I learned a valuable lesson last week: You can change if you want to badly enough.
I learned this lesson at a PR (public relations) conference from a speaker who had nothing to do with PR.
The speaker was Patrick House, a Vicksburg man who changed his life when he was cast on the show The Biggest Loser in 2010. Then 28 years old, he won the competition by losing 180 pounds. Equally impressive, he has kept the weight off ever since.
The man I saw is fit, trim and bursting with energy. He exercises regularly and watches what eats. He has run several marathons. It’s impossible to picture him weighing 400 pounds, but he did before being on the show.
How it began
According to House, he had actually auditioned for the show along with his mother several years earlier, when the season was focused on pairs. It was his mother’s idea, he said, and she kept after him till he agreed to try. They actually were accepted and the producers flew them to Hollywood. But at the last minute, they were cut.
House had quit his sales job to be on the show, so the rejection not only dashed his dreams, it meant he had to find a new job. To help him in his job search, his mother-in-law bought him a new pair of pants. However, he was embarrassed to tell her that they were too small. He threw them in the top of his closet and forgot about them.
Those pants would become significant later.
Being on the show
A few years passed, and one of the show’s producers spotted House’s audition tape. The producer contacted House. Would he be interested in trying again? House was reluctant to try one more time, but the producer told him why he had been cut previously. They had been concerned that his mother, in her 60s, was not physically able to handle the demands of the show.
So House agreed. Once more, they flew him to Hollywood. This time, though, he was not cut.
He said he looked at losing weight as a job –– a job that could bring a $100,000 paycheck if he won. He limited himself to 800 calories a day, despite doctors’ advice, while exercising up to 12 hours daily. He does not recommend that approach for others, but because of the show’s structure and time constraints, he had to lose quickly.
I’ve never watched the show, but I have seen clips of it where trainer Jillian Michaels is yelling at the contestants. House let us in on a little secret. Michaels is actually a very nice person, he said. That mean act is for the cameras. In fact, she would tell him beforehand to please forgive her for the mean way she was about to treat him when the cameras went on.
Life after the show
Today, House remains committed to fitness and healthy eating. As anyone who has ever dieted can tell you, losing the weight is one thing, but keeping it off is a whole other challenge. It takes motivation and dedication day after day.
House has proven he can do it. And he’s spreading the message through speaking and through a foundation he set up to help educate children about healthy living. He has also written a book about his experiences. Profits from the book go to the foundation he has set up to help kids.
And those pants mentioned earlier? Remember, they were too small for him when he was at his heaviest. But he found them on the closet shelf and uses them today to show crowds how large he once was.
Those pants are a wonderful testament to what he has achieved. What a great example he is for us in Mississippi, a state with the highest obesity rate in the country. House showed the nation what Mississippians can do when they are determined. He is my new hero!
One more thing
One more interesting point: House ran in this year’s Boston Marathon. I believe it was his third time. In training, he set a certain pace that would have him finish at about four hours and ten minutes.
However, this time, he did not run his usual pace because he held back to run with friends who were in their first marathon. He did not want to leave them behind.
He later realized that if he had run his regular pace, he would have been crossing the finish line just as the bombs went off. He would have finished in four hours, 20 minutes. The first bomb went off at 4:09:43.
Robin Street teaches journalism and public relations at the University of Mississippi. She is also a freelance journalist specializing in preventive health, fitness, nutrition and mental health. She has masters degrees in both journalism and wellness from Ole Miss. firstname.lastname@example.org