Last week I was able to participate in a conference call interview with Scott Mitchell and Lori Harrigan-Mack, the latest eliminated contestants from “The Biggest Loser.” Reporters from across the country were able to ask questions. Lori talked about her surprise of seeing Bob and Woody walk through the door from “Comeback Canyon,” and how she felt about Rob’s reaction, or over-reaction. Scott talked about his overcoming his concerns about publicly sharing his weight issues on national TV, the fact that he’s a Mormon, and how he’s embraced all the things he learned at the ranch now that he’s home.
Both Lori and Scott talked about why professional athletes can get out of shape, and shared some of their little tricks for eating healthy.
Here’s a transcript of the interview, although I edited down the questions and the “you knows” in the contestants’ answers.
What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?
(Lori): I think the biggest obstacle for me to overcome wasfinding that confidence back in myself and I don’t ever think just as (Jesse) pointed out to me, from the very beginning was that it was never a physical thing. I am not afraid to work hard or work out. I think it was just the emotional side of finding that confidence back in me and just believing in myself again to be able to find it — to, dig through all the emotional baggage and find that strong person that I use to be before.
So once I started to slowly overcome that it — I just kept getting stronger and stronger so that’s been one thing that I’ve had to overcome and I’m sure I’ll just continue to get stronger every day when I’m home.
(Scott): The hardest part for me was just being willing to go on a national show in public and be vulnerable. And actually let myself go and like (Lori) said, to open up emotionally and find out the reasons why I’ve gained weight. And that was a huge obstacle for me to overcome and one that I really — I mean I didn’t even want to be on this show initially when it was introduced to me. And so just overcoming that and just opening myself up to getting to the real root of why I gained weight.
What tips would you share with those who want to lose weight?
(Lori): I think for me its just like (Scott) said, you have to find the underlying reason as to why you’re either fluctuating with your weight or why you got overweight in the first place. Because you can go out on as many diets as you want and if you don’t truly address why it’s going to be hard, but of course, whether you have any emotional issues to deal with or not, it’s just hard in itself when you have a busy life and you work full time and you’re a parent, etcetera.
So on the other side of that, I think planning, I know for me a lot times if you don’t plan and you don’t make sure that you’re setting yourself up for success you end up finding yourself in a pinch where fast food or convenience food is easy to grab or easy to turn to. So that is probably one of the best things that you can do is just plan ahead.
(Scott): Yes I think for me it’s, finding your motivation, I was going to die if I didn’t change and I knew I had to change. It was getting the knowledge of how to change, there were things I didn’t realize. I was eating almost 1,500 calories in just breakfast alone and so having this knowledge and awareness and then surrounding myself in an environment with friends who can really help me succeed. You know it’s not just my willpower alone, but I’ve got great support from family and friends and you kind of have to remove yourself from people or situations that are going to entice you not to do this, and so it’s more than just your willpower. It’s having other factors involved and recognizing them and putting a good plan in place.
For Lori, How did you feel when Bob showed up with Woody?
(Lori): You know it was shocking. I – gosh – I give props to the show for keeping it a secret from all of us on the ranch because I was completely shocked. Because when (Ally) says that there’s this surprise and it’s Week 16 ± it’s like it’s almost over — what surprise could you have now? And then to see that it’s (Bob), I was really confused because why would he be coming this late in the show? And it’s just so many questions start running through your head as to what going on.
But at any rate I was so excited. When I watched seasons past I loved (Bob). I was just so excited to be able to get the opportunity to meet with him and even if was to train with him for one or two workouts it was really exciting. So I more than being angry or upset I was just kind of more excited to just see him walk through the door.
What was your reaction when Rob kind of had a meltdown when Woody came back?
(Lori): I know it’s difficult, this whole season everybody isseeing that (Rob) has a difficult time dealing with change and dealing with surprises. I think for most of us that have watched the show we know that how big a season is, and you have the surprises and challenges and different things and you have to be pretty flexible and you have to know, that things are going to happen and that you just got to kind of let go and let go of control and just see what happens.
But I have a special place for (Rob) in my heart. We get to spend a lot of time behind the scenes and even though there’s a lot of things that (Rob) may not handle emotionally the right way or it might come off wrong, Rob I truly believe is working through how he was handling it before. , Just on last night’s show he spoke about how he turned to food before. And now he’s getting angry and showing more his emotions, which to me ismore power to him. He’s trying — he’s being raw and he’s not afraid to show everybody how he feels and if that’s what he needs to do to work through this process, then I’m happy for him.
But there are times, of course, where you’re like. “Oh no Rob, not now… it’s okay, you can deal with this.” So my heart goes out to him because I know that he’ll eventually get there. But I love (Woody) to death so when I saw (Woody) come through the door it was — that thought didn’t come to my head — oh he’s another competitor or anything. My thought was more yeah (Woody’s) back.
