If you’re a fan of NBC’s hit reality show The Biggest Loser, then you probably know Amanda Arlauskas. At age 19, Amanda was voted onto the show by America. When the audience met her at the Season Finale of Season 7, they may have seen her as just another reality TV hopeful looking for fifteen minutes of fame. But as time went on, Amanda revealed herself to be strong, courageous and full of determination. America had the opportunity to witness a sad, lonely teenager evolve into a secure and confident woman. She grew up and her growth inspired others to reach inside themselves and take steps towards healthy living.
Recently, Amanda talked with Erin about her experiences on the show, the friendships she’s built, life after the ranch and how losing weight has changed her life.
IW: What made you decide to be on Loser and what was the audition process like?
AA: I watched the show since Season 5 and I think a lot of Americans think that once you get on the show it’s a miracle pill. That’s what I thought. I thought if I make this show I’ll be skinny right away and I’ll live this amazing life. It was totally not that. I auditioned first for season 7 and I made it far into the process but didn’t make it to the end. After that, I was really disappointed and got down. I thought I would never audition again because the whole process is a long process and it lasts months. I remember being so heartbroken the first time I didn’t make it. So when I heard Season 8 was taking applicants, it was Christmas 2008 and my family was asking me if I was going to try it again. So I was like “I’ll do it one last time” and I emailed my casting director who I had previously been in contact with the season before…and I made it all the way to finals week. That’s when I got the call from the producers that they couldn’t decide between me and another girl. So they basically told me ‘This is the deal, If you want to [be on the show] come to the season finale, plead your case to America on live television and let America choose.’ Of course, I wasn’t happy with that and I was kind of let down again but I thought “am I just going say ‘no’ and give it to someone else or am I going to fight for it?” I knew it was either going to be one of the best nights of my life or the worst nights of my life and luckily I made it on and America chose me.
IW: What was that like? You were working out in front of everyone. What was going through your mind when you were in front of America baring it all, so to speak?
AA: Literally, I was just a normal girl and to be put on television, live television never mind, and the fact that they made me work out the whole time. I remember thinking “what am I signing myself up for? Am I really asking people to put me through this process?” I remember second guessing and asking myself if this is what I really want. Then I was like ‘It’s not going to be easy. Be realistic here and just do it.’ And so I just sucked it up and just did it but I had so many emotions going through my head. I was nervous. I was scared. I was excited. I was just petrified really.
IW: What would you say were some of the challenges that were toughest for you on the ranch?
AA: Initially when we were first on the ranch it was a wake up call because they took away our cell phones. We had no internet access, no TV, no interaction with the outside world. That was really, really tough. I was 19 at the time. I was addicted to my cell phone. I was addicted to the internet and all of the sudden they were taking me out and putting me in a bubble. Initially that was hard being away from my family and my friends. I was so close with my family. I was still a little girl and this is the first time that I had ever been away from my parents. I took it really hard and I was really homesick for the first couple weeks. Getting past that, it was just physical exhaustion and mental exhaustion were hard to get past. It was a challenge every day for yourself. I would think “I’ve made it this far, am I going to give up now? No!” And so I’d work a little harder and I’d always tell myself all of the times I wanted to quit, had I not taken that extra step, where would I be? But because I took that extra step, look where I am now.
IW: It takes amazing tenacity to get through some of those challenges. Was there a specific challenge that was hardest?
AA: To be honest, the marathon was hardest. We ran that marathon in October and we started training for the show in May. We had been training so hard. The doctor told us that we were almost athletes because of how much training we did every day. I just didn’t think we were all really physically ready for that challenge. I remember flying to California for that challenge and thinking “Amanda, you’re going to walk 5 and you’re going to run 5” and that was my thinking of getting through it. During the challenge, the first 8 miles were very mental. I just wanted to quit. I wanted to be done. I didn’t want to do it. Then miles 8 through 18 were very physical because that’s when the pain started and the last couple of miles were just torture. Literally torture, because I was in so much pain but I count it as the most rewarding challenge because I did something I never thought in a million years that I could do….The fact that I did it and I accomplished it was a huge goal. I’m actually very happy that they made us do it because I accomplished something great.
