I recently had an exciting opportunity to interview Ali Vincent and Bette-Sue Burklund, otherwise known as Team Pink from this season’s Biggest Loser – Couples. Let me tell you, there ain't no stopping this pair, televised or not. As you may know from watching the show, they are vivacious, spunky, and a total joy to speak with. We chatted the morning after the second-to-last episode aired, during which Ali secured herself a spot in the finale with a total weight loss of 99 pounds – more than any woman in BL history! (Bette-Sue has shed a “Whoa!”-worthy 75 pounds.) Their energy and enthusiasm literally oozed out of the phone as I asked them five questions culled from over 160 ideas submitted commenters on the Lose Big website and the Weighting Game.
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions – they were all insightful and positive, which is precisely how we need to be when it comes to tackling challenging issues such as weight loss, body image and confidence. As an aside, I was so motivated by all the hard work the BL contestants have put in that I decided to work out twice yesterday – which I never, ever do. Forty minutes on the StepMill in the a.m. and then a power yoga class at 5pm. Oh. My. God. I was shaking and sweating in Downward Dog, praying my arms didn’t collapse on me. Last night, I ate everything in sight and am slightly sore today, which I just know means I’ll be a giant muscle ache tomorrow. I don’t know how these people did it!
1) How did you deal with emotional aspects of the challenge, such as dealing with food temptations at home or keeping up with your workouts? (inspired by Jennifer and Rick Ryan at the Lose Big page and Kyle at Weighting Game)
Ali: “For me, the week we were eliminated was the week I started believing I could totally do this. It wasn’t about being on that campus; it was about believing in myself and actively going after my goal. My mom and I spent a lot of time talking - about why we put the weight on, which was to protect ourselves. But I was young then and now I’m this strong woman and I don’t need that protection anymore. As the pounds came off, I was able to free myself emotionally and physically, was free to address issues with my mother and in other relationships. But being home [was hard] – that’s where you live your life, at home. Being able to call my mom instead of going to a drive-through helped.“
Bette-Sue: “It takes a conscious effort. I can’t undo 53 years [of emotional issues] in three months. But physically, I’m shocked at how fast you can lose it. An hour of cardio really makes a difference. It’s just not easy. I can very easily see myself falling into old traps, which is scary.”
Ali: “You have to have the courage to admit where you are and figure out where you want to be. A lot of times if you’re not happy emotionally or spiritually, you’re not going to be happy physically.”
Bette-Sue: “Working out has to be a conscious choice. I have a lot of sedentary hobbies – crocheting, knitting, being on the internet. I gotta move! And opening the refrigerator – are you kidding? I love to eat. The problem with me is the lack of planning. My daughter and I have always been busy, busy, busy, and would eat what was fast. Some of our most quality time – I’m not kidding – was spent in the car eating fast food. I was a single mother with two daughters. Now, I keep a little ice chest in my car for fruit because it is so easy to go to Del Taco.”
2) Ali, on the show, you mentioned you had trouble wearing sleeveless shirts because you felt you still had big arms. How are you handling these kinds of body image issues? (inspired by Kay at the Lose Big page and sasa at Weighting Game)
Ali: “I think for the next few years, I’ll look in the mirror [and be unsure of what I’m seeing.] Just like when I was heavy, I never saw a heavy girl - I just saw me. Last night (the final episode before the finale), I thought, ‘Who’s that skinny girl on TV?’ It will take a while to grasp what I look like.
But I’m proud of my arms – I do feel like they are cut. I get to sculpt my body like it’s a sculpture. The changes happened almost overnight. One day I wouldn’t feel comfortable and the next day I did. I was like, ‘What’s that on my arm?’ and they’d say, ‘It’s a tricep!’ I hadn’t had it before because fat was hanging there.
