The six challengers

When Oprah and fitness trainer Bob Greene issued a challenge to millions of viewers in January 2007, thousands asked to take part to lose weight. The six who were chosen represent the diverse backgrounds of everyone who struggles with their weight.

Barbara from Orlando is a 50-year-old divorced mother who used food and cigarettes to hide her pain.

Melissa from Salt Lake City is a former beauty queen turned stay-at-home mom who felt checked out from her own life.

LaToya from New York City is a PhD student who felt self-conscious about her weight.

Tracy from Chicago couldn't get any diet to stick.

Bill from Boston owns four health clubs, but he has gained more than 100 pounds since his wedding day.

Tori from Washington, D.C., is an artist and mother of two who puts so much emphasis on her family that she didn't take care of herself.

Bob says if you've been on fad diets before, his Best Life Diet might shock you at how slow the weight comes off. "You're used to maybe the first week on a very restrictive diet losing a lot of water weight, which is not what you want," he says. "You want to lose fat, and a pound or two a week is really what's perfect."

That, he says, is because it's a realistic way to lose weight and keep it off.
The challengers weigh in.

Now, three months—and countless hours spent in the gym and counting calories—after their first weigh in, the six challengers are back in black sports bras and bike shorts to show all they've lost!

"I know you're nervous, I can feel your heart beating over here," Oprah says.

In February 2007, Barbara weighed 231.6 pounds. Now, in May 2007, she weighs 221. She's lost 11.6 pounds.

Melissa started at 193.2 pounds. Now she weighs 179—a loss of 14 pounds, or about one pound every week. "That's perfect," Bob says.

LaToya started the Best Life Weight Loss Challenge at 189.9 pounds. Now she weighs 184 pounds—a loss of only 5.9 pounds in three months.

Tracy was once 237.6 pounds. Now she weighs 203.5 pounds—a loss of 34 pounds.

Bill weighed 293.3 pounds. He's lost 37 pounds and now weighs 258 pounds.

Tori's starting weight was 229.9 pounds. Now she weighs 210 pounds.
Dr. Martha Gulati tested the six challengers.

When they started in February 2007, all six challengers were more than overweight—they were classified as obese. Additionally, they lived in danger of serious health problems because of elevated cholesterol, prediabetic conditions and nearly double normal body fat. All but Melissa had high blood pressure.

Days before their second weigh in, all six challengers returned to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago for another battery of tests with Dr. Martha Gulati.

"This group is amazing. … They're a cardiologist's dream as a group," Dr. Gulati says. "They've lost weight, their blood pressure's gotten better, their cholesterol's gotten better. If all of my patients would do what I say—eat right, exercise—this would be amazing. You guys were great."
Barbara committed to quitting smoking.

In his initial analysis of his six challengers, Bob laid down the law on Barbara's 30-year-old pack-a-day smoking habit. He promised a zero-tolerance policy—one drag and she's out!

Bob says if you make a commitment to losing weight but keep on puffing, you're just setting yourself up for future failure when you do kick the butts. "You … lose weight and need to quit later, at which time you'll gain that weight back. So quit now," he says. "It's the most important thing you can do for your health."

Barbara says she made the commitment to quit right on the set of The Oprah Winfrey Show …but Bob wanted to be sure.

Did she really quit? Watch Bob's surprise visit to Barbara's house.

Just to be absolutely sure that she's quit, Dr. Gulati ran a special test on Barbara to see if she had any nicotine in her system…and Barbara passed. "I told you," Barbara says. "Can I do a happy dance?"

"Not only did she quit smoking, she said [she was] addicted to food," Bob says. "She gave up two vices and lost weight. Very unusual. It's great."
The challengers at Cal-a-Vie spa

Weeks into the Best Life Weight Loss Challenge, the six challengers packed their bags, flew to San Diego and climbed into a van. They had no idea where they were going or what was in store for them.

When they arrived, Bob was waiting for them.

