Monday, January 28, 2008

Isabeau Miller: 'The Biggest Loser' Is Not 'A Woman's Game' To Win

Interviewing "The Biggest Loser" 4 finalist Isabeau Miller

Get ready fans of "The Biggest Loser" because I've got a whole buncha interviews with the contestants from Season 4 coming at you over the next few weeks. At least thirteen of the 18 contestants from last season have already agreed to be interviewed by me and I asked them all sorts of questions about behind-the-scenes stuff on the popular NBC weight loss reality show as well as what is happening in their own lives as a result of this opportunity they were given to lose weight and become household names.

After sharing with you Part 1 and Part 2 of my podcast interview last week with the winner of "The Biggest Loser" in last Fall's Season 4 grand finale Bill Germanakos, today I have another one of the four finalists from The Black Team who was also in contention for the $250,000 prize. But as you will see in my interview with Isabeau Miller today, that didn't materialize and quite frankly she's not at all surprised by it.

Catch up with Isabeau and find out how "The Biggest Loser" changed her life in so many more ways than simple weight loss. Everything about her has become like a new person and now she feels a personal mission and purpose for her life (that's what happens when you lose triple digits!). Get ready to be inspired by a beautiful young woman (both inside and out!) who has unlimited potential to be and do whatever it is she desires for the rest of her long and healthy life.

It's time to meet the brand new Isabeau Miller!

1. When you're a 21-year old woman with high aspirations of breaking into the ultra-image-conscious music industry, you quickly discover it takes a whole lot more than an amazing singing talent to get your big break. That's something Isabeau Miller knows a lot about. Prior to appearing as a contestant on Season 4 of the NBC-TV reality show "The Biggest Loser," she had been working hard to get her music career off the ground living in one of the most renowned cities in the world of music--Nashville, Tennessee! But there was one really big thing standing in her way and that was her weight.

When she began her journey on "The Biggest Loser" as the youngest contestant ever (21), Isabeau also set another dubious all-time mark for the hit weight loss series by becoming the heaviest female contestant ever when she topped the scales at 298 pounds. Welcome to the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog today, Isabeau.

Tell us what went through you head when you saw that big 2-9-8 staring you in the face for the first time. Was that shocking to you or were you totally expecting that number or higher? What do you think the primary reasons were that you allowed yourself to become so obese and what was it that made you want to change that trend?

When I saw I weighed 298 pounds, I sadly can’t say that I was surprised. I knew that the way I was living was unhealthy. After all, I grew up with a DOCTOR as a dad!!! I KNEW what I was doing to my body was wrong, but for some reason I could not cut the emotional ties I had to food. I loved food more than I loved myself at that point in my life.

I have ALWAYS struggled with my relationship with food. Growing up, childhood obesity wasn’t a prevalent issue in society like it is now, so when my parents noticed my weight obviously getting out of control, they treated my problem like you would with an adult. They did all they could to help--weekly weigh-ins with me, non-food related “rewards” when I DID lose weight, enrolling me in sports, and cooking healthy meals. But, unfortunately for me, this set into motion a horrible pattern of rebellion that continued into my adulthood.

Really, I’ve always been a pretty straight-edged person--I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, or drink excessively, so eating became my drug and the way I could say “screw you” to what my parents wanted. In some ways, I wish I had just been a “normal” kid and gone to parties--I think that would have been much easier to quit. Even now, there are moments I sit back and ask myself before I eat something if I’m REALLY hungry or if there’s some kind of emotion driving my want for food.

I’ve kind of put in place “the 10-minute rule.” If I want to eat something, I make a promise to myself to wait 10 minutes, think about it, and if in 10 minutes, it still sounds as good, I’ll have it--in moderation of course. In depriving ourselves, especially with me, it just reinforces the idea that something “isn’t allowed” and we’re “rebelling” by eating it. I don’t believe in living like that anymore.

2. Ooooh, I like that "10-minute rule," Isabeau! As an aspiring singer, getting the opportunity to appear on national television and to start making a name for yourself in the public eye had to be a major impetus for wanting to be on "The Biggest Loser" along with the potential for winning a whole lotta money. But with tens of thousands of people applying for a mere 18 slots, you had to somehow make yourself stand out from the rest of the pack to get the casting agency to notice and ultimately pick you over the others. Talk about the application process that you went through, how long it took before you heard from 3 Ball Productions about being considered for the show, and why you believe they ended up giving you a chance to be among the show's final group for Season 4.

