Spry: Before competing on “The Biggest Loser,” you weighed in at 234 pounds. What got you to that point, and what inspired you to make a change in your life?
Ali Vincent: The weight started creeping up as soon as I left the nest and went off to college. It was hard being on my own and trying to balance everything, so I turned to food for comfort. I would gain 5 pounds here, 5 pounds there. I kept slowly gaining and gaining, and before I knew it, I was nearly 100 pounds overweight. When I was interviewing for The Biggest Loser, I told them I weighed 211 pounds. It was a total shock when I got on the scale and it read 234. I think I burst into tears at that moment. When you’re that overweight, it feels absolutely uncontrollable. You feel powerless.
I had heard that The Biggest Loser was coming to town to do auditions. My mom was actually the one who called me and suggested that we sign up for the casting call together. At first, I was reluctant to hop on board—I was a hair stylist, and I had clients to attend to. But the more I thought about it, I decided I was ready. I needed a change. I was tired of feeling like I wasn’t living the life I dreamed of living. I had allowed my weight to hold me back from doing all the things I wanted to do. It affected my relationships, my outlook, my job. I wanted to get back to my former self—I wanted to go back to being that girl who didn’t let anything get in her way.
Spry: You were the first female winner of The Biggest Loser. Going into the competition, did knowing that all the previous winners were men intimidate you, or did it increase your motivation to win?
AV: Prior to Season 5, all of the winners before me were men with similar backgrounds and stories. It’s so frustrating, because the truth is that men lose weight at a faster pace than women. But I wanted to change that. I was determined to win. After all, why would I sign up for something if I didn’t truly think I could win? It is an incredible feeling to say that I am the first female Biggest Loser. I like to joke that I broke down the barrier—that I sort of “opened up the floodgates” for other female contestants to have a shot at winning.
Spry: You lost over 112 pounds during your time on The Biggest Loser—half your initial size! For many people, the hardest part about weight loss is keeping the weight off in the long run. How do you stay on track?
AV: It’s all about consistency and making small, manageable changes. During my time on the show, I learned the importance of taking it one step at a time. For example, there was a point in my life when running a mile felt impossible. So I broke it down and took it one minute at a time—I would run for one minute, rest for one minute, repeat. Anyone can do anything for a minute. As long as I broke it down into small increments, it made it feasible. Eventually, I worked my way up to running a mile non-stop. It was important for me to acknowledge the self-confidence I gained from exercise. I wanted to make sure I incorporated that feeling for the rest of my life.
To keep myself on track, I also like to set goals for myself. I’m always signing up for events that push me in a different way—marathons, half-marathons, triathlons. Recently, I competed in an Ironman competition. Having a goal in sight has really helped me to stay successful. When the alarm goes off at 4 a.m. for morning training, the knowledge that “I’m in it to win it” gets me out of bed. So I use races as a way to stay on track and safeguard my weight loss success. Not only are they challenging, they’re fun, too!
Spry: As you mentioned, you recently competed in an Ironman competition (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run). That’s incredible! How was that experience for you?
AV: It was absolutely amazing. I’ve heard people say this, and it’s true—when you do an Ironman, it’s not really a race. It’s almost like a snapshot of life. There are so many emotional and physical things that come up during the 17 hours you are given to complete the race. It’s truly invigorating. You find a strength inside of you that you never thought you possessed.
When I left The Biggest Loser campus, I was a completely different woman than when I started. I felt like I was on top of the world. There were no limits. I vowed to myself that I would do an Ironman in five years, and five years later I stuck true to my promise. Finishing the Ironman gave me that feeling of being on top of the world again. But at the end of the day, I don’t need that “high” to validate me. I am strong. I’m happy. I’m fit, and feel like I’m finally living the life I am supposed to be living. It’s a great feeling.
Spry: As the host of Live Big With Ali Vincent on the Live Well Network, you travel the country and help individuals lead the healthy lives they deserve. Why is it so important for you to empower others to reach their weight loss goals?
AV: After The Biggest Loser, I received a whirlwind of attention. Everywhere I went—in grocery stores, in movie theater restrooms—people were coming up to me and telling me how much my story had inspired them. It was exhilarating. When I was approached about the possibility of doing my own show, I immediately said yes. I knew I had been given a unique opportunity to make a bigger difference than I had ever possibly imagined. I wanted to travel the country and show people that they can do whatever they put their minds to. That’s what my show is all about: helping people. I go into their lives, look at their everyday challenges, and help them overcome those obstacles. I teach them how to incorporate fitness into a busy schedule. How to live and eat healthfully. We make over recipes, we talk about healthy cooking on a budget, we move, we explore. Most of all, I try to get the message across that you have a choice at every moment. One small, tiny change is all it takes for big things to happen.
Spry: Your personal philosophy and title of your new book is, Believe It. Be It. Can you explain what this saying means to you?
AV: For so long, I had lost hope in myself. I stopped thinking I was capable of creating the life I wanted to create. I had let myself go. Being on The Biggest Loser was such a life-changing experience. It helped me realize that in order to create greatness, you have to believe in yourself first. If I wanted to win, I had to love myself and believe that I was worthy of a change. Losing weight is a huge mind game. 10 percent of it is diet and exercise. The other 90 percent is believing in yourself and putting your heart and soul into it.
Live Big With Ali Vincent airs Saturdays at 5:30 PM ET/PT on the Live Well Network.