IW: In season 8, there was tension with Tracey (Yukich, Biggest Loser, Season 8 contestant). Specifically she had separated you from Rebecca (Meyer, BL8 teammate) and everyone was angry. When the cameras go off, how did you cope with that tension? What’s it like to be in the house when people are not happy with each other?
AA: It’s weird because there was a lot of tension initially when Tracey made those decisions and a lot of us were unhappy with her. But at the end of the day, you do go back to the house, the cameras do shut off and you are living with these people. You have every right to be frustrated but at the end of the day it’s not worth it because I’m going to have to spend who knows how much more time with you. We were so close last season and…behind closed doors and with no cameras around we [Tracey and I] had amazing conversations where she explained to me why she made the decisions. She didn’t realize how close Bob [Harper, Biggest Loser Trainer] and I were and was sorry to take me away from Bob and she was sorry to take Rebecca away from me. At the end of the day, she did what she needed to do to stay on the ranch and she made some decisions that not everyone was happy with but how can you really make everyone happy? You can’t so you just have to get past it.
IW: So there are no hard feelings today?
AA: No, No, No. I was just texting Tracey this morning. No, are so close. You would think nothing ever happened between us. She’s a good friend of mine- for life.
IW: Do you still keep in touch with other contestants? With Rebecca?
AA: Yeah. Rebecca was just here last week at my house visiting for a couple of days. Two weeks ago, Rebecca, Daniel (Wright), Sean (Algaier), Danny (Cahill- Winner BL8) and myself were in Oklahoma for a week together. I’m going back out to Oklahoma to visit Danny again. I have a group of them [contestants] that I’m so close with [including] the ones I just named and I speak with Liz (Young), a lot. I speak with Tracey. Everyone was real friendly but of course there is a group that I’m closest with. The people I just named I’m closest with. I have a huge place in my heart for these people because they are family. They are people that went through something crazy with me and no one will ever understand the experience we’ve been through and so they mean a lot to me.
IW: How about Bob- Do you still have contact with him?
AA: Yeah. Bob is busy. He’s on to the new season… but he is around if I ever need him. I do call and leave him messages and he’s pretty good at texting me back or calling me back. More than anything, he’ll send me a check-in text message once in a while to say “I love you, I hope you’re on track, how are you doing?” and we just try to keep in touch like that. I know he’s busy and he’s got a whole new group to take care of. I have to let him go and help these other people because I’ve already gotten my gift from him.
IW: What do you think is the most valuable piece of advice that you’ve gotten from Bob or any of the other trainers?
AA: That you can’t really love others and help others until you love yourself. Going through this process with Bob, he helped me get to that mental place where I have to be ok with myself before I can succeed. It wasn’t until the makeover episode that I started to really become confident and happier with myself. Then all of the sudden, by the end of the show I was like “Ok, I really love myself right now. I love who I am right now” and it was because of Bob. Had Bob not told me that that’s what I needed to do, I don’t know that I would have known to do that.
IW: What has the support been like since you’ve left the ranch?
AA: The support is absolutely amazing. When I came home my whole town was supporting me. Family, friends, people that I know and then there is a community on Facebook, on Twitter…I have 5000 fans writing to me all of the time. I get emails in all day and it’s so amazing for me to see that I touched so many people. I never thought I could do that. I like to be able to talk to and interact with fans and I hate that I can’t get back to every single person… The support is just tremendous. They look at my pictures and tell me “You’re doing so great, you inspire me” or “I want to lose weight, how do I do this?” and I love it. It feeds me. It makes me want to do that much more and keep this up because these people are looking up to me and I have to be a good role model now.
IW: Have you had any backlash from people you were friends with before the show? Have there been issues with people treating you differently since you’ve lost the weight?
AA: Not so much differently. There have been a lot of people from my past that have come into my life and I’ve had to almost start weeding out the fake people. Because how do I know who wants to be my friend and who wants to be my friend because of the show? There have been of course some jealous people that have started a little bit of drama and have said things about me but I know at the end of the day that it’s because of jealousy. I’m not one that’s going to get involved in that. So, say what you want…but I know who I am now and I’m happy with myself. I just have to push those people aside. That’s not worth it to me. That’s not me anymore.