"Let's start with the good news—you are at Cal-a-Vie, a world-class spa," Bob said. "Are you ready for the bad news? I can promise you you're going to work harder than you ever worked before in your life."

Watch how the six challengers spent their four days at Cal-a-Vie.

After assigning them daily calorie counts, Bob put the challengers through their paces with a dawn hike and a heavy-duty cardio workout…and that was just on day two!

There was more to this trip than butt-kicking workouts. Bob also took the time to dig deeper into the psyche of each challenger to find out why they'd been abusing themselves.
Barbara and Bob investigate her emotional eating.

For anyone struggling to lose weight, there's more to it than counting calories and exercising. Bob says that in order to lose weight and keep it off, you must get honest with yourself about why you abuse food.

While Barbara presents herself as a tough, funny person, Bob says he sees that she uses that front to hide deep pain and vulnerability. She says that pain—and a weight gain of 70 pounds—stems from a time during her third marriage when she was feeling extremely guilty. "At one point, he had convinced me to leave my children with their father. … I'm so sorry that I did that. I'm so embarrassed. I just made wrong choices for him."

Bob says that this realization was a vital step for Barbara's physical and emotional health. "[She] realized that she was using cigarettes and using food as a way to punish herself," he says. "And I think that's starting to unravel."
Melissa says she's not 'checked out' anymore.

Bob calls his one-on-one meeting with Melissa one of the most powerful sessions at the boot camp. Melissa, a former beauty queen, entertainer and athlete, says once she became a wife and mother, she became uninteresting. "I didn't know it at the time, but when I look back, I just died a little bit, you know?" she tells Bob. "I came to just the hugest recognition that I've been just insanely bored."

Melissa says her life changed once she stopped working, moved and began having babies. "Life gets a hold of you, and you forget to take care of yourself," she says. "It's all for the good of everyone around you. You think you're doing the right thing. But ultimately, you get 10 years down the road and you're checked out."

With a weight loss of 14 pounds so far, Melissa says she is a different person since beginning the program. "Being on the show three months ago, I was down. And I've struggled with that for almost 20 years, so it's not like I was just down for a couple months. It's really heavy with me," she says. "And if I can come out of it and be where I am today—and I still have a ways to go—anyone, anyone can do this."
Tracy says dedication has helped her lose the weight.

Bob says the first time he worked with Tracy, her hatred of exercise worried him. "That's a tough set of circumstances to have in place when you start on day one not willing to work out," Bob says. But in the first five weeks of the program, Tracy's weight loss was surprising—she had dropped 17 pounds!

Tracy says she believes her weight gain had something to do with rebellion. "My parents are very athletic," she says. "The comparison of parents that run marathons and a daughter who can't run a mile, it just becomes to me a void."

But with a weight loss of 34 pounds to date, Tracy has gotten over some of her rebellion—and her aversion to exercise. "I think it was really just about making the dedication, really, and making the decision to not self-destruct," Tracy says. "It was not that exercise was all that terrible. I said I really hated feeling like I was a failure at things, and I think exercise is something that the more you do it, if you're not feeling like it's tough, it's not working enough."
Tori tells Bob a childhood pain might have something to do with her weight.

Before Tori began the Best Life Weight Loss Challenge, she told the Oprah Show producers that she wasn't an emotional eater—she just ate the wrong foods. But Bob wasn't buying it. "I believe that no one's just overweight because they like certain foods," he says. "Always there's an emotional component, and I do feel Tori is unwilling to go to that place."

As Tori examined her feelings, she realized the attention people paid to her body when she was a child might have something to do with her weight gain. "I feel like as a young girl, my body was always being talked about, you know, 'That's a shapely little girl,'" she says. Tori says this kind of attention made her feel uncomfortable. "I don't know if I somewhat held onto some of my weight because of that—just like kind of a coat, so to speak," she says.

Now that she has lost 20 pounds, Tori is coming to terms with her body. "As I've gotten older and feeling more comfortable, and through this journey of really trying to lose this weight, I just feel like I'm at a point where I'm ready to take the coat off and show who I am," she says.

