Interview: Wayne Vandenlangenberg from ‘Biggest Loser’

We had the pleasure of talking with Wayne Vandenlangenberg, the Biggest Loser fan that lost an astonishing 418 pounds at home! He is being invited to join the contestants at The Biggest Loser ranch and participate in the finale in May. He spoke with us about his amazing transformation, how he got started, and what he is looking forward to on the ranch.

Amazing weight loss. I was wondering did you ever actually apply to be on the show?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: No. I didn’t even know there was such a thing of casting calls until this past year. And I guess I really didn’t have means to be, you know, money wise to go to like other cities. You know, unless it would’ve been, you know, in my hometown or something I might have then known about it.

But I faithfully watch the show but I never really knew there was such a thing as casting calls itself.

So are you a big fan of the show now?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: Oh yeah. I’ve been a big fan for about two years since I actually first turned it on when I came from the hospital, so.

How do you feel about kind of being a member of The Biggest Loser family now?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: I just think that we are all one big family and we’re just trying to inspire the world to get healthy.

I wanted to ask you, what was the one thing that made you say, “I need to lose this weight?”

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: When I came home in the wheel chair and weeks prior to that they had told me that I weighed a whopping 674 pounds and I was just appalled at myself. I had never realized it was that high.

What contributed to your weight gain? Anything in particular? An event?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: No. I don’t – I think it was just the, you know, a 30 year build up. You know, I mean I just kept eating and it seemed like, you know, I don’t know if they really say your stomach, you know, increases. But I mean I just – I was a hoarder. I would just go from one place to the next and then I would go home and make another meal and look forward to that and try planning what I was going to make if not in an hour or the next day. So I guess it was just 30 years of build up.

And what are you looking forward to most about going to The Biggest Loser ranch that you’ve watched before? Is there anything you’re excited about?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: I guess I’m just looking forward to seeing other ways of getting healthy. I heard they have lots of healthy nutritious food. Maybe it’ll give me more ideas, you know, that I can incorporate in my home and maybe pass on to other people that are looking to get inspired.

And what about the trainers? Are you looking forward to working with them?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: Oh, remarkable. I mean I never really went to a gym so this is going to be like an all new experience for me. My own gym was myself doing walking. So I never had that experience of actually having somebody train me how to get fit.

What particular exercises have you done and what foods have you been eating to make that amazing weight loss?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: Well, I stopped eating all red meats and pork and limited myself to just fish, chicken, turkey. I stopped all soda products. I stopped all sorts of anything that had refined sugar in it like desserts, you know, cakes, cookies, in that line. No white products, flour products like, you know, flour, rice. That’s the kind of things I just cut. I cut – actually cut it out gung ho from day one.

Do you feel like your life is better now?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: My life is a 100% turnaround. I don’t have to stop at every corner to take a five-minute breather before I even cross the street to go into the next endeavor.

Just how long did it take you to lose the 400 pounds?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: I started June 24 of ’08. I’ll always remember that day.

And do you want to lose more?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: Well, my goal is 250 so when I weighed on the scale last night, it was 256, so six pounds.

How do you feel about actually being on the show that inspired you?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: It was so amazing being on the ranch, seeing where like the doctor, you know, where his office was. And then I got to like – to walk up the hill where the gym is. And I got to see exactly, you know, like where the contestants work out and it looks totally, you know, amazing from being on the inside than it was – what you see on television. And just to be on that stage, it – I had goose bumps walking up when – in doing rehearsals.

Walking up the stairs to those scales knowing that all my, you know, friends that I’ve always watched for the last two years were walking up these stairs and I’m like following in their footsteps, you know. It was just totally amazing.

So how did it happen that you ended up on there?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: Somebody from one of the past seasons recommended my name. She heard my story. And she started the ball rolling in all directions.

What was it that made you want to join The Biggest Loser? Like there is – I mean the show has millions of viewers but not necessary any decide to go for a complete life turnaround. What was it about it or what was the moment that you decided to kind of bring that into your own life?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: Well, I was watching the show and I’m like – I saw Jerry (Season 6) and he was not – you know, I didn’t realize he was 10 years older than me. I assumed from the reaction to why I related to him, I thought he was, you know, maybe five years older than me. And he was walking around sickly, passing out, you know.

