Just 10 weeks ago, Colorado Springs resident Nate Montgomery weighed 359 pounds, and as a result, earned himself a spot on the 14th season of NBC's hit show The Biggest Loser.
The 25-year-old took a leave of absence from his job with T. Rowe Price, traveled to the Biggest Loser ranch outside Los Angeles, and became a member of trainer Jillian Michaels' team. By the end of the second week, he'd lost 25 pounds, but that wasn't enough to avoid elimination from campus.
On Monday, March 18, Montgomery will return during the show's live television finale to face the scale one more time. If he's lost the highest percentage of body fat of any of the season's eliminated players, he will win the at-home prize of $100,000.
He's got a good shot: Since he left the show, he's lost more than 75 pounds.
Montgomery says his weight struggles started as a teen, and that he "continued to balloon up" in high school — something that's more typical locally than you might think. El Paso County Public Health reports that statistics gathered between 2008 and 2010 show that county-wide, 28.5 percent of kids ages 2 to 14 are considered overweight, and 13.9 percent of those are obese. (In children and adolescents, obesity is determined by comparing a child's body mass index (BMI) to those of kids the same age and gender.) By adulthood, those county percentages grow to 58.3 percent overweight, with 21.2 percent of those obese — a figure that's more than doubled since 1995.
The Independent spoke with Montgomery in late January about fast food, being "the caboose," and how growing up here — in what's regularly touted as a healthy and fit community — may have added to his struggle.
Indy: How's the journey been since you've been home, since you were eliminated?
Nate Montgomery: It's been an experience. You know, in my regular life, I never thought that I could find the time to work out. ... Just being on the show, I had a big adjustment in my brain about what's important in life. ...
You only work eight hours out of the day, you know — there's another six there before you go to bed, so that time should be spent on yourself. In the gym. And so that's really what I've done. Every day I try to better myself. I try to run the mile a little faster, or try to hike a little further on the weekends than I did the weekend before.
Indy: Your bio says that you started struggling with your weight as a teenager. Can you talk more specifically about the role that fast food played in that?
NM: I've always lived in a fast-food family. After work, you know, my mom would always pick up fast food, and so it was something that was normal for us. ...
As a child I was always out playing basketball, so that kind of offset the calorie intake. But when I got into my teenage years ... we moved out to Falcon, Colorado, and there was nobody around. I had no friends to play with, so I started to live a sedentary lifestyle ... building models or playing video games.
And so I'd continue to eat the same way, fast food all the time, but I didn't do any of the activity that offset it, so I started getting really big. When it came time for school sports in high school, you know, I was so big that I wasn't as good as the other people, and so that discouraged me from competing in sports.
Indy: What one piece of advice would you give the teenage you if you could?
NM: I would say, if I stay on the path that I'm going, it's just gonna get worse. And health is never going to become less important to me; it's only going to become more important as I get older.
So the future me would really appreciate if the teenage me would really get on board with fitness, and finding something that I like to do that is active. You know, I like to play video games, but that's not active. I need to find something I like outdoors and just experience an adventure. And let fitness come along with that. Just make it fun, not a chore.
Indy: Colorado is such an active state ... lots of hiking, biking, climbing. Does it actually make it harder to be overweight?
NM: Oh, absolutely. I always joke around with my friends saying, you know, in all the magazines you read, if you read Men's Health or Men's Fitness, Colorado Springs is constantly ranked the number one healthiest city in the United States. And so you know, being so overweight, it was just another one of those things.
I just really didn't feel comfortable going anywhere. I mean, to the mall, outside. Everywhere you go, there's rock climbers, mountain climbing, these really in-shape people. For me it was a constant state of discouragement because I was never, I felt, as good as the people around me.
(Editor's note: We followed up with Montgomery on March 10, just after he completed one of his major fitness goals — to finish the Manitou Incline for the first time. He wrote, "It was amazing!")
Indy: Some people say [losing weight is] as easy as eating right and getting exercise. But, in reality, as we see on Biggest Loser a lot, there's a root cause that is typically an emotional issue. Have you had any realizations around that for yourself?
NM: Absolutely. ... [Michaels] brought to light the fact that I made the decision to be fat. And it took me a little bit to really agree with that, but she's absolutely right.
I made the decision to not eat [healthy] and I made the decision to not work out, so I made the decision to be fat. When I thought about that, I had to be real honest with myself, and I realized that my problem is I never felt like I was good at anything. You know, I just have this fear of being a novice ... being overweight for me was a really easy excuse. ...
If my friends wanted to go for a hike, and I was the one behind, I'd be like, "Oh you know, I'm a big guy so I'm gonna pull up the caboose." It was easy for me to make jokes about not being good about stuff because I was overweight. And so now I've really kind of changed that mentality. I can do anything.
Indy: Is there anything else you want to add that I haven't asked?
NM: ... Anybody, period, can do what I do. It's really about just getting started — and if you can't run, then walk. And that's what I did. I could not run. I fell on the treadmill three times on my first day. I couldn't run, so I walked. And now I can run for miles.
When the Spartan Military Sprint (spartanrace.com) comes to Fort Carson for its second year on May 4-5, Nate Montgomery will compete. He says he'll also participate in the Biggest Loser RunWalk Colorado 5K Off-Road Challenge that Saturday, on post. (Details at right.)
The Spartan folks, known for some of the hardest obstacle races in the country, will design the Challenge course; however, the intent is for it to be "non-intimidating," perfect for the first-timer. Completing obstacles is optional, and the event will not be timed.
There will, however, be mud.