Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Oldest 'Biggest Loser' Contestant Ever Tells Seniors 'Set Realistic Goals, Take It Slowly'

"The Biggest Loser" 4 contestant Jerry Lisenby lost 110 pounds

We've all seen the dramatic transformations that have taken place in the lives of real people on the hit NBC-TV weight loss reality show "The Biggest Loser" over the past few years and most of them have had something in common: youth! Prior to Season 4 in late 2007, most of the contestants on that show were in their 20s or 30s and simply had a whole lotta weight to lose. But Jerry Lisenby changed that trend last season.

As the oldest contestant ever on "The Biggest Loser" starting the show at the age of 62, Jerry was an underdog from the beginning. But he relished in the opportunity to show other senior citizens that weight loss can truly happen at ANY age (as I've highlighted in stories like this one at my blog). And boy, has that weight loss Jerry enjoyed tee-totally turned his life around! He's one fireball of energy and is living life to the fullest now.

Today, Jerry Lisenby joins us for an interview to talk about his weight loss, his thrilling experience appearing on "The Biggest Loser" 4, and to share what's next for this man who refuses to slow down as he grows older. You're gonna love the enthusiasm that comes from this changed man and I hope he encourages you in your own efforts to shed the pounds regardless of how old you are!

1. One of the most beloved contestants ever on "The Biggest Loser" also happens to be the oldest. From Season 4, Jerry Lisenby broke the mold of all these young people that dominate the show by stepping into the national spotlight as a 62-year old man who allowed his weight to reach nearly 300 pounds (he weighed 297 at the beginning of the season). Welcome Jerry! What was it like being "the old guy" and did you feel your age was gonna hinder your ability to be able to lose weight as quickly as your fellow younger contestants?

I never thought my age would be a problem with weight loss. I felt somewhat out there by myself in the beginning when all the contestants were preparing for the race in the desert. Everyone was chatting ahead of time making deals to choose each other as a team member should they win the race. Nobody said a word to me as I’m sure they didn’t want me on their team. I’m sure they thought I would be one of the contestants who would be going home that day. I had no problem following Bob’s advice about food and exercise.

2. It didn't take you long to dispel the myth that older fat people cannot lose weight as well as younger ones when you were the first to finish the race in the desert and then went on to establish a new all-time "Biggest Loser" record for weight loss in a single week with a total of 31 pounds shed. Tell us what you thought when you saw that huge number pop up on the scale in the first week. You even had the two-week weight loss record as well after performing well in Week 2, too. Do you think that immediate success made you look like a greater threat to win the game and ultimately led to your early departure in Week 3?

I was very surprised to see that big number on the scale the first week. I did spend about 4 hours more a day than anyone else in the gym and didn’t cheat on my diet or water intake. I was worried that some of the “big” boys might lose more that me as some of them outweighed me by more than 125 pounds. I knew that I had to keep up the big numbers because I overheard my teammates say that I had to go because the show was becoming all about me.

3. Even after you were voted off so quickly, I liked what you were quoted as saying about your "Biggest Loser" experience. You said, "I look at what I accomplished with my age, and I just hope the people who are my age will watch this and know that it can be done." The slogan at your inspiring weight loss web site is "age is just a number." After going on to lose a total of 110 pounds by the season finale, do you think there are more senior citizens who will be willing to give it a serious go at losing weight themselves? What challenges do you see standing in the way of people who are 55 and older from reaching their fullest fitness potential? How can they overcome them?

I’ve heard from hundreds of seniors and I’ve responded to them to tell them that this can be done. I tell them you don’t need drugs, special equipment, or special high priced foods. I think that most seniors believe that it’s too late and they can’t shed those unwanted pounds. I advise them to set realistic goals and take it slowly.

4. Bob Harper was the trainer of The Blue Team you were a member of while on the show. Obviously the techniques that he taught you in just a few short weeks of working with him struck a chord with you to catapult you to such amazing triple-digit weight loss success. This is a pretty softball question, but I intend for you to knock it out of the park--what makes Bob such a special trainer and how much does he mean to you for adding a few extra years to your life?

