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The Biggest Loser Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is an interview with Ben Shuh on January 4, 2012 about the show The Biggest Loser.

Ben Shuh

Question:
How hard was it to make the decision after everything it must take to get on The Biggest Loser, to choose to walk away?

Ben Shuh:
It was very difficult either way to decide to go or to decide to stay. It's probably the hardest part of the show is you work so hard to get on there and it's such a blessing and a gift that you're given to be on the show, and you're all there to lose weight and do it for the right reasons.

I guess I underestimated that prior to going to the show that I you know, it would just be so hard to be able to put someone's name down and vote someone off. So for me, when we were all you know, conversing in our deliberation room, just listening to everyone's story and doing that, I just felt like for me it was the right decision to do.

Question:
You had an amazing weight loss for that first week. What things did you learn at the ranch that made it come together for you so quickly?

Ben Shuh:
It was really shocking actually. The whole experience was you go from sedentary to full on active and you know athletic things every single day. So, I think my body just was kind of shocked into doing that. But you learn everything from how to exercise, when to exercise, what to eat, and how to eat to fuel your body to do that, so it's an all day thing where you're in this perfect bubble for learning about you know how to feed and fuel your body and how to exercise it as well. So you know even though it was just a week, I did learn just stuff I had never learned before.

Question:
You're still in that mode at home now?

Ben Shuh:
Absolutely, yes. I've carried everything I learned there home with me, and it's been great.

Question:
Fair or not, we've seen this season after season. It seems like people who express the desire to go home early on in the game, that's like the kiss of death for the viewers. They get all angry because in their eyes, you took away someone else's opportunity or you didn't appreciate the opportunity that you had there. What do you say to all those people who would label you a quitter?

Ben Shuh:
I guess you can't please everybody. I can only do what I felt like was best for me and my family. As far as taking the opportunity lightly, I don't think I did. I still continue not to do that. Everything I've learned, I've carried home with me. But you know, I don't think it was quitting so much as it was you know, just the right thing for me and my family to do. I guess everyone goes home.

I understand there's a game aspect involved with The Biggest Loser, but everyone that gets on there is blessed with what they're given. But you know for me, the opportunity to be on there was never about winning a show, or winning money, or you know competing in a competition. It was about going to try and you know, win back my health and my fitness.

And so you know, everyone goes home eventually, whether it's week one or even the ultimate person. I think it's a lifelong deal. So you know, the things I learned there I do believe that I will be carrying with me for the rest of my life, and that's a good thing.

Question:
It said in your transformation at the end that your goal is to lose 150 pounds. Do you kind of feel like you have something to prove because you made that declaration on the ranch that you had learned it, and you were going to do it, and you seemed really confident about your verdict to do it at home. So does that give you kind of a little sense of urgency or maybe a chip on your shoulder about what you want to prove by finale?

Ben Shuh:
More to prove to myself than necessarily anyone else I guess. It's I think everyone who struggles with weight struggles with it on a one-on-one basis, and it's something I do feel like you know, will be something I will struggle with for the rest of my life. So that is my goal weight or better. I'd love to do better, but you know I've kind of set my goal at 150 pounds, and you know that's definitely what I'll be shooting for. Because I'm competitive. I would like to see myself do that, and then show that yes. You know, what I did learn was even though it was just a week, I really think I learned enough to carry it home with me and make the finale at that number.

Question:
This season was called the season of no excuses, so can you tell us what you think your biggest excuses were for your weight gain?

Ben Shuh:
I would say my biggest excuses were always time. In one way or another, it was always the time. I went through a divorce in 2002 and was a single dad from 2002 until I met my wife a few years back, and that's roughly about six or seven years I was a single dad of four. And you know, worked 50-60 hours a week every week, and so it always seemed to me like you know couldn't afford a babysitter. Didn't have the time to go get one and go work out. And so you know when you're a single dad and raising four kids, you're sort of last on the list.