IW: Some of the criticism for Biggest Loser has been that some people see it as exploitative and they think it’s unrealistic. What would you say to that type of criticism?
AA: I wouldn’t call it exploited by any means. We were put in an unrealistic weight loss programs. We were put in a place where we have no distractions, no family, no friends, no jobs. We can work out and diet and do this all day and every day. If any normal person is put in that position where for a couple of months they don’t have anything else to do but lose weight, they’d be able to do it as fast as we did. So it’s unrealistic to do on your own because most people have so much going on in their lives. We had nothing going on in our lives at that point….We had a doctor on the show always supervising us, we had a medic, we had nutrition, and we had a psychologist. We had everything. We were so well taken care of. No the normal person is not going to lose weight as quickly as we did, but that is because of the situation we were in. We were by no means treated badly and by no means not taken care of. Right now, I’m up about 10-12lbs [since leaving the ranch] and of course I want to lose it again. Do I think I’m going to lose it in 2 weeks? Not necessarily because this is not my job anymore. That was my job for that time span but it’s not my job anymore. It’s going to take me a little longer just like it would take the normal Plain Jane sitting next to me.
IW: What are you doing now to stay healthy and take those pounds off?
AA: Well it was hard because the show ended right at Christmas time. It was the holiday season and we were just kind of thrown into the real world at a bad time. So initially I had put on 20 pounds straight from finale. Then I went back down and now I’m up 12 pounds. I’ve lost some, I’m still going down. Every morning I do spin class…I try to do two hours of cardio a day. I watch my dieting and my food. I just moved into my own apartment which has made it a bit easier for me because I have no temptations in my house. Everything in my kitchen is all food I know I can have and it’s healthy for me….living alone is great. It’s just about getting back on track and following the routine that I was doing before the show ended.
IW: Do you have any staple foods?
AA: I am so big on vegetables right now. I hated vegetables before the show and [now] I can eat veggies all day every day if you ask me to. I love Spaghetti Squash and I tell everybody this because it’s such a low calorie dinner. I steam it and I put a half cup of marina sauce on it and it’s 90 calories [for one portion]….Spaghetti Squash is one of my favorites. Sometimes I’ll take vegetables and cut them up and throw them in a pan and cook them up. I just throw random things together to make it taste good. I use spices, that’s my biggest thing to add flavor. I just like to explore and then try new things.
IW: What’s next for you?
AA: I’m currently working with a manager. I’m doing some speaking engagements and they are starting to pick up around the country. I’m going to a lot of colleges and I’m super excited about that because I like to get my word out. I like to talk to people my age. I’d really like to get into something involving childhood obesity because I was the poster child for that. I was heavy all of my life and I overcame it at a young age. If I can get out there and help anybody or inspire anybody, I want to do that. So right now it’s about getting my face out there, trying to get these speaking engagements where I can reach out to others and hopefully try to tackle childhood obesity because it’s on the rise right now. So many people are focused on childhood obesity right now and I just want to be another one to help.
IW: Any advice you can give to our readers trying to lose weight right now?
AA: All I can say is that you have to want it. You have to really want it. Nobody can tell you when it’s time to lose weight, you have to really want it for yourself. When you finally come to the realization that you are sick of being this unhappy person, you have to know that you’ve gotta take that initial step. Then you have to take another step and another step and it’s not going to be easy. There are going to be struggles and bumps in the road. You’re going to think that it’s impossible and it’s never going to happen. The weight is not going to fall right off initially. It’s going to take time but you have to trust the process and not give up. If I had given up the first couple of weeks after I wasn’t losing the weight, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now but I believed in what I was doing and I let it happen. I gave it more time and before I knew it I was down twenty pounds, fifty pounds, eighty-seven pounds at the end. You have to stay motivated, determined and confident that you can do it. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever been through in my entire life and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity…It’s the best feeling in the world to be where you want to be.