Barbara, a recently divorced mother of four from Florida, admits that she eats all day long. "I'm never really hungry because I'm always eating," she says.
When Barbara gets home from work, she says her first stop is the refrigerator, which she stocks with junk food like corn dogs, tacos and burritos. Then, she makes herself comfortable on her bed, where she's within arm's reach of her snack stash. Barbara keeps her nightstand drawer filled with chocolate cookies, nuts and other high-fat foods. "This is my happiness every night," she says.
Although Barbara, who recently turned 50, loves to laugh and make jokes, she says her smile hides her pain. "I think a lot of [the joking] is a way to hide the sadness I have inside of me," she says. "Do you really think I want to look like this? I don't."
Barbara says the extra 50 pounds she's carrying around makes it difficult to walk without breathing heavily. Her health problems can also be attributed to another bad habit: smoking. For the past 30 years, she's been smoking at least a pack a day.
Last year, after Barbara's husband left her, she says she made a decision to change her life. Now, with the right diet and exercise plan, Barbara is on the right track. "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired of being fat," she says. "I deserve better for myself."
There was a time when Melissa, a stay-at-home mom from Salt Lake City, could call herself a rock climber, mountain biker, beauty queen and model.
Now, 90 pounds heavier than she was when she competed in the Miss Utah pageant, Melissa says the extra weight is affecting her physically and emotionally. "I don't feel sexy anymore," she says. "The extra weight makes me feel slow. I just feel like I can't get going."
Melissa says she remembers feeling beautiful and elegant as a size 8. As a size 18, she says it's a struggle just to get out bed in the morning. "I think that deep down there's a sad part of my heart that knows I could be doing so much better in all aspects of my life if I was fit, if I was in shape, if I was eating healthier," she says.
What motivated Melissa to sign up for the Best Life Weight Loss Challenge? "My kids are one of the main reasons I want to lose weight…so that I can be totally present and totally there for them," she says.
Melissa admits that she's been "checked out" at home. When she hears her 2-year-old son calling for her in the morning, she says she gets up and gets him breakfast and then sometimes goes back to bed.
After hearing about Bob's Best Life Diet on The Oprah Show, Melissa says she was determined to wake up the next morning and make a change. "Someone on the show said, 'If you don't have motivation, start doing it and you'll get the motivation,'" she says. "So I decided I would start doing it."
When LaToya, a 32-year-old student living in New York City, isn't studying for her PhD in psychology, she's out on the town with friends. "I enjoy restaurants and socializing with my family and friends," she says.
If LaToya's not eating out, she's usually ordering in. She says her idea of a balanced diet is having plenty of menus in the apartment. "Takeout menus are my life!" she says.
LaToya also keeps exercise equipment in her apartment, but she says her elliptical machine mainly serves as a makeshift coatrack.
For years, LaToya says she's struggled with her weight and feelings of insecurity. "Being single in this city, having the social life that I have has made me realize that there are so many beautiful men around, and I love beautiful men," she says. "[But] I feel very self-conscious around them. I immediately think that they couldn't be interested in me."
A month before starting the Best Life Diet, LaToya says she heard Oprah say that she wasted her entire 30s worrying about her weight. "It hit me like a ton of bricks," she says. "That was it for me, I didn't want that. … I don't want to spend this time worrying about something I have control over."
After hearing about Bob's new diet plan, Tracy, a married computer software project manager from Chicago, says she went out and bought batteries for her scale. "I put them in my scale and then nearly fell over," she says. "I realized I weighed 239 pounds."
Although Tracy has been heavy her whole life, she says it was especially hard to feel fat on her wedding day. "I was worried if the cameraman was going to catch my double chin, if he was going to get a bulge of fat at the top of my dress," she says.
Now, Tracy says her weight is starting to affect her marriage. "It feels terrible to feel like the whole world thinks that you're not as attractive as your husband," she says. "I make a conscious effort [to make] sure that I'm getting dressed when he's not around. I don't want him to see me. Why show him something that's going to possibly make him love me less?"
Tracy says she thinks about being overweight every day…and she's tired of feeling that way. "When I got on the scale and saw [the number] … I really made a promise to myself," she says. "No more lies. No more antics. No more starting a diet tomorrow."
Bill, a father of two from Boston, knows the value of exercise—he owns four health clubs! Despite his access to exercise equipment, Bill now weighs 293 pounds. "I feel like a fraud when I go into my business," he says.
Driving from club to club, Bill does most of his eating in the car. Fast food wrappers, soda bottles and the fruit he was supposed to eat are strewn all over the floorboard as evidence.
At home, Bill's wife is eight months pregnant with their third child, but he jokes that people keep asking him when he's due. When he married his wife Kerry, he weighed just 175 pounds. "We don't even have our wedding picture up because you wouldn't believe it was him," Kerry says. "It's a dramatic change."
A few weeks before embarking on the Best Life Weight Loss Challenge, Bill started sleeping in his home's office. His snoring, which is exacerbated by obesity, was keeping his wife awake at night. "[It] puts a tremendous strain on our relationship," he says. "[It's] a very sad state to say I can't control my eating that I'm now living in the office."
