Monday, February 18, 2008

'Biggest Loser' 4 Contestant Nicole Michalik: Bob Harper Is 'The Hardest Trainer On The Show'

"The Biggest Loser" 4's Nicole Michalik still fights the battle

Who's THE MAN getting all these interviews with the contestants from Season 4 of "The Biggest Loser?" Yeah, baby, we've got 'em lined up for you with seven already in the bag, including the big $250,000 winner Bill Germanakos, Isabeau Miller, Lezlye Donahue, Jerry Lisenby, Jez Luckett, Kae Whang, and the $100,000 at-home winner Jim Germanakos. Today we have #8 for you and it's none other than Nicole Michalik!

Fans of the show will get a special insider's look from Nicole at what the contestants do in the down time and on the "Dark Days," talks about how the editing of the show often leaves out some of the best moments, discusses the close knit bond that is formed among the contestants even from different teams, reveals her opinion that Bob Harper is a MUCH harder trainer than everyone thinks he is, and how she never thought about the "game" aspect of "The Biggest Loser" the entire time she was on campus. I LOVED this interview and so will you. ENJOY!

1. There are certain people who from the time you see them for the very first time they just have a certain aura about them that draws you in because of the genuineness they display in their demeanor. That was exactly my impression of Nicole Michalik from the moment I saw her as a contestant on the popular NBC-TV weight loss reality series "The Biggest Loser" in Season 4.

Authenticity cannot be faked and Nicole didn't have to. What you see is what you get and I'm so glad she has decided to share with us today about the journey to better health she has taken over the past few months. Welcome to the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog, Nicole.

You were probably the most outwardly emotional contestant on "The Biggest Loser" last season often being shown crying often during the elimination scenes. Have you always been the sweet, sensitive type who tries to avoid bringing hurt on others? Has that personality trait changed at all since your weight loss?

Let me first say, I'm SOO excited to be here! Thanks again for having me! I hope you enjoy what I have to say.

What's so funny is that I NEVER cry! If you ask my friends and family, they were shocked when they saw how hysterical I was on the show. I mean grant it, I cried like a baby when I watched Titanic, Stepmom, and A Walk to Remember (those are the SADDEST movies EVER!), but in regards to everyday life, I always prided myself in the fact I wasn't a crier. THEN, The Biggest Loser happened.

Bob would kick my butt for seven hours a day and I wouldn't shed a tear, but once I had to go in the elimination room and send someone home who deserved to still be there, it was horrendous. The week we sent Patty home was horrible, in fact I STILL feel guilty about that. Patty was so strong and hard working and she deserved to be there, but I was much closer to Ryan and Neil, and Kae was the Biggest Loser that week and couldn't be eliminated, so there was no other option. The Biggest Loser isn't like Survivor. It's not about money, it's about changing your life. And when you have to say goodbye to people you care about so much and know they still want to be there, it's so hard.

So I guess to answer your question (sorry, I’m kind of long winded), I have always been a really big people person. I always was the person who wanted to make sure everyone was okay; that everyone had something to do, etc. So in the situation where you get SO close to these people and then BAM, they are gone, it's VERY emotional. Like when Ryan left. Oh my God, it was horrible. Neil, Ryan, and I were the Three Musketeers and knowing I wouldn't be able to see him for six months was so hard to grasp.

I don't think I've changed since the weight loss. I would guarantee if I was in a situation like that even now, I would act the exact same way. I hated the game play. It was always about the weight loss for me and in turn I formed amazing relationships with people.

2. Speaking of your weight loss, you started out on "The Biggest Loser" weighing in at 279 pounds and you were able to lose a total of 105 pounds by the time the grand finale aired on NBC in December 2007. CONGRATULATIONS on such an amazing accomplishment and welcome to the triple-digit weight loss club. :) You've worked extremely hard to get where you are now and you look absolutely radiant and happy. Now that you know what to do to lose the weight, what are you planning on doing to keep the weight off for life and continue to make yourself healthier and healthier for many decades to come?

Well first, THANK YOU! It's so crazy to think that I lost 105lbs! But what's crazier is that I was cleaning my room the other day and found my weigh in ticket from Weight Watchers. I joined at the end of January in 2007 and my weigh in weight was 299.8 pounds, which means I lost 20 pounds before starting on The Biggest Loser. So technically I lost almost 130 pounds since this time last year! THAT IS INSANE! I NEVER thought I would be able to say I lost 130 pounds! I have been overweight my ENTIRE life AND suffer from hypothyroidism, so if I can do it, SO CAN YOU!