You know what’s funny, is the idea of fame HONESTLY did not even cross my mind as far as "The Biggest Loser" was involved. Nothing against the show or its past contestants, but most of them don’t go on to some jet-setting, luxurious lifestyle afterwards. I didn’t expect "The Biggest Loser" to make me famous, but I expected it to give me “the missing piece” of the package--I had the voice, the ability, but KNEW as soon as I walked into meetings with people in the industry, the first thing people saw, through no fault of their own, was my weight.

I wish larger people weren’t judged like that, but life is not fair, and the industry is even MORE unfair. That being said, my audition process was quite short compared to the majority of the contestants who ended up appearing with me. Some had been applying for years, or had went through several call backs, etc. I sent in my application about a week after the Season 3 finale, and was called 3 weeks later to meet with casting assistants. From there, the ball kept rolling, and although it was an incredibly stressful process, wondering where you stood in the eyes of the casting “gods,” I’m thankful that mine took only a few months, which was on the shorter side for most people. No one can really say FOR SURE what 3 Ball was looking for, but I think they were looking for genuine people who really wanted to lose weight, and of course, had the potential to be even more attractive as slim people.

I forget who said it, but at some point, during our preliminary casting, we had a photo shoot, and it might have been Neil or Ryan that said “This is the most attractive group of overweight people I’ve EVER seen.” And it was true! From day one, you could take one look at Amy, or Hollie, or Julie, or ANYONE for that matter and say “I can totally see them on the cover of a magazine,” which is probably why you did (the contestants were given an opportunity for a photo shoot with Prevention magazine midway through the season)!!

3. Some critics of "The Biggest Loser" say the show promotes hours upon hours of tortuous exercise with little regard to diet and public humiliation for the contestants having to expose their flabby bodies for the whole world to see week in and week out (I don't subscribe to these opinions, but I've had many e-mails from people stating as much). As one of the contestants who made it all the way to the final four players and appearing on the show to the very last week, what is your response to this kind of criticism and do you think it has any merit at all? Why or why not?

Of course the show promotes hours of exercise!! I hear it all the time from people “So, HOW DID YOU DO IT?” and then they wait with bated breath for me to slip them some magic pill. That’s just not the truth. I think, honestly, most people who have hundreds of pounds to lose want to hear that you can do it without diet, without exercise, and most importantly, without looking at yourself squarely in the mirror, and the truth is, that is just impossible. You NEED to change your eating habits--not just to lose weight, but to decrease the chances of dying from obesity-related illnesses.

You NEED to exercise for SOOO many reasons, but above all, you NEED to have the “wake up call” where you look at yourself honestly and say “Wow, I need to do something about this...REALLY!” For me, it was absolutely liberating to know America would see the things I have spent a lifetime trying to hide. For 21 years, I had never shopped with my friends so they’d never know what size I wore, I had never told anyone what I REALLY weighed, I had never EVER changed in front of someone, or let someone see me in my bra and underwear. To get to expose me, at my worst, to America, knowing that from that point on, I would NEVER go back there again, it felt like a huge weight off my shoulders (excuse the pun).

I felt like for the first time, I was being honest with myself and everyone around me. As far as the criticism for the show goes, there are parts that are painful, unbearable, stressful, gut-wrenching, tear-jerking and absolutely tortuous--but it is ABSOLUTELY necessary. And knowing that I wouldn’t ever be able to do those things on my own, I’m so grateful for what the show gave me a healthier lifestyle, yes, but more importantly, coping skills. I think everything I ever take on from this point on will pale in comparison to the amount of work "The Biggest Loser" was.

4. Backstage at the grand finale, you said that Jillian Michaels was the exact trainer you needed to help you become the successful weight loss and health winner you are today. After watching the dominating performance of the entire Black Team in Season 4 with all of the final four players--you, Hollie, Julie, and Bill--as well as the at-home winner Jim, there's little doubt in anyone's mind that SHE was the major reason for that.

Why do you think the kick-butt-now-thank-me-later approach that Jillian uses is so effective? What makes her fitness methodology so much better than the ones used by the other trainers on the show? Did you ever THINK about switching trainers in those early days on the show because you thought working with Jillian was gonna be too hard? What kept you going despite the pain and agony of being pushed to your limits?

I think if I lived to be 200 years old, I could not thank Jillian Michaels or the kind of woman she was to me throughout my Biggest Loser experience. I think, as Jillian has said many times, her strategy is effective because she makes you show YOURSELF just how strong and capable you really are physically, which really does transcend into EVERY area of your life. I think all the trainers have their own “schtick” but I dare say that Jillian is a fitness and life pioneer.