During the makeover show, I was trying on clothes that were way too big for me. I think part of me, it’s because I’m working so hard every day and paying attention for the first time in years to what I’m putting in my body, so to go in a store and pull a size I’m not comfortable with, I don’t want to be disappointed [if it’s too small]. But now it is fun – in Australia, I ran into a store a pulled an outfit in 15 minutes. That hasn’t happened to me in years. I loved that blouse and felt so beautiful and fun. It was so rewarding. It wasn’t about the body and clothes, it was how I felt, when I walked down the stairs and the boys said, ‘Woohoo, Ali!’ I have this permagrin. I don’t want to apologize for my grin but I can’t help it. I’m I awe. I forgot what it felt like to feel good about myself. I’m presenting to world the way I always felt.”
3) At the ranch, it was evident that the two of you had issues from long ago that needed to be worked out. How has BL made your relationship stronger? (inspired by Paloma, Alicia and Ella at BL)
Ali: “I think we realized the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It gave me an opportunity to realize there’s a lot of responsibility put on a mother by a daughter to look a certain way. I got to look at my mom as another woman going through the same struggles and battles I am. It’s kind of bizarre how similar we really are. Very enlightening. I’ve been disappointed by my mom in the past, as has she with me. But I was putting too much on her – making her responsible for me. Moms don’t get the credit if things go well, but if things go bad, they get the blame. I now get to enjoy my mom and think of her as a friend. I want to try to support her as a person and love her and respect her as my mother.”
Bette-Sue: “In a perfect world, there’s a time when [your relationship] changes from parent-child to adult-adult. But it’s hard. I have all my guilt from when I was gone too much, working too much. And as much as I would love to butt out of my daughter’s life, you think you know what would make them happy. I don’t think we’re so different from ‘Mother-Daughter USA.’ They show that clip of us crying a lot - which was totally unexpected, that intervention. I thought I told my daughter all the time how much I loved her but for whatever reason, she heard it differently. [At the ranch], I got to just listen. I really genuinely am thankful to NBC for that.”
4) Any favorite exercise/training tips for us fans to incorporate into our routines? (inspired by Elizabeth at the BL page and Denise Love on WG)
Ali: “It’s the stuff you did in PE! I always felt like I had to drive to a gym but I can do lunges, squats, jumping jacks, jump rope. It’s just as effective, if not more, because you’re using your body weight, rather than going from machine to machine. These are the exercises you can do anywhere – in your backyard, a hotel. Oh my gosh, if I had just stuck to that PE stuff all along…”
Bette-Sue: “Just move. Get off your butt and move. Take the dog for a walk. I didn’t like going outside before - I live in Arizona and it’s hotter that snot outside (She cracks me up! – Leslie). But when you lose weight, it’s not quite as hot. Be conscious of how much you’re sitting down and how much you’re moving around.”
Ali: “Also, your fat burning zone is not that really hard, hard cardio. It has to do with heart rate.”
5) What activity have you most enjoyed doing post-Biggest Loser that you couldn't do before? (inspired by 4kidsmom at BL)
Ali: “I can do a pull-up now. But I never wanted to do a pull up before! Arizona is a big, beautiful, ‘outside’ state and everyone’s a hiker. I had huge anxiety about hiking before but now…there’s not any adventure I won’t go on because even though I might not be the first one up the mountain, I will get there.
Also, going shopping! The other day, I tried on a bathing suit and thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I haven’t worn anything like this since high school. I felt sexy. Arizona is about pool parties and lakes and I’ve always avoided going. Now I don’t have to deny any invitation because I can wear a swimsuit.”
Bette-Sue: “I live by these amazing cliffs. My husband would say, ‘There’s this amazing view’ and I’d say, ‘Are you kidding me? I can’t even walk up the asphalt to the mountain!’ Now I’ve been to the top of that mountain. This summer, I can go out and ride on the tubes on the lake with my grandchildren instead of just being a cheerleader. And I can shop at normal stores. No more ‘fat lady’ stores. I bought a size12 pair of jeans.“
Ali: “- and she looks good!”
Bette-Sue: “That big ‘W’ on the butt no longer represents ‘Walrus’ – it’s for ‘Wrangler.’ And we bought a motorcycle and I can ride on the back.”
Ali: “And mom buys everything pink now!
Bette-Sue: “It has been an amazing journey. This has altered our relationship in the most amazing way. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. If this was a MasterCard commercial, that’s the part that’s priceless.”