I'm not worried about keeping the weight off. I love shopping in normal stores way too much. HA! Actually, I would really like to lost another 20-30 pounds and be at a comfortable weight for me. I really enjoy working out and eating good food, so I just need to keep that up. I have officially become a Spin-A-Holic (take a spin class, you'll love it). Just knowing that I actually look forward to working out makes this whole process that much better.

3. You were a member of The Blue Team led by the incredible Bob Harper. Who doesn't like him? The guy is 100% devoted to helping people change their lives forever by imploring a healthy mix of targeted resistance training, steady cardiovascular workouts, and even reflective meditation as part of his overall philosophy for bringing about permanent lifestyle changes. And he also gets very close to those he works with on the show to help them achieve the success they deserve to have. Share your memories about working with this great personal trainer and tell us how critical he was to your eventual success. How much time did you actually spend with Bob working with you each day?

Like I've said before, I need a new heart because the one I have doesn't fit all the love in it that I have for him. Bob changed my life. From that very first day in the desert I knew there was something special between us. I remember standing up on the mountain and Ali telling us we had to run to either Bob or Kim. They both stood in their spots so we could see where we had to run, and from where I was standing to where Bob was standing was a straight line. I remember my dad always telling me, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” And at that moment I knew I was going to be on his team. It was before the race, before the teams were even picked, but I just knew. And obviously I was right.

He was telling the truth when he said he was harder on me than any other contestant from any other show he's done. It was more mental though. He really kept me at arms length. It took me a hot minute to figure out what he was doing, but once I did, I fell more in love with him. He's the reason I was so successful on the show and I am so proud to call him my friend.

The thing about Bob is that he spent TIME with us. He didn't just show up, work us out, and then leave. He would come into our room and talk to us. He would put on Neil's clothes and play chess. HA! He would dance with me to Sexy Back and he would talk to Patty about her kids. His heart is SO big. But he's also a freaking manic. He IS the hardest trainer on the show.

He kicked our ass so hard I didn't think I would be able to walk. You don't see him yelling and screaming at us or the knock down drag out fights he and I had. I wish they did show that because going through that is what made us stronger. On the average, we spent about 8 hours a day with Bob. And to me, that wasn't enough.

4. Okay, I was perusing You Tube the other day just for fun, saw this video of you and the other members of The Blue Team driving around in a van together from early in the season, and just about lost my lunch laughing so hysterically. Care to share the behind-the-scenes story behind "99 Bottles of Aquarian?" Were you really THAT bored? Hee hee!

OMG! I CAN'T STOP LAUGHING!!! I wish you could have been there for that! Ohhh, I get so sad watching that though. We had SO MUCH FUN! In fact if someone asked me to sum up the entire experience in one word that's what I would say--FUN! I had such a blast.

That was a “Dark Day,” which are the days when the cameras aren't shooting. Usually the teams split and we did our own thing, but that day since the Red Team only had David and B left, they came with the Blue Team (Me, Neil, Ryan, and Kae) for the day. We went into Los Angeles, took a Spin Class at Crunch (the gym we went to when we weren't on Campus), went hiking at Runyon Canyon (Um, yeah, talk about HARD), and then went to eat at Koo Koo Roo (I wish they had one in Philly)!

Bob and Kim met us there since they live close to Hollywood and we were driven in the van from Campus. I think David and Ryan started singing and Kae, B, and I jumped on board when we saw how annoyed Neil was getting. We actually sang until we got to ZERO Bottles! Wells, one of the COOLEST PA's, drove us and captured that on the digital camera. SO FUNNY!

5. Television viewers only got to see a brief synopsis of your experiences on The Biggest Loser Ranch with highlights from your workouts and activities each week. But what about the other 166+ hours during the week when the camera was NOT rolling? Many people have the mistaken impression that you guys just exercise for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week like a full-time job and never eat because that's all they see on television. What was your actual daily schedule like on "The Biggest Loser?" Did they give you any free time to read, watch television, or just hang out together playing games?

Well honestly, we did work out about 5-6 hours a day. I was there for four months and there was only ONE day the ENTIRE time I was there that we didn't workout (The Makeover Day). A normal "on camera" day on Campus went something like this: Wake up, wake Neil up (he was the worst at getting up), get dressed, eat breakfast, go to the gym to get 1-2 hours in before Bob and the cameras got there.