Some people “think outside the box” but Jillian doesn’t even know there IS a box--she just feels something, and does it. Watching Jillian train, to me, would be comparable to watching Michelangelo paint, or hearing Beethoven play--she is a master of her craft, and has a true intuition and compassion for people, but is still continually improving herself. The woman reads and studies more than most people that have PhDs in exercise science do! She’s really incredible.

As far as switching trainers, I NEVER seriously considered what life on "The Biggest Loser" ranch would be like with Bob or Kim. As nice as they were, I think it goes without saying that Jillian’s in a league of her own. You kind of HAD to push yourself because she believed in you so much. I didn’t want to challenge her belief that I could do anything she asked me to--and when I did, she only pushed harder. And for that, she WAS the perfect trainer for me. She referred to me as “The great negotiator.” If she said, “Sprint for a minute” I’d say "How about 30 seconds now, rest 30 seconds, then another 30 seconds?” She was perfect for me, cause she saw through my bull, and punished my bad habits, which eventually taught me to retrain my thinking and push through the discomfort.

5. As a result of your incredible total body transformation losing 113 pounds from day one all the way to the grand finale in December, you have now become a certified personal trainer to give back to others what you have learned from Jillian so they can change their lives, too. People don't believe me when I tell them that losing triple digits releases some kind of trigger in your head to go out and do things you never thought were possible before.

Is this the kind of thing that is happening to you right now and is there an insatiable desire deep inside of you to do whatever you can to help overweight and obese people get fit and healthy? Do you think this is now something you HAVE to do because of the amazing miracle you have been given in your own life?

Honestly, after going through my experience on "The Biggest Loser," I feel a sense of being invincible--a brand new kind of life. You just feel as if you’ve already DONE the impossible, so why not keep doing it? I have set post-Biggest Loser goals for myself that I NEVER would have otherwise set--I’m training to compete in a half marathon in April, and then a marathon in the Fall, as well as a triathlon. I’m joining a recreational sports leagues, rock climbing, adventuring--I have NEVER been a thrill seeker, but now everything is different.

My training, though, is the love of my life right now. Being trained by Jillian was a gift because I feel like I was given an apprenticeship with the best in the business. I know I’ve faced quite a bit of criticism from some people on various message boards questioning my “ability to be a trainer” so quickly, and at 185 pounds. First, if you count the time I was on "The Biggest Loser" GETTING healthy, I have been immersed in fitness for almost a year. As soon as I stepped off the campus, I got my personal training study packaged, and a month later, took my exam to get my certification. I had to get certified just like ANY other trainer.

And as far as being 185 pounds when I know the typical female trainer is probably at least 40 lbs less than that, I would challenge ANY person thinking they're in “good shape” to go through one of my workouts. I run a boot camp class with a group of women, varying in sizes, shapes, ages, and even the youngest, fittest, most athletic participant with a “perfect” body struggles through it (which as a trainer makes me ecstatic!!). But beyond that, I feel like, yes, "The Biggest Loser" was a tremendous blessing in MY life, but I believe above all, it was the stepping stone, and the catalyst for me to find my “meaning” in life.

In music, I’m a songwriter in hopes that my songs inspire others, but in fitness, I REALLY get to inspire others, and it’s such a gift. Plus, my clients know I’ve been where they ARE. This gives me (and them) a huge advantage because they can’t make excuses with me that I haven’t tried to make and had to push through myself. Regardless of the number they see on the scale, my clients run, they do REAL push ups, they lift weights--I try to enforce the idea that weight is just a number, not a definition. And we can use it to “take stock” of where we are, but it can’t rule WHO you are.

I have clients that are over 300 pounds who I consider “fit”--they can run miles, they can workout 7 hours a week. Plus, being a trainer is inspiring to ME and keeps me active which is the only way I ever want to live. I’m running a summer fitcamp this year (for more info go to where people from ALL over the country are coming for 2 intensive Biggest Loser-style weeks, and I’m so excited to get the message of fitness and wellness across the country and help people put their goals into action!

6. Throughout the season, you and other female contestants often talked about wanting to become the first woman to be crowned the winner of "The Biggest Loser." Although Julie came close by being within 8 pounds of making that happen, Bill Germanakos pulled out the win against her, you, and Hollie at the finale. Why do you think men seem to have an advantage over the women on this show? What do you think it's gonna take for a girl to finally beat out the guys for a chance to win the $250,000 grand prize in future episodes of "The Biggest Loser?" Do you think it would be more fair if there was a male winner and a female winner at the end of each season or should the format stay just the way it is?