And unfortunately, getting married didn't really help that either. We added four more to our family and then we then had one together and one more on the way. So time definitely didn't get any better. And then you wanted to spend time with your new wife and family, and there's always a kid's sporting event or always something else that you were required to do or wanted to do to be there for your family. So it just seemed like my health or my fitness, or you know working out, that sort of stuff, was always the last on my list. And then the bigger I got, the harder it seemed like that would be to start and to go back to.

Question:
You said last night that you came alive the week you were on the ranch, and you want to share that with your family. Can you talk about how you're doing that or how you plan to do that?

Ben Shuh:
Yes. It was quite interesting to see. My first workout was obviously rough as you guys could see. And I was not ready physically or mentally for that. But every workout thereafter, I just seemed to get better and do it more intense or harder, or be able to go just a little bit longer. And things that I hadn't done since basically high school, I started to feel like I could do it again. Started to get the competitive juices flowing. Just really wanting to test myself and say, hey - you know, I was able to walk up hill at this speed you know, yesterday. Let me try and go faster today, or let me try and you know, run. Running is something I hadn't done since high school either. So it was just exciting for me to see the things that I was able to do in the gym.

And then, I've actually taken that home, and I like to get out and play with my kids and do things that are active and see like you know, can I run a little bit further today than I did yesterday? Can I lift a little bit more weight today than I did yesterday? So it was just very exciting to get that competitive feel again that I had. It had been such a long time since I did.

Question:
You talked about some of the excuses that you had before that revolved around time. Nothing has changed. You still have a house full of kids, now what do you do? How do you get around all that?

Ben Shuh:
When I came home, I was like, ???Wow. The exact same things that were here when I left are still here.??? And so you know, I think the thing that changed me most and sort of clicked into my head was we went and saw my brother's heart scan and got the news that you know, this is where you're headed sort of thing if you don't take care of this now.

I think as a big person, you always know that you know, being unhealthy there's all these health risks and stuff, but you don't really kind of internalize it or think, ???Oh, it's going to happen to me???. And then when I see my brother, someone I looked up to and you know, wanted to be just like - I played the same sports. Always thought he was really cool, and you know just a great guy and wanted to be just like him.

And then, I see that, ???Hey, the decisions that he's made have effected in a way that could result in a very you know, untimely end,??? or you know, just heart problems or things of that nature. And so it sort of clicked with me there. It was like you know, the time factor was my biggest one. And I'd say, ???You know, if the end result is I could really injure myself or potentially die young,??? it's funny how I've been able to find the time since coming home to go to the gym and do things. It's - you know, I mean no TV or things along those lines, and getting up a little bit earlier to kind of get the workout done prior to going to work and all that.

But you know, or even in my case, I've been able to include my kids in my workout. We have a home gym at home, and so I've been able to kind of go down and we'll do circuit training together, and it's fun just to get down there with them so I'm spending time with them and I'm also working out, so it's kind of killing two birds with one stone sort of thing. So you know, when you know that the problem could lead to a bigger problem or death, it really kind of clicks to you that the excuses are just that.

Question:
Can you talk about your daily routine? Your daily workout and diet workout routine? You have a fairly aggressive goal for the finale, so what is the typical day look like for you both in terms of working out and what calorie count you're trying to hit.

Ben Shuh:
Well, they give us very specific calorie counts based on our body scans they did out there. So my calorie count was 1800-2000 calories a day, depending on how strenuous the exercise is. If I feel like I need to eat a little bit more than I can, but obviously I want to make sure that I'm burning a set amount of calories every single day.

They give us these nice things called My Tracks or Slim Coaches; I don't know what they refer to them on the show as, but basically it calculates how much I'm burning every single day. So a typical day for me is you know get up early, head to the gym and do you know, a couple hours of cardio. Maybe another 30 minutes or an hour of like weight training or circuit training. So trying to get in two or three hours a day.

