Exclusive: Runner-up Rudy Pauls talks about 'The Biggest Loser'
By Christopher Rocchio, 12/11/2009
Rudy Pauls knew his chances of winning The Biggest Loser's $250,000 grand prize were slim when he saw how much weight Danny Cahill lost at the marathon during the penultimate eighth-season episode -- however he claims it helped him focus on his main goal of getting healthy.
The 31-year-old engineer from Brooklyn, CT finished as the runner-up to Danny during Tuesday night's live finale broadcast of the NBC reality weight-loss series. He started the competition at 442 lbs and shed 234 for a 52.94% weight-loss percentage.
On Thursday, Rudy talked to Reality TV World about what his finale goal was and whether he reached it; the dynamic relationship he had with Danny; if he ever used any game-play strategy; the struggles he faced trying to lose weight at home; and if he was ever tempted to take drastic measures to lower his finale weigh-in weight.
Reality TV World: When you saw your finale weigh-in numbers were you confident that you had lost enough weight to defeat Danny?
Rudy: No, I was hoping to get below a certain number, My goal for the finale was to get to 210. I was waiting to see something below 210. I knew from the time leaving the marathon that Danny had a pretty good lead on me and my hope was to take as much of the lead away as I could, but just to really hit a goal. My beginning goal at the ranch was to take as much weight off as I could. I originally wanted to get below 200, but seeing what weight I was at and how much skin was going to be on me on the end, gym end goal was going to be 210 pounds and to really bury the previous record of weight lost of 214.
Those were the numbers I was looking for. If I would have gotten a win on top of that, I would have been ecstatic and it would have been the icing on the sake so to speak, but I was looking more for my numbers.
Reality TV World: You seemed to have a good relationship with Danny throughout the season, however you guys were also very competitive with each other. Could you talk a bit about the dynamic of that relationship?
Rudy: It was definitely a competitive thing, but it was definitely a friendly competition between the two of us. Danny at first was watching me break these records and it was driving him to do better. Then he started breaking records on his own and putting up big numbers of his own, and it became kind of this game where we go back and forth pushing each other to do the best we could.
It came across as a bit of a competition but it was more of a friendly thing just to match each other -- to do the best we could based on each other, not to see the other guy fail but to watch each other win. That's where the friendship came in. We pushed each other to do our best. There was never anything sneaky, there was never anything hidden. We shared everything -- shared meals, shared workouts. We worked together to get our goals completed and that's how I think we both became so successful.
Reality TV World: Do you think you guys would have been as successful if you didn't have each other?
Rudy: No, I don't think we would have. I think having a little bit of that challenge with each other and working with each other made us get as far as we did. I really believe that. Don't get me wrong, there were other people there that were very good friends -- Allen Smith and myself are going to be lifelong friends and Allen pushed me on a daily basis too. But I still don't know I would have had the success that I had if it wasn't for Danny nipping at my heels and pushing me and the same thing going back. We definitely worked hard together to make these goals.
Reality TV World: Was it important for you to make it to the finale's weigh in? I'm asking because you actually had a higher weight-loss percentage than Rebecca and would have won the $100,000 at-home prize if you hadn't of made it to the finale weigh-in but only ended up with $50,000 runner-up prize instead.
Rudy: What $50,000? (laughing) You're right. If I would have been eliminated, I would have had a chance at that $100,000 and I would have won it based on my percentage. But I never came into the show for money. In the end, I just wanted to be there -- I wanted to make it to the finale, do my best, and finish this thing as strong as I could.
For me, it became finishing it with working a regular schedule. I managed to work a regular schedule with overtime and continue to take off 234 pounds. I knew leaving the marathon that my chances were slim to none. Danny had taken a very large lead at that point in time and my chances were slim to none that over the next 60 days to be able to take that back. I still went back to work. The day after the marathon I came home and I went and worked like 17 to 20 days in a row and 12 hours a day. I didn't slow down what I was doing, I just tried to push myself a little bit harder.
In turn, in the next 60 days at home I lost more than I lost the previous 60. The work I put in was the best, and in the end -- ending it with nothing -- it wasn't nothing to me. I ended up with a 234-pound weight loss, a much healthier me, and I feel incredible for it. My family feels incredible for it -- $250,000, $100,000, it's nice to win something like that. But it wasn't going to change my life, honestly.
