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48-Year-Old Mom Won "The Biggest Loser"

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How did a 48-year-old stay-at-home mom win "The Biggest Loser"? Here's how!

Shanon Thomas biggest loser mom

Momlogic's Julie: Mom of three Helen Phillips went from 257 lbs. to 117 lbs., dropping a whopping 140 lbs to win "The Biggest Loser." She talks to momlogic about how she dropped the weight, how she handled her daughter's arrest, and her big plans for the future.

Momlogic: How did you feel when you won the competition?

Helen: It truly is a dream come true, a dream I never could imagine. In the middle of this thing, I got the drive and determination back, and I said, "I'm going to win this thing." And I did!

As moms, we often feel we have no time to work out. What's your answer to that?

Helen: I get it. I have three kids -- my daughters are now 29 and 30, and my son is 17. Being a mother is the hardest job you could ever have. You give 150% of your time to your family. You always put yourselves second. You think: "I don't have time to work out, I have to work, I have to go to the grocery store, I have to take the kids to school, and I have to do a million other things." And you really DON'T have the time. This is real life we're dealing with here. But whatever time you can make for yourself, you have to try. Get up an hour earlier, if that's what it's going to take. During your lunch hour at work, run the stairs in the building, or run around the block outside. Even if it's 15 minutes or 20 minutes a day, it's something!

As mothers, we do put ourselves last, and our families first. How noble ... but if you're unhappy with yourself, that shines through to your children. They listen to every word you say. They know when you're sad. You might think you can hide your depression or sadness, but you can't. I thought I was hiding mine and I was convinced no one knew, but my kids knew.

When you start taking time for yourself, even losing a pound or two a week, it makes you a better mother, and a better wife. I don't think you can give your family anything more than your happiness or your love. That's worth more than all the money in the world.

How did you continue to lose the weight at home?

Helen: At home, I was working out with the football coaches at my son's school six hours a day. I'd work out with them two hours a day before school even started. The football team would watch me do board pushes and tire flips, and they would say, "Gosh, Miss Helen, how can you do that?" I'd say, "I'm 48 years old -- try to beat me!" It was a great feeling. Some would say, "Could you talk to my mom, Miss Helen?" And I'd say, "Absolutely -- give me her number!" It became such a community affair.

How has the weight loss affected your family?

Helen: Before I was on "The Biggest Loser," I was very depressed about my weight. I wouldn't get out of bed in the morning. I'd send my husband and son off to school and work, and then stay in bed all day. Before they got home, I'd get up and get a shower and pretend I had been out and about and active all day, but I was living a lie. Now I'm planning canoeing and bike-riding trips. We're all active now. My husband has lost 40 pounds, and he's off his diabetic medicine. My daughter's lost 92 pounds. This is going to be a family affair!

ML: What do you say to the critics who say you are selfish for sending your daughter home ahead of yourself on the show?

Helen: First of all, I would give my life for my children. Remember: A lot of the film landed on the editing room floor. I said, "I'm going home. I want you to stay here. I will go home." I would have gladly gone home for her, but she didn't want that. She didn't want to stay there. She said, "I know I can do it at home. I will take this information I have learned here and succeed." Even though I said she needed to stay, she was dead-set on leaving first. She had a business that she wanted to get back to. My daughter is 30 years old, and she made up her own mind. This was HER decision.

Now, she's lost 92 pounds. It may be a little bit slower for her, but she says, "Don't worry, Mom, I have to do it -- I'll never go back to this lifestyle. I'm going to get home to my goal weight eventually." I couldn't have been more proud of her.

Do you think YOU being overweight contributed to your kids being overweight?

Helen: Shannon and myself were the only overweight ones in the family. My other two kids are fine. Shannon and I got the Busha gene from Poland. Us Polish girls like to eat!

