Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=214135
Story Retrieval Date: 8/1/2014 5:31:08 PM CST

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Bernie Speaks

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Biggest Loser contestant Bernie Salazar (standing right) discusses what led him to the show and the choices he’s making to stay fit. He spoke at Tuesday night's “Stay Fit & Healthy in 2013” event at Bountiful Eatery.


Biggest Loser Bernie Salazar proves losing can be the key to winning

by Donald Leonard
Jan 16, 2013


Bernie Salazar, former NBC’s Biggest Loser contestant, looked in the mirror one day and decided that it was time to take control of his life and shed his 300-pound reflection.

That’s the story the Chicago author and motivational speaker shared Tuesday night at the "Stay Fit & Healthy in 2013." Bountiful Eatery restaurant in Lake View hosted the program, co-sponsored by Healthy Initiatives, which offers fitness and wellness coaching.

Beyond motivational speaking, Salazar is working on his first children’s book entitled, “Monstercise, A Monster’s Guide to Good Healthy Fun.” The book will be released this year.

Some 40-50 Chicago area residents and several local vendors attended including, St. Claire Green Tea Vodka, Arize Kombucha and Element Wellness. The evening offered a campaign for implementing health and wellness, with Salazar as the evening's keynote speaker.

Salazar discusses his experience with the Biggest Loser and advice he’d give to those looking to improve their health in this Q and A with Medill Reports. "Skinny jeans didn't make me look skinny," he said.

Medill: So what brought you to the Biggest Loser in 2008, season number five for the program?

Bernie Salazar: I joined because I was tired of being tired. I looked in the mirror, saw a 300-pound, 5-foot, 4-inch guy, and saw a big problem. And I thought I needed a big solution, but what I came to realize is that the show was tremendous and instrumental in helping me gain control of my life.

Medill: So what’s the biggest individual impact the show has had on your life?

Salazar: Giving me the strength and courage to realize that I could do this on my own. It allowed me to see that life is full of ups and downs, and you gotta be able to meet those challenges in a way that’s realistic for you.

Medill: Were you scared going into the show?

Salazar: Horrified! Horrified! I mean I didn’t know what to expect. My working out consisted of walking to and from the TV after walking to and from the fridge. So I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t somebody who was completely uncoordinated or inactive but I also hadn’t done that in a long time. I hadn’t challenged myself in a long time. So yeah I was scared.

Medill: What motivated you to stick to it?

Salazar: Realizing that I was worth going through this transformation, that I could be the best me that I wanted to be. I mean it’s all about self worth. We’re all worth feeling healthy. We’re all worth being in healthy relationships. We’re all worth moving up professionally. Whatever it is that you want, it’s worth doing, you just gotta work at it. And we have to understand it’s going to be a struggle but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Medill: So how much weight did you end up losing?

Salazar: I lost a 130 pounds on the show and everyone’s like “WOW, that’s amazing.” I like to be honest with people though. Eighty pounds is what I kept off and it’s been five years since my experience and to me that’s the victory. My journey is gonna be forever. Do I have more to lose? Do I wanna lose more? Do I wanna look better? Yeah, who doesn’t? Whether you’re 140 pounds or 3 or 400, we all want to look better. So, yeah, I mean I lost a significant amount of weight. But it’s just about living healthy and redefining what healthy means to you.

Medill: So was it hard to sustain the type of dieting and routines you were doing on the show?

Salazar: Yeah, it’s hard to sustain what we were doing on the show. You can’t work out for six-seven hours a day. But what the show did was teach me is that just because you don’t have that amount of time, it doesn’t mean you can’t be active; that you can’t be more mindful about what you’re putting into your body. Yeah, I felt a little bit lost after leaving the show, but as with any new aspect that you’re introducing into your life, its gonna take some time to getting used to. You just gotta figure out how it works for you.

Medill: Do you find that our culture makes it harder to stick to our health goals?

Salazar: Yeah, the food’s great here! Dude, what are you talking about? You got roast beef sandwiches, you got deep-dish pizza, you got Chicago style hot dogs. Everywhere I turn there’s some type of food out there calling my name. But as much as they call my name, I gotta let them know we can’t be friends like we used to be before. Everything in moderation.

Medill: Have you felt like a celebrity since you’ve left the show?

Salazar: It’s an honor-I don’t see it as a celebrity because I don’t have the hair to be a celebrity…but I’ve been blessed to be somewhat of a mouthpiece for health and wellness in the city of Chicago.

Medill: So for guys who are in the situation you once were in, what advice would you give them?

Salazar: Guys, we need to go ahead and determine what it is that we want out of life. We need to figure out what our goals are and we need to come to the conclusion that we’re worth having those things. And I can stand here and tell you this is what you need to do. But the truth is, if it doesn’t work for you, then it’s not working. Make it work for you.

Medill: Any added advise?

Salazar: This is for my people in Chicago. I want you to get up off that couch, get out that car, and start making the positive changes to lead the life you deserve. And I tell you what, people, it’s the smallest steps that matter the most. Don’t think you need to do this drastic thing like go on the Biggest Loser. Just know it’s those small, realistic changes that you make day in and day out that are going to get you to where you want to go.

Medill: Do you ever want go back to the Biggest Loser, maybe as a guest speaker?

Salazar: Nooo! I never wanna go back.