And then typically at night, it's going out and playing with the kids. And then after dinner we have a two mile walk through my subdivision that me and my wife will do after dinner time. So it's usually about three hours of really aggressive training every single day, and then just light you know, walking and things of that nature outside of that.

Question:
How much contact you guys have with any past contestants or alums, like when you guys head home for support?

Ben Shuh:
We have lots of contact actually. We have weekly conference calls that all the eliminated players participate in for our season, and then a lot of past seasons have come on and they give us advice and kind of what they did when they went home and those sort of things. I've also been in contact here in Michigan with (Pete Thomas) who was the Season 2 At Home winner, and he's been a really good help to me on things that he did and exercises that he's doing. And you know, diets that you know he was working on and things of that nature. So it's sort of a great big family and everyone kind of supports anyone who's been on there, so it's been very good.

Question:
Why did you actually fall on the sword and go home after the first week?

Ben Shuh:
I think I underestimated two things before going out there. I hadn't watched the show all that much to be perfectly honest with you, and so the twist sort of you know for me played a little bit into it. I really thought that it'd be myself and my brother, and I wasn't sure how eliminations and all those things worked prior to going on the show.

But I thought that you know with the two of us being so large and whatever, it would be several weeks before we were potentially even up for elimination, because I knew it'd be a hard decision for me to say that I was more important than somebody else to you know still be there, and all those sort of things. So I definitely underestimated that part of it.

And then also I underestimated how hard it would be to do this without my wife and my kids. And that's sort of what I'm about. I don't have these lofty ambitions to do you know, crazy things. My thing is I want to be the best dad and best husband that I can be. And it's sort of like you know, it doesn't happen really until I can share it with my wife. And when you have no contact with your wife or your kids, and be able to share your day with them and kind of go through you know your successes and your failures, it was really tough and a lot tougher than I thought it would be going out there.

And the too, going into our elimination, it was really we all worked and did everything that was required of us that week. There was no clear cut person in my opinion that didn't work as hard as me. Not everyone had the same weight loss, but you know everyone worked and did everything that was required of them and then some. And we were working out with the trainers, without the trainers, all day long, and everyone ate what they were supposed to eat and did what they were supposed to do. So it just made it really a tough decision to decide who should go home? And so for me, it was like I felt like I had gotten enough and I could do this from home. It's defiantly been more challenging at home, but I definitely still think I'm on the right path to succeed my 150 pound weight loss goal.

Question:
You mentioned that you were working with your brother. Were you able to say anything to him while you guys were still at the weigh in and give him any idea that you were going to be the one leaving?

Ben Shuh:
No. Once the weigh in is over, my team had to go and deliberate and decide who we were going to send home, and then his team is sequestered from us. So unfortunately, I did not get a chance to talk to him.

Question:
What was it like to train with Bob Harper?

Ben Shuh:
It was a definitely eye opening experience. He's a wonderful guy. You know, I know at one point in the show I said he was an evil man, and I think that was after workout one though, where I wasn't really coherent after that workout.

But you know, he's definitely motivating and he'll be really hard on you when you need it. And then when you're needing that encouragement or that word of you know, ???Go get ???em,??? kind of thing, he definitely knows when to do that. But just a great guy and a fantastic trainer. I defiantly learned just a ton from being with him, and feel so blessed that I was able to have him as my trainer.

Question:
How did the news that there were no partners effect you?

Ben Shuh:
We were going in planning on being together, and so I don't think I understood it right away when they first told us. Again, it was at the end of the first workout, so I was sort of you know a little bit out of it. But after the fact, it really effected I think both of us because on one hand you're saying, ???Okay, if my team can win, then that means potentially my brother every single week that we win could be up for elimination to go home.???

So it was sort of like I don't mind competing against him in a pick-up game of basketball or things like that, but when the stakes are your life and your health, it sort of made it really tough to try and say, ???Okay. I really want to do as good as I can. But at the same time if I do, that could potentially send my brother home.??? And obviously you know, I love my Black Team members and all that, but I went there with my brother, and I obviously want to see him succeed to do everything that he you know, needs to do to become healthy and all that. So it was defiantly a tough twist for me to swallow.

