My husband and I were watching reruns of "The Biggest Loser" earlier this week. We were watching the episode where Pete Thomas was voted off in Season Two, and we both agreed that he was one of our all-time favorites on the show. My husband happened to notice that Pete was wearing a pair of shorts with a team logo from Southeast Michigan, so we both started Googling to see what we could find on our dueling iPhones about him. I happened upon an announcement for a book signing less than a week away at a Barnes and Noble in Ann Arbor for his new book, Lose It Fast, Lose It Forever: A 4-Step Permanent Weight Loss Plan from the Most Successful "Biggest Loser" of All Time, or as he calls it, LIF2 (pronounced "Life 2," because people who do his program feel like they are getting a new lease on life).
One of the nicest things about living in Toledo is that we are so close to a great town like Ann Arbor, so we decided to make a special trip. I'm very glad that we did. Both of us felt very fired up by Pete's talk. We also got to get a photo with him. We are not standing in a hole, Pete is just a tall guy. I was a little startstruck and kind of stammered when we got a chance to talk to him while getting our book signed. Most of the audience members were people who knew him or people who had gone to his class, SlimU Bootcamp. I might actually drop in on the class a couple of times, but I couldn't commit to attending regularly because of work and the long drive. Still, it would be fun to train like a real Biggest Loser.
I used to think the contestants on "The Biggest Loser" all seemed so confident because of their experiences in front of the camera, but it was clear from Pete's presentation that he had a big personality when he got to "The Biggest Loser." When he was sending in his audition tape, first he FedExed an empty box filled with streamers and confetti that said, "PETE THOMAS IS COMING" all over it. The next day, he FedExed a box that said, "PETE THOMAS IS HERE!" and had his funniest demo tape. He got the casting call when he was speaking to a group of engineers, so he was already educated in self-promotion. He said he went to the show because he couldn't figure out any other way to get all the weight off.
Pete refers to his life-sized picture of his former self as "Big Sexy." Unlike some of the other contestants, he doesn't seem to have any animosity toward his former self, but he felt like his body was holding him back. He talked about going out on a jetski at 400 pounds and having a lot of fun until he fell off and couldn't get back on, even with his friend standing on the front of the jetski to keep it from tipping. He explained some of the issues that led to his weight gain. His mother had problems with mental illness, and left him alone or with his younger sister for weeks to fend for themselves. The first time it happened, he was only five years old. He said as a consequence, when he had food in front of him, he ate enough for a few days.
The book itself doesn't have much that regular viewers of "The Biggest Loser" would find new, except Pete's perspectives and stories. The diet he recommends is a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet, very similar to the one he had on the ranch when he was a contestant. Pete did his own research after losing the ranch and put together a program that works for him, and he encourages readers to do the same. Unlike his mentor Jillian Michaels, he thinks that artificial sweeteners are an effective way to cut calories and still enjoy some treat foods. He follows Jillain's example more closely with his exercise recommendations. He suggests interval training with weights as well as cardiovascular intervals. The first chapter of the book was where I found the most inspiration, because it dealt with motivation and the mental aspects of losing.
One thing that inspired me most about this experience was realizing that it is possible to pursue weight loss goals from a position of strength and power. I don't get the sense that Pete hated himself when he sought to get on the show, he just was realizing that his body was holding him back from the life he wanted to lead. He knew exactly what he wanted to get out of the experience, and he went after it.
Like many of my bloggy friends, I have been struggling with the relationship between self-acceptance and my desire to lose weight. Pete is a role model of someone who accepted himself deeply but wanted to change his body. When I look back at my own life, I was always happiest when I was pursuing a goal. Why can't weight loss be a goal, just like pursuing a doctoral degree or landing a job that I love? I feel like I have gotten wrapped up in the idea that wanting to make a change was some indication of self-hatred, or a desire to cave into pressure from other people. But it really isn't that at all. I want weight loss for so many reasons that arise out of self-care, like wanting to take weight off my arthritic toes and wanting to avoid my family's legacy of diabetes. There is nothing wrong with pursuing a goal like weight loss as long as I don't do it in a drastic or self-punishing way.
I know that I couldn't follow Pete Thomas's ultra-low-carb regimen for even one day. I also don't have almost 200 pounds to lose, I have 30. The way to weight loss for me doesn't have to be quite so drastic. I can continue to track my calories daily and look for ways to nudge the count down. I can get exercise that I enjoy on a daily basis. I can make sure that I'm getting plenty of sleep and am managing my stress. I can make sure to get some strength training in, since every reputable source seems to say that it is a key to weight loss.
I feel newly inspired to do something good for myself. It was definitely worth a drive to Ann Arbor for that.