At 295 pounds, Jacob Larry used to win eating contests.
Hot dogs, 5-pound hamburgers, cupcakes -- he could down it all, winning nearly $7,000 in a three-year professional eating career.
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Now, the 23-year-old Chicago man is looking to win another type of contest -- NBC's "The Biggest Loser." But first, he has to make the cut.
Larry was among hundreds of "Biggest Loser" hopefuls who camped out at Chicago Home Fitness in Downers Grove for several hours in advance of an open casting call for the show that ran from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
"I'm a professional eater -- or I used to be," said Larry, who brought a trophy, a giant check and 40 T-shirts won from eating contest conquests with him to the casting call. "I want to make some changes in my life."
Change was a common theme as potential contestants explained their desire to change their emotional overeating, their fast food fixes or their habit of blaming their weight-related problems on anything but themselves, from McDonald's to the Chicago Transit Authority.
"I want to be on the show to get healthy," said Sara Maxey of Cincinnati, who aims to make the next season's cast and lose 130 pounds. "I'm at a pivotal time in my life, 34 years old, where childbearing age is running out. I want to have children, and my weight could cause problems for that."
Hopeful contestants also shared stories of their epiphanies or "aha moments" -- the time when they decided losing weight must be a priority.
Jeffrey Inman of Peoria, a 450-pound single dad, said a recent bad dream gave him all the motivation he needs. Inman said he dreamed his 3-year-old son was banging on a coffin yelling, "Daddy, wake up!"
"That really scared me," Inman said.
The time he and a group of nine others auditioning for the show got to spend with casting director Holland Weathers "was awfully short," Inman said, but he enjoyed sharing his story and listening to others.
Prospective contestants were told they would be notified by phone if casting directors were interested in meeting with them again for a second interview today or next week.
Until then, many will continue their own exercise plans, trying to drop pounds even if they won't be the next "Biggest Loser."
"I know I can do this on my own," Maxey said about her weight-loss goal. "But this is a bonus."