Julie Hadden lost 97 pounds on "The Biggest Loser" 4
1. Yet another member of that dominating Black Team from Season 4 of the hit NBC-TV weight loss reality show "The Biggest Loser" is here with us today. It's Julie Hadden and boy does she have quite a story to tell.
Starting on the show that season as the "smallest" contestant at just 218 pounds, she ended up in the final four and came within just eight pounds of beating eventual winner Bill Germanakos for the $250,000 grand prize. But she still lost an incredible 44.5% of her weight for a total of 97 pounds which puts her in the top 4 all-time biggest female losers percentage-wise on the show.
Looking at Julie today you'd never know she had a weight problem. WELCOME to the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog, Julie! I have to say when you came out during the grand finale in December 2007 that the difference in you was absolutely stunning! At that point I looked over at my wife Christine and said to her, "This is gonna be close between her and Bill."
While I know you are proud of your amazing weight loss success, did you wonder about what you could have done to get down to 111 pounds to beat Bill? It had to be frustrating for you to work so hard and come up just 8 pounds short. Before Ali Vincent won Season 5, did you believe a woman would ever win "The Biggest Loser?"
First of all let me say thank you for inviting me to speak with you. I love reading your interviews with the other Biggest Loser contestants and you have quite a remarkable story yourself!
To answer your question about beating Bill, yes, I have thought about it many times. I don’t regret the way it turned out because things have happened in my life since then that wouldn’t have been possible if the outcome were different. But the competitor in me wanted to be the “ultimate underdog.” From the very beginning, I knew that no one really gave me a thought when it came to competition and I wanted to be a hook out of left field.
In regards to a female ever winning, I would have to say yes I thought it could happen. I always thought it could happen sooner than people think. It had to be the perfect candidate who has just the right amount of weight and just the right amount of time to lose it. Men lose so quickly. If I had just one more week I could have beaten Bill to become the first female Biggest Loser. He was underweight by the Finale, and had no where else to go, but I could have lost 8 more pounds. (Not that I would want to live my life that thin). Every season is different, different people, different personalities, and different situations. I was so excited on the day when Ali Vincent won the title of The Biggest Loser a couple of months ago, but I will have to be honest and say--I wish it had been me.
2. At the beginning of the season, I don't think anybody expected a contestant like you who didn't put up the "big numbers" to still be around at the end. Of course, that's a great misconception about "The Biggest Loser" that you need to lose double digits every week to stay above the yellow line.
Sure, if you started out weighing over 350 or 400 pounds, but not for someone like you who only needed to lose about half the weight of your larger competitors to lose the same percentage as they did. Do you think the show does a good enough job explaining this to the viewers or is the show looked at as merely a "very large person" game? How were you able to stave off elimination in those weeks when you could have been sent home early?
This issue really gets my goat. I would read comments like “the girls are so lazy, they need to work harder” or “they should be sent home, because they aren’t losing enough.” No matter what they say, the contestants read those message boards. And that perception simply is just not true. Just because you don’t lose massive amounts of weight doesn’t mean you don’t work hard.
Percentage is everything. Five pounds in a week for a 180-pound girl is a lot different then five pounds on a 350-pound male. I mean come on people! Do you really think that Jillian Michaels would let someone just sit around and twiddle their thumbs on the show? She would beat the living snot out of them if they did that!
Everyone on the show worked hard. Working out 4 to 6 hours a day is no joke. I do think the show could go more into detail about this subject because everyone gets so excited when someone loses double digits, but no one really rejoices when you see someone drop six pounds which percentage wise could equal the same thing.
As far as staving off elimination and not being sent home early, I did it two ways. My strategy from the beginning of the game was to simply make friends and work hard. Fortunately it worked well for me. I was blessed to have made life long friends and to top it off. It was a perfect combination of strategy and hard work that enabled me to stay until the end of the game. I couldn’t have made it without both.
3. Your motivation to be on "The Biggest Loser" as a 35-year-old stay-at-home mom was not necessarily to look good (although that certainly doesn't hurt!), but for the sake of your health. I tell people all the time that they need to pay attention to the way they eat and exercise first and the weight loss will naturally come from that.
It was a great moment at the beginning of the season when you shared so openly about the struggles you had getting pregnant because of your weight and I'm sure that touched the hearts of millions of moms just like you who totally understood the pain that you were expressing. Have you been back to see a reproductive endocrinologist about your chances of having another baby now that the weight is gone?
