Biggest Loser Breaks Weight-Loss Record

Biggest Loser winner Mike Ventrella lost a whopping 50.19 percent of his body weight during season nine, dropping 264 pounds to break the show’s weight loss record.

After months of suffering through low-cal meals, high-octane screaming matches, and backbreaking workouts, the final three contestants weighed in for the season nine finale of The Biggest Loser. The winner? Mike Ventrella, who dropped 264 pounds as a result of his time at the ranch, breaking the show’s previous weight-loss record of 239 pounds, set by Danny Cahill.

Ventrella was also the heaviest contestant in the show’s history, starting the season at 526 pounds. The final weigh-in showed he had lost 50.19 percent of his body weight — and the images of Ventrella up on stage showed he had also packed on some serious muscle.

As the reward for his efforts, Ventrella beat out fellow finalists Ashely Johnston and Daris George to take home the $250,000 prize. But all was not lost for the runners up. Daris proudly announced to host Alison Sweeney that he has a new girlfriend, and Ashely can undoubtedly breathe easier after shedding 183 pounds, nearly 49 percent of her body weight.

Critics of The Biggest Loser note that the show puts contestants through a grueling — and some say dangerous — diet and fitness regimen to achieve the extreme weight loss results for which the show is known. Viewers may have unrealistic expectations about how to achieve a healthy body weight safely as a result, they say. Moreover, the contestants are set up for failure because they are unable to maintain the same level of activity and eat the same type of diet when they return to their normal lives.

In fact, season three winner Erik Chopin gained back 122 pounds, and returned to the stage for season nine to serve as a warning to contestants. Similarly, first season winner Ryan Benson has also packed the weight back on.

Proponents of the show’s counter that The Biggest Loser offers hope to millions of Americans who struggle with morbid obesity, proving that it is possible to beat the scale and regain one’s health.

“At 526 pounds, nobody at that weight can ever feel any sense of hope,” Michael Ventrella told Meredith Vieira on the TODAY show the morning after his Biggest Loser victory. “You feel like any day is your day, is your time: You’re going to die.”

With one-third of the U.S. population being categorized as obese and rates continuing to rise, hope may be a critical first step in overcoming the epidemic.

Ventrella, for one, is committed to maintaining his new, healthy physique, and serving as a role model for others who struggle with their weight. He told Viera, “My motivation is to get healthy and live a long life; live a life that my grandfather didn’t get to live to his fullest, and my grandmother didn’t get to live to her fullest,” he said. “As far as how I’m going to keep it off, I’m not that Michael at 526 anymore. I’m a new person that’s been reborn. The workout regimen, the eating regimen, is all second nature to me now.”

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