Locals line up to lose

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Photo by Sue Suchyta

NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” came to Dearborn May 16 to shoot a promotional segment for the Season 10 opener at Ford World Headquarters. The show’s producers also used the event to scout possible participants for the season 11 cast. The season nine finale will aired Tuesday. Local past participants were on hand to share their stories, offer encouragement and promote hope.

Sunday Times Newspapers

DEARBORN – Not since naming a car after his son has being labeled a loser made such a big impact on the hometown of Henry Ford – and certain not at the world headquarters that bears his name.

Thanks to reality TV show “The Biggest Loser,” the words have become something to applaud. A production crew for the show was in town May 16 to tape footage to promote its 10th season opener, as well as to scout potential candidates for season 11.

Southeastern Michigan seems a fitting choice for a show that focuses on overcoming adversity by drawing on an inner strength or fortitude. That theme was echoed by past local participants on hand May 16 to share their stories, offer encouragement and promote hope in a region hit hard by the recession. Some of those stories follow.

Carla Triplett
Carla Triplett of Detroit is a past show participant who still is continuing her weight loss journey. No longer a fast-food junkie, she has a positive new outlook on life.

At 379 pounds, she started out as the heaviest woman in her season, during which teams were split up. Half were sent home for 30 days to lose weight then brought them back to the show. Her team didn’t work well together and was eliminated the first week back.

Triplett lost a total of 128 pounds from the beginning of the season to its finale.

She attributes her success to finding out what was fun for her.

“We all hate working out and exercising,” Triplett said, “so I would put my favorite music on and just start dancing. And then my great-grandfather was a professional boxing trainer and I learned how to box. So my husband got me a punching bag … and I would burn a lot of calories and tension and frustrations off.”

Triplett, a bank manager for 20 years, makes time for exercise by getting up earlier or going to bed later.

“You have to get it in some time or another, because excuses are made to satisfy yourself and no one else,” she said. “And if you continue to make excuses, you’re never going to get done what you set out to accomplish. You have to start somewhere.”

Triplett started drinking more water and eliminated pop and juices, which are laden with sugar-based calories. She has lost another 25 pounds since her finale and is maintaining her weight. She would like to lose another 60 to 70 pounds.

“I will get there, but it’s going to be on my own time, because I am back in the real world,” Triplett said. “Biggest Loser is a ‘reality show.’ They take you out of your environment and put you in a bubble, and you are there so you have time to focus on you. But when you’re in the real world, it’s hard to do that because you have distractions.

“You have work, you have kids, you have your family. You have a lot of things going on.” The punching bag she uses for exercise helps her handle stress.

“If you want to start working out, start out slow, and no one is going to be able to motivate you,” Triplett said. “You have to motivate yourself … and you shouldn’t do it for anyone else. Do it for yourself.”

Amy and Shellay Cremen
Amy Cremen, a 29-year-old college student, and her mother, 53-year-old Shellay Cremen of Royal Oak, were season six participants in 2008.

Their season pitted parents and children against married couples. Although they didn’t make it to the finals, the show changed their lives in a tremendous way, they say, as they lost hundreds of pounds and gained tons of confidence. They now are motivational and inspirational speakers, and Amy, a college student, is happily planning her wedding.

They admit maintaining their weight loss is one of their biggest challenges, and both have had their struggles.

“We just have to make sure that we count the calories that we put into our mouth and get exercise on a daily basis,” Amy said.

“It’s what we learned while we were on the ranch,” added Shellay. “It’s keeping track of everything, because if you grab something, you’re never going to count it. So everything we put in our mouth we count and view it as a calorie.”

To handle stress, they’ve learned to walk away from food. They’ve also learned to understand the psychology involved in weight gain.

“We did find out that your weight issues are not about what you’re putting in your mouth,” Shellay said. “It’s what you’re putting in your mind. You really have to deal with issues rather than masking them with food.”

Mother and daughter have learned to take the former course by bringing their insecurities to the surface and to start addressing them.

Amy, who lost 104 pounds, feels younger and like a “whole new person” since her weight loss. Her best advice for others is to never give up.

Shellay found she was the one to whom people went with their problems, and she would find herself in front of the refrigerator, “eating for everyone else’s problems.”

“I finally realized that I can walk away,” Shellay said. “It’s not what you’re eating – it’s what’s eating you. And that is where you have to start – figure out why you’re eating.”

Ron Morelli
Ron Morelli, a 56-year-old Southfield native who now lives in South Lyon, participated in season seven for eight months from beginning to end in a successful pairing with his son, Michael, making it to the final four. His son is now a 20-year-old premed student at Michigan State University.

Ron never knew what it was like to be thin, so it was natural to blame everything on his weight. It was frightening to think that failures might be attributable to something else.

“Every day that we lose weight is a new experience for us,” Morelli said. “I have no idea what it is to weigh 200 pounds. I don’t have that image of myself that I can look back to.”

Morelli and his sons were all 400-pound teenagers. He says they simply ate too much, and that he had siblings whose weights were all normal as kids.

Michael is now doing very well at college.

“His self-esteem is much, much better,” Ron said. “The girls are chasing him everywhere. He’s doing great in school – he’s very focused. He’s made the dean’s list and is 4.0 in all of his classes. He’s become a personal trainer, and life is good for him.”

He and Michael lost a 399 combined pounds on the show. His wife and other son also have lost weight successfully.

“Between all of us we’ve lost maybe 700 to 800 pounds,” Ron said.