Monday, February 04, 2008

'The Biggest Loser' Helped Hurricane Katrina Victim Learn To 'Live Life' Again

"Biggest Loser" 4 contestant Lezlye Donahue ready for life now

In recent weeks, I've been sharing some interviews with some of the contestants from "The Biggest Loser" 4, including Part 1 and Part 2 of a podcast interview with the grand prize winner Bill Germanakos as well as with final four contestant Isabeau Miller just last week. I've got another interview for you today from a member of The Red Team last season--35-year old Denham Springs, Louisiana resident LEZLYE DONAHUE! Although she was the second person voted off of "The Biggest Loser" in Season 4, the ripple effects from that show continue to resonate in Lezlye's life helping her heal from the wounds that have inflicted her life in the years leading up to her appearance on the show.

As you will see in my interview today, Lezlye has been through the wringer and back--and SURVIVED! Being a victim of Hurricane Katrina was merely "the icing on the cake" and thanks to "The Biggest Loser" she was able to learn how to "live life" again. Whether you have struggled with weight loss or have simply gone through adversity in your own life, let Lezlye's story encourage you that better days truly are possible for you. Let her inspire you anew today in this journey called life.

1. Continuing our series of interviews with the contestants from Season 4 of NBC's hit weight loss reality show "The Biggest Loser," today we have with us Lezlye Donahue. Hey there Lezlye and thank you for joining us today here at the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog. Did you ever think that you would be given the chance to be on one of the most inspiring and life changing television programs in American history? Why do you think they chose you to be among the final group of 18?

To be honest, my first reaction was "I did it!" I couldn't believe it! An opportunity of a lifetime and I am going to be a part of it. I didn't realize how huge the show was until after the entire experience. The fans that I have met, the lives that I have touched, but more importantly, the people I met along my journey and how each and every one of them changed and shaped my new life! I am a better person for having gone through this. I wanted a fresh start after Hurricane Katrina and I wanted my life back. The Biggest Loser was the first step in doing that. It was all about me! Little did I had nothing to do with me. I would walk away with the appreciation of meeting so many wonderful people that truly motivated and changed my everyday life. Their stories of inspiration and the realization that I am not alone only pushed me further. I never expected that and I can never repay them.

Being in the final 18, WOW! Everyone has a story and each and every one of them are all equally important. My story is no different than yours...we all turn to food for comfort and before you realize're unhealthy, overweight and out of control.

2. You certainly had a compelling story as a victim of Hurricane Katrina which the producers played up in the promotion of Season 4. Tell us how the stress from that devastating event in the lives of so many people in the New Orleans, Louisiana area impacted your weight and health. When you decided to move back home again last year, did you feel a newfound commitment to get your weight under control as you picked up the pieces to start over again?

Hurricane Katrina was the icing on the cake for me. What people don't know about me, but I will share here for the first time, is leading up to Katrina, I had gone through a series of tragedies. Unfortunate happenings over and over to my immediate family. Long story short, I lost my grandfather very unexpectedly to a destructive death, to be followed up by my parents being in four separate automobile accidents, 2 of which included fatalities, (none of which where my parents' fault) and my mother being hospitalized for PARVO. She was in the hospital for 19 days with this rare illness and doctors where preparing us for her death. Each day, a new organ was dying and then it reached her heart. I remember that moment when my mother looked at me and said "I'm going to be fine. God told me it's over." My mother survived. Then Hurricane Katrina comes and destroys what's left of me.

During all this time, I was the rock of the family. I put myself aside and dealt with anything and everything that came my way. I became the strength and along the way...Lezlye was lost. After Hurricane Katrina, the pounds packed on. I would put on my mask and conceal my pain. I would never let on that I was dying inside like all the others around me. Then one day, I decided NO MORE! I'm really fat and being unhealthy and unhappy is NOT the way I want to live!

I finally came home in June 2007, a house of my own after living in seven different states with family and friends. I'm committed to myself to being happy and healthy. With that comes being fit. I'm not saying it's not hard...I'm saying "THIS IS REAL." Real life, real steps, each and every day to a happier healthier lifestyle!

3. Working as a representative in the pharmaceutical industry, that's quite a competitive field that generally attracts good-looking, well-dressed people to share about the latest medications with doctors. Was there added pressure on you to lose weight because of this? And I'm curious what you think about weight loss drugs like orlistat that was sold under the prescription name Xenical and is now available over-the-counter in a lower dosage version called Alli. Is the obesity epidemic gonna EVER be solved with a pill?

I'm so glad you asked me this. First, let me correct something. I am not in the pharmaceutical industry. I'm a paralegal trying to break into the pharmaceutical/medical sales industry. I have the degree, I have the knowledge, I have everything it takes to land this job on paper but the weight held me back! It would stop me from getting the job. No matter what interview I was on..I would hear the same thing..."beautiful girl but overweight." This only added to me driving through McDonald's and getting that quarter pounder! I mean, I'm already fat, what's another burger to add to it!

