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The Biggest Loser Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is an interview with eliminated contestant Austin Andrews on May 11, 2011 about the show The Biggest Loser.

Austin Andrews

Question:
You have only got a couple of weeks left until the live finale. Are you in last chance workout mode at home and what does that look like?

Austin Andrews:
I'm definitely in last chance workout. You're just so much more focused when you're kind of in this mode of this is it, this is the final time. I've been participating in a boot camp at the Muay Tai Gym that I train at. So that's 5:30 am workouts and then I'm working with the trainer around 9:00 in the morning and then I'm spinning in the afternoon usually one or two maybe spin classes at a local gym here in Pasadena. So it's been really kind of honing in on the things that are kind of huge factors in what helped my weight loss on the ranch and making those things work for me here at home.

Question:
When I spoke to your dad a couple of weeks ago, when he was eliminated, he made a comment about how proud he was of you and that he's had a chance to watch you become a man. Was there any moment or certain event that stands out to you where you feel like you kind of crossed that line from boyhood into manhood?

Austin Andrews:
There definitely was and it came down to a moment with Justin. It was week four and we were on the ridge still, it was our last week on the ridge. We were working out in the field with Brett and there was - we were doing an army crawl where you'd crawl about 15 feet, you'd stand up and you've have to punch a bag. And he paired us with other people from the teams we were training with.

And so me and Justin were paired together and we were pushing one another and it was just this really intense kind of I would push him, he would push me and finally I started in part of that army crawl to start to checkout which is something that I had done in workouts previous where I would kind of glaze over, just go through the motions, I wasn't really paying attention. And Justin saw it in my eyes. Justin had said something, he's like, don't you dare check out of this. Don't you dare give up. Don't you dare let your eyes glaze over.

And I stood up, I finished it out really strong and it was kind of that moment of like, oh my gosh, what am I doing? Why would I let this moment be a moment where I'm not giving everything I have? And it was kind of that moment that I started to realize I have a power within me and I have the ability to stand up and really make a difference not only in myself but in those around me. And I started pushing him harder. The whole workout changed and really from that point on I really was able to start really pushing myself in a way I've never felt before in my life. So, it was that moment that really kind of triggered my first kind of ah-ha moment to be honest.

Question:
Can you tell me about your visit to the elementary school? Could you ever imagine that you'd be giving kids a motivational talk on weight and health?

Austin Andrews:
It was one of the most surreal moments I've ever had in my life and it was surreal for so many reasons. I went in front of these students - and, again, this age, because it was fifth grade so like 11 and 12 years old, this age was so pivotal in my life because it's when you're already going through some changes as an adolescent and you're already a little bit uncomfortable and I was pudgy at the time and so I was being made fun of for it. And I got just so depressed and so upset at what I was and what I looked like and I let that be one of the major triggers for my weight gain.

And so between the ages of like 10 and the age of 14 I gained over 100 pounds. So to be in front of a group of fifth graders and have that opportunity to be like, okay, not only is health important but health can be fun. It's not this crazy bad thing that we have to think about all the time. It's something that we can just choose to do right things with. It was incredible.

I was so grateful to have the opportunity and so grateful for the teacher to have given me that time with students and then to hear their responses. I mean, they sent me probably about a week after the event itself they sent me thank you letters. And so many of the thank you letters just kind of grabbed me because you're reading these and it's in a fifth graders handwriting and it's with misspellings and there's just nothing pretty about what's on the paper except the words that they're using to describe how they were changed or the decisions that they're making that are different. And it was just a really powerful thing for me to be a part of and I really look forward to being a part of as many of those moments as possible.

They absolutely got it and it was so much so that one of the students in the class he was actually - he's a Type I diabetic and he wrote that in his letter to me. He's like, I'm a type-1 diabetic but I really appreciated the thought on how to stay active. He's like, because, staying active is part of what's going to help me control my diabetes.

And it was interesting because I'm not someone who's been, especially a type-1 diabetic. I was pre-diabetic before the show but to be able to reach someone who's going through something that's so different from what I've been through and yet I'm still being able to speak to it a little bit just because activity and eating right is so essential to that lifestyle as well. So it's just incredible.

Question:
How do you plan to pay it forward?

