Challenge yourself, help others: Talking with Biggest Loser Season 9 Winner, Michael Ventrella

Posted on February 2, 2011


When you help someone else, generally, you’ll make a self-sacrifice to do it. Your time. Your money. Your ego. Most likely, there will be something you’ll sacrifice in your effort to help someone else. That’s how “giving” usually works. What if you could give something to help someone else but get something big for yourself in return?

I recently talked to Biggest Loser Season 9 winner, Michael Ventrella, who, despite getting some prize money from his recent win of the weight loss show, found that he was going to give a whole lot to others as the show’s winner. He’s been using the fame that comes with losing 264 lbs on TV to give his time, his energy, & his voice for causes close to his heart. And one of those causes may surprise you!

In a world where we can have a competition with prize money for people who have had access to food (way too much food in some cases) & now want to shed the pounds that come with that, we also have 1 in 6 people in this country who doesn’t have enough food to eat regularly. And Michael wants everyone to get involved in the mission to stamp out hunger in America. I recently connected with him after he’d finished his morning workout (he does 2 per day) to talk health, hunger, and doing real fitness in the real world.

Kate: Thanks for connecting with me today! How was your workout?

Michael: It was good! I usually do 2 hours of cardio in the morning and 90 mins of anaerobic weight lifting in the evening.

K: Wow! That’s a big workout load! How do you stay motivated for that?

M: Getting the title “Biggest Loser” really wasn’t my destination – and people don’t realize that. They think, “ok, you lost weight on tv, so you’re done now and just going to go back to normal life,” but that’s not the point of the show! The point is to get the contestants to change their life – not just meet some end goal. It’s a journey, there is no destination.

K: So what is real life like for you post-finale? Is it glamorous?

M: I don’t think it was ever glamorous!…exposing my fat on the show for the whole country to see! People come up to me and tell me they “need” to be on the show, and I think, ‘really? you “need” to be on a show where you’ll be humiliated by showing off your fat and insecurities? no, you don’t “need” that.’ I’m thankful for having gotten the opportunity to work with amazing trainers, focus solely on myself as I started this journey, but if I could have gone back and begun this journey without being embarrassed, without showing my fat to the world, I would have, trust me!

K: In an interview after your win, you said, “I want a burger & fries, but what I need is a salad with grilled chicken.” How do you get through the ‘wanting’ to follow through on the ‘needing’?’

M: One thing I really learned was to take care of my mind to get the physical part going. When I was on the ranch, I had lots of time to do some soul-searching. I found that my mind was so important to everything I do – I made a goal board that has all of the things I NEED – a healthy body, a healthy life, a nutritious meal, peace of mind. I’ve worked my mind over to be able to see that what I NEED is also what I WANT. Not the other way around.

K: Mindset! Love it! That’s a big focus for this blog reading audience! In reality, everyone NEEDS to sort out their mental game, but sometimes they take a while to get around to that – but even when they do get their mental game ‘on’ life is busy! When you were at the ranch, you had all day to workout…and that definitely isn’t real life! So what’s the best thing you’ve figured out to make real fitness happen in real life?

M: At the ranch, it was all about me achieving a weight goal each week. And in real life, I still make that workout time about me. It’s ‘my’ time. No one can impede on my workout time, I use that time to think about what’s most important to me, to keep focused on my goals without any distractions intruding. It’s got to be about you – doing it for someone else will only get you so far – eventually, there has to be something in it for you that will keep you motivated.

K: You know,people watch BL and see these huge numbers of weight loss. Can you tell us how a person can keep a realistic mindset of what real weight loss is actually like?

M: You want BL-type results? Quit your job, don’t bother with your kids or spouse – because that’s what it will take! On the ranch, from the second you wake up till right before your head hits the pillow, with no distractions at all, you workout. That’s just not realistic to daily life! So when you get a loss of a pound or two a week – you should be thrilled! That’s a lot of work! It takes a lot of energy to workout and manage your life! It’s definitely worth it, but it certainly is a lot of energy you have to have to make it happen! Never use someone else as a unit of measure – you’ll fail every time. I would be on a treadmill and see other contestants going faster and at higher inclines, but I’m not them! What’s good for me is good for me – I really had to make peace with that. If you become your only competitor, you’ll win that battle in the end!

K: It doesn’t seem like people have done that lately – we have 8 in 1o in this country that are obese or overweight. Why should any of those people get committed to the Pound for Pound Challenge with Biggest Loser and the local Food Banks?

M: You know, here’s your moment to be a part of something. While working on you, you can help someone else. Some people do better when they are doing for someone else – many people have self-sacrificed themselves into obesity, here is your chance to make a committment to someone else and get something good for you too. You end up getting TWO results for your 1 effort: someone gets a meal to feed their hunger, and you get the motivation of a weight loss instilled in you.

K: I love it. That’s so true! Take what may have gotten you to the point over “overweight” & use it to take yourself the other direction. Pledge a weight loss amount, achieve it, feel better from weighing less, and a family gets food they didn’t have before, all thanks to you. Super!! Well this has been great Michael, I’ll let you get going, one last thing…what’s for lunch??

M: (laughs) Oh, I’m making one of my recipes from the book I’ll be publishing later this year! It’s a ground turkey fajita burger! It’s ground turkey with the fajita veggies inside the burger, and I’ll either use lettuce leaves or a flatbread as the bun. The “Michael” I am today is the Michael I will always be – so ground turkey, home cooked meals, food journaling, my bodybugg will all always be a part of what I do. It’s got to be. The tools that work have got to remain a part of who I am.

K: Mmm, I love ground turkey. Seriously, once you figure out what is healthy and what works, you’ve got to guarantee yourself it will be a part of you always! When you have the details on the book, let me know! Thanks for taking the time to talk today!

Michael is doing health & wellness for himself – and you need to as well. But I understand that sometimes, it takes a bit more motivation to make that happen than just saying “ok, let’s do it.” Get yourself connected so you can get yourself motivated. Pledge a weight loss (or pledge to maintain a healthy weight) to the Pound for Pound Challenge. Ensure that a family that currently is short on food gets enough. Hold yourself accountable to a healthy/healthier weight and lifestyle. Why wouldn’t you want to? Click on the link below to get more info on the Pound for Pound Challenge & make your pledge today!