Man loses 147 pounds on ‘Biggest Loser'

Published: Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 5:37 p.m.

When former Florida State University lineman Joe Ostaszewski got the idea to start the Wear Your Soul foundation to combat childhood obesity in 2001, he let the idea sit.


By the end of his time on "The Biggest Loser," Joe Ostaszewski was 147 pounds lighter. (Photo courtesy of NBC)


How he did it

Joe Ostaszewski went from 364 pounds to 220 by the end of “The Biggest Loser.” His advice:

  • Find a physical activity you enjoy. It feels less like exercising and more like relaxing, Ostaszewski said. He likes biking.

  • Start small. Walk one mile a day, then two. Then start running.

  • Act in moderation. Ostaszewski said he stays healthy but still participates in activities like tailgating at Gator football games. If you cut out your favorite activities, he said, getting healthy becomes more like a chore and becomes less desirable.

Meanwhile, Ostaszewski packed on weight. By the time the Williston local decided to try out for NBC's "The Biggest Loser," he weighed 364 pounds and began having complications associated with obesity — sleep apnea, hypertension, high cholesterol.

"I wanted to teach kids how to get active and have fun being active," Ostaszewski said, "but I wasn't leading by example."

When Ostaszewski saw his father on the operating table for his fourth quadruple bypass surgery, he realized unless he changed his lifestyle, he would be the next one in line to get his chest cracked open.

The moment inspired him to try out for "The Biggest Loser," where he would spend five to six hours a day exercising and curbing his calorie count. By the end of the show, Ostaszewski would be 147 pounds lighter, healthier and more focused to make his foundation soar.

In the United States, more than 35 percent of the adult population is classified as obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cutoff is having a body mass index of 30 or higher. The CDC reports that the obesity rate among children has more than doubled during the last 30 years, jumping from 7 percent in 1980 to 18 percent in 2010.

When Ostaszewski began exercising during his time on the show, he said his body tried to reject the workouts. He was sore at the end of each day, and the shift to eating healthy foods made him feel sick rather than well.

"My trainer kept saying, ‘I need you to see the big picture. Once you see it, this will be worth it,' " Ostaszewski said.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle means more than exercising regularly, said Sarah Snyder, director of the sports nutrition staff for athletics at the University of Florida. It also requires knowing how to eat.

"We say at Florida, ‘You can't out-train bad nutrition,' " Snyder said.

Snyder said that building a healthier body works in steps. Rather than cut out sugar entirely during the first week of a diet, she said, people should try eliminating soda during the first week. The next goal would be to decrease white refined sugars while introducing whole grain foods into their diet. If people keep track of their progress throughout the process, she said, that also can motivate people to stick with their plan.

"Nutrition isn't a monthlong plan," Snyder said, "but a lifelong change."

Ostaszewski said he discovered moderation is key.

His trainer taught him to look at food as fuel for the body. Ostaszewski learned a slice or two of pizza would satisfy him while also providing him with the right number of calories he needed to function.

That message, coupled with making exercise enjoyable, is what Ostaszewski wants to deliver through his Wear Your Soul campaign, which he hopes will launch this fall.

Ostaszewski, who runs the foundation with his brother, Henry, wants to pair up children as young as 6 and as old as 17 who are working to overcome obesity with university athletes across the nation. He has an idea that athletes will serve as mentors to these children, engaging them in activities like kayaking or rock climbing — sports that command energy, Ostaszewski said, but lack the embarrassment of being picked last in a physical education class or being stared at in the gym.

"We're working on a movement," Ostaszewski said. "We're working on changing America, and we want kids to realize they can be who they want to be."

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