I am more than excited about this post! I got the amazing opportunity to interview Bobby Saleem of the Biggest loser season 15. I could not believe my ears when he agreed to be interviewed by me. I was totally blown out of myself. I could go on and on about my excitement, but ill let you guys get to reading. I had so much fun reading and was inspired even more after.
1) How did you gain the weight?
I have always been overweight. I think I was maybe of normal weight when I was 2 for a summer! My parents often worked a lot, so they would bulk cook on the weekends for me to eat during the week. From a very young age, I did not recognize portion control. I would eat until I was full. Because of this, I went through my entire life not eating an appropriate amount of food, and literally would eat until I was absolutely full.Also, I did turn to food to deal with my insecurity with my sexuality. I knew I was gay since I was like 7. I wasn’t mature to digest those feelings, so I definitely turned to food.
All these factors and years of eating did turn into a food addiction. This is how I gained all my weight. I dealt with my emotions with food, regardless if I was stressed, depressed, happy, etc. I used food for all of this!
2) What made you realize you had to do something?
I think a myriad of factors led to make the decision to try out for the show. First, I had gotten to the largest weight ever – 389 lbs. I was petrified by the thought of actually getting to 400 lbs. I was spiraling out of control and recognized that I could be headed down a scary path.
Also, I was working as an attorney. It was difficult to walk 2 blocks to court without being completely drenched in sweat or out of breath. I was embarrassed for myself trying to represent my clients in court when I had such a poor representation of myself. I had very low confidence as an attorney, and felt that I could not confidently represent my clients because I was not even confident in myself. Those two factors really led me to seriously consider trying out for the show.
3) Did you have any fears going into the show? If so, how did you overcome it?
Oh my gosh! I was so nervous. I perhaps made the mistake of watching Season 14 of the Biggest Loser during casting finals. I started to have anxiety and asking myself constantly “What are you getting yourself into!?” I am not the most athletic person, especially at 358 lbs. So, I was very much scared and petrified the first day on the ranch, but I was also hopeful that this was an opportunity to truly change my life. I never made such a decision to focus on my health so as nervous and anxious as I was, I was also excited about the possibility of garnering what I have always wanted, which was to be healthy!
4) What was it like being a contestant on the show?
It was crazy being a contestant on the show! Honestly, it was almost a surreal, outer body experience. I wouldn’t even believe I was on the show if it weren’t for the weekly episodes! It was certainly difficult at times, and truly tested not only my physical capabilities but also my mental strength. Frankly, I was probably in the worst physical shape of all the contestants because I came in with a torn ACL (my knee literally buckled 3-4 times a day for the first two weeks on the ranch!). However, I truly believe I was the most resilient and mentally strong person on the ranch. That was my staying power.
5) What were the toughest and best part of BL?
The toughest parts were the constant physical and emotion exhaustion that we went through on a daily basis. However, that was also the best part because after completing arduous workouts and battling different emotional struggles, I felt stronger than ever!
6) What was the nutrition like at the camp? Were you all in control of what you ate or how did it work in terms of cooking your meals and recipes?
We had caloric intakes set by Dr. Huizenga. I think I learned a lot about nutrition. Some people do not realize that we have to cook and prepare our own foods. The problem is I came into the ranch not knowing how to cook at all! So, I had to rely on my friendly cast mates for a long while. However, I learned to cook and eventually became responsible for my own food. So not only did I learn about healthy eating and nutrition, I also learned how to cook! That experience certainly helped me.
7) Describe a day in the camp
That’s truly difficult to describe because every single day on the ranch was pretty different. It always depended whether we had dark days (no production whatsoever) or production days (challenges, work out with trainers, interviews). So our day to day was substantially different schedules. Regardless of the day, we worked out a lot!
8) Did you have off days without cameras and what were they like?
Yes, they were called dark days. Those days we truly worked out on our own, and we often had homework from our trainers that we had to complete.
9) What did you do for fun?
Fun? Haha. Slept or rested. I just took the time to try and get to know all the contestants and their lives. This was truly a special group of people with different backgrounds, stories, and personalities. My hands down favorite people on the ranch were Chelsea, Holley, Craig, Tumi, Tanya, Jennifer and Ruben. I could chat and gab with these people all day long!
10) What was it like working with Bob Harper as your trainer?
I loved working with Bob. Because of my injury, it was difficult for him. However, he truly modified almost every exercise to make it both comfortable and challenging for me. Although all three trainers are exceptional professionals, I truly believe Bob was the best fit for me because of my injuries. Also, he really delved into my confidence issues with my sexuality and I am truly grateful for that.
11) How did you keep yourself motivated throughout the process?
I was motivated by the fact that I wanted to survive every week. Honestly, I never thought I could be a finalist with the possibility to win the show. However, I wanted to try and survive every week because I recognized that I was essentially fighting for my life. I wanted to lose as much weight as possible before I had to leave, and fortunately I basically made it through the entire season.
12) How do you fit in your long work hours and make sure your eating healthy?
I think we all did a good job of being consistent with the times of day we would work out and eat, especially on dark days. Days I did not feel well or felt tired, I knew I would have to eat more. We pretty much have to listen to our bodies.
13) You spoke about future goals, can you share some with us?
I still want to maintain the level of fitness that I acquired on the show, but implement things I have learned to love. For example, I signed up with Flywheel Chicago because of my newfound love for indoor cycling. I also signed up with Biggest Loser Run/Walk, 8Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons. Moreover, I signed up for a 200 mile 2 day AIDs ride to support this great cause and help fight such a horrible disease. (The website for any donation for Bobby Saleem can be made here: http://rideforaids.kintera.org/faf/search/searchParticipants.asp?ievent=1080319&lis=1&kntae1080319=FC281F00CB274B2EB465E8EC3D4EC5C0). I signed up for United States Tennis Association tournaments and matches. Finally, I paired up with a bodybuilder to gain some muscle. I have pretty much selected different things that I find fun and will keep me competitive. It also helps with accountability because now I have different coaches and trainers for all of these goals. I am pretty excited! In the next 5 to 10 years, I will want to maintain my newfound health and body! I also want to help the gay community, as well as those that have struggled with weight. I will be pairing with the Biggest Loser Resorts to create awareness of their programs to help other individuals. (If people are interested in the Resort, please call 877-825-8878 for information and book a stay at one of the resorts! Use promo code “bobby!” for a chance to meet me as well!).
15) How have people’s impressions about you changed?
I think people notice my inner strength and confidence a lot more because I carry myself so much differently nowadays. I think I enter into any room and own it. I think my confidence is contagious and everyone is happy to see and feel that.
16) You got eliminated once, what was that like going back home?
I was informed immediately after my first elimination that I would have the opportunity to come back on the ranch. I knew once I got home I had to put in the work immediately if I wanted to come back. I grocery shopped immediately, cooked healthy meals, and worked out. I really was only gone for 7 days! It wasn’t that long of a time period.
17) What advise do you have for others trying to get to where you are now?
I think the first step with dealing with any weight issue is to realize the catalyst for such a food addiction. Once that is realized, people must make decisions to rectify those problems. Working out and dieting are easy things to do, but if you don’t fix the problems associated with food abuse then all efforts made for weight loss with be undoubtedly temporary.