As of Jan. 1, 2008, the premiere date for The Biggest Loser’s fifth season, the show had already crowned four champions for shedding extreme amounts of weight in less than a year’s time with the help of trainers — including Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper — as well as nutritionists and doctors. There was Ryan Benson during the first season, then Matt Hoover claiming victory in 2005’s battle of the sexes, followed by Erik Chopin, who beat out the largest cast ever, and then Bill Germanakos, claiming the title over his twin Jim Germanakos in 2007.
But the show had a problem — well, it had lots of problems, the most notable being the fact that the TV competition promulgated dangerous messages to a mass audience about weight loss. But the one showrunners reportedly wanted to fix was the fact that a woman had yet to take home the top prize. Producers gave themselves one more season to shed its sexist ways naturally — and if things didn’t go the way of a woman, then they were considering changing the format of the show to crown two contestants, one of each gender.
But that adjustment never came to be because Ali Vincent dominated, securing a $250,000 prize by dropping 112 lbs. over the course of 30 weeks.
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“I was not about to let that happen on my watch. I didn’t want a special category to win. I wanted to just win, plain and simple,” Vincent tells Yahoo Lifestyle ahead of the show’s reboot on USA in January and shortly after the 15-year anniversary of the groundbreaking show’s debut.
Since securing the title of first female Biggest Loser, Vincent’s world has drastically changed.
“I honestly never would have thought being part of such an experience would have such a profound impact on my life,” she admits.
Vincent went on to be a guest on a number of talk shows like The Ellen Show, Good Morning America and Oprah. She also signed on as a spokesperson for brands like 24 Hour Fitness, Famous Footwear and Designer Whey protein. A year after her win, Vincent wrote a book about her experiences called Believe It, Be It: How Being The Biggest Loser Won Me Back My Life. Then in 2011, Vincent began hosting her own show on the Live Well Network, Live Big with Ali Vincent, during which she helped guests and viewers live a healthier lifestyle through fitness and proper nutrition.
But for Vincent, who had been working as a hairstylist in Arizona prior to her first place finish, the spotlight — and all that came with it — wasn’t easy.
“In the beginning, I would feel uncomfortable around all these people who knew some of the most intimate parts of my life when I knew nothing about them,” she explains.
To cope, she started hugging everyone she met.
“For me, that exchange of energy allowed the playing field to feel more even,” shares Vincent. “I think people look to me because they feel like I could be their sister or the girl they grew up with. I’m a safe person to relate to or have on their team and I love it.”
Having a public persona has, in a sense, also helped Vincent. “I am forced by the innate human desire to not want to disappoint, to find a way,” she says of maintaining her weight and continuing her fitness journey. But she has struggled to keep all the weight off since her win more than a decade ago and says her relationship with herself and her body continues to change daily.
“I do try to be kinder to myself, but that hasn’t always happened ... I have had every emotion you can think of in regards to my health and my body throughout the years, some I’m proud of and some I hope to never experience again,” says the former TBL winner.
Vincent confesses that she has, at times, sabotaged her efforts in terms of fitness and nutrition when she was feeling especially judged or insecure, but these days she does her best to put others’s opinions behind her.
“I can only worry about the things that I can do something about: what I put in my body, how I choose to move my body and how I treat those around me and the environment I’m in,” says Vincent.
Part of her weight fluctuations also stem from an assault she experienced in a massage parlor in 2015, which she spoke about in an interview with Oprah Winfrey at the time.
“For a long time, I felt this huge sense of shame and responsibility for the assault ... I wondered if I had somehow deserved it because there was always so much talk about and interest in my body,” she reveals.
Fortunately, that changed once she began to share her story publicly.
“Each time I shared, I felt differently about it. It started to lose its hold or power over me. It will always be a part of my story and has been a part of shaping who I am today, but it isn’t the end of the story ... I can be seen and can find safety in my strength and resilience,” she says.
That positive attitude can mostly be attributed to her family.
“I am so extremely blessed to have found love and created love through our children,” Vincent says of her wife, Jennifer Krusing. “My kids fulfill me and drive me in a way I never knew possible.”
And while Vincent adds her Biggest Loser triumph near the top of her list of accomplishments, her greatest one is a work in progress, wanting to instill in her kids the understanding that they can be and do anything they want so long as they believe in themselves: “I hope to show them this is possible by continuing to live out loud and loving myself.”
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