'The Biggest Loser' contestants caution students of bad habits

Although he was the first contestant eliminated from NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” Thomas “TC” Pool left with the motivation to reverse the bad eating habits he had carried since young adulthood.

“I went home on an upswing, feeling really good about myself, eager to continue my working out,” Pool said. “(The show) helped a lot getting through the daily grind (and) working full time with a family. That’s when you dig down deep and ask, ‘How bad do you really want this?’”

Both Pool and fellow contestant Nate Montgomery, who was eliminated shortly thereafter, said they began gaining significant amounts of weight in high school and the few years following when they stopped maintaining a balance between nutrition and exercise.

“I ate a lot of fast food all the time. It was never okay, but it was okay for my image (at the time) because I played sports all day,” Montgomery said. “I played baseball, and I wasn’t the best on the team, so it made me think they’re judging me. I stopped playing sports, began playing a lot of video games and eating the same way, and in turn I gained a lot of weight.”

Katherine Alaimo, associate professor of the MSU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, said the high school and college years are a critical time in deciding the outcome of a person’s health.

“College is often the first time students are on their own and not eating off their families,” Alaimo said. “They have the opportunity to make their own choices, and making the right choices now sets the stage for future choices as adults.”

With a slight change in the show’s purpose to focus on childhood obesity, Pool said it’s crucial for kids to understand the consequences of poor diet and lack of exercise early.

“The more you go without being active, the harder it is to get active again,” Pool said. “Kids need to learn to take little steps. It makes it so much easier down the road to get active, because it gets harder the more weight you gain.”

When it comes to losing weight and being healthy, Alaimo said there’s a wrong way to do it — cutting out calories or meals.

“When you try and restrict calories, your body doesn’t like that very much,” she said. “The right way is to be active and choose the more nutritious foods … You don’t need to starve yourself to be healthier.”

At the end of the day, Montgomery said the battle to be healthy is a mental one.

“The biggest thing learned from (Jillian Michaels) is that my life is not about how I look to people or what they think of me,” he said. “Health should be about what I can make my body do.”

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