So I can understand (Rob) and the way he feels because it does get to that point where you thing you’re the top three — you think you’re the top four — top five and you just keep getting pushed back, so I understand it and I get it. But I guess he’s just – I don’t know if it was because I just wasn’t one that was focused on a competition from day one to where it didn’t bother me as much. But I don’t know – I was just super excited to see (Woody) and (Bob).
When we talked to (Damian) a few weeks ago he said that this is different because you’re not really completing against each other because all of you have really spent so much of your life with a team, that it was a lot different dynamic this year. Do you want to touch on that at all?
(Lori): Well I completely agree with that and I feel really strongly with that is, even from day one when I was there and I told (Sonya) from the beginning that I would of taken her place. I didn’t have a lot of time to wrap my head around coming to the ranch to where I really truly got into competition mode. I was definitely more in looking at Biggest Loser as this is a place where people are coming to heal themselves and try to figure out what’s wrong and to get healthy, and I really felt that so many of us, everybody in the house came together in that respect.
We had so many emotional moments together when you have not just the scale victories, but, you know, non-scale victories where you go down in a shirt size or a short size. And when you have a breakthrough of something emotional that you’re going to finally talk about or you’re going to finally deal with, that you shared behind the scenes. I really feel like this season that we all really grew close as a family.
There’s so many times we held hands and we shed tears together and even the night midway through when we had NFL legends come. I know that was an emotional night for (Scott) and, I was excited to be able to share that with him because that was probably one night that I kind of got — I felt a little bit closer to (Scott) and the emotional standpoint of it. And that was a big thing for me — is to get those emotional relationships and to heal myself right along the way. And with (Woody), you don’t get to hear a lot of the behind the scenes conversations you have and to see the healing — you get to see if from a physical standpoint and you get to see the spark come back in people’s lives, but the deep down conversations you have and when you see people grow, that’s what truly matters.
And that and so many – everybody has grown no matter what you look like from an outside or what the scale says there’s — everybody has actually, you known, grown so much from an emotional standpoint.
Okay, this is a question for (Scott). Because you’re from Utah a lot of fans are searching online to find out if you’re a Mormon. And if you are, I’m wondering, did your faith play any role in helping you to stay motivated or to keep going with this journey, even though there were times that were discouraging.
(Scott): Yes I am a Mormon – thank you for asking. No it’s perfectly fine, and yes it did play a very big role in this whole process – I mean just with the – when my dad passed away and being in the hospital with him and having kind of a comforting moment where I knew that death wasn’t forever. And my faith helps me to belief thatthat he – it’s just a temporary thing and it – and I had this experience with this – that it’s like a caterpillar and he’s going into this cocoon. But he’s going to live again and so that’s part of my faith and what I believe and that helped me.
And then on my whole journey with all of this and just a lot of things that I found while I was on the ranch were definitely helped by what I believe and a lot of what I believe actually was reinforced by my experience there.
Since you’ve come back home what has been the hardest to keep going – the eating or the exercise?
(Lori): I’ll answer that first – I think both for me – the exercise, of course, I have a demanding job. I have a seven year old and married so I have a really – really busy schedule during the week so I am just very fortunate that right now my employer is very supportive of what I’m doing so working out they’ve given me time to do that. You know working up to finale and them, food is just something that I know for the rest of my life is something that I’m going to have to deal with. I have to be able to manage calorie intake and what types of foods am I eating and when you get busy and you fail to prepare, or that you don’t reach for the convenient stuff. So it’s definitely a lot better, you know, once you get to a point where you feel good about yourself and you’re at a weight where you can maintain.
I think it gets a little bit easier, but you’re still going to have those temptations like everybody does and for me it hasn’t necessarily been as hard now. But I know something for the future after I’m done it’s, you know, it always creeps back in, but it’s just preparing I think has been the hardest – making sure that I stay on top of it.
Is there any kind of a go-to food that you go to when you’re craving something or feeling desperate?
(Lori): On the ranch we were having Greek yogurt with cinnamon in it and there’s little tricks you can do to be able to help that little sweet tooth that you have or evenif you’re craving carbs or comfort foods or even a cheeseburger, the things that we use to do is just making the small changes which has been a great learning tool for me. And I can have a turkey burger and I can have the 100 calorie sandwich thins with it rather than a big humongous hamburger roll.
So there’s a lot of things that yes, I’ve definitely changed. Where I would reach for almonds and string cheese now, before I would just go grab a candy bar. So definitely lots of big changes and lots of little tricks that I’ve learned to be able to curb those – that sweet tooth that I have.
(Scott): Part of my plan was to build a replicable platform when I left the show. So when I left it that I could follow those habits that I took home. And for me when I retired from football, I retired from exercise and quite frankly I hated it and so it was really finding joy in exercise again and things that I really enjoyed. So it hasn’t been hard for me to exercise because I don’t look at it as exercise anymore. It’s just enjoyable to me.
