Albany Man Competes for $100,000 on “The Biggest Loser”
December 8, 2011 – Since he’s been a teenager, Patrick Ferrari has coveted food. To him, every day was like Thanksgiving – he’d eat until he was stuffed. By the time he graduated from college, Ferrari, who stands 6’3,” weighed 401 pounds.
“I’d love to get big plates of French fries and eat until I could barely move; I just couldn’t stop,” said Ferrari, 26, who lives in Albany and works at a group home for adults with mental health disabilities. “The last time I went to Red Lobster, I ate 120 shrimp.”
Ferrari’s life turned around when he was chosen as a contestant for the NBC television program, “The Biggest Loser,” last June. After appearing on the show for three episodes, Ferrari volunteered to leave, having lost 11 pounds – the highest that week. “I just started praying and felt called away to lay my life down for the team.”
Next Tuesday evening, Ferrari will appear on the program’s finale and compete for the $100,000 prize, which will be given to the contestant who’s lost the most weight since the program aired in September.
Growing up in San Diego, Ferrari’s obsession with food started when his mother kept a lock on the refrigerator door, hiding other foodstuffs in her bedroom. A single parent with eight children, she struggled to make ends meet.
“It wasn’t an abusive thing; she wanted to make sure the kids had enough food to make it through the month,” said Ferrari, whose father left home when he turned 12 after getting in trouble with the law. “I coveted food because I couldn’t have it whenever I wanted it, and I always wanted it.”
After graduating from Western Oregon University, Ferrari dreamed about becoming a police officer, but was so overweight he couldn’t pass the physical agility test. “I never really dealt with my weight issue and just continued eating,” he said.
Being obese posed other obstacles – he’d have to open the car door to unbuckle his seat belt, and, after playing soccer for half an hour, could barely walk a few steps.
When he got married, his wife, Katie, was very thin, running five miles a day. “She’d encourage me to eat healthy and exercise, but I just didn’t care; I didn’t value myself to do those things,” he said.
But a few years later, she blew out her back, rupturing her discs and needed to give up running. Soon she took on Ferrari’s eating habits – stopping at McDonald’s for several cheeseburgers, fries and soda – and started gaining weight.
Realizing his eating habits not only affected his marriage, but his ability to achieve his professional goals, Ferrari’s aunt encouraged him to try out for the program.
When filming began at the ranch in Calabasas, California, Ferrari felt terrified and wasn’t certain he could actually lose weight. “But I realized this was my chance to turn my life around.”
Soon he began exercising 4-8 hours a day under the supervision of trainers, doctors and a nutritionist, learning how to prepare and eat healthy food.
Since leaving “The Biggest Loser,” he’s lost more than 100 pounds by food journaling, strict workouts (3-4 hours a day six days a week), sticking to a certain amount of carbohydrates, healthy fats and lean proteins.
“I didn’t expect to get such a big change in my life; I expected a physical change but not a mental change,” he said. “The Biggest Loser forces you ask yourself why got there, and makes you work through that question before you start the show. I started believing in myself, that I could lose weight.”
Ferrari admits there are times when he still thinks about gorging himself, particularly when he drives by McDonalds.
“But when I see how good my body looks and see how good I feel about myself and the positive changes I’ve made, I realize it’s not worth it anymore.”
And, Ferrari remembers how far he’s come. “How hard it was, and how proud I am of what I’ve accomplished. I also have to remember that I'm accountable to a lot of people. I need to be a leader for my wife. I need to be a leader for my family, and a leader for my community. That’s a lot of responsibility, and I don't take that lightly. I think between all those things and now realizing my true potential that’s how I'm going to keep the weight off after the finale.”
Had it not been for appearing on “The Biggest Loser,” Ferrari doesn’t know if he’d been able to lose so much weight in such a short amount of time.
“That’s a question I ask myself sometimes. I don’t know. I tried so many times before. I just didn't have the resolve, the accountability or the dedication to do it. That’s why I want so badly to encourage others to lose weight on their own because let's be honest, not everyone is going to be on ‘The Biggest Loser,’ and not everyone is going to get that big break. Some people are just going to have to sweat it out week to week. I want to encourage people to believe in themselves -- to be able to do it.”
He offered the following advice for people struggling with obesity.
“One step at a time – be realistic, don't think that you're going to lose the same weight that ‘The Biggest Loser’ contestants lost week in week and week out, it's just not going to happen. We’re able to dedicate our entire life while their losing this weight. We were in a bubble, but that doesn't mean you can't lose the weight.
“I lost the majority of most of my weight while at home, so it can be done. I’m walking proof of that. Start small though -- start to cut little things out of your diet one at a time, like soda one week or fast food the other week or cut out food with high fructose corn syrup.
“Take little baby steps and have a realistic approach to the process. To be honest I think one of the biggest keys to success in weight loss is accountability. That means finding somebody who you're okay with getting in your face and saying ‘Hey, why didn't you go to the gym last night, you said you're going to go’ or ‘Why are you eating that crap?’ You have to have that. I think that's a huge part of being successful.”