Austin Andrews:
To be honest, the best conversations that I've had to pay it forward are with Courtney Crozier from the show. We both came home and I've been home a few weeks now. We've both been home, we've both been talking to one another on the phone and we really cherish the idea of working together to help students in schools. So that's kind of the route we're looking to take. We want to be working with schools and school districts and trying to create awareness with children, create awareness with parents and create awareness with the educational system that health is not only important but it's something that we need to be focusing on right now.

Question:
You mentioned that you gained a significant amount of weight in your adolescence. Can you explain what was going through your head at a time, how conscious were you of the fact that your body was putting on that much weight and what was it that you were eating and not doing or doing that lent itself to gaining that much weight that quickly?

Austin Andrews:
It's something that I've had to come to grips with and it's just, it's hard. It's a difficult place. The truth is, again, I was letting myself and my self-worth be defined by others that were around. And kids can be mean at times and there's that and it really comes out of insecurities of everyone at that age.

And so I felt valueless. One of the ways I would go about my weight is I was constantly eating and I ate emotionally and I was always upset. I was always upset at the age just because I was constantly being made fun of and up until that point I had been made fun of but I would get in fights for it and I mean it wasn't a pretty thing, it wasn't a good thing but I was dealing with it somehow and then I got to a point where I was physically so unfit that I couldn't really measure up to the other students. So I couldn't even express myself that way and so I started to eat and it was anything I could grab.

It was any kind of portions I could grab, I mean, the majority of it wasn't necessarily ???bad foods???, it was the amount of the food that I was eating. And then the truth is I would try and take money from my parents when they weren't looking and I would try and spend that money on food and it was, all in all, a very poor situation and I choose to do things that were awful. I treated my parents awful for it and I would beg people for money or for food at school and I just was constantly eating constantly. And I noticed it. I did notice it because I was playing baseball at the time.

And as a 10-year-old I was an all star in baseball and I was an all star in little league doesn't mean much but still in my little league I was doing really well and in those two years 60 pounds came on and you're sluggish. You're a catcher, you're a pitcher, and all of the sudden you have a gut that you're trying to pitch around. There were ways. And I really got to the point where I was kind of overwhelmed and I had to quit baseball because of it and I kind of checked out. It really comes back to checking out and I checked out as like a 12-year-old. And it too me till 21 to figure it out.

Question:
Since coming home,how is your daily life is now? What is your workout regime is? What your diet is like?

Austin Andrews:
My diets very similar to what it was on the ranch. I'll do a complex carb like oatmeal in the breakfast hours but I've got to say for me the majority of it's counting the calories. I got out of the practice when I first got home of counting calories and I actually saw my weight struggle a little bit when I first got home and so I had to get back into counting so it really came down to I've got to count my calories and my workouts, I love running, and so I'm still running and I'll do probably about an hour of running a day.

And then I'm working at the Muay Tai Gym at least five times a week and that's on a really busy week if I'm at work. Right now for the finale it's kind of been a little bit insane so I'm doing three days again, spinning in the evenings, Muay Tai in the late morning and then a boot camp cardiovascular class first thing in the morning. So, it's crunch time for finale but when it comes down to what's going to be normal in life it's going to be that hour of running a day and a little bit of weight lifting and keep in mind calories counted.

Question:
About how many calories are you counting up to a day?

Austin Andrews:
Personally, I'm staying right around 1500 to 1800 because of how much I'm burning and I'm still losing a little bit of weight with that. You know, calorie counting is going to be subject to the individual so it's always a good idea to talk to a physician.

Question:
You wrote an original song that you played for the elementary school kids. Is music something that you want to pursue as a career?

Austin Andrews:
You know what, music's always been a passion in my life. I actually graduated from the LA County High School from the Arts as a singer and I don't know if it's going to be a part of my career. To be honest, the more I look at my career the more I look at the rest of my life. The more I kind of just want to take the gift The Biggest Losers given me and pass it along to as many as I can.

If I can use music to do that, if music can be a part of that message, I will absolutely use it every time because it's also a part of my life and it's a gift that I have, I feel. My focus really is on helping people find a healthy balance in life and that's really going to remain the focus for the time being at least.

Question:
Could you talk more about your relationship with Courtney and what kind of made you guys gravitate toward each other after leaving the ranch and decide to work together moving forward?