And it’s kind of funny, I actually had to get my brakes fixed a few weeks ago and I I drove my truck to the auto shop and ran home while my brakes were getting fixed. It was seven miles home and I would of never done that in the past. And so I’ve kind of turned it into an enjoyable thing.
And then with food, I really caught on to very early on the ranch how to make healthy food taste great and I think it’s a part of what (Lori) was saying is you learn these tricks, about making egg whites that are just so boring and bland and terrible, taste incredible. And I’ve learned how to do that. And so I’ve kind of taken on this challenge of figuring out how to — it’s almost like a game for me how to make these things that were hard for me because believe me, I love to eat and all the great — terrible things for you, but — so I’ve learned to kind of trick myself into enjoying food so it’s really not been a challenge for me, like I don’t struggle with it.
Its just because I’ve changed in my mind how I view it. Along with having a support system and also identifying, you know, I’m really – I’m going to die if I gain weight and I know that so I’m really at a point whereI have to be real serious about this and deal with it every day.
Well how DO you make egg white amazing?
(Scott): Oh my goodness, and here’s the crazy thing is, I eat this – it’s funny because I eat it every day and I love it every day. So I’ll either have a little bit of salmon with spinach and egg whites, and then I make this homemade salsa and I make a big batch of salsa — I make it in a blender — its really good. So I put the salsa on the egg white omelet. And sometimes I’ll use turkey bacon and sometimes I’ll do a little bit of mushrooms, but every day I’ll have some kind of really healthy egg white omelet that’s flavored with salsa.
What reaction have you gotten —or have you gotten any reaction — from other former NFL players or current players?
(Scott): Yes, (Lori) alluded to this earlier in this conference, and that was one of my biggest concerns coming on this show was my peers. And you compete at this high level with these people and there’s kind of a standard, and I was so concerned that people would look at me and go “Oh, gosh that guy, what a loser, he really kind of, didn’t take care of himself .” And that was not the reaction I got at all.
People have just been so supportive about the fact that I was willing and had the courage to come and do this. I mean that’s really been the overriding theme that I’ve received from many of my former peers and friends and even contemporaries that I haven’t known that well that just said, you know, it took a lot of guts to go and do that and we just really appreciate that you’re willing to show, we all have problems in our life. We all have things that we struggle with and you’re willing to go and deal with it and face it and do it in a very public way. And so it meant a lot – it meant a lot – it meant a lot when the NFL players came on during the middle of the season. AndI spent some – quite a bit of time with (Michael Irving) and we just had a real conversation and it meant so much to me in this whole process.
What would you say to NFL players that might come up to you afterwards now and say, okay what can I do? How can you help me in that regard?
(Scott): Yes again, I think part of it is – we live in a world as former athletes and in the environment that I was in where you can’t show weakness. You can’t show weakness to your competition, to your bosses in this league. You have to appear almost to be perfect. And to kind of take a humble pill, I guess I’ve referred to it as you’ve got to eat a little bit of humble pie which has very little calories in it by the way.
But you just – you have to be willing to admit that, I can’t do this by myself. I’m not invincible and it’s a very real issue that’s going to ultimately impact my life in a very significant way. And when I got on the show I thought it was all about my physical health and I very quickly found out it was really about my emotional health and that I’d really shut myself down emotionally and I was missing out on so much.
And whether it was my relationship with my wife or my kids or just finding the simple, beautiful joys in life, I just kind had just closed myself off to all of that and by opening yourself up emotionally you just — you see and you just can appreciate all of these things. You know like I just talked about how I really enjoy exercise and I really enjoy food and healthy food and so many other things, and it was because I was willing to admit I had a problem and opening myself up emotionally.
(Scott) you said that you’re eating a 1500-calorie breakfast. When you were playing football would you have eaten that amount of calories or did that change after you stopped playing?
(Scott): So I had challenges with my weight when I played. During the season I was always in good shape, but then when the season got over, it was kind of like “Oh I can take a break and the seasons are — there’s a lot of pressure involved anyways ,and you just kind of feel like you just want to unwind, and so I would gain 15 or 20 pounds in an off season. And I kind of ate about whatI wanted. That was one of the nice things about being in the NFL was you were exposed to real nice restaurants and really good food, and a lot it. And I enjoyed all of it. And it was just so hard for me to grasp how can this be so good for me and be so bad. And so I would probably consume 1500 calories or more for breakfast and it didn’t have the same impact because I was a lot more active at that time. But I think. it was having an impact on me.
What do you think you would want to tell other athletes who are going to be in the same position, when you’re at the highest level of competition and your career comes to an end?
