'Biggest Loser' Michael Ventrella hoped for best but prepared for worst
By Christopher Rocchio, 05/26/2010
Michael Ventrella didn't want to feel too confident heading into The Biggest Loser's ninth-season finale because he was worried about "jinxing" himself.
"I went into it with a 50/50 chance, like there was a possibility," he told reporters during a Wednesday conference call.
"I was hoping for the best and preparing myself for the worst."
Ventrella received the best, as he was crownedThe Biggest Loser's ninth-season champion during last night's live finale broadcast of the NBC reality weight-loss series.
The 30-year-old deejay from Chicago, IL -- who started the season as The Biggest Loser's heaviest contestant ever at 526 lbs. -- weighed-in at 262 lbs. during the finale, giving him a 264-pound weight-loss and a 50.19% weight-loss percentage that won him the show's $250,000 grand prize.
"I thought there was going to be a lot of different things that might interfere with my journey. At the end of the day, it is a game show. That's what it is," Ventrella told reporters.
"On top of that, being at 526, you have no hope for the future. I knew that I was going to give it my all and I knew that I would be relentless with my effort to get healthy. But I surpassed my wildest dreams."
Despite losing half of his body's weight during his The Biggest Loser journey, Ventrella said he's not done.
"Now that The Biggest Loser finale is over, I can really rearrange my workout routines and I can start incorporating lifting and muscle gain into my workouts, which is great because it's going to make losing weight a hell of a lot easier -- as far as losing fat, hydrated fat," he explained.
"I'm going to start gaining muscle and losing fat. My weight might go up a little bit, it might go down, it might stay around the same. But it's the inches that are definitely going to change. My arms will get bigger and my waist will get smaller and my legs will get toner. I'm really excited to see how far I can exercise and push my body to the healthiest I can possibly be."
While he lost a lot of weight already, Ventrella said surgery to remove excess skin is currently not in his plans.
"Surprisingly enough, my skin's not that bad. It's crazy, and you probably wouldn't believe it unless you saw it yourself," he said.
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"So I do have some extra skin in my inner thigh and the bottom of my stomach, but I'll wait a year or two and I'll see what happens. I'm going to fill it in with as much muscle as I possibly can."
During the finale weigh-in Ventrella defeated Ashley Johnston, his closest friend during the competition. He said the two continue to have a "phenomenal" relationship.
"She's like my twin. We encourage each other and push each other to our limits to see what we're possibly capable of. Deep down to the root of things, we started off this whole journey feeling the same things and going through the same things -- we were both overweight through our lives. We never knew anything else," he said.
"All through it we knew that we were each other's competitors, but we wanted the best for one another because we are friends. At the end of the day, that's pretty much it."
Ventrella described his relationship with Johnston as "special" but said it's not romantic.
"We flirt, we joke around. We like getting a rise out of people when they say, 'Are you dating?' We look at each other and we just giggle," he said.
"If it went past that, I think it would ruin it. We've both talked about it. We're obviously attracted to one another -- physically, characteristically, personality, mind, soul, spirit. It's just one of those things where if it went past that, it just wouldn't work."
In addition, Ventrella said he needs to focus on himself before he can focus on anyone else.
"The only thing that I'm learning to love is myself, and that's the only thing I have time for right now because I haven't done that ever. I never learned how to respect myself, respect my body and take care of me," he said.
"So before I can learn to love somebody else, I need to learn how to love myself. I'm not completely there yet."
Ventrella said he reached a turning point in the competition when the finalists received their makeovers, however he feels "a lot of people can misunderstand" what he was going through.
"I wasn't feeling hopeless or that I wanted to give up, I was feeling frustrated because at that point I had realized that my journey was twice as long as everybody else's," he explained.
"I kind of felt very envious of the feelings that they were having, being so happy. I wanted to be that happy and I wasn't feeling that way, so it made me frustrated."
Regardless, Ventrella said he "wasn't going to quit."
"I hope nobody thinks that's what I was thinking or feeling. That wasn't the case," he reiterated. "I was committed to the idea that I didn't have an option to fail. I didn't have an option to quit."
Before Ventrella auditioned for The Biggest Loser, he said he studied past seasons in attempt to gain some knowledge on how to play the game.
"I was just watching all the episodes like how is everybody's relationships, how do they react to one another, how do they react to the challenges and everything like that. I told myself, 'This is something I'll never do. I'll never participate in an eating challenge. I'll never do this, I'll never do that,'" he told reporters.
"When you're there, all that goes out the window. I was in survival mode. The old Michael would put so much of his fate in other people's hands, and that made me so unhappy, and that's what contributed to me being at 526. So I had to get over it and say, 'I am going to play the game because my life depends on it.'"
Ventrella competed on The Biggest Loser's ninth season with his mom Maria Ventrella, which he said only enhanced his experience.
"What's really amazing about my experience of being there with my mother is that, in my case, she's not just my mother, she's one of my best friends. To have her there, it's great," he said.
"As an Italian family, we use our food and events of eating as a social way of getting us all in close. Being able to go through this and changing my habits and changing my mother's habits, now it's going to ripple into our family and our friends."
However Ventrella said one of the biggest challenges he faced at home was the fact that a healthy lifestyle change had yet to reach family members and friends.
"Surprisingly enough, I thought the biggest challenge when I went home was getting in my workout regiment and my new eating habits. It wasn't that," he said.
"I'm not that person at 526 anymore -- I don't think that way, I don't eat that way, I don't live that way. The biggest challenge I experience being at home was having everybody understand what I'm going through, what I'm trying to do."
Specifically, Ventrella said certain family members and friends "don't know the commitment and the hard work" he put into reaching his goals.
"I have friends and family who are overweight and never even tried to lose weight. They don't understand what I'm going through. They think I'm home, it's the old Mike and it's party time. But that's not the case," he said.
"Now I live an active lifestyle. I am going to incorporate that in all facets of my life, including hanging out with friends and family. Some of them, very few, are just not interested."
Ventrella, on the other hand, is extremely interested in maintaining his new lifestyle.
"I'd be a fool -- I worked so hard and so long -- to pollute it with everyday things that I used to make a part of my life and got me so unhealthy," he told reporters.