I'm very familiar with Xenical. I confess, I wanted to try it. Truth is, there is NO PILL that works. No quick fix. If there was, I wouldn't be here talking to you about why our world is so overweight. It is an epidemic that can only be solved by making the right food choices and exercise. Notice I didn't say diet. It's your life you need to change!

4. You were a member of the Red Team who was led by the spunky and fit Kim Lyons. I know your time working with Kim was short, but did she teach you anything that will help you in your long-term weight management and health goals that you'll always remember?

Good question...NEXT!

5. It had to be disappointing for you that your time on "The Biggest Loser" was cut so short. Tell us how you felt getting voted off so early in the game. Did it discourage you when you got back home because you felt like a failure? What gave you the strength to carry on and attempt to make this a permanent and healthy lifestyle change?

Going home was just another blow to me. I was still homeless when I came home from the show. I didn't know how I was going to do it. I was depressed and discouraged. I knew that being on campus, I could focus on just me and forget my real life. However when I got home, life was living me as usual and I needed to learn how to CHANGE my life in order to make this a permanent lifestyle of health and happiness. I learned, not quickly, that I needed to live life! I was just existing and taking up food and oxygen. :) Now, THIS IS REAL and I'm working hard everyday to LIVE LIFE! I don't know what the change was for me to decide this but I knew that I was sick and tired of being overweight and unhappy. Not saying that I have it all figured out...but I'm working at it every day.

6. When you weighed in on the first day at The Biggest Loser ranch, you were 255 pounds. By the grand finale, you had lost a total of 55 pounds. CONGRATULATIONS, by the way! I'm so happy when people are able to lose weight and start pursuing a lifetime of better health since I've been there and continue to travel down that road myself. Are you still losing weight in pursuit of a final goal since the show ended? How's that going and what are you specifically doing to reach your goal?

55 pounds lost on my own I might add! My goal is to continue to lose the weight until I get to a size that I feel works for me. It's not a number for me but rather a size. I have a size in mind and when I get there I'll see how I feel at that weight.

I've changed. simple as that. I EAT TO LOSE! I eat every 3 hours and I do an hour on the treadmill in the morning and an hour in the evening. I hit the weights 3 days a week. More importantly, I make good choices when I eat. I consume food now, I don't allow food to consume me!

7. Hormones and the way God uniquely created us play a role in how fast and how much weight we are able to lose. Why do you think it's so much more difficult for a woman to lose weight than a man on a show like "The Biggest Loser?" Are men just more competitive than women or is there something more to it than that?

Men are just genetically able to lose more weight than women. Simply put...they have more muscle. Muscle burns fat which in turns makes it easier and faster for them to lose. Our bodies are completely genetically different. Isn't always like that...women work harder at everything. (smiling here) Sorry men, I love you too!

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8. If you could go back and change anything about your experience being on "The Biggest Loser" in Season 4, then what would it be?

I would work even harder than I did if that is possible. I would work around the clock to try to lose the most weight to keep myself safe. Everyone makes alliances but there are no true alliances. I learned that the hard way.

9. We are constantly inundated with the statistic that states 95% of people who lose weight will end up regaining some of it back within a year and will be right back where they started from within 3-5 years. Are you worried at all about gaining back your weight? What are you doing to try to make sure that never happens?

Isn't there a rule that you can't be a part of more than 2 statistics?! I think I'm safe. I was already a part of being a statistic with my weight and Katrina. My turn is up (laughing)! My weight loss was real. It was a realistic weight loss in that time period. I did it the right way and didn't kill myself in the process. I'm trusting that I will continue to do that and I trust that I've made the mental changes in me to make certain that I continue on my personal weight loss journey and that I stay successful at it for my lifetime!

10. Lezlye, we appreciate you being here with us and wish you well in this journey that "The Biggest Loser" started for your life. Good things are sure to come to you as long as you continue to apply the lessons you have learned and never, ever give up. We're here for you cheering you on to great success for many years to come. Is there anything else you'd like to share with my readers before we go today?

I feel like I just went on and on here, thank you for allowing me to do that. But before I say goodbye, I would like everyone to know that THIS IS REAL! We all share the same struggle. You can change your life one day at time. Feel good about you and start today...Monday never comes.

Thank you for allowing me this time to share with you and your readers. I truly appreciated being here. Just wait till I'm done!!! Best wishes to everyone reading here and feel free to e-mail me at I am always here to help.

THANKS so much for sharing with us today, Lezlye! We appreciate hearing how your life has been changed forever for the better thanks to "The Biggest Loser." Be sure to visit Lezlye Donahue's MySpace page to learn more about what she's up to (I do believe she's a BIG Kid Rock and New Orleans Saints fan, whaddyathink?! LOL!).

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