Bob was a great motivator and he realized that he did not have to push me to do the things I needed to do. That is a gift in itself because not everyone knows when to just let someone push him or herself.

5. You credit Bob's suggestion that you find a personal trainer to keep you committed to your workout schedule. How has she given you such as love for being a "gym rat" now and did you ever think it would be possible? What does your weekly cardiovascular and resistance training look like?

My new trainer was also very wise in helping me to understand I not only had to vary workout routines but vary the foods you eat as well. Before I trained with Stephanie I had reached a plateau and had stopped losing weight. Stephanie didn’t make me into a “gym rat,” however her presence there was encouraging. Cardiovascular training is on the Stairmaster and resistance training is doing floor exercises with weight training.

6. In 2004, I lost a total of 180 pounds that year by following the Atkins low-carb diet as part of a New Year's resolution. Three years later, I'm STILL eating this way and it has kept me healthy and fit. Have you implemented a controlled-carbohydrate nutritional approach to manage your weight and health? Do you see the diet you are eating today as a permanent lifestyle change that you will continue doing for the rest of your life?

No, I’ve not incorporated a controlled carbohydrate nutritional approach to manage weight. I follow the recommendations of The Biggest Loser and watch the size of food portions.

7. You felt the demise of The Blue Team happened when they voted you off the show because they would need your leadership and weight loss to keep them competitive. In hindsight, do you feel like your words were prophetic since not one single member of The Blue Team made it into the final four? Is it ironic to you that had fellow Blue Team member Neil gotten there that he would have won the grand prize and that he was also shut out of the at-home prize?

Neil started to “play the game” just after I chose him to be on my team. He told me after I won the race in the desert that if I picked him to be on my team he would never vote me off unless it came down to just him and me. Neil and Ryan talked the girls into voting me off. I knew he was sandbagging and he knew that I was working hard. I believe he was coasting until I left and then planned to pick off the others one at a time. His planning cost him $250,000.

8. Unlike many of the other contestants who were trying to lose as much weight as possible before the final weigh-in, you took on a different approach. You wanted to be the one who looked the most fit and healthy. That you did! How do we get people to stop focusing so much on weight loss and instead begin making better choices for their health (which will then lead to weight loss)?

I knew from the beginning that I could never lose the percentage it would take to win a prize. I did not have 50% to lose. I was not only focused on weight loss, but also wanted to lower my blood pressure and my cholesterol. Understanding the benefits of proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise may help others to put less emphasis on the number on the scale and lead to weight loss.

9. Everyone who watched you weigh-in at the grand finale could tell how proud you were of your new body. In fact, you were so anxious to show it off that you took off your shirt for everyone to see those muscles. GREAT JOB! I couldn't help but notice that you had some "loose" skin in your tummy as do I after my huge weight loss. Is this something that you are concerned about at all or do you see it as a badge of honor for what you have accomplished?

I no longer have the loose skin that you saw on the show thanks to doing daily crunches and lifting weights. The bright lights actually made it look worse than it was. I refrained from drinking water just before the weigh in and that too may have contributed to the saggy look. Now I'm back to drinking plenty of water. I believe my skin has good elasticity for a 63 year old.

10. What a thrill it was to have you here at the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog today, Jerry! So what's next for you in this journey? Do you have anything else you'd like to share with my older readers who struggle with their weight and health about this amazing journey you have traveled this past year?

I feel so lucky to have been picked to be on The Biggest Loser and to have had the opportunity to train with the experts. However, I want to encourage others as well. I hear so often (somebody on every episode says it) that contestants need the show to continue their weight loss. I was a contestant for a very short time and lost most of my weight after being voted off. Most viewers will never have the opportunity to compete on a national television show, but they can be successful. I’m now looking forward to riding a bicycle across the United States. This is a dream I had when I weighed almost 300 pounds. Now I know I can accomplish it.

Be sure to visit Jerry's web site at to keep up with what's happening in his life. And fans of "The Biggest Loser" should check out all my previous posts about the show, including interviews with Jerry's fellow Season 4 contestants Bill Germanakos, Isabeau Miller, Lezlye Donahue and many others!

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