There comes a point on the road to obesity when overeating becomes a game, according to one woman who was on "The Biggest Loser." She explained how she "played" her daily trips to the fast-food drive-through.
"I would pretend I was ordering for different people, pay separately and have the food put in separate bags," said Jessica Limpert, 27. "Like they had no clue I was eating three meals myself. When you're overweight, you're incredibly intelligent, because you find ways to make yourself feel better about it."
During Season 12 of NBC's "The Biggest Loser," Limpert weighed in at 254 pounds and lost 80 pounds. The shows aired from Sept. 20 to Dec. 13 last year on WGRZ-TV Channel 2.
But Limpert, a traveling nurse, will be remembered for more than her weight loss, sunny blond hair and smile. During the show, she fell in love with fellow contestant Ramon Medeiros, 28 (who lost 154 pounds).
Limpert and Medeiros spent their first Thanksgiving together bicycling 30 miles. Soon they will be starting their first jobs together as certified fitness trainers for Biggest Loser Resort Niagara. The resort is scheduled to open this summer at the Beaver Hollow Conference Center in Java Center. It will be the nation's third Biggest Loser fitness resort. The other two are in Malibu, Calif., and Ivins, Utah.
Limpert and Medeiros now make their home in Marilla, about 20 minutes from the resort. "We've had this great opportunity to be on the show, and now it's our time to teach people about health," said Medeiros. "We're still a work in progress. We're constantly taking our bodies to the next level, and that's good to show people."
Their commitment to a healthy lifestyle also has led them to volunteer for the American Heart Association. On Thursday, they will present the keynote address at the annual "Go Red for Women" luncheon at the Buffalo Niagara Marriott in Amherst. The yearlong campaign helps to increase awareness of heart disease as the leading cause of death for women.
"We will tell people where we came from, because not everybody watches the show," said Limpert. "Heart disease -- high blood pressure and high cholesterol -- is something you don't think about when you're ordering a cheeseburger. What's it doing to your body?"
Limpert and Medeiros both say their weights began to skyrocket when they were in college.
Limpert, born in Pittsburgh, was a biology major at Westminster College in western Pennsylvania when she went from size 8 dresses to size 16. Her food addiction was fueled by a bad relationship, she said. Limpert made food her friend, and she gained 80 pounds.
"It's so sad we find comfort in food," she said. "I'd be out with friends, and I would be planning how I could hit the drive-through before it closes, which is insane, because you never felt good after. It never filled you up."
"It was constant late-night eating, those empty carbohydrate calories, the fast-food burgers and fries," she said. "And, unfortunately, the diet soda with aspartame that just makes you more hungry. My big staple was salty food -- tons of pickles and pretzels and chips. It wasn't sweets."
Medeiros was born in Berkeley, Calif., and moved to Florence, Colo., when he was in third grade. With Hawaiian and Mexican heritage, Medeiros recalls ethnic food from both cultures playing a huge role in his youth. He weighed 190 pounds in high school and was active in football, baseball and wrestling.
He went on to play football at Cornell College in Iowa and baseball at Fort Lewis College in Colorado, but afterward and without sports in his life, the 5-foot-11 tattoo artist grew to weigh more than 360 pounds.
"When they had the nugget deal, I'd kill a box of 50 nuggets and also get a combo meal," he said.
>Romance on the ranch
Medeiros and Limpert fast became friends when they were assigned to the same team on "The Biggest Loser."
"We relied on each other day in and day out," said Medeiros. "I saw her inner strength and compassion for people. That made her more beautiful than anything."
Limpert saw determination in Medeiros. "Plus, I was constantly laughing. The friendship grew so fast. He changed my entire view of what a relationship is supposed to be."
"Here's the thing," she said. "Everyone thinks we should be married by now, but on the show we weren't even allowed to talk to each other until June 1, so it hasn't even been a full year. By early July, we knew it was something more than friendship."
In the past year, the two have celebrated fitness-themed birthdays together. For Medeiros' 28th birthday, they visited the Kalahari Resort in Ohio, an outdoor water park.
"It's something that both of us would not have been able to do at 300 and 400 pounds," Limpert noted. "For [my birthday], we did a 5K in Pittsburgh with my family."
In September, they will embark on a five-day shark-diving cruise off Hawaii. The cruise was a gift from talk show host Wendy Williams after the couple appeared on her program last November.
Last week, Limpert and Medeiros were among "The Biggest Loser" alumni who participated in this season's finale on the Malibu fitness ranch. As part of the celebration, guests were treated to a healthy feast in the Manhattan Beach studio. They compared notes on how their lives -- and eating habits -- have changed.
"The amount of food that one of us would eat -- when we look at what we're eating now -- is insane," Limpert said. She remarked on "the happiness you can see in somebody's eyes when you know the focus is no longer on food."
Similarly, the dietary focus is no longer on calories, according to Limpert.
"We're learning more about food, but more in-depth," she said. "We focus on pairing foods like almonds with a small apple because the carbohydrates and the fiber give you energy and that sensation of being full. It will push you through the next three or four hours until you feel you need to eat again."
The couple exercises five or six times a week.
"We try not to put a time frame on it," said Medeiros, "but at least an hour a day. When we're short on time, we focus on high-intensity interval training to get the heart rate up and down and to burn calories."
The bottom line, according to the TV alumni, is that we all can get more healthy.
"All it takes is one small step," Medeiros said. "Don't think you have to go to the gym and cut 100 calories. You don't. All you have to do is make your life active. Don't put a mile marker on it. Just walk."
Limpert, meanwhile, has made good health her priority.
"There are no excuses," she said. "Regardless of the bills you have to pay, the kids, the functions you want to go to. If you don't put yourself first, then who will?"