'Biggest Loser' champ promotes 'slow, steady' weight loss
Michael Ventrella was the star of the second annual open house Saturday at Ackerman Sports & Fitness Center in Glen Ellyn, sharing exercise and nutrition tips he learned from his experience winning season nine of NBC's "The Biggest Loser."
He hammered home the idea that weight loss is as much mental as physical and told a crowd of about 60 people success will come to those who pursue it steadily.
"Slow and steady wins the race," Ventrella, of Bartlett, said trainer Bob Harper told him his first day on the show.
Ventrella might not have known what a consistent pursuit of fitness meant then, but now, going on two years since winning the weight loss competition in May 2010, he says he's got it figured out.
It took a total change of priorities -- even careers -- for him, going from the night life of a DJ to a job as a fitness trainer. For others, pursuing an active lifestyle means not making excuses and getting help from a doctor and personal trainer, he said.
"If you really focus on you and your body being the only competitor, you will win," Ventrella said.
Audience members asked whether "Biggest Loser" contestants prepared their own meals (they did, Ventrella said) and how they adjusted to leaving a lifestyle that included six hours of workouts a day -- without gaining back all their weight.
"I promised myself to defeat the thing that's defeated me my whole life," Ventrella said, referring to his weight, which started at 526 when he joined the show. "Nobody needs that show to get healthy or get fit ... What you need is the attitude of that show."
Audience questions were fielded not only by Ventrella, but by three other suburban "Biggest Loser" contestants: Jerry and Estella Hayes of Wheaton and Ventrella's mother, Maria.
The female contestants had some tips in response to Elaine Berquist's question about her chocolate addiction.
"I'm on medication and I can't eat any green vegetables, so I've substituted chocolate," the Lombard woman said, drawing laughter from the crowd. "How in the world do you get over a chocolate addiction?"
Maria suggested vegan chocolate chips or karo syrup, while Estella suggested Berquist focus on eating foods she enjoyed before the medication limited her vegetable choices.
"This is so encouraging," said Berquist, who watches "The Biggest Loser" occasionally.
Ventrella said anyone looking to get in shape can do it with enough commitment, time and a support network of others going through a similar journey.
"You can either be a victim of life," he said, "or be victorious."