Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"The Biggest Losers:" Where Are They Now?

Season 8 of "The Biggest Loser: Second Chances" is in full swing, and you might notice a few familiar faces, such as Amanda Arlauskas. She was chosen by Season 7 viewers to join the cast this fall. And in keeping with the "second chances" theme, producers are also bringing back fan favorite Daniel Wright. He started last year's "Biggest Loser: Couples" as the heaviest contestant in "BL" history, tipping the scales at 454 pounds. Eliminated after just four weeks, he kept working at home, weighing in at 312 at the finale. Now even though that's a 142-pound loss, he's still heavier than most "Loser" participants are on Day 1. So, producers brought Dan back to the ranch to help him continue his journey.

Seeing him got us wondering what has happened to other "Loser" winners. Have they kept the weight off? Are they continuing to live healthy lifestyles? Find out as we reveal what the winners and some of the "eliminated winners" have been doing since leaving campus.

Ryan Benson — Season 1 Winner
Starting Weight: 330
Ending Weight: 208

Before going on "The Biggest Loser," Ryan Benson was an actor with very small roles in such movies as "Lethal Weapon 4" and "Eight Legged Freaks." Then he got his big break, becoming the first "BL" winner. He lost 122 pounds (37 percent of his body weight) and won the $250,000 grand prize in December 2004. But by Season 6, trainer Bob Harper was citing Ryan as a warning to new contestants, revealing that the former winner had gained back all his weight. Ryan has admitted in interviews that he'd starved himself and lived on "cleansing beverages" in the weeks leading up to the finale and that immediately after the show he gained 30 pounds just by hydrating. Ryan doesn't discuss his weight much these days, but in 2008 he starred in the indie film "DISfigured" about a few friends in a fat acceptance group. Ryan was cast as "an overweight man." Sounds like he's probably not sticking to his ranch regime.

Matt Hoover — Season 2 Winner
Starting Weight: 339
Ending Weight: 182

Season 2 winner Matt Hoover lost 157 pounds (46 percent of his body weight) and gained a wife when he married third runner-up Suzy Preston. Since leaving the ranch, Matt and Suzy tied the knot and had two kids. They try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but both have put back on some pounds. While Suzy works to lose the baby weight, Matt has set a new goal for himself: he's training to compete in the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, in October. Rumor has it he is also training to make the 2012 Olympic Wrestling team (he was a high school wrestler in his younger, leaner days). As if that weren't enough, Matt wrote a book called "Matt Hoover’s Guide to Life, Love, and Losing Weight" and is working on a second. In addition, he does public speaking engagements and is a health and fitness coach.

Pete Thomas — Season 2 $100,000 Winner
Starting Weight: 401
Ending Weight: 216

Pete Thomas got kicked off the ranch in Week 7 but shocked viewers when he came back for the finale and stepped on the scale. He had gone from 401 pounds to 216 pounds. He was not only NOT fat, he was downright thin. He'd shed 185 pounds, the last 98 of which he lost at home, all by himself, with no Bob and Jillian to kick his butt. He was given the $100,000 "At-Home Biggest Loser" prize for losing 46 percent of his body weight. So how's he doing now? The name of his Website tells it all, "winningman.com." He's still fit and trim and travels the country giving motivational speeches about his "Winning Principles." He's also developed a ten-week weight loss program called "Lose It Fast, Lose It Forever" that he teaches in conjunction with the Ann Arbor Michigan public schools.

Erik Chopin — Season 3 Winner
Starting Weight: 407
Ending Weight: 193

What do you do when you win $250,000 on a reality TV show for losing 214 pounds (52 percent of your body weight) in front of millions of viewers and then go home and gain half of it back? After hiding for a few years in complete embarrassment, you go to Oprah. If anybody can relate to yo-yo dieting and public humiliation over weight gain, Oprah can. Erik turned to the talk show goddess to admit to the world that he'd gained back 100 of the 200 pounds he lost, but that he was ready to try again. As a national spokesperson for Health Across America, he spends his days educating people about the perils of Type 2 diabetes, but he still hasn't gotten back on the wagon himself. In a June blog post, Erik wrote, "I am still not back on track totally. I don't know what it is." But he also wrote that he signed up to run in the NYC Marathon in November. Hopefully, the lack of any more posts since June means he's been training every spare minute. If not, maybe he'll do another spot on Oprah to let us know.

Bill and Jim Germanakos, Season 4 $250,000 and $100,000 Winners
Bill Starting Weight: 334
Bill Ending Weight: 170
Jim Starting Weight: 361
Jim Ending Weight: 175

In what might have been one of the most public cases of sibling rivalry ever, both Bill and Jim Germanakos went home winners on Season 4 of "The Biggest Loser." The twin brothers came on the show together as a team, but Jim was eliminated in Week 5. Bill dominated the season and won the grand prize by dropping 164 pounds (a 49 percent loss). Not to be outdone by his bro, Jim worked hard on his own to drop a total of 186 pounds (51.52 percent) and took home the $100,000 "At-Home" prize. Since winning, the two brothers have both gained a little weight (reports say they've both put back on about 20 to 30 pounds), but they're still committed to a healthy lifestyle. In June 2009, they launched "The Truth About Diets" program, including their Rapid-Action Weight Loss System. They also have a Website called weightlosstwins.com dedicated to motivating others to keep battling the bulge.