Reality TV World: You weighed-in at 208 lbs. on the finale. Are you planning to try and stay at that weight or do you plan on settling in at a higher weight now that the finale is over?
Rudy: In talking with Dr. Huizenga and my own physicians, probably the best weight for me -- especially since I plan on getting back into the gym and putting some muscle back on -- I'll probably settle in somewhere around 225 to 235. I think with my height and where I want to be, that will be the best. I also plan to continue to compete, primarily in triathlons, which will probably keep me somewhat lean. We'll see where I settle in, but my best guess is around 225 and that will be my prime weight. When I'm training hard for triathlons I'll probably drop down 10 from there, but we'll see how it goes.
Reality TV World: The show has showed trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels warning contestants about it before, but there have been some media reports about how once they go home some contestants feel so much final weigh-in pressure that they go too far and get too thin or do things like intentionally dehydrating themselves before the finale weigh-in. Did you feel any of that pressure yourself, and if so how did you deal with it?
Rudy: Those pressures, I think everybody feels it a little bit, to do their best. But the friendly competition that Danny and I had, we knew neither one of us was going to push themselves to the limit of hurting ourselves. So Danny and I said early on we're not going to do this just to win. We want to go out there and end this season as the most memorable season ever.
There's been past seasons where people have won and you're just like, "Wow, they look sick. They did wonderful, they took off all this weight, but they didn't look healthy." Danny and I wanted to end looking healthy, to end this thing strong and make this season the most memorable. To make people go, "Wow, those transformations were incredible and both those guys took off huge numbers but they didn't look sick in the end. They did it right." Hopefully with doing it right, we'll be able to keep it off.
Reality TV World: Did you ever use any game-play strategy during the competition? If so, what was it?
Rudy: I never, never chose to use any game-play strategy during the competition. My strategy -- I guess if you even want to call it game-play strategy -- was to never fall below the yellow line. And I never fell below the yellow line, so I didn't need to use any game-play strategy.
There was a couple of votes maybe that were off of -- and it wasn't game play -- my votes were cast based on other people playing the game. I told the rest of the cast from Day 1, "I don't want to play games." We were all very close, especially the second week when we all got to work together so that everybody would stay another week and nobody would be eliminated.
That brought the cast so close, so why would we want to go against that? Why start playing games just for money, or just for fame, or just whatever you think you're going to get out of this in the end? Why don't we make this show what it originally started to be about -- make it about getting healthy and losing weight.
If gameplay was happening or I caught wind of it or something like that, I definitely would vote based on it but otherwise it wasn't something I wanted to be a part of. I wanted to just lose weight, and if I kept my head down and the numbers off on the scale, then I hopefully wouldn't be going home.
Reality TV World: Towards the end of the competition it definitely looked like there were a "young vs. old" alliances. Is that really how it felt on the ranch?
Rudy: Yeah, but I think it was amplified or shown more towards the end. But it actually more started earlier on -- even after the first elimination of [Alexandra White]. But it didn't feel like it was young vs. old, it almost felt like it was more like maybe a maturity thing or how your life was at home type of thing.
The people who I think ended up being there in the end -- and [Amanda Arlauskas] was on that "young side" -- but I think those four people that made the finals in the end were incredible choices for finalists and incredible people who stayed true to themselves and honest to the rest of the cast the whole time they were there. They deserved to be there.
They actually used to call me "Switzerland" in the whole mix of the thing because I wasn't trying to play one side or the other, I was trying to align myself with everybody. Most people think, "Oh, there's no way you're going to get voted off because you're not playing a side."
I wasn't playing a side. I did become better friends with certain people and most of my friends happened to be on the "old side" of the fence, but it was just the way things went down eventually. You get different people in the house and you get a competition for money, there's going to be some divide somewhere.
Reality TV World: The show obviously portrayed Tracey Yukich as the season's the most controversial contestant. Do you think she was portrayed accurately on the show?
