Tuesday, June 7, 2011

An Interview With a Big Loser: Abby Rike

By Sophia

I watch The Biggest Loser intermittently--I enjoy it when I stumble upon it but I'm not dedicated to it. But during a couple of sleepless nights this week, I watched several episodes on On Demand and for the first time, found it particularly motivating.

Here's a post on a site I blog for that discusses some interesting research on envy and motivation. It applies. You'll see.

I recently had the opportunity to interview a Big Loser (not the Biggest, but she's good with that), Abby Rike,  a motivational speaker who was in Dallas promoting her new book, Working It Out: A Journey of Love, Loss, and Hope.

Abby is 100 pounds lighter than she was before her stint on Season 8 of The Biggest Loser, but that was the least of her losses—before the show, she lost her husband and two children in a car crash.

At the risk of sounding overly Oprah, I have to say that Abby's positive energy practically beamed through the phone. Step away from your cynical side for this one.

Q: How’s the tour going?

A: So far the tour has been great. Very fast paced and hectic, but getting out and meeting so many great people, that’s really what it’s all about for me.

Q: Are you meeting a lot of people who are grieving?

A: I definitely hear a ton of grief stories. I hear weight-loss stories. I hear “I hug my children more and my husband more.” I get the whole gamut.

Q: Is it doing something for you to meet these people?

A: Absolutely! I was always such a social person and so connected. That’s why I do what I do now. You always want to feel like your life matters and that you’re serving and making a difference. I get this immediate and incredible feedback that blesses me beyond measure.

Q: Is it difficult to keep reliving this really awful moment in your life?

A: At times it is daunting, I’m not going to pretend. But for the most part interviewers have been considerate. I obviously have to tell what happened, but that is not where I stay. And that is what the message truly is, that other people can know joy despite hideous circumstances. Whatever devastation or whatever loss people have experienced--and it comes in so many different forms--there comes a point where you have to look at where you are right now, today, and count the blessings that you have. For me, that’s what had to happen. I had to shift my focus from what I’d lost to what I have now and make the most of this life.

Q: What are the blessings you’re counting these days?

A: Oh my goodness, they’re so great. Everywhere I go I seem to find one person that I just uber connect with. That is always such a blessing simply because I was so lonely for so long.

And then, just the opportunities that God has provided me. One of the biggest blessings is that this is certainly not a life I ever imagined for myself by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just so grateful for all the cool things that I get to do, that I never dreamt possible.  I sit back and scratch my head and think “This is such a surreal life right now.” As someone who never desired to be on TV, that was never my bag. I didn’t want to be on TV. Then I was on TV so that kinda sounds like an oxymoron… but that is was the path that I think I was supposed to go on and it’s been quite a journey.

Q: A lot of people, after a tragedy of such enormous proportions, wouldn’t think “reality TV.” Why The Biggest Loser?

A: Oh, it’s insane right? Who in their right mind does that? I mean, seriously—somebody who has a masters degree nonetheless! 

I was very overweight and decided I would join the gym because maybe I could just feel better. I went one time and ran into Brady and Vicky Vilkin, who had been on Season 6 of The Biggest Loser. I subscribed to her blog, and right about the time I thought “This is the hardest life, I don’t know how I’m going to do this,” I get this information about Biggest Loser open auditions. The timing of it all culminated together and I felt like maybe if I could physically feel better, then emotionally I could heal.

Then I auditioned, and I’d make it to the next round, and the next round, and then at the very end I thought “Oh my gosh, I think they’re really going to pick me. Oh no, uh-uh, I’m not doing this. I came so, so very close to saying “I’m not doing this.”

Q: What changed your mind?

A: I do not say this in a trite way at all…but you want to talk about some serious praying! “Do you really want me to do this, because I don’t want to go.” I did not want to go. but then I truly felt at peace about it. It was just one of those things.

Q: What was the hardest part of The Biggest Loser?

A: The production schedule and the lack of communication from home. We never knew what was going to happen, everything was hurry up and wait. That whole production schedule is insane to me.

And then the fact that we couldn’t call home. We couldn’t even get letters from home. I know people say “Why are people always crying on the Biggest Loser?” But that is because you are truly isolated in this bubble, and that was very difficult. I think that’s why the bonds that develop on the show are so strong so quickly.

Q: Are you still close to people  from the show?

I am extremely close to Shay Sorrells. She actually wrote the forward to my book and I wouldn’t have made it without her. She was my roommate and she became my family.

Q: Did you ever want to give up?

Oh, absolutely. The irony of it is, I could have gone home any other week prior to when I actually went home and I would probably have been a little grateful because I thought this is just too much, I can’t take this. The week I ended up going home was the week I was ready to stay. The ironies, the ironies of life.  That was the week I said OK, I can do this. I got this now. I’m getting my footing here.

Q: Is it tough maintaining your weight?

A: Yes. It’s a daily choice to maintain. I’m certainly not a skinny girl and I am perfectly OK with that, but being fit and feeding myself nutritious foods and exercising have become my new truth. That’s who I am now and it allows me to live a full life. I’ve been on the other end, where it was an effort to get out of bed. I don’t pretend that there aren’t hard days, but it’s a lot easier to deal with the daily grind when you physically feel better.

Q: What’s next?

I love that question because the fact is, I have no idea. I’m a public speaker, I travel all around the country, I have a website where people can book me and so I feel like my classroom has expanded. And then, of course, with the book coming out, that’s a whole new entity in and of itself.
I never envisioned this life so I can’t begin to fathom what the next five years looks like. But I will be prepared and ready. And hopefully I’ll be ready to take that leap of faith when needed. 

1 comment:

Irene said...

Thanks for sharing your interview with Ms. Rike. I can absolutely sense her positive demeanor towards life radiating from the transcription.

I'm feeling encouraged with my own weight loss endeavor reading your blog entries, too :).