Ali Vincent — Season 5 Winner
Starting Weight: 234
Ending Weight: 122

Season 5 winner Ali Vincent was the first woman to take the title, losing 112 pounds (47.9 percent of her body weight). The former synchronized swimmer was eliminated in Week 5, then went home for five more weeks, where she lost 38 pounds on her own then was brought back into the game in a plot twist. She went on to win the grand prize. Since her victory, she's probably been the most prominent "Loser." She's managed to keep off the weight through a strict diet and exercise plan and has gone on to become a spokesperson for 24 Hour Fitness. She also has her own show on QVC, "The Biggest Loser Health Lifestyle," and participated in the "Got Milk" campaign. This past April she ran the Nautica South Beach Triathlon to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and travels across the country to promote good health. Watch for her new book, "Believe It, Be It: How Being the Biggest Loser Won Me Back My Life," due out this November.

Bernie Salazar — Season 5 $100,000 Winner
Starting Weight: 283
Ending Weight: 153

Bernie Salazar's journey on "The Biggest Loser: Couples" started as half of the only pair who did not know each other before the show began. He was teamed up with complete stranger Brittany Aberle, while the other participants partnered with family or friends. Bernie was eliminated in Week 10; Brittany held on for two more weeks. But while home in Chicago, even though he lived only a few blocks away from the local bakery that named a dessert after him (Bernie's Boston Cream Pie Cupcake), he was able to stay away from the pastries and lose a total of 130 pounds (46 percent of his weight) to win the $100,000 "At-Home" prize. Since the show ended, he's dedicated his life to educating people about wellness. He is also a marathoner, running dozens of races a year, including the 2008 Chicago Marathon (he ran it in 4:15:59), and he's in training for 2009.

Michelle Aguilar — Season 6 Winner
Starting Weight: 242
Ending Weight: 132

Michelle Aguilar and her mom, Renee Wilson, came on "The Biggest Loser: Families" after not having spoken to each other for close to six years following Renee and her husband's divorce. But here they were on the ranch, working out their demons together. It was a bumpy road, yet they muddled through and came out stronger in the end. Renee was eliminated just one episode before the finale, and Michelle became the second woman to win "BL," dropping 110 pounds (or 45 percent of her weight). And then just nine days after she was crowned the winner, her boyfriend of four months proposed. She spent most of the next six months planning the wedding, and used some of her $250,000 winnings to pay for it. She wore a size 6 wedding gown — just one year previously it would have been a size 20. And although it seems like Michelle hasn’t had much time for anything else besides the big event, she did manage to squeeze in becoming a spokesperson for the "Drink Well" campaign for milk, running the Nautica South Beach Triathlon, and making an appearance on "The Rachel Ray Show," where she helped a woman who'd lost 155 pounds shop for a new wardrobe.

Heba Salama — Season 6 $100,000 Winner
Starting Weight: 294
Ending Weight: 156

Heba Salama was not America's favorite "Biggest Loser" contestant. In fact, when it came down to an audience vote between the "BL" bully and her husband, Ed Brantley, for the third spot in the finale, the viewers voted 84 percent for him, despite his pleas to send her to the final three. Heba ended up winning the "At-Home" $100,000 prize by losing 138 pounds (47 percent of her weight), but if she'd been in the final three, she would've won $250,000, since she lost almost 2 percent more weight than winner, Michelle. What goes around comes around, huh? Since winning the show, both Heba and Ed have left their jobs (she was a pharmaceutical rep) and have started doing speaking engagements, corporate weight-loss challenges, healthy cooking lessons, and personal training. They both just completed the San Francisco Triathlon (with ten other "Loser" alumni). Ed also has started a business called GourmEd’s and has written a cookbook for which they are currently trying to find a publisher.

Helen Phillips — Season 7 Winner
Starting Weight: 257
Ending Weight: 147

Helen Phillips was the dark horse on the seventh season of "The Biggest Loser." She kept plugging along, losing decent amounts of weight, not seeming like a threat to anyone. No one ever assumed a 48-year-old housewife from Michigan would beat out a 23-year-old ex-model and a strapping 18-year-old young man. But she did. Helen lost 140 pounds (a whopping 54 percent of her weight) and won the $250,000 prize, leaving Tara and Mike in the dust. It's only been four months since Helen was crowned the winner — long enough for her to do a "Got Milk" campaign, but too soon to tell if she'll keep the weight off. Still, in that brief time, she's inspired her whole community. She says 12 of her girlfriends have lost between 25 and 45 pounds and that her husband has lost 40. She and her daughter, Shannon (her "BL" partner who lost 92 pounds on the show), plan on opening a spinning studio in Detroit.

Jerry Hayes — Season 7 $100,000 Winner
Starting Weight: 369
Ending Weight: 192

Jerry Hayes, the oldest contestant in "Biggest Loser" history, barely made it past Week 1... literally. He collapsed on the treadmill the first day and was rushed to the hospital. He was eliminated in Week 2 (his wife, Estelle, was the first voted off the ranch the week before). But that must have been the scare he needed to kick his butt, because Jerry came back to the finale in the most shocking moment EVER on "The Biggest Loser." The 64-year-old grandfather of five who entered the competition as a walking-and-talking heart attack waiting to happen left the ranch and came back a fit Jack LaLanne-ish 192-pound picture of health. He'd shed 177 pounds all on his own. The 48 percent weight loss was enough to win him the $100,000 "At-Home" prize and change his life for good. (Estelle, by the way, lost an equally impressive 83 pounds.) As with Season 7 winner, Helen, it's been only a few months and too soon to tell the long-term results for Jerry, but at the recent wedding of fellow "BL" contestants Nicole Brewer and Damien Gurganious, Jerry had his BodyBugg device strapped on to measure his caloric intake. Looks like he's ready for a lifelong commitment.

Written by Amy & Nancy Harrington
Originally for GetBack.com

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