Man, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t wish one of us chicks won the grand prize, although I think we were all very happy for Bill and his wonderful family. Here’s the thing: We had 8 months from start to finish. For Julie, she came SOOO close but I don’t know WHERE that girl could’ve lost anymore weight from. She was teeeeeny tiny at the finale--even more so than it looked like on TV. She just had nothing left, and rightfully so--she started out the smallest female of the season.

On the other side of the fence, there was me. I SHOULD have been able to win, but the reality is, there were a couple factors working against me--#1, I’m a woman. And to lose 150 pounds (50% of my starting weight) in 8 months, I would have had to CONSISTENTLY lose 4.5 pounds a week. There were some weeks ON CAMPUS where I lost only 3 or 4 pounds, and that was without all the distractions of real life, and having Jillian to work my butt off 4-6 hours a day. I knew it would be hard once I got home, but I never anticipated the plateaus I faced, and how long they would last. A woman just does not have the metabolism of a man.

Also, I had spent about 15 years of my life qualifying as “obese,” and toward the end, was lugging around a good 15-20 pounds of loose skin. Gross, I know, but I knew there was nothing I’d EVER be able to do about that before the finale, so I kind of had to swallow my pride, and be happy with the tremendous weight loss I had achieved as well as the fact that I had accomplished all of my PERSONAL goals: to wear a size 10 and to run a road race. Plus, I hadn’t been 185 since I was 11!!! Half a lifetime ago.

So it was definitely a difficult thing to come in 4th out of 4, but personally, I had some huge achievements. Honestly, I don’t think "The Biggest Loser" is a woman’s game. It happened in the UK, but the producers need to do one of two things--either get guys that don’t HAVE 50% of their body weight to lose, or get women that DO and then give them at LEAST a year to do it in. Eight months just is not enough, and had I had an extra 4 months, I think I could’ve pushed through my plateaus and gotten at least CLOSE to 150--although now I really don’t care WHAT that number on the scale ever says as long as I can always wear my “goal jeans” and run 5 miles without thinking about it.

7. YOU GO GIRL! I LOVE your attitude. You know, your boyfriend Jonathan is one lucky guy to have you as both his best friend and the love of his life. After this amazing journey you have been on in 2007 appearing on "The Biggest Loser" and with limitless potential to do things you never thought possible, have you two discussed things like your career, marriage, kids, and your long-term future together? How has your relationship grown with Jonathan as a result of your lifechanging weight loss success? Do you feel more worthy to be loved by him now that you're no longer embarrassed about the way you look? Have you noticed men staring at you now who wouldn't have thought twice about looking at you when you weighed 300 pounds?

Jon has to be the most amazing 23-year old man in the entire world. From the time "The Biggest Loser" first came up, he encouraged me to do what I wanted to do. I don’t know many men his age that would allow their girlfriends to go off on a reality WEIGHT LOSS show, meanwhile taking care of the house, the bills, the dogs, and just keeping life together. He was (along with my parents) my rock, and I am definitely the lucky one.

We’ve definitely discussed the future--mostly because it just seems so bright right now. We’re so excited to live every day together. (My favorite thing to do is put HIM through my workouts--he doesn’t last 15 minutes! LOL!). We’ve talked about marriage, and will definitely be parents SOMEDAY, but I promised Jillian I wouldn’t have babies for some time.

Jon NEVER said anything that made me feel less than beautiful, but I felt less than beautiful on my own. No matter how many times he told me how much he loved me or thought I was perfect, or sexy, or gorgeous, all I saw when I looked in the mirror was how unhappy I was with myself. I think we’re both grateful not just for my weight loss, but for my self-esteem changing. He doesn’t need to spend the whole night “reassuring me” that I am something I don’t feel I am, and I feel like I’m finally the girlfriend he DESERVES--besides feeling like I’m the “hot” girlfriend, I also feel like we’re such better partners now because now we BOTH walk our dogs, we go for runs together (even did a road race together!), and we cook healthy dinners together.

It’s been a whole different kind of love--one much more equal and deep. Honestly, this might sound sad and a little mushy, but I honestly don’t really notice any other men!! I’m totally in love with the one I have (and a little oblivious as well), but Jon says he sees guys “checking me out” whenever we go out--which makes me feel great! Not that other guys like what they see, but knowing how proud Jon is to be the one that’s with me when other people want what HE has. After all he’s sacrificed for me to have such an opportunity, I feel like that’s the LEAST he should have!!

8. I suppose you're ready to kickstart your music career into high gear now and you've already got some amazing vocal MP3 cuts for sale on your popular MySpace page where your list of friends is now well in excess of 3100 and counting! I think my favorite song written and performed by you is "My Own" because it sounds like an autobiographical tune about your "Biggest Loser" journey. The following lyrics cut right to the heart of the journey you've been traveling:

"Everyone's got opinions for what you should be. But when you look in the mirror, what do you see? And I never knew how high the sky could stretch until I made that climb on my own. And learned to speak my mind...they never heard my voice, until I found...My own."

