“Self-doubt is why people have a hard time losing weight; they don’t have the confidence they should. Fad diets don’t work – a lifestyle change does. You can’t let yourself feel defeated.” – Bill Germanakos
These words of advice come from my friend Bill Germanakos, who shed 164 pounds to become the Season 4 winner of NBC’s The Biggest Loser. His story is truly inspirational.
Bill was honest and emotional when we spoke in his Lynbrook, Long Island, home…
“I went to Six Flags amusement park and was asked to leave the rollercoaster because the seat belt would not fit over my belly. I cannot begin to tell you the embarrassment I felt. It was my Ah-Ha moment when my daughter leaned over and whispered, ‘It’s OK daddy, I still love you.’ It was then that I knew something had to change.
“I was 5’8” and weighed 334 pounds. The doctor said I was morbidly obese and would likely die before I was sixty. I realized I was following in the footsteps of my dad, who passed when he was only 57 years old. He always struggled with his weight.
“I was somewhat heavy as a young child, but was very athletic as a teen. While in college on a lacrosse scholarship, I was injured, and at the age of 18, had to have major knee surgery. I got very depressed and became a couch potato—I gained 75 pounds in one semester.
“By 26, I weighed 285 pounds. But I hit my top weight when I turned 40—tipping the scales at 335 pounds! My blood pressure and cholesterol were through the roof. I was pre-diabetic and at severe cardiac risk.
“Then my life changed with the opportunity to be on NBC’s reality weight loss show The Biggest Loser. Funny thing is, I didn’t even apply to the show. It was my twin brother Jim who applied for both season three and four, and once he mentioned he had a twin, they decided to bring both of us into the competition. For me, being on the show was like being in jail. I really missed my family, but I was determined to change my life, given such a rare opportunity.
“I had all the incentive that I needed – I wanted to walk both of my daughters down the aisle at their weddings, but was heading in the wrong direction.
“Was I prepared for the competition on the show? Let me put it this way: Both my parents’ families were from Sparta, Greece, so I am 100% Spartan. The phrase we live by is ‘You either win or die trying.’
“I was one of 18 contestants on the fourth season. I lost 164 pounds—more than 49% of my starting weight—reaching 170 pounds, I won the first prize of $250,000.
“Perhaps one of the biggest issues people deal with is how to lose weight and keep it off. While many of us continue to try fad diets, we never actually get educated about how to live a healthy lifestyle. My attitude was to turn myself over to the professionals on the show – to put the onus on them to teach me how to lose weight the right way. I vowed that I’d do whatever they said to do, and would work harder than anyone else in order to stay on the ranch.
“Self-doubt is a main reason why people have a hard time losing weight. They lack the confidence to realize what they are capable of. Fad diets don’t work; a lifestyle change does. You can’t let yourself feel defeated. It just takes hard work and the willingness to get out of your comfort zone. My mantra on the show was: ‘To become half the man, so that I could be twice the man.’
“As far as I’m concerned, anything you want to accomplish in life requires people that will stick with you and will support you and your efforts. Weight loss, like anything else, takes a willingness to make sacrifices.
‘When considering my diet, I was taught to change how I viewed food. I learned to shift from harping on all the things I couldn’t eat, to appreciating all the great foods I could eat. It’s all in your attitude and mindset. I like to think that my cup is always half full.
“Chasing your goals cannot be something you do only when the rest of your life allows for it. Rather, the pursuit of your dreams should be something that you dedicate yourself to on a daily basis.
“As my brother Jim says, ‘The hardest part of any self-improvement plan is overcoming the inevitable stumbles along the way. It’s ok to fall down, as long as you get up and continue forward.’
“Have a plan! Just saying that you want to lose weight doesn’t mean it will happen. Lay the groundwork to success by detailing exactly how you will reach your goals. Then get to a doctor for guidance and ask for a referral to a professional, registered dietician.
“Be honest and keep a food journal; once you see what you’ve been putting in your body, you’ll feel the need to get moving and to keep moving.
“You have to STOP MAKING EXCUSES! If you don’t like running, try walking. If you don’t like lifting weights, try ‘hot yoga.’ If you can’t afford a trainer, buy an exercise video you can follow in the privacy of your home. You see? There’s a good answer for every excuse.
“My dad always said, ‘If you want to get something done, you first have to get it started.’ These are the words I try to live by. If today was a bad day, start again tomorrow. Don’t let a minor setback ruin all your hard work, and always remember that the best pound lost is the first pound.
“Now taking care of myself is mandatory—it’s a complete lifestyle change. I’m even a little selfish, always making sure I get my workout in. As my trainer on The Biggest Loser told me: ‘If you don’t take care of number one, who will?’
“My goal now is to help enlighten others with my knowledge, while not forgetting what I learned to be happy and healthy for the rest of my life.
“I am motivated by people who lead with their hearts and people who have dealt with great adversity, and still have succeeded. My desire is to ‘pay it forward,’ to become ‘half the man so I can be twice the man,’ and to give back to family, friends and my career.”
Today, Bill works in the corporate wellness field and is a professional motivational speaker. He has acted as a “Wellness Ambassador” and spokesman for several large companies and organizations, and is a frequent guest on well-known shows such as Dr. Oz, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Today Show.
Both Bill and Jim spent a year starring in the off-Broadway production, The Diet Show, and they operate a great web-site that offers weight loss tips and advice:www.weightlosstwins.com. You can also follow Bill on twitter @BiggestLoser4BG.
Copyright 2014 Jerry Gladstone