Tube Talk: Go ahead, call him a big loser

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-116664406125591.jpg’, ‘Photo provided’, ”);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-116664722025600.jpg’, ‘Photo provided’, ‘Mark Wylie before (above) and after his appearance on The Biggest Loser.‘);

Two days before The Biggest Loser’s season finale, I had the chance to talk to Mark Wylie, one of the four finalists. (Yep, Wylie has a first name, not that most viewers ever heard it.) He didn’t seem nervous, considering in about 48 hours he’d be on live TV, vying for the $250,000 Biggest Loser prize.

The Biggest Loser takes a long time to make. Taping started in April—when Wylie was 307 pounds—and ran through July. “Then, they sent us all home to continue,” he says.

The last time we saw Wylie, who represented Florida, he’d already lost 90 pounds. At the final weigh-in, he’d lost 129 pounds. The shocker? He came in third.

Considering the winner, Erik, shed an astounding 214 pounds—53 percent of his starting weight of 407—it’s probably a good thing Wylie didn’t win, since 163 is kind of thin for a guy who’s 6 feet tall.

Wylie never expected to make it to the final round. “My expectations were, ‘I’m gonna go, I’m gonna lose weight, and I’m gonna make some friends,’” he says. His reason for losing weight was simple: “I knew I’d die at an early age if I didn’t figure it out.”

Wylie wasn’t competing against other contestants; he competed against himself.

“What you don’t realize is that you’re really taking yourself on from the inside,” he says. “You’re faced with demons you didn’t realize you even had—‘Why am I overweight? Why am I the person I am?’ It’s sort of like self-therapy. You learn a lot about yourself, and that’s the beauty of it. And you learn to take care of yourself.”

Learning to take care of himself meant taking a couple months away from his job at the charitable organization, Best Buddies. His role there is to get celebrities and sports figures involved with the group, which strives to enhance the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for one-on-one friendships and integrated employment.

Already a role model for his many years of service with Best Buddies, Wylie’s now an inspiration for people who want to get fit.

“The most amazing part is, if I can do this, anybody can. Because I’m ‘That Guy,’” he says. “I’m that person who was sitting behind my desk or on my couch at home thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing to be that person holding out an old pair of pants to show the huge difference he’s made in his life?’”

The Biggest Loser gave Wylie the knowledge and tools to transform himself, inside and out.

“I’ll be able to take that and use it for the rest of my life,” he says. “Isn’t it a beautiful gift? This isn’t something I’m going to take lightly—I’m going to live with it for the rest of my life.”

Predictably, Wylie wants to share what he’s learned from his experience.

“Just because the show’s over doesn’t mean I won’t continue to try to be healthy—mind, body and soul,” he says, “and I’ll try to take everybody else who wants to join along for the ride!”

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety and has been published in numerous national publications including American Bungalow, SatelliteORBIT and TVGuide.

From the Dec. 20-26, 2006, issue

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