Exclusive: Liz Young talks about her 'The Biggest Loser' experience
By Christopher Rocchio, 12/16/2009
Liz Young wanted to quit The Biggest Loser on the second day of the competition before she was convinced to stay.
She's glad she did, as the 49-year-old salesperson from Lewisburg, TN finished fourth during The Biggest Loser's live eighth-season finale last week on NBC. She started the competition weighing 267 lbs. and lost 91 for a 34.08 weight-loss percentage.
On Tuesday, Liz talked to Reality TV World about why she wanted to quit and how she was convinced to stay; what role she played in winner Danny Cahill's journey and the role he played in her experience; if she ever really thought she had a chance to beat Amanda Arlauskas in viewer votes to become the finale's third finalist; and which eighth-season contestant she became an unexpected friend with.
Reality TV World: How confident were you about the third finalist vote against Amanda -- the fact that she had already won a home viewer vote to get her on the season must have had you feeling she had a good chance of beating you out, right?
Liz: Well, honestly I wasn't really concerned about it. (laughing) I knew that there was not going to be any money involved because I knew that where I was on my weight percentage that I couldn't win the at-home and I couldn't win the $250,000. It was just one of those things that it didn't matter what place I ended up.
Reality TV World: You weighed-in at 176 lbs. during the finale. Was that your goal weight and do you see yourself maintaining that?
Liz: Actually it is not my goal weight. I'm trying to get down to about 160. So I've got a little more to go, and that's where I'm going to try to maintain -- is at 160.
Reality TV World: During the finale, you told host Alison Sweeney you wanted to quit the show early in the season. Could you talk a little bit about that? Why did you want to quit and who convinced you to stay? What did they say that convinced you to stay?
Liz: It was really scary for me when I saw [Tracey Yukich] and [Mozziz "Mo" Dewalt] go to the hospital on Day 1. Then Day 2, we go to the ranch and we're working out with the trainers, and I had never pushed myself for four solid hours in the gym ever in my life.
I've watched the show from Season 1 all the way to the season I was on. I didn't realize that they actually worked out for four solid hours with no break. I thought it was TV and you got a break! (laughing) When they worked us out for four solid hours that day, I could barely walk from the gym back to the house. Tracey was my roommate, so she was in the hospital. I went straight to my room, fell on my bed, and sobbed in my pillow until I fell asleep -- and I didn't get up until the next morning.
When I woke up the next morning, I was waiting on [Sandy Krum] -- who is the medic at the house -- when he got there I was sitting in his office waiting on him. He's like, "Hey Liz, how are you?" I'm like, "Not good. I'm ready to go home." He goes, "Well you can't go home." I said, "Oh yeah, I'm going home. This is not what I signed up for." (laughing) He goes, "Liz, you're not the first person to come and tell me that before. You can do this. Seriously, you can do it."
I said, "You don't understand. I am too old. I cannot push myself like that. I feel like I'm going to have a heart attack at any moment." He goes, "You're not going to have a heart attack. I'm there everyday that you're in the gym. I'm there. If you feel like you're feeling bad, you just call me over and I'll be there. [Seventh-season winner Helen Phillips] felt the same way on the season before." I was like, "Okay, if Helen can do it I can do it."
He told [Kat Elmore] -- who works close with us -- and he and Kat sat down and talked with me and got me talked through it. But I was ready to go home that second day. I was packing my bags. I was ready to leave. I couldn't stay! (laughing) But I'm so glad that I did. Because if I left on Day 2, I would still be at 267 pounds. I know I would.
Reality TV World: When you fell below the yellow line with [Rebecca Meyer], [Allen Smith] also told you that you needed to "fight" to stay in the competition. What was your reaction to that? Did you think you needed to prove to people that you wanted to be there?
Liz: I did. It's very hard for me when we would have to send somebody home because for me when we were sending people home it always seemed like you're telling that person, "Hey, your journey is not as important as mine."
It seemed like every time I fell below the yellow line it was with one of my friends. For me to have to look at that person and say, "Hey, my journey's way more important that yours and I'm going to fight to stay here at any cost," I just couldn't do that.
So when Allen said that, it was like a wake-up call to me, "Hey, if you want to stay here you better fight. So muster up and fight."
Reality TV World: The show made it look like there was a "young vs. old" alliance showdown near the end of the season. Is that really how it felt on the ranch?
Liz: Many times it felt that way, yes. There was always that underlying issue. It never was verbalized I don't think, but it was always that underlying feeling.
Reality TV World: You seemed to have really close relationship with Danny while you guys were at the ranch. Part of that was obviously because you were Brown team partners in the beginning, but can you talk a little bit about why you think you two got along so well?
Liz: Danny and I just hit it off from Day 1. I don't really know how to explain it other than the fact that he was the very first person that I saw when I got to California, and he made a little comment that was funny on the bus as we were going to tryouts -- at that time we didn't even know that we were both trying out for The Biggest Loser.
I don't know, it was just something about him that drew me to him and made me pick him as my partner. I am so glad I did because he is truly just an amazing person. I couldn't have chosen a better partner, ever.
Reality TV World: How much did that help you throughout the competition -- especially late in the game -- and what was your reaction when he won?
Liz: Initially, the first four weeks on the ranch Danny and [Julio Gomez] both -- they were roommates -- we hung together all the time. They were telling me the first three, three-and-a-half weeks, "Liz, you can do this." They knew that I had gone and talked to Sandy and Kat. They would tell me everyday, "You can do this. You can do this."
