Erik Chopin's "hopeless" life now revitalized by "The Biggest Loser"
When you are a 400+ pound man who gets to the point in your life that you consider having weight loss surgery to finally get your weight and health under control, then you've reached what many consider the pinnacle of desperation. But the sad reality is that people who have struggled with being overweight or obese for much of their lives feel like they don't have any other choice to make, so they throw their hands up in the air and allow doctors to begin cutting away at their insides.
That's exactly what Erik Chopin thought before he decided to be a contestant on Season 3 of the hit NBC reality television show "The Biggest Loser." His decision and good fortune to be chosen to appear on the show representing the state of New York very well may have saved his life and health forever since he was just crowned the winner of that competition by losing an incredible 214 pounds, over half his body weight, while competing on the show.
In a telephone interview with the Associated Press on Friday, Chopin said he was so down on his luck before going on "The Biggest Loser" that he was willing to put himself through the agony of undergoing the risky and controversial LAP-BAND surgery to deal with his morbid obesity.
"That's how hopeless I felt," Chopin told the AP. "I felt like I needed to go for the surgery but, really, I'm so glad I didn't."
Chopin said he would not have forgiven himself if he had allowed himself to so easily give up on trying to lose weight naturally at least one more time.
"I knew the whole time, I honestly knew, I was copping out, I was quitting," Chopin revealed regarding his desire to have the surgery.
But all of that changed when "The Biggest Loser" came along.
"Now, there's no stopping me," Chopin proclaimed after winning $250,000 as the grand prize winner of the popular weight loss television series.
Over the past nine months or so on the infamous California ranch with a team of professional trainers and nutritionists, Chopin learned along with his fellow contestants what life could be like eating healthy perhaps for the first time in his life, making better choices regarding fitness and nutrition, and genuinely soaking up life for all it was meant to be.
You could say 2006 has been one big blur for this now 193-pounder.
"It's surreal. I'm on top of the world," Chopin told the AP. "It was such a long journey, probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. But it's just so rewarding. I'm getting paid now for something I needed to do. You know, I needed to get healthy."
It's hard to describe for people what it is like after losing a lifechanging amount of weight like Chopin did. When I lost 180 pounds on the Atkins diet in 2004, it was the exact same thing for me. The pathway to weight loss and improved health was pretty difficult and seemed like a struggle that was never going to end while in the midst of the process of losing weight.
But when all was said and done, the undeniable feeling of accomplishment and what that meant for my life not only in the here and now but also for the future I had secured for myself simply overwhelmed me. You hear people all the time express how their lives were improved following weight loss, but you have no idea the extent of it until you actually do it yourself!
For Chopin, the turnaround in his health came none too soon as he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and other health ailments during his appearance on "The Biggest Loser." Not surprisingly, Bob Harper (a fan of my low-carb blog!) and the nutritional staff put him on a sugar-free, low-carb weight loss program to help him effectively control his diabetes and later become the super slim man with the incredible physique he displays today.
"Everything fits great and I'm comfortable and I need to stay right here," Chopin said.
Getting used to your new body is a fun experience indeed. If Chopin likes where his weight is right now at 193, then the real challenge is about to begin for him. When I got down to 230 pounds after weighing 410 at the beginning of 2004, I knew it was going to take everything within me to keep that scale from going back up. As it was, I lost another 10 pounds in 2005 to get down to 220 and life was going great as I prevented the usual letdown that most successful losers face in the year that follows.
But then 2006 rolled around and I allowed myself to slip back into some old habits before I started livin' la vida low-carb. I was still essentially doing the low-carb lifestyle, but I permitted myself a few too many indulgences which then showed up on the scale. When my weight reached 240 pounds over the summer, I knew I needed to do something about it and fast!
That's when I started my "30-In-30" Low-Carb Weight Loss Challenge on August 1, 2006 to lose 30 pounds in 30 weeks. We are now two-thirds of the way through that challenge and I have lost almost 25 pounds so far. Hundreds of others are following along in this challenge and losing weight themselves. It's exactly what I needed to get refocused on maintaining my weight.
This is something Chopin will undoubtedly deal with himself, especially with all the temptations that will befall him with his newfound celebrity and wealth. Plus, as the owner of the popular North Babylon, NY-based restaurant called Emma's Delicatessen, he will always be surrounded by food and the allure to nibble. Chopin didn't get to be 407 pounds without something tempting him! Don't you know all that food he served to his customers was his albatross. The good news is he can still enjoy the food he serves in his deli and stay on his low-carb plan as long as he stays away from the bread and potato chips! :)
At the end of the AP interview, Chopin makes an incredibly wise comment about how this weight loss he has experienced will forever alter the way he looks at an overweight or obese person he encounters.
"I see a big guy somewhere and in my mind I'm not critical of him," Chopin revealed. "I'm more like, 'I need to help this person.' I'd like to help them, because I know what it's like and how awful it feels to be obese. And I was morbidly obese."
Erik Chopin is not alone in his desire to help people who need to lose weight. It is something I have devoted myself fully to the past 2+ years since losing my weight and I intend to continue doing it through my "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog, on my podcast show, and any other method of communication I am privileged to use for getting the message out about the hope of a brighter tomorrow through weight loss.
Unless you've been as morbidly obese as both Erik and I have and then lost the weight, then you can't understand why we feel this way. It's as if you have a newfound mission in life to tell everyone you come into contact with about this remarkable gift you have been given so they too can experience the thrill and joy of finding the secret to permanent weight loss. How can you hold something like this inside of yourself? It's been nearly three years for me and I'm STILL fired up!
I sincerely hope Chopin uses the platform he has been given to begin educating and encouraging people who need to lose weight that it is possible to do it without the use of surgery, pills, and other such nonsense that people feel pressured into doing instead of seeking natural solutions. Whether you choose to limit your fat and calorie intake, increase your consumption of protein while lowering your carbohydrates, or WHATEVER other lifestyle change, making the choice that is right and works best for YOU and then doing it for the rest of your life will start you down the road to success.
CONGRATULATIONS again to Erik Chopin on being named "The Biggest Loser" of Season 3 and I wish him well in the coming year and beyond as he seeks to keep his weight off forever by continuing on his low-carb lifestyle just like the previous winners of "The Biggest Loser" have. It's a neverending battle, I tell people, but one worth fighting! I'm so proud of you, Erik! Keep fighting the good fight and NEVER EVER GIVE UP!
If you want to read more about "The Biggest Loser," including seeing some awesome before and after photos of the contestants from Season 1 and Season 2, reading an exclusive interview I conducted with personal trainer Bob Harper, finding out what happened to Jillian Michaels, and so much more, then please visit my post full of "The Biggest Loser" links.