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Down 140 lbs., mom, 48, is oldest ‘Loser’ ever

Helen Phillips is not even half the person she used to be. After losing a record 140 pounds, the 48-year-old housewife from Sterling Heights, Mich., won $250,000, a new life and the title of “Biggest Loser” — the oldest in the history of the show. “I feel 30 years old again,” she said.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

She’s not even half the person she used to be, and Helen Phillips couldn’t be more thrilled. After losing a record 140 pounds, the 48-year-old housewife from Sterling Heights, Mich., won $250,000, a new life and the title of “Biggest Loser.”

“It’s such a transformation for me. I feel so healthy. I feel like I’ve gotten my life back. I feel 30 years old again,” Phillips exclaimed to TODAY’s Al Roker Wednesday morning, fewer than 10 hours after she beat three other finalists in the three-hour finale of “Biggest Loser: Couples,” broadcast live from Hollywood on NBC.

Showing off her 117-pound figure in tight jeans and a tight pink top, Phillips showed no sign of sleep deprivation after an overnight redeye flight. “I’m just embracing the moment right now,” she told Roker. “I feel like a winner.”

Records fallPhillips set two “Biggest Loser” records: She was the oldest winner in the show’s seven seasons, and lost more weight than any other woman in the history of the show. Starting at 257 pounds some five months ago, she lost an entire person — 54.47 percent of her starting body weight.

She needed to lose every bit of that to beat the other two finalists, Mike Morelli and Tara Costa. Morelli set some records of his own: At 18, he was the youngest contestant ever, and his final weight loss of 207 pounds was the most anyone had ever lost on the show.Starting at 388 pounds, Mike needed 211 pounds to lose a bigger percentage of his body weight than Helen. He came agonizingly close, weighing in at 181 pounds for a loss of 53.35 percent.

Still, Morelli felt like a winner. “When I first started this journey, I hated myself. I thought I was disgusting,” he said on the show. “I’ve gone through this journey at 18 years old. I have my entire life ahead of me. There’s nothing going to stop me now.”

The people’s choiceMike was chosen to compete in the final weigh-in by “Biggest Loser” viewers. They chose him over his father, Ron, who had tried every diet known to humans and had even had his jaw wired shut and undergone gastric bypass surgery before entering “Biggest Loser.”Ron had spent his entire 18 weeks on the ranch before the finale fighting to get Mike into the final, and celebrated when the viewers chose his son. Ron finished with a total weight loss of 192 pounds — 44.65 percent of his starting body weight.

Tara had begun the show at 294 pounds. The 121 pounds she lost at the ranch was the most ever by a woman. In the 30 days from the end of the recorded segment of the show to the live finale, she lost another 18 pounds for a total of 139 — 53.35 percent of her body weight and one pound less than Helen’s total loss. Tara’s finishing weight was 155.

When Helen weighed in first among the three finalists, she looked at her weight of 117 and yelled, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” She told Roker she thought either Mike or Tara would beat her.

“Never in a million years did I think I was going to win,” she said. In fact, when her long and arduous journey began, she said, “I thought I was either going to die here the first month or they were going to send me packing. Maybe I was going to lose 50 pounds, maybe 60, but here I am.”

Helen had entered with her daughter, Shanon, who was sent home after an emotional discussion with her mother during which both tried to get the other to stay on the ranch. Shanon — “She’s a stubborn girl,” Helen said — prevailed on her mother to stay.

Shanon came back to compete for the $100,000 prize that went to the contestant who was voted off the ranch but lost the most at home. She started at 283 pounds and lost a total of 92, or 32.51 percent of her body weight.

“I want to get married,” she said on the show. “I want to have kids. I’m never going to be that chubby chick ever again.”

Half her weight, half her ageThe surprise winner of the $100,000 was Jerry Hayes, who was the oldest contestant ever at 63 when he began the show. Hayes collapsed during the show’s first week, throwing a scare into everyone, and he was voted off the ranch in the second week, following his wife, Estella, who left in the first week. Estella came back 83 pounds slimmer than her 242-pound starting weight, while Jerry dropped 177 pounds from his starting weight of 369, a 47.97 percent weight loss.Ron came close to catching him, but fell short. When he was named the at-home winner, Jerry swept up trainer Jillian Michaels in his arms and held her like a new bride.

The 22 contestants who began the show finished with a total weight loss of 2,763 pounds. As they were being weighed in, the first two hopefuls for a spot on the NBC hit’s next season, Erinn and Amanda, were sweating in an off-stage exercise room with trainers Jillian and Bob Harper, vying for audience votes. Amanda broke down weeping when she won that vote.

Jillian, who joined Helen for the interview with Roker, warned that Helen must now maintain her weight loss on her own. The trainer had no doubt she would be able to do it.

“She is now an empowered woman who is not afraid to face her demons,” Jillian said.

Helen agreed. She said when she began her journey, a doctor told her she had the body of a 60-year-old.

Now, she’s not only half the woman she was in weight, but also in virtual age.

“Once I started believing in myself, self-esteem crept in," she said. “I turned back the hands of time."