You're never too old to totally change your life. That's the loud-and-clear message from last night's Biggest Loser finale. A 48-year- old woman lost a jaw-dropping 54% of her body weight, winning the grand prize, standing proudly here at 117 pounds. She is less than half of her old self after losing 140 pounds.
I got sucked in to the Biggest Loser finale last night, even though I haven't watched the show since the first few weeks. I used to watch it all the time in seasons past, when I worked out at the same gym as trainer Bob Harper. He used to bring the contestants there on their "off camera" days and we got to watch them and got to know them well, during their transformations.
Every time we'd see a new crew of "Losers" come in, it was like an eclipse in the front row of Bob's spin class. Giant people on the bikes -- a huge wall between them and the rest of the regulars, who screamed out each of their names in encouragement as the months passed.
In the beginning, it always seemed so hopeless. They were so big ... and so oddly shaped, all of them. Looking in the mirror, I could see how they would think they'd never get there, and even if they did, how would their bodies look?
One by one, we'd see them disappear and we would have a preview of the show to come -- who would be eliminated, and who may make it to the end. We'd have our bets, and our favorites, and time after time, we were wrong. The strongest ones didn't always survive. The persistent ones were harder to spot in the beginning, and tenacity appears to be the only thing that matters.
Conventional wisdom says the ones who make it are the young-ish guys who start out huge, and have a whole lot more to lose. They tally it all up in percentages, so it's fair, but generally the morbidly obese younger men have a better chance of losing more, and more quickly, than the women or the older contestants do.
We all know we slow down with age, and it's harder to just drop excess weight with our slowing metabolisms. Throw in a little arthritis and the higher-than-average percentage of general aches and pains, plus the added risk to your heart which has been strained for years carrying around those extra pounds, and it's a steeper uphill for the older contestants.
Well, maybe those are all convenient excuses. If we expect these things to happen, they do.
Check out Jerry ... at 64, he's the show's oldest ever contestant, and he was taken away in an ambulance in the first episode.
He lost a whopping 177 pounds, and is down to 192 now. No more diabetes, gout, or sleep apnea either, after losing 47 percent of his body weight. He won the 2nd place prize of the contestant who lost the most weight at home.
What he said at the finale really struck me. He said he was the one who was slowing himself down, his mind got in the way. Once he took his mind out of it, and let his body take over, it did the job ... and look at him now!
It's really amazing to see the transformations, and when I knew the contestants at my gym, I watched them slowly but surely drop pound after pound with a lot of blood (yes, really) sweat and tears. My favorite former contestant, Jay, used to say he was "big boned" but then realized ... he'd never seen a fat skeleton. There is no magic, no secret formula -- these guys worked out for 6 hours a day and watched what they ate, and the transfomations inside their heads was much more dramatic than the ones in the mirror or on the scale. All those excuses (hormonal imbalances, family history of obesity, slow metabolism, you name it) fell away as quickly as the pounds and one by one they realized that looking good and being fit wasn't something reserved for other people.
No, looking good and being fit isn't something you're born with, no matter how easy you make it look.
I remember one Biggest Loser contestant whose jaw dropped at the gym one day, as she watched a slim, muscular actress grinding out a grueling workout with a trainer.
"Oh my gosh," she said, "I just saw her in US Weekly talking about her fitness routine. It said she eats whatever she wants, and does yoga and plays in the park with her kids for exercise!!"
One of the gym's members laughed and said, "yeah right,. She's here like twice a day."