As the Season 6 winner of NBC’s hit reality The Biggest Loser, Michelle Aguilar inspires people globally with her powerful story. Her new book, Becoming Fearless, is about having faith in God when you’ve lost faith in yourself. Entertainment editor Evan Derrick caught up with her to discuss the show and her book.
What was your experience like on The Biggest Loser?
It’s hard to explain it briefly but the experience overall I think, not only did it show me that I was capable of more than I believed I was but it also helped me to truly find kind of myself and I learned to change from the inside out. I think most people look at The Biggest Loser – they are thinking weight loss, they are thinking numbers, they are thinking working out and eating right and it’s full of all those things and all that you would expect from it. I think what I gained most is the unexpected and I think just the life change that happened because of it.
Is there a distinct parallel between things like fear, depression, family issues, emotional issues and the problem some people having with losing weight?
Absolutely. I recognized pretty quickly that it wasn’t just about eat less, move more, but that there is a huge emotional connection that happens between people and food. For me, I think my background growing up in a Christian ministry minded home, I didn’t have the urge when things went wrong to go running to drugs and alcohol but I kind of did the safest thing which in my mind was food. I didn’t know that I was doing it but I found myself at a place where I was turning to food for comfort much like I think an alcoholic does with drinks and so it was my way of coping with the pain. So I absolutely would agree that the two go hand in hand.
When did you realize that understanding that connection was going to be a large part of the secret to losing weight?
I definitely learned that lesson at The Biggest Loser. I think some people probably just want to work on the physical and I think there are others who go through The Biggest Loser and recognize pretty quickly that it goes hand in hand and I think having Jillian Michaels for a trainer definitely aids in that. She’s the one who kinds of wants to draw the parallel and see what’s going on in your life. So I think that kind of helped to make it very crystal clear for me.
Was there an “Aha” moment or a breakthrough where you kind of sat up and said “Oh!” or was it more gradual?
For me it was pretty quick. In about week four, I chipped my tooth and my smile had been one of those things that had kind of been a shield of protection and protected from the outside world as far as them knowing how depressed or sad I was. I assumed that as long as I was smiling and told people I was fine it was believable and that they would believe it, but when that smile was damaged by something as simple as my toot getting chipped during a challenge, I broke. I broke on the inside and I broke on the outside and from there I actually tried to quite the show. I tried to leave. I tried to run from all those emotions that were kind of smacking me right in the face and would openly have to have a little bit of a come to Jesus moment or say a little bit. I mean I had my bags packed and the car waiting, it was the midnight hour of “I’m leaving, I’m out of here, I don’t want to deal with this” and I think two nights before I had to make a final decision on camera, I had a breakthrough. I had a breakthrough that said “I need to stop running, I need to face these things, I need to work through these things” and [I realize] that what doesn’t kill you, is going to make you stronger and so I think just recommitting my life and my faith and all those things. …really not caring that there were cameras around and people watching me but just knowing that I needed a life change.
Were there any Bible verses that you used for support while you were on the show?
Yeah, I think the main verse would have to be Proverbs 3, 5 and 6 which is to “lean not on your own understanding and in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight.” Before Biggest Loser I was running on my own little path thinking that I could fix and I could cover everything and that it didn’t matter that God was trying to reach out and trying to make a connection with me and wanted to help me. I kept thinking everything is broken, everything is messy and I’ve got to fix it before coming back to God and so with that Scripture, it just kind of resonating with me I’m not supposed to do this on my own. I do need to lean on God and if I just acknowledge Him, He’s going to keep the path in front of me straight and I don’t have to worry like I have been about having the weight of the world on my shoulders and living some perfect life that’s just filled with brokenness. So I think that Scripture more than any really connected with me during that time.