WOW! Strong lyrics and sung with the intense emotion that I would expect from someone who has been through all that you have over these past few months. Did you write this song before, during, or after your appearance on "The Biggest Loser?" Do you have any other songs like that one swirling around in your heart and mind inspired by the changes you have experienced?

I wrote “My Own” with one of the most talented writers in Nashville, Will Champlin. We had been working on another song all night, and something just wasn’t “gelling”--it just wasn’t honest enough for me. I’m one of those writers, where I need to be inspired. I know a lot of people (especially in Nashville) believe in writing as a job--you just push through until you “find” something. But I think for me, that something needs to get into my thoughts somehow.

So we took a break, and I went to the piano and started writing “My Own.” When Will came back downstairs, it was already half written. I had come back from "The Biggest Loser" a couple months before, and at that point, it was pretty evident I wasn’t going to win, but I felt the need to convey to myself, and the world, that whatever that final number said on the scale, I had found who I WAS through the process of "The Biggest Loser." Yes, the weight loss was incredible and I don’t know that I could have ever done it on my own, but more importantly, I figured out who I was, and more importantly who I wanted to be.

I literally changed my ENTIRE life--I lost weight, I bought a house because I wasn’t afraid of taking that risk, I quit my “day jobs” and became a trainer which I am in love with, I signed up for races I couldn’t quite run yet because I had faith that I COULD--and I did. I think above all, I learned I am capable of anything I put my faith into. I came into "The Biggest Loser" not having a lot of faith in anything (just ask Julie!!) but now, I find I am more aware of myself, physically, emotionally and spiritually than I ever would have been. I WILL pursue my music career as a songwriter, but I gotta say--I don’t care if I ever find fame with my music. I feel like I had a “taste of fame” with "The Biggest Loser" and as grateful as I am for the people that write to me, or are inspired, there’s a really bitter taste that comes with being “on” all the time. If a record deal fell in my lap, I don’t think I’d say no, but I’d much rather spend my life writing music and living more anonymously. Plus, no matter what happens with my music, I think I will always continue training as well.

9. Your web site has recently come online with updated information constantly being added as you travel down this next step in what looks to be a promising future as a professional recording artist. Have you heard from any record labels interested in giving you and your band a recording contract yet? What do you think about trying out for a spot on another reality show "American Idol" (like your fellow contestant "B" did a few years back) now that you've got the looks to go along with that powerful voice? Do you think you'd have a good chance getting on that show?

Ha! No, I don’t think American Idol will be in my future, but then again, I didn’t think "The Biggest Loser" would be either, so I guess I’d never say never. But “B” is a totally different musician than I am--he is SOOOOOO talented. I think I’m more of a writer than I am a singer, but I’m exploring different avenues. No matter what, music is part of who I am--it’s in my roots, in my blood. For me, music is an every day thing just like taking a shower or eating dinner for most people.

Whether I’m ever paid to make music, I will always do it and it will always be a part of our household (my boyfriend Jon is also a drummer AND personal trainer!!). Sad to say, I am pretty bad about updating my web site especially since the launch of my training company’s website: But once things quiet down a bit more, I am going to work on recording some of my new songs and release a CD this summer!! Maybe even a collaboration with "B?" You down with that, "B?" Ha ha!

10. Isabeau, THANKS so much for sharing some quality time with me and the readers of the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog today. It never ceases to amaze me how "The Biggest Loser" just keeps improving the lives of so many good, hard-working people who are just like the rest of us just living in the day to day. CONGRATULATIONS on all of your success and I wish you well as you follow your dreams in this thing called life. Is there anything you'd like to say to encourage people who feel like their obesity is who they are and nothing will ever change that?

Jimmy, first of all, thank YOU! I know what you do touches so many people, and I feel blessed to have this platform to inspire others as well! To everyone else out there--as I said, there is NO magic answer, but it IS possible!! Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and take charge of the person you WANT to be! Sometimes you have to “fake it till you make it,” so start believing right now, this second, that you are stronger, you are more capable, and you are wiser than you think you are, and then put it into motion! Set small goals EVERY day and when they get easy, make them harder. And remember this: I’ve never EVER left the gym regretting that I went, but I have gone to bed on my “lazy days” where I wish I HAD gone to the gym. You’ll NEVER regret the choice to be healthy!! Thanks again Jimmy and everyone out there reading this. ;)

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