She was ready to pack up her bags and leave in the middle of her time on the “Biggest Loser” ranch, but Michelle Aguilar is awfully happy she decided to stick it out instead.
The 26-year-old Fort Worth, Texas, woman lost 110 pounds — 45.45 percent of her starting weight of 242 pounds — and walked away with the $250,000 top prize in the show’s finale on NBC Tuesday night. But she also gained something that she can never put a price on — her relationship with her mother, Renee Wilson.
“For the first time in my life, my eyes really are completely wide open — like wide-eyed, brand-new world staring right back at me. And now I'm not going to let life pass me by,” the raven-haired beauty said. “I'm going to live every day, love every moment, and whatever life brings me, I'm ready for.”
A doormat no moreThe actual competition ended in May, but Aguilar is still getting used to her new body and outlook on life that came with her life-changing experience on “Biggest Loser.”
“It’s all very new. The best part of it is I feel I have a better outlook on life,” she told TODAY’s Ann Curry Wednesday in New York. “The weight loss is tremendous, but the stuff I worked on on the inside means the most to me.”
She admitted that she had all but given up on herself before she decided to send in an application for the show.
“She was a girl who was just getting tired of being the doormat,” Aguilar told Curry as she studied a photo of herself 110 pounds ago. “She put on the smile every day and went through the motions. She helped everybody else but forgot about herself. She finally said, ‘I gotta do something.’ ”
Already, she has done a “Got Milk?” ad and has a boyfriend. But best of all is her renewed relationship with her mother. “That’s the best gift you can ever ask for,” she told Curry.
Wilson was eliminated in midseason. When she left, she sat down on camera with her daughter and delivered some tear-filled advice.
“I just want to tell you how much I love you and I’m so proud of you,” Wilson told Aguilar in that encounter. “You’re a beautiful and strong and courageous woman. You win this for you and not for anybody else. I know you can do it.”
Mom, it turned out, knew best.
Sticking it out
Winning the $100,000 runner-up money was Heba Salama, who had been voted off the show by the viewers after the penultimate episode, leaving her husband, Ed Brantley, as one of the three finalists who traveled to New York for the finale. Even though she was voted off, Heba remained in a side competition for second place. She was the heaviest woman on the ranch when the series started, weighing in at 294 pounds, and dropped 138 pounds — 46.94 percent of her body weight.
Vicky Vilcan, the third finalist, earned a reputation as the biggest game player during the show. While adept at manipulating her fellow contestants, she struggled to lose weight once she left the ranch despite an intense schedule. The mother of two woke up at 4 a.m. each morning and
worked out for an hour, put in a full day’s work as a nurse, and then headed back to the gym at 5 p.m., getting home between 8 and 9. She only lost 2 pounds during her first seven weeks at home, but her persistence paid off: At the finale she was down 101 pounds from where she started.
But the grand prize went to Aguilar, who had not spoken to her mother for nearly six years. The rift dated back to when Aguilar chose to live with her father when he and Wilson divorced. When Aguilar applied for Season 6 of “Biggest Loser,” which featured family teams, she chose her mother as her partner in hope of repairing their relationship.
By midseason, with her relationship with Wilson still strained, Aguilar was ready to leave the ranch where the teams were competing for the “Biggest Loser” title. An intervention by her family convinced her to stick it out.
“I struggled there,” Aguilar said of her moment of crisis. “And I realized that for me, for my life, I had to surrender to the process and say, ‘I will do this.’ ”
A rift repairedShe and Wilson went on to rebuild their relationship at the ranch, learning to trust one another again. Today, Michelle and Renee call and text each other daily, and believe their lives are richer for having each other.
But Aguilar changed much more than her body. Before the “Biggest Loser” season began, trainer Jillian Michaels described her as a doormat who lacked a voice.
Aguilar was exceptionally bright, having graduated high school in three years and earned a license in aviation engineering. But she was letting her weight control her, and food replaced personal relationships.
Michaels said Aguilar came to the ranch with so much emotional baggage that it was almost too hard for her to continue. But in the process of confronting her inner conflicts, she found the strength to reclaim her life.
Season 6 of “Biggest Loser” began with eight teams of family members competing with the help of two personal trainers: Michaels, who coached the Black Team, and Bob Harper, who coached the Blue Team. Season 7, “Biggest Loser: Couples,” premieres Jan. 6 on NBC.