It was funny because the role reversal happened about Week 4 because Danny was struggling Week 4, Week 5 because he was missing his family so much. I had gotten used to the point where I knew I could do it at that point. Then it was me telling him, "Danny, you can do this. You're going to stay. You're not going home. Your family is going to be fine." We were just always there for each other at the times that we needed each other, it was just amazing how that happened.
We had said from about Week 4 when I realized, "Hey, I can actually do this," we would get up every morning and walk and Danny and I would talk everyday about, "Hey, you know I'm going to beat you in the finale. You know that I'm going to win this." We would always look at each other and say, "If I don't win, I want you to win." So when he won I was so proud of him. I am so happy for him.
Reality TV World: You got really upset when Tracey split you from Danny when you guys all got re-organized into new Blue and Black teams in Week 5 and pledged to "[put] her ass home in the most evil way possible."
Reality TV World: But your anger kind of seemed to die off a bit after that. Did your feelings about her change as time passed or did the editing just not focus on it so much?
Liz: What was so funny was when Tracy came back from the hospital, she was sort of behind the eight ball because she had not been there, she had not worked out with the trainers, she didn't really know what was going on. I looked at her and said, "Tracey, you are going to have to fight for every day that you stay on this ranch so do whatever you have to do to give you the edge." Little did I know that those words would bite me in the butt! (laughing)
When she split me and Danny I was furious with her and we were roommates. She would try to talk to me and I was like, "Don't talk to me. I have nothing to say to you. You have no reason that you could possibly give to me that I want to hear." (laughing)
After about four or five days, it took me that long to calm down and I was like, "Okay, if I was in her shoes and I did tell her do whatever you have to do to give you the edge, how can I be mad at her." I went to her and I said, "Tracey, I forgive you. We don't need to discuss this anymore. We're good now."
She and I, we're best friends. She and I will be best friends forever. I talk to her everyday.
Reality TV World: That leads well into my next question. The show obviously portrayed Tracey as the season's the most controversial contestant. Looking back at it now, do you think she was portrayed accurately?
Liz: From my perspective I don't. I really feel like Tracey had to do what she had to do to stay there. She had to fight every day that she was at that ranch to stay. Every day. She was very sick and she had to overcome the greatest obstacle of anybody on the show this season. To make it where she did and to lose as much weight as she did. She's done amazing.
She is truly what the show is all about -- the perseverance to do this, no matter what. She had the perfect excuse to go home. She didn't have to come back from the hospital and say, "Hey I'm going to continue this." She could have went home and said, "I gave it my best shot. I collapsed, I'm in the hospital, I just couldn't do it." She chose to stay and fight everyday.
Reality TV World: The week Tracey was eliminated -- Week 8 -- you were the one that was below the yellow line with her.
Reality TV World: What was going through your mind before that vote?
Liz: I knew how most of the people in the house felt about Tracey. I wasn't really concerned that I was going home. I felt bad. Tracey knew when she and I fell together, she knew that she was going home. There was no doubt in her mind. She had burned bridges and there was no going back. She knew she was going home, I knew she was going home, everybody knew it.
Reality TV World: You had the opportunity to work with both Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels during your season. Did you find one of them to be a better fit for you and if so who and why?
Liz: When I went to the show, I said -- because I had watched from Season 1 all to this point -- I had always said, "If I ever got on the show I would want Bob." Then I would say, "Oh my god, I really don't want Jillian because she screams and yells at you and I can't stand for somebody to scream and yell at me." But she's the person that would push me too.
I needed both, so thank goodness this season we had both. I loved the way that Bob could get me to do things without screaming at me, but then when Jillian would get in my face and scream at me it would make me dig deep. I didn't get fat pushing myself. (laughing)
Reality TV World: Viewers saw the types of struggles you encountered while at home for the 60 days before returning to the ranch for the marathon -- but we didn't see anything abut what happened between the marathon and the finale. Did you find yourself encountering any new additional struggles once you went back home again to prepare for the finale or did you just face the same issues as before?
Liz: I feel like I was facing some of the same issues that I had before. Being at home is tough. When you're on the ranch, you're taken out of your environment, you don't have to deal with anything except focusing on yourself and losing the weight. It's hard when you're at home.
Reality TV World: So what are some of the things you did to stay focused at home?
Liz: I tried my best to just stay on the same routine that I had when I was at the ranch. When I came home I told my husband, "I am not going to be going out to eat, I'm not going to be doing anything other than focusing on the finishing of what I've started. So I'm going to be at the gym all the time, I'm going to be working out all the time, we're going to eat healthy, and that's just the way it's going to be." He was like, "Whatever you need to do to finish, just get it done."
So that's pretty much what I tried to so, but still -- even with that -- you've got friends calling, you've got friends dropping by. It is not easy when you're at home. There's just a lot of distractions.
Reality TV World: How were you cast for The Biggest Loser and was it your first time applying to the show?
Liz: It was my first time applying for the show and I'm still in shock that I got on. To me, there's nothing special about me to make them choose me. I feel like it was God's intervention or something because I had nothing special to standout to say, "You need to pick me." It's not like I had a sob story to tell the producers to pick me.
Reality TV World: You've talked a bit about how at the beginning, The Biggest Loser wasn't what you expected it to be and wasn't what you signed up for. Looking back on your journey, did your perception about your experience on the show change?
Liz: Oh absolutely. I have to say this was the hardest experience of my life, but it was the most rewarding that I will probably ever experience. I feel like with the show they truly gave me 20 years of my life back. I don't feel like I could have gotten that, because I didn't really know how to workout and definitely did not know how to eat healthy before I went on the show.
I thought I did, but in reality, that was exactly why I had been going to the gym for a year before the show and never lost any weight. I didn't know how to push myself.