My wife and I have been trying to have our first child to start a family of our own and know the pain that comes from being unable to conceive naturally. We are now considering adoption as a possible option, so tell us a little about the experience you had over the past few months when you were able to adopt a baby.
I could go on and on about our adoption experience because it was truly a miracle the way it happened. I really believe that when giving a child up for adoption, that it’s the greatest gift anyone could ever give. It is an act of total selflessness and the greatest example of sacrificial love we see in today.
We haven’t ruled out the option of possibly trying to have a biological child eventually. But I do believe that the baby we adopted was absolutely meant to be ours! His birth mother carried him for us, but God intended for us to be his parents. At her request, I got to spend a good amount of time with her and we got to share our hearts with each other. She is a wonderful woman and I can never thank her enough for the precious gift she gave.
We named the baby Jaxon, which means “God has been gracious.” There’s just no doubt that he was meant to be ours. From the day we submitted our family profile and met with the social worker until the day we brought him home was only twelve days. Now THAT’S a miracle. And so is he. He brings us so much joy--I can’t even describe it.
Actually, the adoption was what I was referring to earlier when I said me winning the Biggest Loser wasn’t meant to be. Because had I been traveling and doing the same things that Bill ended up doing, I might not have been in the right place at the right time for Jaxon to become ours. I canceled some appearances and rescheduled some things. But I do not regret that one bit.
4. You declare on your web site at JulieHadden.com that "Jillian Michaels changed my life forever." As the leader of The Black Team, she whipped you guys into shape and delivered four of you--Isabeau, Hollie, Bill, and you--into the final four contestants as well as the $100,000 at-home winner Jim.
All of your fellow teammates who I have interviewed have nothing but very high praise for Jillian Michaels. The woman is incredibly inspiring and seems to know all the right buttons to push to bring out the best in the people she trains. What sets her apart from Bob Harper, Kim Lyons, or any other trainer out there? Why do you think she is the best at what she does?
I do love Jillian. And we continue to keep in touch to this day and I hope we will forever. I don’t think anyone who knows Jillian could be critical of her when they truly know her motives and intentions. I think the difference between Jillian and other trainers is that most trainers think you need to start from the inside out, but Jillian thinks from the outside in.
In my case, once she had taught me that I was strong and capable physically--it changed the inside problem--that brought me there in the first place. I have said that my “transformation” was a total transformation: body, mind and spirit. They are all interconnected. And I just think Jillian’s approach is incredible. All my life I thought I was weak. She helped me prove I was strong! And then once I believed that, then I could work on the inside changes that needed to take place. I think her perspective is unique and it’s what makes her the best.
Another thing I was shocked by is how much she truly cares about her team. These are real relationships she builds--it’s not just for good TV. I don’t know if people realized that Jillian struggled with weight issues herself so she “gets it.” I think the reason that she, in particular, is so amazing is that she never treated us as what we were, but rather what we could be. She didn’t see the Julie that I was but she saw the Julie that I could become (and would become) and helped me get there.
5. I just LOVED reading your blow-by-blow account of what was happening on the show at your entertaining blog. My favorite quote was when you responded to Neil from The Blue Team the week that he challenged the remaining contestants to "come and get me" in the elimination room. Here's what you wrote in your 7/24 entry: "Really Neil….Really????? And when I get you then what? I tell you what, when I do get you, I am gonna steal your money and take it all the way to the bank. I would however think about giving you a job.. As my driver, of my SUV that is, Mr. I never won a challenge!!!!"
Ooooo, Julie, feisty girl! Did you feel Neil's manipulation of the game during that week he gained 19 pounds tarnished the integrity of the competition and set a bad precedent for future contestants to try to alter the natural results of the game? Do you think the allure of big prize money has jaded what should be a fun-loving game about getting healthy for life?
I don’t know that I would put all of that on Neil’s shoulders. However, I do believe (and I say this from experience) that everybody starts the game wanting to change their lives. We were all desperate to reclaim our health and to gain control. By the end of the show, you’ve accomplished the health benefits and the prize money does begin to speak more loudly.
I don’t think Neil “tarnished” the integrity of the show. People still LOVE The Biggest Loser and I do believe it’s the only reality show on the air today that has truly pure motives to help people change their lives. But let’s not forget--it’s still a game.
I think the reason the prize money isn’t bigger (like so many shows that offer a million dollar prize) is that people really would do drastic, unsafe things for a chance at a million dollars. The show is still about all the right things.
