My lunch break on Tuesday, rather than spending it reading old issues of Vogue, was rather pleasantly spent in the company of Hannah Curlee, the second place winner of Season 11 of The Biggest Loser. It wasn’t until I was watching clips from the show online that I got actually nervous to meet her (what if she was a total bitch celeb in real life?!) but when I walk into the conference room where Hannah is sitting with a cup of coffee and she jumps up to shake my hand with a mondo smile on her face, I am instantly put at ease.
Hannah was in town for two days this week to speak at six HealthONE hospitals to kick off a new HealthONE employee weight-management program. Hannah actually worked for this company before Loser in the wellness program design department, but is now the spokesperson for the program, sharing her struggles and triumphs from weight loss. She’s been traveling a TON since the show, sharing her story with others and participating in events like the Sports Bra Challenge, where women and men will go to exercise classes (Hannah went to a spin class) or will work out at home or ride their bikes with no shirt on. “The idea with something like this,” says Hannah “is to be completely comfortable with your body as it is right now.”
“Comfortable” is certainly a word I would use to describe Hannah when I meet her. She’s beautiful (sparkly eyes, tall, blond), funny, motivated, and is completely calm during our talk, which is two hours before her flight out of Denver, thirty minutes after her third or fourth speech of the day and moments before her next one. She speaks quickly, but not like she’s frazzled, and in almost every other syllable I can detect a bit of a Southern drawl, left over from growing up in Texas and Alabama. It wasn’t until after Loser that she was able to be so cool and collected, however. “My sister [Olivia, who did the show with Hannah] and I, our relationship prior to the show was about dieting and trying to lose weight. It was like a pity party all the time (we always had great food at these parties) and it wasn’t until later that I realized how miserable we really were.”
Hannah, like so many of us before, had come to realize that diets just plain old don’t work. To make a huge change like that to your body, you have to change your lifestyle. Olivia, an opera singer who was tired of not getting her dream role, decided it was time to change her lifestyle and signed Hannah up for the ride. “I did not want to do Loser at first,” says Hannah. “Thousands of people tried out for our season, and I’m sitting there saying, ‘I don’t want to do it.’ Olivia had to drag me, kicking and screaming.”
So what changed her mind?
“The producers told us they wanted us on because we were funny. We would probably stay on the show for a couple weeks, and then get kicked off. A motivational show telling us we couldn’t do it! I got so tired of people telling us we couldn’t do it.” With the support of trainers Jillian and Bob, their friends and family, Hannah and Olivia fought their way to the final two, overcoming all kinds of odds (they weighed less than most contestants; therefore they had less to lose) and were the first whole team to reach the finale. During that episode, Olivia stood on the scale, the two sisters looking at each other with proud tears in their eyes before Olivia was pronounced the winner. “People ask me if there were any tensions or hard feelings between me and my sister because I lost,” says Hannah. “I’m like, I lost by three pounds; that’s like a big crap!”
As our meeting is coming to an end and I see somebody flapping their hands at me, telling me to WRAP IT UP so Hannah can start her next talk, I ask her what she would like to tell women who want to start this kind of improvement in their lives. She picks up her empty coffee cup and leans forward a little bit. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We think that, as women, we have to shoulder this weight and do it alone; being on Loser, asking the help of Loser was the bravest thing I ever did. It’s putting yourself out there and acknowledging the fact that you want to make a change. The bravest thing I ever did.” Then Hannah Curlee shoots me a smile, pushes her shoulders back, and heads out to continue kickin’ ass in her new life.
Check out Hannah and Olivia’s blog, www.myfitspiration.com!