Then after Bob got there, we would work out with him for 2-3 hours, then eat (Bob has us eat every 4 hours so we kept our metabolism burning) and relax a bit, then go back for another 1-2 hours. Sometimes B and Isabeau would play the keyboard and sing for us, or we would watch DVD’s (old seasons of The Biggest Loser or movies that the crew would bring in for us), or just sit around and talk and be silly (which I wish they showed more of).

Some people read (Hollie is a big reader), or wrote letters home (my friends and family still yell at me for not writing more letters, but come on, I was tired). The whole cast was VERY into Catchphrase (thanks to Jez). We got REALLY good at it. Bob tried to play with us a few times but said it was too stressful. Ha! Ohh, I miss playing Catchphrase! So yeah, we did have SOME downtime, but we were usually too exhausted to do anything. HA! Sleep is a VERY important part of weight loss, so we tried to get as much sleep as possible.

6. The Blue Team got into some hot water when one of your teammates Neil decided to throw one of the weigh-ins by loading up on water one week that caused him to gain a whole lotto weight around mid-season. This led to the removal of one of The Black Team members Jez from the competition and created some bad blood between that team and the remaining Blue and Red Team members since it was perceived to be a blatant attempt to regain control of the game from the dominating Black Team. What was the thinking behind this strategy and do you think it ultimately backfired? Would you have done things differently now if you had the chance?

I was waiting for this question. Okay so here's the truth--Neil didn't throw the weigh in to send someone home, he did it to keep The Blue Team together. Now yes, in keeping us together, someone had to go home, but the intention wasn't a mean one. Neil is smart, probably the smartest person I know, and I trusted him, so when I found out what he was planning, I trusted that he knew what he was doing.

Did I agree? Absolutely not. The entire time I was on campus, my position was to workout as hard as I can, give 100% or more, and lose as much weight as possible. I never got caught up in playing the game. My take was, we are fat and unhealthy and out of shape, so don't worry about money or winning the game. Just lose weight! But some people are wired differently. Neil by nature is a game player. So when he saw an opportunity to take matters into his own hands, he did. And I wanted The Blue Team to stay together; they were my family, my friends, my support, so I went along with it.

Another example of how I wasn't game savvy was when I won the Calorie Counting Challenge and got to pick my duo. From a game standpoint, I should have picked Bill. He was a machine, pulled big numbers, considered one of the biggest threats, and wasn't on The Blue Team, so if we fell below, he would have been sent packing, no question. But I'm not wired like that. I picked Neil because we were best friends on the show, I knew Bob would kick our ass that week and I felt that was a better fit for me.

Obviously it worked since that was the week I broke 50 pounds lost, Neil broke 100 pounds lost and we won the weigh in. But, most people, Neil especially, said it was a dumb choice. But like I said, it was never about the game for me. And it was the same with the rest of the people who knew about Neil's plan. They just wanted to stay on campus as long as they could. It wasn't that everyone agreed with it, it was that we did what we felt we had to do.

Would I do things differently? Probably not. I would have never gone behind Neil or The Blue Team's back. I felt HORRIBLE that Jez got sent home, but I wouldn't have betrayed MY family for a chance that the others MIGHT help me in the future.

7. On a lighter note, I couldn't help noticing in yet another You Tube video that you love to dance. As you were showing off your "Back Up The Old Big Rig Creek" moves with "B" from The Red Team (who is indeed an INCREDIBLE singer!), did you ever think that someday you could dance with ease and not worry about running out of breath? How much dancing do you do now with you new leaner body? Would you consider going on another reality show "Dancing With The Stars" someday if they asked you? :) HA!

OMG, I would LOVEEEEEEEEE to go on Dancing With The Stars! I don't think I'm a big enough “celebrity” for that, but oh my God, I would LOVE to! (Do you have any connections?) HA! I actually danced for 14 years (at the Gloria Dillon Studio of Dance). I took lessons and taught tap/jazz. I was thinner back then, but never skinny.

I was a big girl who just happened to be in shape enough to put on spandex and shake it. My friends and I took a pole dancing class a few weeks ago and it was SOO much fun! Now I won't be removing any clothes on a stage anytime soon, but it was fun to pretend. (And I have to give props to my friend Krystle, she is the originator of Back Up The Big Rig, so she deserves credit for me doing it on national television).

