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Posted on Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 8:28 p.m.

What does it mean to be 'The Biggest Loser'?

By Melissa Gerharter MS, RD

As the 'at home' trainer of Debbie Lounds — a contestant in a weight-loss themed reality TV show — I committed to finding out what it takes to be "The Biggest Loser."

When I first met Debbie at the end of July 2011, I thought, "This is going to be easy!" Her energy and enthusiasm was contagious; all I needed was to get her in the gym, and together as a team, we would see great success. Little did I know that we would see several setbacks in her training.

I ultimately learned that it takes unwavering commitment to be The Biggest Loser — not unlike training for any goal. It takes tenacity. Above all, it takes a conscious choice to not let excuses hold you back.

At my first meeting with Debbie, she nonchalantly dropped the fact that she needed to run a marathon in less than two months. Training for a marathon is no joke, even for the elite athlete. It takes time, determination and the tenacious attitude to actually want to do it. Up to this point, Debbie's training was consistent with about 30 minutes on the elliptical several times a week. I tried to hide my panic as I told Debbie, no problem, we've got this.

As we upped the mileage for Debbie, an old injury and her arthritis flared up in her ankle, making it really hard for her to run. After MRIs and many doctor's visits, we got her back on her feet with less than a month to train.

Even though the mileage on her feet wasn't nearly what I would have wanted to see heading into the marathon, Debbie's determination pulled her through. She didn't care if she had to crawl across the finish line, she was going to finish that race! And, she did!

At 60 years old, Debbie completed 26.2 miles — something she never would have dreamed of doing had she not been a participant on "The Biggest Loser."

Debbie's training at home was completed at Joust Strength and Fitness, using the CrossFit methodology. There are no treadmills or ellipticals. We focus on building strength and teaching people how to move their body for real life, and Debbie did just that.

She learned how to walk again. She no longer waddles; she walks. She actually has enough muscle in her legs now that she can move her (smaller) body frame forward rather than side to side. She can now climb the stairs at work instead of being a victim of the elevator. She can do a pushup and get her body off the ground if she needs to. She deadlifts, she pushes weight over her head, she rows, she bikes, she pulls a sled with 45 pounds behind it, she jumps on boxes, she jumps rope, and she does this all with the look of determination in her eyes.

Debbie is a living example of not using age as an excuse to not take care of yourself. It is never too late to get in the best shape of your life. It is never to late to be role model for somebody or an inspiration to family, friends and strangers. It is never to late to change your vocabulary from "I can't" to "I can and I will."

Every morning Debbie wakes up and makes a conscious choice to work as hard as she can, to prove to herself what was once, in her eyes unthinkable, to be an athlete. Debbie has unleashed her athlete. Will you?

Melissa Gerharter MS, RD, CSSD is Co-owner of Joust Strength and Fitness. She is a personal trainer and a part time lecturer at Eastern Michigan University. She can be reached at