ON THE WEB:
To view biographies, video interviews and before and after photos of each contestant, visit www.timesfreepress.com/news/biggestloser
THE NEXT COMPETITION
To join the next "Chattanooga's Biggest Loser" competition, applicants should submit a video interview, no longer than three minutes. For more information, contact the contest's hosts Kevin and Kristen Harvey of Ignite Fitness in Hixson at 718-8758 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The competition starts Feb. 1. Applications are due no later than Jan. 22.
Only 10 weeks ago, Noreen Risko was unable to bend over to tie her shoes and couldn't fit into the booths at restaurants. At 375 pounds, she was unable to fasten the seat belt in her son's truck and felt that her life was slipping away from her.
Now, those tasks come easy to Mrs. Risko, who has lost more than 64 pounds since the Oct. 11 kickoff of "Chattanooga's Biggest Loser," an intensive 10-week diet and exercise competition hosted by Kevin and Dr. Kristen Harvey of Ignite Fitness in Hixson.
"This week I got into that truck and fastened the seat belt and even had a little extra room," she said.
Mrs. Risko took the title Sunday as the biggest loser after losing 17 percent of her original body weight, the measurement used to choose the winner. The 10 remaining finalists - two of the original 12 finalists dropped out of the competition - collectively lost more than 270 pounds from the program.
Kim Carson placed second, while Jody Branum took third place.
"One of the greatest things for me is having a lap that my granddaughter can now sit on," said Mrs. Risko, who has lost 9 inches off of her waist and 8 inches off her hips. "This has been the best thing that has ever happened to me in my whole life."
Larry Joiner Jr. said he had a realization in August, before applying for a spot in the competition.
"I looked at the mirror and said, 'I hate this guy. I can't stand this guy,'" he said of his 500-pound figure.
Mr. Joiner, 43, has lost nearly 60 pounds during the competition and says he is now able to play with his 8-year-old daughter for the first time. He ripped up an old workout shirt - now several sizes too big - at Sunday's finale of the competition.
"I'm alive again," he said.
Women, who usually have a tough time losing weight, fared well in the competition, Dr. Harvey said.
"It was a nice surprise," Dr. Harvey said. "Noreen really broke records (from our previous competitions)."
Mrs. Risko's prize package includes a three-day cruise to the Bahamas, a professional teeth whitening, a $200 gift certificate to Front Runner Athletics and three months of personal training from the Harveys. Mrs. Risko, who now weighs 310 pounds, said she will continue exercising and hopes to continue losing weight.
"This has changed my life forever," she said.