Austin Andrews:
The truth is we were close on the ranch. We were very good friends. We were very close in that we could talk to one another in ways that most people on the ranch just couldn't. You know, you have one of those friends that you can just sit down and kind of spill your guts to a little bit. And Courtney and I have been able to be that for one another in a lot of ways.

So, on the ranch we would have those times of just, okay, I need to just digress. Hear me out and we would have those moments and so that kind of continued into our time at home. And I talked a little bit to her about kind of some of the dreams that I was having and some of the thoughts that I kept on having in me that really kind of were inspiring me to keep going.

And she expressed very similar thoughts and that thought really was passing this on and not just passing this gift on to anyone but really focusing on children. And so the more we talked about it the more we realized, okay, this really is a dream that we both have and it would make perfect sense for us to be able to work together to make it happen. We both feel that we work very well together. We did a cooking challenge on the show together and I mean we've just found ourselves working well together.

Question:
You were the last member of the ridge team to leave and the final four are all original ranch people. Can you think about any reasons that there might be for that?

Austin Andrews:
The only reason I can give you for that is that Brett and Cara are two individuals that are incredible trainers but aren't necessarily savvy to some of the game that is in The Biggest Loser. I'm trying to find the right words because there are ways to control your water week to week, there are ways to control your weight fluctuation that's very natural. And unfortunately I don't know if Brett and Cara knew those things coming into the show and so we weren't able to grab those things until very late.

One of the things that you'll find, and this is why you're told not to weigh-in every single day, your water fluctuates in your body week to week. And so day to day, just depending on how much you sweat, how much you intake, how much you're peeing out, how much salt you have, how much potassium you have, all of it really can control how much waters in your body. Something that Jillian and Bob know really well is how to stabilize that and how to keep it consistent throughout the show. And, you know what, they were very good at it. So, there were little tricks that they knew from 11 seasons and Brett and Cara had to find it out the hard way this season. I don't think it's any kind of depiction of what kind of trainers anybody is on the show.

Question:
Can you talk about the changes that you've recognized in yourself the most?

Austin Andrews:
I would definitely say the confidence is what I've seen change. And it's actually something that I didn't notice as much. It was something that everyone at home noticed when I went home for the at-home week where we train at home in the mid-season. And then when I got home after Week 19. Everyone has commented on the fact that I walk into rooms differently and I do. I attribute it to my experience on the ranch. To be able to find within yourself a value and find kind of a worthiness of not only the show itself but a worthiness of being healthy, a worthiness of being valuable to society and being valuable to the people around you. That's something that really has changed how I walk into every room, how I step into every situation that I step into now and, yes, I really do attribute that kind of change and that mentality that's different in me to my time on the ranch and to my time training with Brett and my time spent with like Justin and Moses.

Question:
Do you allow yourself a cheat day and what do you indulge in?

Austin Andrews:
You know what, we do on the show and it's an indulgence of like quantity not necessarily awful foods. Don't get me wrong, everyone's going to have that little slice of brownie or something like that but most of the time when we do a cheat day or we do a day where we'll, we call it a high-calorie day, just have a little bit more of the quantity of the kind of food that we eat. So, it just comes down to the quantity more than anything else.

Question:
You've come so far since you first arrived at the ranch and you've inspired and touched so many viewers, how does it feel to know that you're such an inspiration to others?

Austin Andrews:
The thought that people like know me. That's just a strange place to get home to and so it's actually been one of the most interesting things to get used to but it's also really empowering because I know that my journey wasn't just something that I got to be a part of. It ends up being kind of an empowering moment where I realized that my stories not just mine now. It's a story that I've gotten to share with millions and it's a story that I'm going to get to use to try and help as many people as I can. So that's...It's kind of an empowering thing but it's also very strange.

Question:
What has been the best part of all the weight loss for you?

Austin Andrews:
Well I know you get this one all the time to this kind of a question but I cannot wait to hit up roller coasters. One of the worst experiences in my life was when I was a senior in high school and I showed up at Six Flags for the Senior Day and I could not ride one roller coaster with any of my friends. So, I cannot wait to hit up a theme park.

But when it comes to day-to-day living it's things as simple as being able to take a walk with a special someone, being able to go on a hike, being able to go on a run, being able to go on a bike ride with people that I hang out with and there's a great lake just 20 minutes biking from my house and I would have to drive there and meet my friends who all biked there because I was so unfit before the show. And so now I get to participate in a lot of the activities that people that I love already participate in.

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