And I told my wife, you know, I said, “That’s going to be me in five years and I’m in a wheelchair now. And I don’t want to be a burden to anybody.” So I just started reading up on nutrition and things that were good for you, things that weren’t good for you. And we went to the cupboards and we tossed everything out and we started fresh and that’s the way it’s been for two years now.
We had the pleasure of talking with Wayne Vandenlangenberg, the Biggest Loser fan that lost an astonishing 418 pounds at home! He is being invited to join the contestants at The Biggest Loser ranch and participate in the finale in May. He spoke with us about his amazing transformation, how he got started, and what he is looking forward to on the ranch.

And what are some of the things that you were going to miss out that you can do now – you couldn’t do before that you really enjoy?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: You know, I never went to the movies because I couldn’t sit in the seats. I mean I did previously, but as I got bigger I stopped going because I couldn’t even squeeze into one of them little auditorium chairs. I went to Six Flags Great America and I went onto one of the roller coasters and they had to literally stop the whole entire process because they couldn’t fasten the bar down. I didn’t – it didn’t even dawn on me like that. I just got up and just kind of shrugged it off, you know. I was like, “Oh well.” But now this summer I had told my wife I said we’re going to Great America and I’m getting right back on that roller coaster and I’m going.

And is that what you’re looking forward to doing this summer?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: I’m looking forward to doing anything that I can put shorts on now and not have to be embarrassed.

So I know you’ve been in touch with some former Biggest Loser people like Kristin and Joelle. What advice have they given you about going to the ranch? Have you reached out to them to find out what the experience will be like?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: Joelle did tell me to stay real, keep focused, you know, kind of observe what’s going on, you know. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Kristin just kind of said, “It’s going to be amazing when you get there. It’s going to be totally different than what you see on television. You’re going to see the real aspect of what all the buildings look like from the point of view that you don’t see on television.” You know, walking up the hill. I mean I walked up it like five times yesterday and two years ago I’d have been like, “We’re not going up there.” That would have been too far of a hill.

Well are there any exercises? You said that mostly you did walking. Is there any form of exercise you’re excited to try, kickboxing, swimming…?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: I did kickboxing with Kristin about two weeks ago at my former high school. And we did a little bit of Yoga and we did a little bit of Zumba. We did about 15 minutes of each. It was sponsored by a local gym that was trying to get clients to come down. And it was just a form of telling people how they can get healthy. And I really enjoyed the kickboxing. It was, you know, it was fun. And actually was amazed that actually we could get up there and do it.

What was the first thing you did like that you hadn’t done in so long when you lost the weight?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: I went to the mall. And I bought clothes. No more – I bought clothes and I bought clothes. Because catalog clothes were like out of the past for me now. Everything came from a catalog that I wore because I came from a 7X shirt, now I’m an extra large. And my waist was an 87 and now I’m a 42. So it was just great just to go in these stores instead of walking by and thinking, “Oh yeah, maybe one of these days.” But I actually walked through that door and just to have a choice of a – you know, in catalogs you have usually a choice of three different colors: black, blue or brown.

You say that you stopped eating a lot of things gung ho. You just dropped it one day. You make it sound so easy. How did you actually go about doing that? What did you do when you were faced with temptations?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: Well, you know, like the soda, the cans, the bottles, I opened them and I dumped them down drain. You know, the canned food I gave to the food pantries, the – like the rice, the wheats that we didn’t eat any more, the white pastas, we gave it out to the local food pantry. We went shopping and bought all new.

And what about when you were out and about and came across stuff like that?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: Well, you know, the temptation is always there and I try not to go down the aisles in the first couple weeks. You know, I knew the things that I really would like, the chips, the Doritos, the ice cream aisle. I tried not to – I tried to avoid those aisles the first couple of weeks that put those temptations in me. But now I just go down and look and say, “Ha, never again in my house.”

It wasn’t really hard though. I mean I had to avoid those aisles. And I literally, you know, was paranoid about going down them the first time. But, you know, you have to conquer all your fears and my fear was to be able to go down there and not think about putting it in my cart anymore. You know, grabbing the whole wheat bread instead of the Wonder Bread now. You know, maybe grabbing like some ice milk kind of ice cream instead of the big huge five gallon bucket of cookies and cream or something. Making better choices when I go down the aisle. So I feel confident now when I go down the aisles that I’m not going to put it in my cart anymore.

Do you have a plan or have you already had any surgery to remove some of the excess skin after all the weight that you lost?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: No. I consulted with a doctor a couple weeks ago. And he told me that technically I should wait a year, you know, for everything to settle down. But my insurance company won’t cover it because they consider it cosmetic surgery. So no, I haven’t had anything.