I was so frustrated by the whole Neil situation because he really did outsmart us. I didn’t think anybody would really do something like that. Neil is a good guy and I love him as a person. But he’s also a chemical engineer so he’s brilliant! Ironically, Neil pulling that little stunt was the kiss of death for him because it made The Black Team more determined to finish strong. In other words, there were no tears when we voted him out. But I don’t think had he not shown us what he was capable of that we would have persevered in the same way to the finish line.
6. Another health subject near and dear to your heart is polycystic ovarian syndrome, aka PCOS. I've highlighted this condition at my blog and studies that have found consuming a lower-carb diet shows tremendous benefits. Since PCOS is a disease of insulin resistance, it's only natural that a diet lower in carbohydrate would be necessary to help bring it under control. Since high-carb diets cause blood sugar levels to go up and creates higher levels of insulin release, the PCOS gets worse under such a diet. Have you implemented a reduced-carb approach to treating your PCOS and how has it worked for you? What other strategies have you implemented to improve your PCOS condition?
I couldn’t believe after disclosing that I have PCOS in a quick little statement on the show how many woman have contacted me suffering from the same condition.
It’s a vicious cycle, because PCOS makes it so much easier to gain weight and so much harder to lose it. And yet every doctor I ever talked to said that losing the weight would improve my condition. It was so frustrating! The best solution I have found to combating my PCOS is living a healthy, balanced life which includes eating right and exercising.
My body reacts extremely poorly to carbs in general. And a low-carb diet is essentially important when dealing with this condition. But you do need some carbohydrates in your diet. So I deal with that by eating only holistic carbs; i.e. things that come from the ground such as whole grains, sweet potatoes, etc. In other words nothing processed or enriched (that term is such an oxymoron).
There are other ways to fight the symptoms of PCOS depending on what they are. But I’ll leave that to a health care professional to advise on. Since my Biggest Loser experience, my symptoms are much, much better. But they are still with me to some degree.
7. Let's turn to the subject of exercise. Jillian worked your butt off in the gym for hours a day and it got you where you are today. I've had people criticize "The Biggest Loser" because they say it is impossible and even unreasonable for people to invest hours upon hours a day to working out when you have a job, kids, and a family to take care of. How are you able to fit in a 90-minute workout five days a week and get everything done for your household? If someone who is overweight or obese can't invest hours a day to exercising, then what can that person do in terms of exercise that will make a genuine difference in their weight and health?
Well, let me be perfectly honest with you now. Since the baby has arrived, I am not able to spend 90-minutes a day exercising, five days a week. I have stated that before and I was able to do that right after the Finale. But being a mommy to a newborn does change that. And I don’t want to send an unrealistic message out there to any women. (I do still exercise several times a week. But not like I did. I run a lot and I got a baby jogger so I can exercise with the baby. I think it’s just important to keep moving and not give up and got back to bad habits.)
I also know that it’s human nature to put off the difficult tasks. I did for years and years. So my best advice to anyone is to start today. Take it slow, but get started. The only way you’ll see a difference is to move more and eat less. Don’t look at the big picture all at once; take it one day at a time. Set small, achievable goals at first and then celebrate them when you get there. But the most important thing you’ve GOT to do is believe you are worth the effort. Because you are!
I want to be genuine in what I say, because I know that a lot of people could look at all of us from The Biggest Loser and say “Yeah anybody could do it with those resources.” But it really is all about what lies inside of you. It may take someone longer but anything worth having is worth working for. And there is so much truth to that saying, “Nothing TASTES as good as being healthy FEELS!”
8. Julie, as a fellow believer in Jesus Christ, I was pleased to see you so willing to share about your faith on your JulieHadden.com web site. One of your favorite Christian music artists is Babbie Mason and I used to play her songs on the radio when I was a DJ for a station in Virginia Beach, VA in the 1990s (I've never forgotten "Each One Reach One" and "Standing In The Gap" with Helen Baylor and Cindy Morgan) and have met her at her worship concerts.
People don't believe me when I tell them it wasn't because of any strength or willpower of my own that I was able to lose weight. God was there all along the way giving me the strength I needed to lose that 180 pounds in 2004. Tell us what role God played in your weight loss success on "The Biggest Loser."