(Lori): That was a difficult transition for me even leaving the Olympics. When I retired, I came back and went to work. It was something that was very difficult for me because I’ve been training as an Olympic athlete for 12 years and now how do I come home and just train to be healthy? And how do I deal with the transition of not being an athlete anymore? Now I’m just going to work and I’m not traveling or living out of a suitcase anymore and those adjustments definitely take an emotional toll on you, and I got really depressed with it.
And I really think it’s something that needs to be addressed by people who retire.I’m not sure how it is – if it’s that way with you (Scott) with the NFL. But I know a lot of athletes definitely have that issue whether its being an athlete and actually going back into the work force and not being an athlete anymore to working out — to eating. And it’s something that I really think needs to be focused on because even if not every single person deals with it there’s still enough people that deal with it too that its made an impact negatively in their life.
Because just like (Scott), I had a weight problem, you know, my whole life even as an athlete. But when you’re working out as hard as we do, you can kind of maintain it so to speak and you don’t necessarily get obese . You’re just kind of overweight, but you’re training so hard. And then when that training stops, and the eating habits don’t change very much that’s where you end up getting in trouble too.
(Scott): We didn’t have a very healthy eating program when I was in the NFL. I mean you should have seen our night before the game snacks were — they were cheeseburgers — they were cookies — they were ice cream — they were, you know, all kinds of desserts. I mean it was crazy, and so there wasn’t a conscious effort on anyone’s part, at least when I was playing at that time, about health and nutrition from the team standpoint. You kind of were like you’re on your own with all of this, you’re kind of like an independent contractor.
And there wasn’t this “We’re really concerned about you when you retire.” It’s kind of “Who’s the next subcontractor we’re going to bring in to this situation?” So there isn’t a lot of ,or there wasn’t a lot help in this department. And I know for myself like (Lori) it was brutally hard when I retired. I mean I had nights where I can’t sleep over this life and this — I mean because it was incredible. I lived my childhood dream – I mean it was so amazing what I did and the excitement of playing in a game and just the excitement of being one of the top athletes in the world. And then it’s all gone – that’s a hard thing to come to terms with.
And for me, just from the eating and nutrition side of it when I retired, it was like I retired from everything, so that include eating. I’m going to eat whatever I want, I don’t care, there’s nothing for me to be motivated for. And then you start to realize how unhealthy this is and you need to make changes.
How was that for both of you coming together with a large group of athletes with similar issues?
(Lori): Whether you’re an athlete or not, I think any time you have some type of comfort group where people can relate with things that you’re going through, it obviously helps because it just makes you realize that you’re not alone. But coming into a season like this I thought it was great because you have people that understood what it was like to work out and to be physical and, you know, have agility to be able to move in an athletic way and to have the mental standpoint of being able to push themselves.
So it really helped one; to let yourself know that you’re not alone, but two; on days that were more difficult than others, to have somebody who had that mental game that you’re used to hearing, that they can say something that would motivate you and would bring you back to the times that you were an athlete. So it was definitely help to me like no other, especially with how emotional I was being away from my family and having to deal with the issues that I had to come to grips with.
It definitely helped me to have a team around me and people that cared because, again, no matter which teams we were on, red – white – or blue everybody genuinely cared, if you were having struggles or having emotional problems. Everybody was there for each other.
(Scott): For me it was – this is such a personal issue with me, and it’s so hard to overcome and to understand and see other people that have that same challenge and issue. My heart just, you know, bleeds for these people. I know how hard it is — I know the emotional struggle that (Lori) talks about and I know the struggles that everyone else has and to be able to be put in an environment and have to work together.
And it’s interesting though because you’re kind of working together, but you’re kind of not working together, but you’re kind of working together. It’s a funny dynamic, you know, and you put all these athletes who are competitive and there is that competitive side of this that comes out from time to time, which is good, but overall you just really pull for everyone. You know I really get the challenge everyone has and, you just want to help people out and you want to be there and support them.
I recognize that not all of us are going to connect and relate to each other in the same way, but it’s been fun to connect with people. I mean I talk with (Mike Murburg) almost every day, and I would of never anticipated that I would have a friendship with someone like that, and to be able to be put in this environment and develop that friendship has been kind of a cool thing.
Yes, Scott Mitchell is a Mormon http://chewandchat.com/2015/01/biggest-loser-yes-scott-mitchell-mormon.html
Interview with Damien Woody http://chewandchat.com/2014/12/biggest-loser-damien-woody-praises-fellow-contestants.html
Interview with Scott Mitchell and Lori Harrigan-Mack
Jackson Carter’s surgery to remove excess skin: http://chewandchat.com/2014/09/biggest-loser-jackson-carter-raising-money-surgery.html
Matt Miller interview: http://chewandchat.com/2014/10/biggest-loser-interview-matt-miller.html
Jackson Carter’s weight loss tips.
Jackson Carter’s behind-the-scenes info on what it’s REALLY like at “the ranch.”