Michael Ventrella began the third season of "Biggest Loser: Couples" as a literal mountain of a man. Tipping the scales at a whopping 526 pounds, the 30-year-old DJ from Chicago, Illinois was the heaviest contestant to ever compete on NBC’s hit weight loss show.
But his heart, nerve, passion and a fierce competitive streak helped him climb to the top of the heap, lose 264 pounds, and capture the title of "Biggest Loser" Tuesday night.
Along the way Michael broke some impressive records. In the first week, he dropped 34 pounds, the record for the most weight loss in one week. He was recognized for losing 100 pounds faster than any other contestant in any season too. Michael is also the only contestant to lose a total of 200 pounds while still living at the Biggest Loser’s ranch.
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Despite his achievements, Michael seemed like a long shot to win the season competing in the final weeks against younger, more athletic players like Ashley, Daris and Koli, who left the ranch closer to their weight goals.
During makeover week, while the other remaining contestants celebrated their new sizes, even a 200-pound weight loss had failed to get Michael out of the “big & tall” men’s stores.
“Lots of people start Biggest Loser at the place where I’m ending,” he admitted, leaving campus on week 18 at a still considerable 299.
Bold move a game changer
Yet in a season of very competitive players — the Red team’s Melissa and Lance and Gray’s tag-team cousins Koli and Sam were powerhouses in physical challenges and strategy — Michael managed to stay in the front of the pack through a combination of smarts, willpower and determination.
In Week 7, he snatched up control of the game when he won a “Temptation” allowing him to split the group into two teams any way he desired. So Michael stacked the deck. By putting all the strongest men on one side — his, of course — he guaranteed that many of the older, female contestants would be eliminated. Michael’s bold move was the biggest game changer of the season.
Some might say that Michael had an unfair advantage over all the other players because at 526 pounds he had the most weight to drop and therefore the potential to lose the greatest percentage of body fat.
But to cut the weight he had to do the work—and he did most of it at home, without the show’s trainers, doctor or other contestants to push him. Truly, it’s a monumental achievement and he deserves the title.
Looking forward, Michael’s win also means that the Biggest Loser’s trend toward bringing on bigger and bigger contestants will continue.
It’s worrying because, again this season, several contestants were sent to the hospital after injuring themselves or falling ill.
“The contestants keep getting bigger and bigger,” trainer Jillian Michael said at the start of season 9. “As the trainers, we have no say over the challenges. We worry about them.”
In a season of big feats, the live season finale of "The Biggest Loser: Couples" was full of big surprises.
Two contestants, the White team’s Michael, and the Pink team’s Ashley, had safely made it through to the grand finale. Two other contestants: Koli, of the Gray team, and Daris, wearing Orange, had both fallen under the yellow line. America was asked to vote on which of them would be allowed to compete for the grand prize of $250,000 and which would be eliminated.
America voted and Daris’ youthful charm won over Koli’s intense confidence. “I couldn’t be prouder of Daris,” his mom Cheryl said at the finale. “On the Biggest Loser campus I saw a boy turn into a man.” He also did his trainers proud. Daris, who stepped on the scale first, weighed 178 pounds, which was an impressive total loss of 168 pound or 48.55 percent of his body weight.
Next up was Ashley, who began the competition as the heaviest woman of the season. “I have never met a stronger, more beautiful woman,” said Michael of his friend, who survived the Biggest Loser marathon with him. Ashley weighed in at 191 pounds, a loss of 183 pounds or 48.55 percent.
Finally Michael came up to the stage holding a white rose, which he presented to his mother Maria, who had been on the show as his partner.
“I am feeling proud of myself—which is a new feeling,” Michael said. He had reason to be proud. His final weight came in at 262 pounds, a loss of 264 pounds. By dropping 50.19 percent of his body weight, Michael took the title of Biggest Loser and the $250,000 prize.
“This time I gave it my all. I did it the right way and it worked,” he said.
In the at home competition, although Sherry took the early lead, she was bested by Darryll, who lost 189 pounds or 45.76 percent of his body weight. But the other man of the evening turned out to be Koli, who lost 188 pounds or 53.35 percent. It was enough to win him the $100,000 'at home' prize.