Make it part of what you do every day. Apply yourself. Learn what to do and measure your job performance in terms of weight loss, which, in turn, will keep you motivated.
"Keep in mind that the more weight you lose," he adds, "the more energy you'll have for working out. Even my joints feel better now that the £ds are coming off. When you get tired or discouraged, remember that's only momentary. Losing weight is going to give you a positive outlook for the rest of your life."
Darrell Hough, Season 9
I now love salad mixed with veggies. I have one at almost every meal, because it provides lots of bulk with few calories.
STARTING WEIGHT: 240 £ds
HOMETOWN: Pemberton, New Jersey
STARTING WEIGHT: 265 £ds
HOMETOWN: Sanford, North Carolina
Coming from a Puerto Rican culture, mother and daughter Miggy and Migdalia realize their eating habits have a lot to do with their weight gain. "There was always something frying in our kitchen," says Miggy. "At a family reunion, I found out a lot of family members were sick with diabetes, one brother had a stroke, another a heart attack. And everyone sort of said, 'Well, you're next, these diseases are in the family genes.' Someone has to change these genes. It was a wake-up call."
Today, Miggy and Migdalia are setting small goals every day. "I'm walking/running 2 miles a day every day," says Miggy. "That adds up to 14 miles in a week, a little more than a half- marathon. I used to be afraid to swim, but I've overcome that and plan to keep swimming at least once a week and build up to more as time goes by."
Migdalia is motivated to keep herself healthy for her young children. With a husband bound for a tour of duty in Afghanistan, she knows how much they depend on her. Her mother stays motivated by looking back at her hard work and how it's already adding up. "How is my life different since losing weight?" she muses. "Well, I can now bend over to tie my shoes without getting short of breath. I'm off my meds and am saving money on prescriptions. I'm able to move and think and analyze things from a different perspective--a calmer, easier, less overwhelmed perspective."
Their new rallying cry for weight loss? Ã¡Si, sepuede! "Yes, we can!"
STARTING WEIGHT: 227 £ds
HOMETOWN: Ardmore, Oklahoma
STARTING WEIGHT: 346 £ds
HOMETOWN: Ardmore, Oklahoma
"It's not about the money," says Daris of his motivation to try out for The Biggest Loser, "it's about what you can do. In the first few weeks at the Ranch, I experienced things I'd never done in my life."
Teammate and mom Cheryl agrees: "I spent more time on the treadmill in my first week at the Ranch than I've spent on a treadmill in my entire life!"
Daris lives at home with his parents, but his mom wants to see him have the kind of life a young man deserves. She knows he feels protective of her, since her husband frequently travels for business. Already, she's discovered that Daris's confidence is building. "My smile is getting bigger every day," he agrees.
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Copyright © 2010 by Cheryl Forberg, RD, Melissa Robertson, Lisa Wheeler and The Biggest Loser Expert s and Cast. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.