And I know you mentioned that Jerry, a former Biggest Loser contestant served as a big inspiration for you. Can you discuss a little bit more about how and why he was such an inspiration and why you were able to identify so strongly with him?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: I just felt like our ages were close. And I was sitting home watching it, you know, in my wheelchair and yet he was mobile. And I was looking at my wife saying, “You know, what’s five years going to bring to me? Am I going to still be in this chair?” Are you going to still have to be lifting the chair up to the car everyday every time you want to go somewhere? I want to go back to work. I want to start living again. I mean this just is ridiculous sitting here.

So I think by watching him and thinking, you know, look at him, he’s getting on those treadmills and he’s getting, you know, he’s lifting these weights and, you know. He had the opportunity to have all that there. So I went in the cupboard and I started grabbing canned goods and I started duct taping them together and using them for weights. And I would use her yarn and I would wrap it around my foot and started doing leg lifts to make my legs stronger so I could start getting up off the chair and start walking. Because I remember Jerry saying on one of the episodes, “If you can’t afford a gym, walking is free.”

So I remember – I can remember my very first time I walked around the block without having to huff and not having to worry about do I got to stop, do I got to go back home yet? You know, like making it half way through and then having to turn around just to make sure I made it home.

I think that was the most inspiration of just knowing if he can get past all that, I think I can do this too. And that was the very first episode I’ve ever watched of the show. I didn’t even know the show existed.

It would be my dream to meet Jerry some day, you know, just to thank him and give him a big hug. You know, I mean these people don’t really know what an inspiration they are to people.

And how old are you?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: I am 49.

That is great because a lot of people in their 40s kind of give up on weight loss because they think that their time has passed and their metabolism is shot. And so what do you tell people who are making a major change in their life like that like losing weight in their 40s?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: Well, you know, I saw a lot of people, you know, I said, “These pounds didn’t come on overnight. It’s not going to be overnight before they come off.”

And you got to get your family involved because my wife got involved in this. I mean it would have been impossible for me to make two separate meals in the house to begin with. And just to have her eating greasy fried food in front of me while I’m sitting there eating my low cal chicken or whatever. You know, it’s the way all my diets failed before. I would do it a week and then I would continue because that food was still in the house and then next thing I know the nutritional portions got smaller and the fattening portions on your plate got bigger. And next thing, you know, there was no such thing as nutritional portion. You just went right back to the old way.

But, you know, you can’t give up. You have to think what you have ahead of yourself. I mean say you got grandkids or you got your brothers, your sisters. You know, you don’t want them to worry about you the rest of your life. You just want to – I just thought about my family. Just thinking what a burden I was going to be to everybody.

Does it seem surreal to tell people now that all you need to lose is six pounds?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: Yes. I mean I always set small goals when I started. I would start out with 25 pounds. And when I hit that 25 pounds, I’d say I want to lose that 25 by August. You know, if I hit it before August, better to me. But if I didn’t hit it, oh well, I would keep going.

But I seemed to always hit my goal pretty close to when I’d set them. So I always made baby steps. I never hit – say, you know, I want to lose 200 pounds. You know, they want it off by tomorrow. Well that’s not going to happen. And I think I would have failed if I had of did that.

But I didn’t realize I was going to hit 400 pounds. I mean I didn’t save a lot of my old clothes because I thought, “Oh well, I’ll just do this and see what happens.”

So are members of your family overweight as well? Has your weight loss inspired them?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: My sister and my mother are – you know, they’re probably about 40 to 50 pounds over. I’ve been working with my mother now for the past two months, you know, getting her on track. And my sister has joined a weight center. And she told me online this morning that when she saw me on TV, she just cried thinking, “I didn’t want to be a you.” She says, “Now I know I’m going to really stick to it.” But my mom has been doing excellent. She’s about up to 15 pounds now. So I’m so proud of her.

Oh, that’s so awesome. And what would be – what would you tell someone who is morbidly obese? What’s the first thing you would tell them to do? Like where would they start?

Wayne Vandenlangenberg: I would tell them to get themselves a journal. You know, even if they’re not – you know, they need to start journaling what they’re putting in their mouth because I was told my average food intake was 12,000 calories a day. And I did not realize that until I started recording everything I put in my mouth. And once they see that and they can see that they’re not getting healthy. They’re making themselves worse. And, you know, they might not even be in a wheelchair like I was. Maybe they’re, you know, on the couch all day or they lay in bed. You know, because they can’t get out.

You know, starting with the arm lifts like I did with the cans, you know, that’s getting yourself stronger.

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