Rudy: Wow. (laughing) I think she was amplified. I mean don't get me wrong, and I think the key thing is look where Tracey came back. Look how her whole journey started on the show. She was in the hospital Day 1. She got back and missed out on some of the bonding time that the rest of us had already had. Friendships had already started, cliques had already started. She missed the first elimination, and she had to find her place of where she fit.
She was also given zero gym time -- they told her she could not work out. They had her eating more calories because she needed them -- her body had broken down very badly in that first challenge and she needed the calories.
Think about [that] from anybody's perspective. You're on a weight-loss show, you have to eat more calories than anybody else and you can't go to the gym. What are you going to do to stay?
And Tracey wanted to stay, she wanted to be there just like everybody else did. She went through whichever route she could to stay there, and I don't think she was out to hurt anybody. She just wanted to stay.
I think that made her come across -- I heard "Trazy," like crazy. But I think the fact that she was able to get through a few more weeks there, the fact that the stars aligned and she won the option of picking the teams and picked herself a strong team and managed to be there for a few more weeks, I think even in the end most of the other contestants would say Tracey was not "Trazy," that she was genuine and worked hard. I think at the end of the finale you saw how hard she worked.
Reality TV World: That leads well into my next question. Dina Mercado broke down in tears when Tracey broke you guys up during Week 5 when you guys all got re-organized into new Blue and Black teams. Can you talk a little bit about what type of relationship you guys had and how things changed for you once you two got separated -- and then again when she got eliminated the following week?
Rudy: Dina and I hit it off on Day 1 as friends. We finished the first challenge for the most part together. I only barely finished ahead of her on that first race. As a team, it was like a brother/sister type of thing -- even the other contestants would joke with us because we would argue like brother and sister. But we always had each other's back. I think even some of the other teams were, at times, even a little jealous of how we did get along and that we did stand by each other no matter what. It was easy to make decisions because of that -- we trusted each other's opinions. That was our dynamic.
When we got separated, we lost that. We didn't lose our friendship -- we still remained very good friends when we got separated on the Blue and Black teams -- but she felt isolated. On the Black Team was primarily that "young team" if you look at the way it originally started, it was really just her and Danny.
She felt like she had a target on her back because she wasn't very good friends with the rest of them. Through discussions with her, I was like, "You've got to try to not make yourself fit in, but you can't stay out of their dynamic because if you do you're going to be on the chopping block the very first chance they get to vote."
We still ate dinners together, we still worked out together. We're still good friends and we'll continue to be so.
Reality TV World: The show showed the types of struggles you encountered while went home for 60 days before returning to the ranch for the marathon but we didn't see anything about 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?
Rudy: No. Once you get yourself kind of motivated in doing something it becomes a pattern. I really got myself wrapped into a pretty decent pattern. Even though I worked a rotating shift schedule -- it makes it difficult to keep a pattern (laughing) -- but I just kind of did my thing. I had knowing how far ahead of me Danny was at the marathon, it gave me time to think about, "Am I going to win this thing?" I am competitive, I like to win just as much as anybody else does.
I really thought I had a very strong chance prior to the marathon of taking it. Then seeing the difference between working a full schedule and having a lot of available time to workout when you're at home, it kind of discouraged me a little bit at first when I got back. But then I said, "You know what, even if I don't win it doesn't change anything. I still managed to do something incredible. I still managed to get my health back within a very short period of time. And whether I win or lose, it's not going to make that much of a difference in my life."
I think it made me more focused. Coming to the realization that there's a possibility that I might not win and realizing that it's going to be okay if I don't made me more focused and made me want to do even better. I think that's why I took off more weight in that 60 days compared to the first 60 days. Because the more weight you take off, the harder it gets. If you look at what the girls did -- [Liz Young] and Amanda -- they took off so much in that first 60 and then the next 60, Danny and I took off more. I wasn't stressing the inevitable. I was welcoming it. I was looking forward to the end and I could see the end.
Reality TV World: How were you cast for The Biggest Loser and was it your first time applying to the show?
Rudy: Yeah, it was my first time applying for the show. I went to an open casting call in New York. Believe it or not, I waited in line for 11 hours in the cold. I met a bunch of nice people. I saw casting directors for less than five minutes, said three words to my casting director, got a callback interview based on that -- and from there it just kind of snowballed into a finals week out in L. A. and then on the show a week later.