As for eating the wrong foods, Tori got an important lesson on portion sizes from Bob's book, The Best Life Diet. "I started looking at labels and reading portion sizes and thinking, 'Gosh, this portion you can only have a small amount, and it's a ton of calories,'" she says. "You don't realize how many times you're putting your hand in a bag of chips, or whatever. And that adds up."
Bill says he wants to commit to good choices for the rest of his life.

The only male challenger, Bill, says the Best Life Weight Loss Challenge isn't his first battle of the bulge—it's been a lifelong war. Bill says he put himself on his first diet at age 8. "I've lost the weight before. I've gone up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down," he says. "I've done the weight loss. I like the exercise. But I haven't found that key to keep it off."

At the boot camp, Bob asked each challenger to rate key areas of their lives—such as career, family, health and relationships—and Bill was the only one who scored every single section as negative. "I've never seen anyone rate every area of their life in a negative fashion," Bob says. "It just tells me nothing will ever be good enough."

Bill says that simple task was a wake-up call. "It's not that everything's bad. I have a great life," he says. "But I always feel like I'm falling short as a husband. I'm falling short as a father, as a businessman to my partners—every area. And my weight gain has just really been a big part of that, that I just kind of gave up on myself to focus on everything else, because I felt like I wasn't reaching anything."

Since beginning the challenge, Bill says he has begun to accept the slower progress of his weight loss—instead of the faster results of a yo-yo diet. "I've really tried to make the choice every time, whether it's eating or whether it's exercise, that I'm not going to do anything that I can't commit to for the rest of my life," he says. "Because otherwise my personality is going to do it all at once, and I'll burn out and crash."
LaToya says she can't explain why she hasn't lost more weight.

After 14 weeks in the Best Life Weight Loss Challenge, LaToya has lost 5.9 pounds—the least of all the challengers. Bob says he was encouraged by LaToya's enthusiasm at the beginning of the challenge, but then she became the only challenger to actually gain weight during the first five weeks.

Despite LaToya's insistence that she is dedicated, Bob says he doubts her commitment to the program. "When I look in LaToya's eyes, I don't see someone that's fully committed. I see someone justifying why they're living their life the way they are living it," Bob says.

While she was under lockdown at Cal-a-Vie, LaToya lost six pounds—and, weeks later, her total hasn't changed. LaToya says her clothes are fitting better, and she really can't explain her steady weight. "I don't eat out. I'm picking the groceries and cooking and packing lunches and things like that. That wasn't happening before. And working out in a way that I hadn't been before, working out five times a week," she says. "All those things are happening, but obviously there's something missing, and I'm open to hearing what those things are."

Bob says he believes LaToya thinks she is doing everything right—but that might not be the case. "Is she as committed as most of the other challengers? Absolutely not. I can guarantee she's [overreporting] the exercise, not on purpose … and not doing what she says she's doing, and perhaps even underreporting on the eating side. And I think it's about, 'This is great. I want to lose weight if it fits into my lifestyle, but I don't want to change too much of my lifestyle.'"
Bob Greene gives LaToya another chance.

LaToya says, at first, she might not have realized how much her life needed to change for her to succeed. "But since Cal-a-Vie—and I will say Cal-a-Vie was my breaking point, where Bob and I talked—I was like, 'You're right. This can't fit into my lifestyle. This has to be my lifestyle,'" she says.

LaToya's fellow challengers say they believe she is trying—but she might still be making some bad choices. "I think the more I read about eating out, I think that when we make choices that we think are healthy, they might not be as healthy as we think they are," Tracy says.

Melissa and Bill attest that LaToya has been doing some exercise. "We worked out last night, and it's the combination of the level of activity, like how hard she's pushing herself, because she hasn't done it before," Bill says.

So will LaToya be allowed to continue with the Best Life Weight Loss Challenge? "I say she stays and commits really hard to the program through the summer, and we'll see what happens in September," Bob says.

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