We talked to the Season 3 Biggest Loser winner Erik Chopin about his constant struggle with his weight despite being the all-time weight-loss record holder on The Biggest Loser after seven seasons. Mike came close to breaking Erik's record in the past season, but fell short four pounds. You may remember Erik speaking out about gaining half his weight back earlier this year after his season ended. See how Oprah changed his life, his thoughts on the show and what's he's doing now to try to help others improve their health.
NSD: So, you currently hold the record for the most weight lost (at 214 pounds) of any Biggest Loser contestant. How did you feel about Mike potentially beating your record on the Season 7 finale?
Erik: As far as beating my record, I would be okay with it. I’m looking at the bigger picture—we’re all trying to get healthy.
NSD: Did you watch the show this season? Who were you rooting for?
I’m all over the place with this. I leaned towards Tara because she is a New Yorker from Long Island. Then, I looked at Ron and he’s a Dad like me and I understand what it’s like. I think it really comes down to who wants it. I think they all think they want it, but someone really wants it.
NSD: What advice do you have for the next Biggest Loser?
Erik: Assemble that support team. If you had Bob or you had Jillian out there, now you have to find someone at home. For me, it’s my family and friends. Also, I work with my gym partner and a health professional. When I had my deli, we had a pharmacy right next door and that’s where I went for help. I talked to my pharmacist Joe about my fitness and my health. You need a support team. Hopefully they won’t need them, but the stats are against them.
NSD: Did it seem like a similar experience to what you went through while you were on the show?
Erik: I’m thinking about the time Ron couldn’t get into the MRI machine. For me, it was the same thing. We had to do all these tests to see what our levels were. One of them was a stress test, and when you’re at a certain weight, you can’t even do the stress test. The treadmill couldn’t accommodate me. A regular, everyday health test couldn’t accommodate me and you need these tests.
NSD: You were diagnosed with diabetes during season 3—how did you deal with that?
Erik: When I found out about my diabetes, there were cameras there. I found out about all of it very publicly. Dr. Huizenga told me that my glucose and blood sugar was very elevated. But, we got it under control through diet and exercise. Now, I’ve been so busy traveling that when I’m unable to see my doctor, I see a pharmacist, which is more accessible. We talked about doing home tests just to get a reading. Having the pharmacist just worked out great for me.
NSD: In January, you spoke out publicly about gaining half your weight back after the show ended. What made you decide to speak out about it?
Erik: I got off track as far as my workouts and my diet got a little bit off. I think, genetically, I’m predisposed to gaining weight. I had seen Oprah discuss that she was struggling with her weight again and I decided that it was time to come forward. I had been hiding. I just thought it was time to come clean about it and apply what I’ve learned in the past. I was the biggest winner of all the Biggest Losers and I stumbled.
NSD: I remember you going on Oprah and talking about your struggle with weight—did Oprah have an impact on you, since she also went through a similar battle in the public eye?
Erik: We talked about exercise in general. When you talk to the other Biggest Loser contestants, there’s always a general consensus that we fell in love with exercise. When I talked to Oprah, I told her I kind of hate it and she was like I hate it, too! But, we realize we have to do it. She just said you just have to do it for yourself. I was so consumed with working out five hours a day and I couldn’t do that at home. It was either all or nothing. But then, my pharmacist told me that all you need is a half hour a day of really breaking a sweat.
NSD: What was the biggest struggle after the cameras were gone and you were back at home?
Erik: It’s a little bit of both [diet and exercise]. You can’t get away with just doing one. Exercise was the hardest. I started to get so tired of it, going on the treadmill and elliptical. We did it so much on the show. I eventually decided to make a change and figure out what I’m going to do to stay active. Now, I’ve found boxing.
NSD: You’ve said that food is your drug of choice—are you still struggling with this?
Erik: When I talked to Oprah about this, it was one of things that you just have to come clean with. First thing, identify. Come clean and be open about it. Let’s figure it out. It can be a drug that can be harmful or deadly if you abuse it everyday or it can be a drug that you can allow yourself to have every once in a while—you have to find that balance. The key is not to abuse. Get in your cardio and get your protein. But, also get in some things you crave every once in a while. I admit that I love food and submit to it every now and then.
NSD: Did you keep in contact with any of the other contestants after the show?
Erik: Did that help or hinder your struggle with maintaining your weight? I’m constantly looking for some sort of support. I talk to Bobby from my season like every couple days. On paper, we’re like night and day, but we became very close. Joe my pharmacist is also right there for me. They’re people that I can talk to when I’m stumbling.
NSD: It sounds like your pharmacist has a big role in your life, how does the average person out there find someone like that for them?
Erik: Most likely, they’re getting their prescription somewhere. I was really lucky to have a pharmacy next to the deli where I worked 7 days a week. Go in and speak to a locally-owned community pharmacist. It’s a trusted professional and it’s a conversation you can have on the side. You’ll be surprised that you just won’t be talking about your prescription—that’s not all they do. You can talk to them about your diet and exercise. If you’ve been sedentary and your diet’s poor, there’s a chance that your diabetic and they can give you a screening. See where you are, medically. Then, you can move forward.
NSD: What advice do you have for those looking to lose a significant amount of weight that won’t necessarily have the opportunity to get on the show?
Erik: Paint that picture. We’ve all daydreamed about not being the biggest person in a group. So, when you do get to that goal weight, and you’re comfortable in your own skin, what you had imagined in that vanity, it’s even better. You feel that good. Physically, you feel wonderful. Envision that future.
NSD: Why is the Health Across America campaign important to you?
Erik: As you know, I was diagnosed with diabetes on the show. When I was approached by Health Across America, they told me about their free screenings and that resonated with me. That was something that I would have loved to have known [before the show]. I was reluctant to talk to anybody. Be pro-active, even if you may not find out the best news. I’m very honest, and if you’re out there, I was probably like you.
NSD: How is your health now?
Erik: From my at-home glucose test, I’m elevated, but in the range of normal, right at the cusp. I’m not as bad as I was before I was on the show, but I started slipping towards that direction. As far as my health and where I’m at right now, I think I’m in a very good place—I have very realistic goals. I want to do what I did in the past, but not in an extreme way. I know I have to do it for myself and my family.
To find screenings in your area, visit HealthAcrossAmerica.net.
For more on The Biggest Loser, visit NBC.com.