But Shannon was always chubby. I'm sure my fast-food lifestyle contributed to that. I was a single mom for a while. Fast food was quick and convenient. I was trying to get the kids here and there, help with homework, do the laundry, cut the grass, get gas in the car, make sure lunches were made, and had no time to sleep because I then had to get up and do it again! Things got a little crazy. We ate out a lot. Now I see it's more important to eat right and stay healthy, no matter how hectic your schedule is.

How was your relationship with your trainers on the show?

Helen: I had a great relationship with both my trainers. Bob was my trainer for the first half of the season. Then I lost him in a challenge, and Jillian became my trainer. That scared me because I saw how much she made her team run. I said, "I can't run, Jillian!" and she just smiled and made me start doing it. I started running faster and longer -- before long, I was running 5 miles and didn't even know what hit me. She said, "You're an athlete now!" I've never been an athlete in my life! But now I was. I had the best of both worlds and the two greatest trainers -- Bob got me through the front end, and Jillian brought me home.

ML: What do you have to say about the two contestants you beat out in the finale?

Helen: Tara and Mike were great. I loved those kids. They called me "Mom" on the show. I was like a second mom to them -- to dry the tears, to listen. But, that said, I am so glad I won! Nobody saw me coming. I just kept working hard. All of a sudden, that drive and determination kicked in. I have done everything in my power to get to where I needed to be. I knew I could win this thing!

ML: We've always wondered -- how does a female contestant being on her period affect the weigh-ins?

Helen: With some of the girls, it definitely was an issue. For Shannon, being on her period and being bloated definitely factored in. They'd give the girls certain teas during that time of the month. But I did see some girls weigh in fine on their period. It's a mental thing, and more stressful than anything. But I didn't really have to worry about that because I've had a hysterectomy.

ML: How was it not being able to talk to your kids for such a long period of time while you were on the ranch?

Helen: That was the hardest thing -- not to be able to be in contact with my family, my children, my family members. I would have run 10 marathons if they would have just let me have one phone call. When those prizes came up where you're gonna win a phone call home or even get a visit with your family members, I was like, "Everybody just better stay out of my way, because I'm gonna win this thing!"

I would lie in bed crying, I had my pictures all over the room. I had letters from my family and would read them over and over again. I would kiss their pictures good night. I could just cry right now thinking about it. [Helen breaks down in tears.] That was really the hardest thing I've ever done -- I would have done anything to make sure they were okay.

ML: What was your reaction to your daughter's arrest when you were on the show?

Helen: I didn't see any of the news reports. We don't have TV or newspapers. But right before the producers knew we were going to be going home or getting a phone call, they pulled me into a room. I was like, "Tell me what's wrong!" You could just tell something was going on.

They told me what happened with Shannon and her tenant, and that she'd been arrested. It scared me at first that she was in jail, but she was only there an hour or so. When I heard she had been accused of throwing flour on the tenant, I started to laugh. She never even has flour in her house! She doesn't even cook. I knew this had to be a lie.

They let me call her. She said, "You're not gonna believe this. This guy's a nutcase! He's accusing me of throwing flour on him -- when have I ever had flour in my house? I go out to eat all the time!" We were both laughing hysterically.

One of the producers said he hoped it was whole wheat flour at least, and we got a laugh out of that.

Still, to this day, she has been to court three times, and this guy has not shown up once. The media was there all three times, though. Why has the case not been dismissed if he won't show up? It's a bunch of crap. We laugh about it hysterically.

ML: What's next for you?

Helen: I am a stay-at-home mom at this point. I volunteer a lot of time to the school, the Booster Club, football games, and all the dances. I'm hoping next year to hold a "Biggest Loser" competition at the school with kids and parents, with challenges and everything. I have a whole new life ahead of me now. Moms, it is never too late! I am living proof of that. Go for it!

next: Kara and Bikini Girl Face-Off -- Who Won?
95 comments so far | Post a comment now
Susannah Locketti May 21, 2009, 5:27 PM

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