Danni Allen has jetted to Los Angeles to make commercials, a workout DVD and film an appearance for the upcoming season of "The Biggest Loser," the NBC reality show on which she gained fame and $250,000 while losing 121 pounds.
But the 26-year-old Wheeling resident is more focused these days on upcoming athletic challenges like her first triathlon and marathon, both in Chicago.
Allen will compete this weekend in the Life Time Tri along Chicago's lakefront, a precursor to the event she's been targeting since March when she won the TV weight-loss competition: the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October.
Although she'll take on her first triathlon this weekend, Allen swam competitively at Mundelein High School, played water polo in college, bikes at the gym, and has found running is her new love.
"I'm a little nervous about clipping in (in the cycling lap), but I always say don't let fear get in the way," she said. "Go out and try; who cares about my time, I know I'm going to have fun."
Allen said she doesn't expect to overcome new challenges easily. Trainers yelled at her during the DVD workout -- just like on the television show. And she took good-natured grief for striking out at Wrigley Field during the recent charity Wiffle ball tournament sponsored by former Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood. It was there she met stars like Bill Murray, Matthew Perry and Jenny McCarthy.
These days she most loves hearing from people she's inspired to healthier lifestyles.
"Everybody is so nice. They say things like 'You inspired me to do this,' and 'I did this for the first time.' People are coming up to me all the time to tell me 'for the longest time I did this and now for the first time this.'"
While big athletic events like triathlons and marathons draw attention and let her promote good causes, Allen said nutrition is 80 percent of losing weight -- and keeping it off.
"I think I would take weight loss over maintenance," she said. "Weight loss is much easier than trying to maintain it."
So she counts calories, studies nutrition and learns how to be sure food is prepared correctly when she eats out. Subway, one of her sponsors, is always available wherever she travels.
"So many people don't get the opportunity that I have had, and struggles are part of everybody's weight-loss efforts," she said. "I can't complain that (my struggle) is I get to travel too much!"