Tips from the Biggest Loser

After the Christmas holidays come to an end, the daunting new year’s resolution of losing weight looms, but imagine trying to lose nearly 200 pounds while millions of people watch whenever you stand on a set of scales.

Welcome to the world of The Biggest Loser.

This year, Patrick House won the title of the NBC reality show when he lost 181 pounds from his starting weight of 400 pounds. Over seven months, he worked out and dieted with one goal in mind – to win the show so he could help secure the future of his family and be healthy enough to see his two young sons grow up.

House, who visited Cayman a couple of days after the show wrapped on 14 December to see his brother Donnie, advises those who are trying to lose weight to take it a step at a time, set realistic goals and try to surround themselves with a good support network.

“[Biggest Loser trainer] Bob [Harper] told me the show in December is not the end. It’s the beginning of the real hard part when your real life begins. I am trying to work on that and try to keep doing what I was doing on the show – sticking to the diet and keep working out and keeping the weight off,” he says.

Live a little

He says vacations are an “easy time to let things get out of control”, but even though this was his first holiday since taking part in the Biggest Loser, he did not think he had gone overboard and he continued to exercise by swimming and running while in Cayman.

“It’s simply not realistic for me to say I’m never going to eat pecan pie or pizza again, because I am. When you’re on vacation, you do want some of those things… It’s ok to splurge… but you have to do that with the knowledge that when you go back, you’re back to the grind and back to your routine and laying off the greasy and the fried stuff.

“When you’re on vacation, live a little. It’s your life, so enjoy it, but when you get back home, go back to the gym and back to working out,” says House.

And while Cayman has a lot of offer in terms of bars and restaurants that offer calorie-jammed cocktails and meals, House says the Islands also offer plenty for those watching their weight and trying to keep fit. “There’s great fresh seafood to eat. The thing people have to realise when they go to restaurants to eat, you are the customer. You’re paying. If you want your fish cooked with no oil or butter, I guarantee you there’s a chef in the back whose cooking and he know how to cook without oil and butter.

“Ask for it steamed or stir-fried or sautéed. You have to ask in order to get it. Just explain your situation… Most places will easily accommodate that. If they won’t, you’ll find somewhere else to go next time,” he says.

House, who lost his job as a sales rep in January, has landed a new job at an academy in South Carolina helping overweight teens combat their weight problems where he says he will be able to use his experience from The Biggest Loser to motivate them and to act as a role model.

He may be one who reached fame through his weight loss, but his wife Bradley also dropped 50 pounds and went from a size 14 to a size 4 while her husband was taking part in the reality show, by eating healthily and going to the gym regularly.

“She worked really hard, I’m really proud of her,” he says.

Bradley House admits that losing weight as a busy mom while her husband was away at the Biggest Loser ranch was not easy, but she found going to the gym a stress reliever.

“I watched what I ate, but my outlet was the gym. They had day-care for two hours while you worked out… Some days when it was really stressful at home, missing Patrick, or the boys and I had been around each other so much we just needed a break from each other, I could go to the gym, once or twice a day, and have two hours of me time,” she says. “I’ve got so much more energy now,” she adds.

The kids got in on the exercise act, swimming with their mother at the gym’s pool regularly. The family’s new eating habits have also rubbed off on the little boys. Bradley House describes a recent dinner at which four-year-old Colton was offered the choice of french fries or broccoli. “He chose the broccoli. It almost made Patrick and me cry because we thought we’re really doing something right.”

The fact that Bradley had decided to also eat healthily helped Patrick stick to his own diet when he returned home. “It’s so much easier when you have a good support system behind you,” he says.

Piling on the weight

Getting up to 400 pounds was a gradual build up to obesity for House and he can see how it can happen to anyone.

He played American football in high school and college, but his football career ended when he ruptured two discs in his back during his junior year in college. Although he was no longer playing football, he kept on eating the same diet as he had done when he was trying to maintain his weight as an offensive lineman.

“My eating habits stayed the same and through that the weight just kind of tacked on over four or five years,” he says. “I put on about 20 or 25 pounds a year. You put on 100 pounds or so and it’s hard to get off.”

“You get to a point when you say I’m 350 pounds, and you think what difference does it make it I go up to 375 pounds or 400 pounds? You need to catch yourself and not let it get that far out of hand,” House says.

He decided to apply to be a contestant on the show when he realised his life and his weight had gotten out of control. “I wanted to get my life back and to be around for my family longer. My boys Colton and Caden and my wife Bradley mean the world to me. I wanted to be around for them as long as I could, and unfortunately, at 400 pounds, that wasn’t going to be very long.”

He said he never felt like giving up during the show, but he did wonder if his body would be able to hold up to the gruelling exercises he put it through. “I never did think about going home. I knew it was going to be tough going in and that it was going to be hard, but at the same time you’re losing a bunch of weight and getting your life back, so I knew it was going to be worth it.”

‘Anyone can do it’

“It’s amazing to think what six months can do and how you can change your life. I’m not a superhero by any stretch. Anybody can do this, it’s a simple formula of calories in versus calories out and getting the exercise. Anybody can lose the weight,” says House, “it’s just being active and starting moving.”

He has some simple advice for those who are extremely overweight and who think they are too unfit to even begin exercising and feel there might be no other option than surgery.

“The surgeries and lap bands and stomach stapling should be the absolute last resort,” says House. “Anyone that is severely overweight who needs help can start by simply changing their diet.

“You get exercise as you can fit it in. Early on, it does not mean you have to go to the gym. You can do it by parking in the furthest away parking spot at the grocery store and walking in, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work,” says House.

He said that, like him, people who are very overweight will quickly begin to see the pounds drop off. “Once you start seeing the numbers come off, your motivation increases and you realise you’re making a difference and you can see your clothes start fitting looser. You can see you’re making a difference and you’re winning.

“Then you up your intensity of your workouts. You start going to the gym and you focus on your diet and the next thing you know, six months have gone by and you’ve lost 100 pounds or something and you’ve gotten your life back,” he says.

While some people argue that they fear an excess of loose skin on their body if they lose a lot of weight, House says it’s a matter of weighing up the odds. “Do you want to be 400 pounds overweight with no sagging skin except for a fat belly or do you want to be 220 and normal and have a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle but have a little extra skin and know you’re going to live and be around longer for your family,” he says.

House says losing weight is possible for everyone. “Anyone can do it. It’s just a matter of pushing yourself and doing it.”