Update: Bernie won the Biggest Loser at-home prize during the 4/15/08 finale. See the DietsInReview.com interview with Biggest Loser’s Bernie live from the LA finale.
As I mentioned in my Biggest Loser Week 10 post, my heart was broken when Bernie was eliminated from the show for two reasons- I thought he was a great contender for the winning spot and I might kind of have a crush on him. If it weren’t for his leaving the ranch and returning to his hometown of Chicago, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to talk with him this morning. So at least I got something out of the deal!
They say that the TV producers can cut the film to make you look as nice or as nasty as they want to- of course adding to the show’s drama. From day one, I always thought Bernie came across as the nicest person you could ever meet, full of personality and very funny. And that’s exactly what he is. I so enjoyed talking with Bernie and learning more about his Biggest Loser experience- during and after- and I’m thrilled to be able to share that interview with you.
Thanks again for taking time out of your busy gym schedule, Bernie! And good luck at the finale on April 15!
What’s the deal with the guys not taking their shirts off now during weigh in?
I’m not completely sure, in the past seasons the same thing happens. The more weight the guys lose, it effects the body in different ways. Sagging here and there, looking a little bit funny. Plus, any opportunity to showcase the guns is a good thing. Having the shirt off in the early part of the show, it’s a wake up call incentive to get going, seeing yourself like that. I used to shower with my shirt on- I’m joking! It’s true though, definitely one of those things that’s very necessary and one of those uncomfortable type things. Going shirtless on that scale was the hardest thing on that show. I hadn’t taken my shirt off in public for years.
Do you do a pre weigh in?
Yes, the morning of the weigh in, we are weighed on a precise scale. When you wake up you get the most accurate, clearest weight. Our weigh-in was not shared with us or anyone.
We know meeting Brittany you thought she was gorgeous and it kind of shook you at the beginning to have to go through this proces with a stranger. What was that like at first sleeping in the same room with a complete stranger, especially a female? I’m sure toward the end it was more like a slumber party.
You know it was definitely one of those experiences that caught me off guard. We were strangers. She is gorgeous, that’s the first thing I saw running up to her. It was a really different situation, the whole thing was nerve wracking in general. I was concerned especially since the whole process would be really hard. But because she’s so beautiful I knew my girlfriend was going to be “Oh my gosh what’s going on?”. We actually slept with the door open for the first month. The room has one dresser, one closet. I ended up scooting the dresser to her side and I took the closet. We drew clear lines before we got to know each other. Brittany said I was the first guy she ever had to room with.
Are you receiving the support at home that you’d requested and hoped for?
Definitely! My family and friends and everyone is just super, super supportive. My god, the entire city of Chicago is supportive. There’s not a 24-Hour Fitness here, but a local gym gave me a membership and is hooking me up with a trainer. Everyone at the club is super nice and lending support. Definitely.
It’s not realistic to workout six hours a day at home- what is your plan?
My plan is to get in as much exercise time as possible. I’m getting about 4-5 hours a day by breaking it up, couple hours in the morning, couple hours in the afternoon and 1-2 at night if I’m lucky. It’s really not too different from the ranch. One thing I’m doing more precisely is eating. I’m trying to stick closely to my diet. If I don’t get extra hours at the gym, then I’m still not gaining.
How are you managing your diet at home? When I spoke with Julie Haddon from Season 4, she said you eat very organic, low-sodium at the ranch, and it just wasn’t that affordable to do at home.
It’s expensive- very expensive. Especially to continue eating healthy. I’m taking time to shop around and compare prices. I buy some things at Whole Foods, some at Trader Joe’s, there’s a great produce store by my house for fruits and vegetables. I buy a lot of chicken breast or fish, like tilapia, in bulk from Costco. Just shop around, see how you can make it work within your budget. It’s doable with shopping around.
Is there really a cupcake named after you?
Yes there is. I’ve been to the bakery a couple times and refrained from the cupcake. I’ve stopped in to say hi and just gotten a small cup of coffee.
What’s in it?
It’s like an angle food cake, and in between the layers is homemade custard, not the gloopy, get on your shirt kind, and then they dip the entire top half in chocolate ganache. It’s definitely calling to me, but I told it to go away. The baker is getting requests from around the country, and people stopping in to see it. I’m going to talk to them about a cut of the sales. (laughing)
What happened Tuesday night? I couldn’t believe there wasn’t an elimination!
I know! People at the gym in spin class stopped me to say “my Tivo cut it off- who is gone?”
If you’d had an extra week off like Mark, would you have come back on Tuesday?
