A few weeks ago in a moment of major writer’s block, I asked you guys to pose me some questions, and promised that I would answer.
I am still planning on posting about each of them, but I figure I’ll start with the one that was both asked the most, and the one that will be the most difficult to recount.
So here it is for those of you who were curious: the story of how I was almost a contestant on The Biggest Loser (though it is not nearly as exciting as it sounds.) I really hope I’m not gonna have NBC on my ass for talking about it, but I’m pretty sure that I’m in the clear after all this time.
I suppose I should start this with a little background. This is pretty much the story that I had to tell a million times during the audition process, so I suppose it is pretty pertinent.
I was never one of those kids who could eat whatever they wanted. I started watching my weight around the age of 10, and even more so when I got more into dance. It wasn’t that I was ever really “big” per se, it just didn’t come as easily to me as it did to others, or at least that’s the way it felt back then. I remember being in dance class and having to wear two piece outfits and feeling completely uncomfortable.
The older I got, the more uncomfortable I was with my body. We had to do monthly weigh-ins at dance, and there was nothing that plagued me more than the thought of gaining a pound or two and having it announced to everyone. Eventually my body image problems escalated into a full-fledged eating disorder. I am not going to go into details now, that might be better fodder for a TMI post, but let’s just say that eventually it got out of hand. Right before college I decided it was time to seek help.
I started out college as a dance major, which meant that I spent a lot of time in front of mirrors. At the same time I was trying to put a stop to my eating disorder, which consequently (and rightly so) made me gain weight. I knew that if I wanted to quit being destructive to myself, I would have to stop spending so much time examining myself.
I quit dance. I pretty much quit exercising altogether. I started eating and held it down. I learned to enjoy life without worrying about food and exercise and what people thought about the way I looked. I drank a lot. I ate horribly because I grew up being a terribly picky eater and really didn’t know any better.
And you know what? I had a fucking blast.
I was conscious, even at the time, that I was gaining weight at a rapid pace, but at the same time- for the first time that I could remember- I was really happy. I found new passions and I met people who didn’t talk obsess about their appearance. I found out that people liked me for more than my appearance. I am aware now that I switched out one destructive behavior for another, but looking back- I really have no regrets. I don’t think that I’d ever be where I am now without going through that stage. I wish it could have been avoided but it wasn’t, and I’m a better person for it.
My first year after college, things started to get a little more difficult for me. I knew that I had gone to the other extreme, and I knew that I had to do something about it if I wanted to be healthy or if I wanted to live, for that matter. I noticed that people started treating me different because of my size. People can be really mean, and although I usually held my head high and shook it off, it hurt. Bad.
I’m a relatively small person (5’2″, or 5’3″ if you’re looking at my driver’s license) and when I went to the doctor and found out that I had reached 250 lbs I went into shock. I had completely avoided doctors and scales for the last 6 years, and although I knew I was big, I had no idea it was that bad.
I was working as an intern for a local on-line newspaper at the time, and when I learned that The Biggest Loser was holding auditions across from my office, I joked that I should try out. I had never seen the show, (it was only in the second season at the time, but I have still never watched it!!) but most of my friends watched it religiously. With a little encouragement from my closest friends, I decided that “all jokes aside,” this might be a good opportunity for me. After all, I did always want to be on tv (though not necessarily in a sports bra) and I knew that gut wasn’t going to lose itself.
When I walked into the first audition, I really didn’t know what to expect. I had filled out 20 pages of questions about myself, and was told that there would be a group interview. I remember walking into the restaurant (Dave and Busters, of all places) where it was held and being completely overwhelmed by all the… well the extremely large people. The majority of the people there trumped me in size by at least 100 lbs. I waited in line for nearly 3 hours before the first round of interviews.
They finally called my group of about 20 people into the “interview” room and sat us in a circle. I remember being squished between two people and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be seen. They asked questions to the group and I was intimidated by all the loud, overbearing, (for lack of a better word) people fighting for attention. I didn’t do anything to stand out, I just sat back and waited for them to ask me a question directly, and when I answered I was nervous as hell.
And then after the interview as I was leaving the room, I tripped and fell, taking about 3 chairs down with me. I laughed and said something awkward, I’m sure… but afterward 2 of the casting people started laughing and talked to me a little longer.