Question:
Ben, where do you see yourself in five years as far as being healthy goes?

Ben Shuh:
My hope in five years is I've always said I think ultimately for me, my weight should be somewhere between 220 or less. I think that would be a healthy weight range for myself. I've always said at one time in my life I'd like to get down to 199 again just to say I was in the 100's, but I'm pretty tall so I'd be okay with 220 or less for the rest of my life.

Five years from now, I just see maintaining weight loss and health and fitness, as well as my wife is an avid runner. She typically runs like 5k's and all that, and that used to be something that when she would you know, go sign up and do one, I would just be like, ???You know, that's something I'm never going to do.??? I would like to actually do those with her. I'm not sure if I would really like it, but I would definitely like to do something like that together and just being healthy and just never be big again. I don't want to go back down the road that I was. There's nothing good there.

Question:
Do you think that most of you know, the issues that you face, do you think it's a mind thing as far as weight loss? Do you think it's a mind thing?

Ben Shuh:
For me it definitely was a mind thing. I think growing up, we always ate bad. That we were always were fit as children because we always played sports and that sort of kept our bodies in check. But once the sports went away and not learning to enjoy exercising - we always exercised, but it was always for you know and end. So for wrestling, it was to win a State title, or to win a match, or you know football to win a game and stuff. So once that was over, I didn't really learn the experience of enjoying exercise or why I was doing this exercise. So once the season was over, so was the exercise. And so I definitely am looking forward to enjoying exercise and making it a part of my daily routine just because it's enjoyable.

Question:
Thank you so much for your time Ben.

Question:
You did a great job of explaining difficult the twist is, because if you're trying as hard as you can, which theoretically is the goal, that could ultimately spell disaster for your partner on the other team. As a result, do you think that is a twist that goes too far? That maybe that just kind of crosses the line and is unfair on a show that says its goal is all about health and fitness?

Ben Shuh:
That's a good question. I hadn't really thought of that. I don't know that it crosses the line. I understood the reasoning behind it. I guess the reason behind it was you know, here you are with a family member that obviously hasn't helped you to do healthy choices and you know, make the right decisions. They haven't pushed you in the right direction. They've sort of enabled you if you will to be unhealthy. And so I understood from that aspect that you know, they were trying to say, ???Okay. This should be about you. That we know you're coming on as a couple, but it should be about you.???

And the other thing that I think will be a positive from it will be you know, he got to have a different trainer than I did, and Bob and Dolvett are both great, but both of them do things differently. And so my hope is you know, that things that he learned he can share with me, and things that I learned I can share with him. And for the rest of our lives, we'll both be blessed because we were able to do that. So I don't think it necessarily crossed the line. It definitely was hard and it totally threw my mindset you know out of whack because of it. But I understand you know, the twist and I'm not bent out of shape about it or anything like that.

Question:
You mentioned like that Bob and Dolvett are there, but I was wondering how you think it is different without having a female trainer on campus?

Ben Shuh:
I hadn't watched the show all that much. I've heard of Jillian prior to this, or Anna I know was last year or whatever. Yes, so I don't really know because I don't have a frame of reference for it. I can say that since I've been home, I've had a female trainer at Planet Fitness, and she really kicks my butt just as much as they did. So I don't think it really mattered whether it was female or male on the show. It was hard nonetheless

Question:
Who do you see as like a large threat to go all the way this season after your first week?

Ben Shuh:
I definitely have to go with my brother. Even though I was Black Team and he was Red Team, I'm Team Brown all the way, so I think my brother was the biggest there. He also was a former athlete and very talented at that, so I think once his body starts to remember what it was like to do these types of you know, physical activities, I really see him as a big threat. And I really hope he does go all the way.

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