I try not to play the whole “what-if, would-have, this-that.” I’d love to be back at the ranch. But I don’t know how things would have been. I was hoping to have lost enough weight to come back and not go home. I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. Mark is one of those people who is completely driven, competitive and motivated.
What did you think of the spin to bring back two contestants?
You know what? Oh gosh, I sound so neutral. I applaud the people who went home to lose that weight. Ali was an inspiration to me, one of the people who inspired me the most. She was eliminated in week 4 and continued to do a terrific job at home. They threw a twist in the game. Everyone’s thinking we already survived these competitors, and for them to come back was a small punch to the gut. Seeing that it’s possible outside the ranch was inspiring for me. Ali, even Mark, definitely deserve the opportunity. It threw everyone for a loop.
Especially for the girls, the seemed really taken back.
For women to stay in the game is hard. They’re really struggling with some of the numbers. To think they’d already passed these competitors is a blow.
You said you were going to spend the $2500 from the vending machine on a gold chain for your dog- have you done that?
I haven’t gotten the gold chain ordered yet, but I’m getting a “Berndana” coat for him. I thought about it- no dog should be wearing gold. I don’t want him to get jumped by other dogs!
Any plans to use that to propose to your girlfriend?
Oh gosh- you know what? That’s something we’d have to talk a little more about. Having the extra money around is pretty nice. I can definitely get a very healthy meal.
St. Patrick’s Day is Monday and a big deal in Chicago- How do you plan to celebrate differently this year?
It’s Huge! I Know! I’m going to go ahead and watch everyone else celebrate, make sure I’m taking in the day and not the beverages consumed on that day. Friends are already calling to go out. And I’m like, “Remember, I’m on that show?”.
Do you have plans for the $100,000 when you win the At-Home Biggest Loser?
What I would really love to do is pay off my student loans. I just finished graduate school. I’d put some toward, oh gosh, sounds like a beauty pageant response. My mom’s house in Crown Heights, Indiana, the flooding hit hard this year. I’d like to help by rebuilding her basement, new carpet and tile, things like that.
Who do you see being competition for you or anyone with the at-home prize? Curtis wasn’t slacking at all with the 100 pounds.
You know, it’s funny how everyone initially has the same goal to lose weight and get healthy. The more you lose, the more you realize you can be a competitor in this game. Curtis is incredible, to see how he did at home. It takes me back. Curtis is definitely a huge competitor. Trent is another one. He has the drive of no one I know and the personality to go with it. Jackie is definitely a competitor. I fear everyone at this point.
What about Paul?
Paul, you know, I really actually ended up voting for Paul because I see how competitive he can be. If he gets in his karate outfit there’s no stopping him! At this point, I see everyone as competition.
Anything behind the scenes at the ranch you’d like to share?
People actually get along more than they portray on TV. Everyone really does come together and talk about the fact that there is that common goal to get healthy for your loved ones and family. Another thing people would be interested to know – the trainers are there all the time. They really do care about how we’re doing with our diet and exercise. Jillian especially puts in tons of hours on and off the camera.
Have you been able to keep in touch with Jillian or planning to do so afterward?
I definitely hope to. I feel like she’s given me my life back. Since I’ve left I’ve contacted her via email a couple of times and once by phone. She’s extremely busy and makes time to respond to those emails with words of encouragement. We’ll definitely have a friendship for the rest of my life.
As you will with Brittany?
Brittany is someone I will invite to a wedding I might have or be in a wedding I might have. Or, I might just marry her! My relationship with Brittany is very much a big brother/little sister type thing. I couldn’t have gone through this without her. She’s inspirational in her own right. That’s definitely the truth.
Jillian freaked out on Allison Tuesday night- what was your reaction?
I caught just a little of that. It goes back to what I shared earlier- she cares about all aspects of our health, even the mental/emotional. It’s an emotional experience being on the show. Our entire lives we’ve been picked on in some capacity. Kids make fun of our weight, even our parents would say “You’d look so much better if…”.
The host is incredible and wonderful, but brings up some of those issues, “Do you feel like you stand a chance?”. Brittany didn’t need that at that point. I applaud Jillian for standing up to the bombardment of questions Alli was putting out there. Jillian uses her own vocabulary and made the point hammer across. Maybe I’ll talk to her about some adjectives she can use that can be aired. She’ll probably end up using her adjectives on me!
Can you sum up in just a couple of sentences what this instant celebrity has been like?
It’s just been flattering. completely flattering. I’m honored that I’m in some way an inspiration to fellow Chicagoans, family and friends. I’m an educator, so sharing this experience, it is my honor. I’m thrilled that people come up to me, I love to talk. It’s great to have an opportunity to meet them and have them be comfortable enough to approach me. I want to always look back and have no regrets.