A few weeks later I got a call that they were interested, and they asked me to make a video showing a glimpse of my life. I had no idea what to do, how to make a video, or how I should come across. So I got out my huge old camera and basically tried to do just what they asked. I filmed a little bit of my home life, some clips of me rapping at a bar, and made a spoof of an NBC “The More You Know” public service announcement.
After I sent my tape in I didn’t hear anything for another month or so. When I did, they asked me to go for another round of one on one interviews at a local fitness club. During this interview they had me tell my story and wanted me to cry a lot, which usually comes easy to me, but when put on the spot, it was nearly impossible. At one point the even wanted me to “dance” for the camera. I fell during this portion too… Not cool Carissa.
After another month that was full of phone interviews, background checks, and more paperwork- I was asked to go spend a week being sequestered in LA. I had to sign (what seemed like) a thousand page contract and was not supposed to tell anyone where I was going. I was supposed to pack for 3 months, in case I got cast for the show.
The time I spent in LA turned out to be the most boring week of my life. They put me up in a really nice hotel room, but I wasn’t allowed to talk to any of the other contestants. I couldn’t leave without the accompaniment of one of the production assistants. Other than a 10 hour physical where they did everything but drug test my hair, and a few interviews and psychiatric evaluations- I spent the majority of the time dancing in my room with the air conditioning vent blowing on my hair whilst pretending I was in a music video. I started to convince myself that I wasn’t there for The Biggest Loser after all, but for a reality show about the crazy things people do when they are trapped in a hotel room.
Every day they sent home more people. The production staff and casting directors all told me that the producers were digging on me, but I had no idea what to really think about any of it. Eventually the last day came around, and I was told that morning that in a few hours they would come to get me to take cast pictures and so I could get my t-shirt.
Finally, after several hours of pacing I called one of my favorite casting directors to see what was going on. She came up to talk to me in my room and I could tell it wasn’t going to be good. She basically explained that at the last minute they decided to go with another contestant. One of the producers was worried about the stigma that would come with having someone on the show that had previously had an eating disorder. She said that they really liked me and that there was a really good possibility that they would put me on the next season.
And yes, I basically went through the same process a year later… only to be told once again that “my story” wasn’t right for the season. I even got told at one point that if I could find a “bigger person” for the couples edition and make up a story about my relationship with them, that I would for sure get on.
The more this shit drug on, the more angry it made me. I am all about a little cheese and even a little drama, but I wasn’t going to lie on television. I also got sick of fake crying about my situation. I have been through a lot, but while I was a bigger person, I was still happier than I had been when I was sick.
To make a long story short, while the whole experience pisses the hell out of me… I still think I owe the majority of my weight loss to the Biggest Loser. After the last audition process, I grew really tired of waiting on someone else to fix my problems for me. I knew that if those people on tv could change their lives and lose a ton of weight, then I could do it to… with or without Jillian Michaels.
And I have.
People ask me all the time “how I did it.” I get really nervous every time I see someone that I haven’t seen in years because I know the question is coming. It makes me happy that people have noticed the changes that I’ve made, but I still get really flustered when it is brought up. I am proud at what I’ve achieved, but at the same time it kind of bothers me that it is such a big deal… even though I know it is. I wish I had some magical answer. I hate when people say that their weight loss was just a result from working out a few times a weak and cutting down on cheese. I also get mad when people assume that I have had some sort of surgery or that I take diet pills.
The truth is, it wasn’t easy. It still isn’t. There are days when I feel weak and want to take the easy way out. There are days when I want to skip the gym. There are days when all I want to do is eat a pound of Reeses Pieces. And there are days that I do fall off the wagon and eat a good amount of Reeses Pieces, though now they are few and far between.
I’ve lost over a hundred pounds the last 2 years and there are times where I will see myself in the mirror and not recognize who I see. I’ve changed on the inside too, but all in all, I’m still the same person. I’ve been at both extremes and sometimes I am confused at where I stand. I still get really annoyed when I hear people making fun of “fat” people, because in a way, I’m still that person. I can also now talk for hours about how addicting a healthy lifestyle is, and how much it can do for your mental state. I’m not sure I will ever be done with this journey. I don’t think it’s necessarily even a journey of weight loss, so much as it is a journey of figuring out how to make the most out of my life.
And there it is. Thanks for sticking with me throughout this ridiculously long post. I actually feel better having talked about this, even though I don’t usually do so…. I think I’ll stay away from the serious for a while though. It hurts my head. Happy Humpalicious day people!