With his health and his marriage at stake, Bill says he knew he couldn't continue living like this. "My wife said to me, 'I'm looking forward to a point where I can believe you when you say you're going to do something,'" he says. "'Even more than that, I am excited for you to be able to believe yourself.'"
From the time Tori, a 41-year-old artist and mother of two, was a little girl, she says she's always considered herself "chubby."
"I've always had a weight issue," she says. "In my mind, I was always known as 'the girl with the pretty face.' I would think … 'but she has such an ugly body.'"
When Tori passes a store window or a mirror, she never turns to check out her reflection. "I just don't like the silhouette that I see," she says.
Tori says she feels good when she's creating art because she's judged by her body of work, not by how she looks. "I feel like people would probably love me so much more if I was in shape," she says. "I'm a great mom, I feel like I'm a great wife, but I feel like I don't take enough time to concentrate on me."
Over the years, Tori says she's put so much emphasis on caring for her family that she's forgotten to do what's best for her…but not anymore! "With this opportunity, I'm just going to take full advantage of it," she says.
Even before their first meeting with Bob, we send the six challengers to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago for a battery of tests. Bob says it's critical to get checked by a doctor before embarking on a weight loss plan.
After the group is pricked, pinched, prodded and measured, Dr. Martha Gulati clears everyone to start on the challenge…with one exception. Bill's electrocardiogram, which measures heart activity, is abnormal and his blood pressure is dangerously high.
Bill says he knows the cause. In the rush of getting chosen for the challenge and coming to Chicago, he'd forgotten to take his prescription blood pressure medication.
When Bill hears his test results, he is seriously worried he'll have to drop out before he even begins. "I'm lying there on the table and they're telling me that you may not be able to do this," he says. "Ironically, because of my health, I couldn't participate in this amazing opportunity to be healthier."
Fortunately, after taking his medication, Bill's blood pressure lowers, and with lower test results, Dr. Gulati clears him to continue.
Now the full results are in and Dr. Gulati has some news for the six challengers that they probably don't want to hear—all six are classifiably obese, not just overweight. "That means that your body mass index is greater than 30," she says. If their BMIs were between 25 and 30, they would be classified as overweight not obese, Dr. Gulati says.
To confirm the dispiriting diagnosis of obesity, Dr. Gulati says she also measured each person's body fat. An ideal measurement would be between 16 and 20 percent body fat. Meanwhile, "everyone is more than 40 percent body fat," she says. "Tracy will be shocked to hear she's almost half body fat."
Of course, the challengers aren't alone. "This is how America looks. And actually, 60 percent of America is overweight or obese. We're getting worse and worse. It's an epidemic in the United States both in children and adults."
The other lifestyle change that Bob demands of the challengers is that if they smoke, they have to stop. Barbara, who has a 30-year pack-a-day habit, is going to be on Bob's watch list. And if she thinks she'll be able to get around it, Oprah says Barbara will learn the hard way that she won't. "I have to tell you, I've known Bob for 15 years. He has the highest sensitivity to anybody smoking that I've ever seen. If somebody has smoked in the last two weeks in the yard, he can tell that they were there."
Barbara says her last cigarette was "this morning."
"That has to be your last cigarette. I'm serious. There is no tolerance. You have to quit to be on this program," Bob says. "I say this to everyone. Honesty is the first step to making these changes in your life."
The participants meet Bob at Chicago's East Bank Health Club, where they hop on the treadmills for their first workout. Bob also wants them on treadmills so he can assess their fitness levels and identify any "red flags" that could make future advancement difficult.
"I almost always find flags when I talk to somebody, and I didn't have any with Tori," Bob says. "I think she's emotionally strong and ready to make the changes."
"You gave me a bear hug, picked me up like I weighed about 10 pounds, so the exercise isn't going to be a problem. But [the extent that] you're struggling with your weight means there's something deep on the eating side. Really uncovering that is important," Bob says.
"The first day, people are a ball of energy. 'I'll do whatever it takes.' But there was really a resistance [for Tracy] to the exercise, and that's a big concern on Day 1. … A woman in particular needs to work out or do something active five times a week for 30 minutes."
"On paper, LaToya looks like no problem," Bob says. "The only problem I saw was that you're young, you're living in the city, you're pursuing your dream of an advanced degree. Everything should be on all cylinders. There's some reason it's not, and that's what you're going to need to tap into."
"There's a passion required to get the results you want that was missing. There was something missing that I couldn't put my finger on," Bob says. "You're going to need to tap into that passion and make it strong every day of your life to do the things you need to do."
"Barb has a long journey," Bob says. "The facts are you're a smoker for 30 years, that's a big negative. It's going to be tough for you to quit. But on top of smoking, you're … a compulsive eater. … Those are coping mechanisms to get you past certain moments that must be painful."
To achieve results, Bob says you should assess your own current fitness level and then "go a couple levels above and have a structured workout in addition to the regular activities you get every day."
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