Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Meeting With Biggest Loser Cast Members--A Dream Come True

I live in an area--Metro Nashville/Franklin--that is chock-full of celebrities.

I have friends who regularly run into Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban at J Alexanders or Starbucks in Green Hills. (They love my friend's sporty red MG!) Other friends have spotted Kenny Chesney at PF Changs, and Faith Hill at Whole Foods and Green Hills Mall. I know a Realtor who knows where Robert Plant's Nashville home is located, and I have a friend who lives on the same street as Allison Krauss. Taylor Swift was spotted recently at Riverside Antiques in Franklin, presumably buying for her new condo, and the list goes on...

But for me, there is only one Nashville-area celebrity I wanted to meet, and she hasn't been nominated for a Grammy, Dove, Oscar, or any other kind of big-name award. But she is definitely one of my heroes and an inspiration.

Her name is Liz Young, she lives in Chapel Hill, TN, not far from Nashville, and she was on Season 8 of The Biggest Loser. In fact, she is the oldest woman to make it into the Final Four of Biggest Loser, and that has a lot to do with why I admire her so much--she represents all of us "women of a certain age" who were told growing up that fat was inevitable after 40. Liz lost 90 lbs on the show, but more than that…she shared her innermost feelings and experiences with 24 million viewers, changed her own life, and is inspiring others to change theirs as well.

While I don't anticipate reaching 24 million people (or should I dream bigger?) that's what I want to do as well.

I met Liz last weekend at the fabulous Women's Wellness Weekend in Franklin, sponsored by Broccoli Cupcake. BC's founder, Calie Shackleford, is an inspiring woman in her own right. To learn more about her, go to I will be blogging more about the Women's Wellness Weekend later, but for now, back to Liz.

I've wanted to meet Liz since last fall, when her season of BL was airing. Since we're in the same area, I figured it was just a matter of time. In fact, a friend of mine (who is not a Biggest Loser fan) met Liz at a "Ladies Who Launch" event last fall, and had no idea who she was.

As soon as I saw on the Women's Wellness Weekend agenda that there would be "surprise guests" from The Biggest Loser, I just knew Liz would be one of them.

And sure enough, as I was sitting in my seat Saturday morning waiting for the program to begin, Liz, dressed in her Brown Team T-shirt and black slacks, sat down right in front of me!!!! I excitedly texted Chicago Man that my dream had come true!

What I didn't realize at the time was that Tracy, also from Season 8, was with her. Tracy looks vastly different from the 250 lb woman who nearly died after trying to run a mile on her first day of The Biggest Loser, and I did not even realize who she was until she walked onstage and was introduced by the MC.

Both women were on a panel about weight issues, along with Lisa Delaney, author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl and editor of Franklin-based Spry magazine.

While Tracy shared about her Biggest Loser audition experience—last-minute scurrying to find a babysitter for four kids, waiting in line 14 hours in the rain, only to have the auditions cut off and then still being chosen after offering up a prayer—Liz talked about how she wanted to go home after a) hearing the EMT say Tracy was flat lining after her collapse and b) working out for four hours without a break (can you imagine???) on her first day in the gym.

When the producers wouldn’t get her a plane ticket home (filming had already been in progress for 2 days), Liz said she’d go back to Tennessee if she had to walk, but finally struck a deal with the medic. If she thought she was going to die during the workouts, she’d raise her hand and the medic would check her out.

After about Week 4, Liz began to settle in and realized she was on the ranch and into her weight-loss, lifestyle change commitment for the long haul.

Liz and Tracy are both Southern women who like myself, were raised on fried food. They’ve embraced their new eating habits and lifestyle changes, turning to celery and radishes instead of chips and cookies, yet still allow themselves one high-calorie day each week in order not to feel deprived.

My favorite thing they said, though, was that being chosen out of 400,000 people who auditioned for Season 8 (mind-boggling), they feel a sense of responsibility to pay it forward. These ladies are so humble, funny, and inspiring. And hardworking! That show is no piece of cake…no pun intended! Neither were thinking when they auditioned about how they’d have to appear in a sports bra in front of 24 million people each week!

During a break, I visited Liz and Tracy’s booth. They were selling t-shirts for a non-profit that builds housing for disabled veterans (Tracy’s husband is a former Marine) but I am embarrassed to say that I was so excited to meet Liz, and Tracy as an added bonus, that I don’t remember the name of the charity!

The first thing I noticed about Liz was her warmth and expressive, big brown eyes, which didn’t show up on the TV cameras.

I was so thrilled to meet Liz that I was babbling! It is just so good to have a role model in my age range (I actually am a few years older than Liz, but hey…50+ works!). If ever I get discouraged, all I have to do is remember Liz and some of my other favorite contestants, and I know I can do it.

I shared a bit about my own wellness journey, and how I have lost 40 lbs since Season 8 of the Biggest Loser started in late September. Tracy even high-fived me when I told her my size 1X velour pants and hoodie that I purchased in December are getting too big!

Liz gave me an autographed photo of herself, and my only regret about the day is that I did not ask someone to take a picture of me with Liz and Tracy. Wah! I just felt too shy to ask.

Hopefully I will run into Liz again someday, and then I will not be too shy! My camera phone will be ready to hand over to someone to take the pic.

I also hope to meet some other cast members from the Biggest Loser, like Danny Cahill, Coach Mo, Abby Rike, and of course, Jillian and Bob.

Is there someone who inspires you on your wellness journey? Tell me about him or her!

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