Well, first of all I believe that me being selected for The Biggest Loser in the first place was nothing less that “a God Thing.” I was so scared and I had no confidence in myself at the beginning of the process. But I stepped out on faith and stepped into the center of God’s will for my life. And that’s the best place to be.
The revolution for me was when I realized that God didn’t see me the way I saw myself. All my life I thought He was disappointed in me because I was fat. Instead of honoring God with my body, I felt like I was slapping Him in the face by my neglect of it. But through this process I realized that God loves me more than I can ever imagine. Fat or thin, He sees the Julie He created me to be. He sees “the real me.”
So I have to say that God played a huge role in my weight loss success. First by giving me the opportunity to be on the show to begin with. And then by giving me the strength to endure Jillian's “beatings, beatings, beatings.” It was also very difficult to be away from my family and friends for four months. The first couple of months there was no communication at all. My husband didn’t even know where I was. So I had to depend on God in a very real way.
Now looking back on where I was and where I have come, I really believe that having a clean body and a clean lifestyle is a way to honor God and I thank Him for all He’s done for me.
9. I haven't really asked any of the other contestants about the new "Biggest Loser" host Alison Sweeney in my previous interviews yet, but I think she adds so much more to the show since she struggled with her weight in a very public way as a teenager on a popular daytime soap opera and then overcame it. Her credibility for hosting a show like this along with a sincere love and concern for the contestants makes her the ideal person for the job. Talk about Ali from your perspective and share any memories of being around her during your stint on "The Biggest Loser."
I’ll have to admit that having been a big fan of “Days of Our Lives” I was a little starstruck when I met Allison Sweeney for the first time. But she was wonderful and so down-to-earth. She didn’t treat us like contestants, but instead like real people. When she came to see us she was just there to "hang out.”
It does mean a lot that Ali struggled with her weight at one time because it made her more than just a TV star. She was attainable, touchable. And because she’s struggled with her weight, she admits it’s a battle for her everyday like it was for us. We needed to know that.
Some of my fondest memories were the times she’d bring her husband and her son to see us and they’d even work out with us. I also think that Ali sets a great example for women in that she is very clear about her priorities in regard to balancing her family and career. She proves that women can have it all.
When my husband Mike came out to Los Angeles for the “Makeover Episode” he was so impressed because when Ali met him she called him by name and asked how our son Noah was by name. She’s an incredibly genuine person and it was a privilege to work with her while we were on the show and to call her my friend now.
10. What an incredible inspiration you are to so many of us who watched you change right before our very eyes, Julie! I cannot tell you how proud I am of you and all of your fellow Season 4 contestants for not just losing the weight, but now serving as an example for others to follow in your footsteps and do it, too. Make us proud for many years to come and keep doing what got you to the remarkable life you are living today. Would you like to share any final thoughts to encourage and inspire my readers today?
I am humbled when you say I serve as an example to others. It’s bizarre to me to think that only a little over a year ago I was totally out of control and desperately looking for a way to change my life. And I am amazed that I still continue to get messages everyday from people through my web site and through my MySpace page saying that they relate so much to me and are inspired by my story. I think the thing that made me appealing on the show is that I am nothing special. It sounds cliché but I mean it when I say if I can do it, anyone can.
If I could leave a legacy, then it wouldn’t be my weight loss while I was on the “The Biggest Loser”--it would be proving that it’s a lifelong change. It’s not the success you have while you are a part of a television show--it’s maintaining that success when “Reality TV” just becomes “Reality.” When you see me in ten years for a “Where Are They Now Reunion” I hope I can still promote the same “pride” you speak of now.
I guess the last thought I’ll leave for your readers today relates to my “slogan T-shirt” from the show. We all had to pick a phrase or a motto that best described WHY we were there. I selected “To finish what I’ve started, for once.” I've had so many people tell me they could relate to that slogan. But you know what? I have realized that I will never "finish what I've started." This will be an ongoing journey for me for the rest of my life.
So my new slogan is "To continue what I've started...forever."
I want to thank you again for letting me be a part of this process. It’s been fun thinking back on the past year and remembering so many special things about the experience. Thanks for all you do, Jimmy. Take care.
Be sure to visit JulieHadden.com and you can contact Julie Hadden to share your feedback for her about her amazing weight loss accomplishments. THANK YOU for inspiring us anew today, Julie! And congratulations on being a new mommy. :)
Don't forget to check out all my Biggest Loser links, including exclusive interviews with past contestants, featured critical commentary, and frequent news and updates about your favorite weight loss reality show.