Season 15 of 'The Biggest Loser' gets a double dose of Chicago
"The Biggest Loser" contestants Tanya Winfield and Bobby Saleem -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC) (NBC / Paul Drinkwater/NBC)
"The Biggest Loser" returns Tuesday, and two Chicago-area contestants are getting their second chance on the show.
Tanya Winfield, 41, of Plainfield and Bobby Saleem, 28, of Chicago compete on the show this season, looking to make a permanent change.
Season 15’s theme is second chances, with each contestant using the show as an opportunity to start over more than ever before.
"I don’t feel like I really had a first chance in life because of the obstacles I had to face; it warped my sense of who I was as a person," said Winfield, the COO of Harold’s Chicken Shack. She enters the show at 262 pounds.
Winfield grew up on the South Side to a drug-addicted mother, acting as a mother-figure to her four younger brothers and sisters.
"When I became old enough, it was my responsibility to cook for everyone. I had to run home from school to cook for the entire house," Winfield said. "I realized that was the only time my mother gave me attention, affection--the only time she praised me was when I cooked."
Winfield is now a divorced mother of three to two adult children and a 2-year-old, trying to break her family’s cycle of addiction and set an example for her kids.
"My two oldest children are very physically fit and active, but I realized I have to be here for my 2-year-old," Winfield said. "At the rate I was going I didn’t know if I’d be there for her wedding."
Saleem is a civil litigation attorney or a "little baby attorney" as he called it, just getting licensed two years ago. Born and raised in the Chicago area, he’s always struggled with his weight. He enters the competition at 358 pounds.
"I was really scared I was going to be 400 pounds, and scared of the fact I was so comfortable being overweight," Saleem said.
Saleem grew up in a conservative, Catholic, half-Pakistani, half-Filipino family with his parents not knowing he was gay.
"I’ve had a lifelong struggle with obesity, but there are certain parts that have spiked it," Saleem said. "School was a main reason, personal issues as well. I was a closeted gay man before going on the show."
Winfield and Saleem aren’t the only ones getting their second chances on "Biggest Loser" this season. "American Idol" winner Ruben Studdard enters as the season’s largest contestant at 462 pounds, and Olympic weight-lifter Holley Mangold is hoping to get into the best shape possible for another chance at a gold medal in the 2016 games.
The second chances theme of the show isn’t just reflected in the contestants’ stories. This season, trainers Bob Harper, Jillian Michaels and Dolvett Quince sat in on casting and will be able to save contestants from elimination.
Both Winfield and Saleem are learning through the show the kinds of changes they need to make in their lives.
"Diets are temporary, it’s the habits we really need to change," Saleem said.
"I’ve done all the fad diets, the diet pills, the grapefruit diet, and of course I was never successful." Winfield said. "I’d drop a couple of pounds but I’d put it back on plus some."
When the season concludes and Winfield returns to Chicago, she hopes to bring her new knowledge of nutrition to her restaurants.
"All of the food [at Harold’s Chicken Shack] is pretty much not good for you on a daily basis," Winfield said. "I’d like to add healthy option to the 38 stores across Chicago. What a better way than to take what I learned here and implement it to my family of customers."
Follow Winfield’s and Saleem’s weight-loss journeys on Season 15 of "The Biggest Loser" at 7 p.m. Tuesday on NBC.
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