8. Besides dancing the night away, you have another passion that you are pursuing in your life--radio broadcasting. As a former part-time disc jockey for a Christian radio station in Virginia as well as hosting my own online podcast show and YouTube videos now, I understand how much fun it is to be behind a microphone talking to an audience of listeners. Have you been pursuing this sight unseen career path because of the way you looked before your weight loss? Now that you've lost weight and look so beautiful, would you even want to consider any television broadcasting at some point?

First let me say THANK YOU for the compliments. A girl always loves being told she looks beautiful. I would LOOOOOVE to be on television. Being in entertainment has always been a dream of mine. I have to admit, I was VERY upset that the show didn't show my personality more (it started to come out the last 2-3 episodes), but for the majority of the season I seemed like the weird quite girl who cried at all the eliminations! (Which is SO NOT ME)!

The reason I love radio is because I love talking to people about what's going on and I love it when people talk to me about that. Everyone has a great story to tell and being able to hear their stories and share mine is what I love. Honestly, radio never had anything to do with weight. It was more about opportunity. When I was in college one of my coworkers at my first internship knew I was obsessed with pop culture and was related to someone who worked at the Top 40 radio station. So she told them about me, I sent in a resume, and the rest is history! I love radio, but I would love to do television as well.

9. People are always interested in hearing about what I actually eat and how many calories, carbs, protein, and the like I put in your mouth on a daily basis. I suppose they think if they simply mimic what I ate, then the same changes will happen for them that happened to me. That's not entirely true, but there is some merit to seeing what works for others. So would you share what a typical day's worth of meals looks like for Nicole along with the exercise routine you do?

Okay, here's my breakdown. First, let me say that I went back to work full-time right after I got home from the show. I think that Bill, Jim, and I were the only ones who did that. (I am still a little jealous of the people who are jet setting all over the place). Anyway, I digress.

So I work Mon-Fri from 9am-5pm. Every morning I eat a piece of Ezekiel Bread with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray, Low Sugar Jelly, and one egg. I also have my morning coffee with light cream and real sugar (This is a treat for me. Even when I was training for the finale, I still drank this coffee. It gave me that boost in the morning that I needed. Now I was also working out 3 hours a day, so it's a trade off for real sugar).

Lunch is usually a salad with grilled chicken, balsamic, or brown rice sushi, or turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with light Swiss cheese and light mayo. Dinner is fish, chicken, whole grain pasta. Anything that you think is good, I usually eat.

My best advice is to stay away from Partially Hydrogenated Oil and High Fructose Corn Syrup (they are the devil). Fiber, Lean Protein, Fruits, Vegetables, and Water should become your best friends. (They are good to you, I promise).

As for exercise, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday night I go my FABULOUS gym for their cross training class which is 30 minutes of cardio (run or spin), 30 minutes with weights, and 30 minutes of yoga. Tuesday mornings, Thursday nights, and Saturday mornings I go see my spin master Carl. I usually take Friday and Sundays off unless I do a yoga class on Sunday or do something outside.

The best piece of advice that I can give you about exercise is find something you like, something that motivates you. I am motivated by group settings; it's why the show worked so well for me. I would see Kae doing something and think, "Oh, I can do that too." I like the competition of being in a class and using other people as a healthy motivator to push myself a little bit more. Some people like to put on their headphones and just zone out on the treadmill. Neither is better or worse than the other; just find what works for you and it will become less daunting and more fun.

Nicole and others surprise "Biggest Loser" 5 contestants

10. It's been a blast having you here at my blog today, Nicole, and I am beyond ecstatic for you as you enter this next phase of your life as a thin and gorgeous woman. The longer you do this and stay accountable to people who love and care about you, the easier it gets. It's still hard work but totally worth it in the end. Is there anything you'd like to share with people who are discouraged about their weight and health to lift them up and encourage them as they embark on their own journey?

Thanks SO much for having me Jimmy! I hope I helped, inspired, and informed at least one person. The Biggest Loser was the BEST experience of my life and I want to share that knowledge, passion and excitement with as many people as I can!

Please remember that it's a constant battle. Even for me, after this incredible experience, I am still fighting the battle, but it's one that can be won. Everyday is a new day. So when you wake up, tell yourself that today is a new day and live it one day at a time. Ask yourself, Is it worth it? If so, then enjoy it, but work it off at the gym or outside later on. The mind is by far the strongest muscle in your body. Remember that and you can conquer anything! Good Luck to EVERYONE!

THANK YOU, Nicole! Get in touch with Nicole Michalik and let her know how much you enjoyed her interview here at my blog by visiting her MySpace page.

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