‘Biggest Loser’ winner encouraging healthier living
by Jennifer Cohron
Mar 05, 2012 | 2080 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
UA graduate Olivia Ward and her sister, Hannah, were contestants on “The Biggest Loser.” Photo special to the Eagle
UA graduate Olivia Ward and her sister, Hannah, were contestants on “The Biggest Loser.” Photo special to the Eagle
Olivia Ward can empathize with local residents who are struggling to shed at least 10 pounds for Scale Back Alabama, a statewide weight-loss contest that reached the halfway point last week.

Ward tipped the scale at 261 pounds when she signed up as a contestant on season 11 of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.”

As she celebrated her 35th birthday, Ward felt that she was at a crossroads.

It was time to either make the changes that would lead to a better life or accept the one she had as an overweight person in a society that often excluded her.

“I had wasted so much of my adult life being unhealthy and unhappy,” Ward said. “I was always the spectator — the girl at the bottom of the roller coaster taking someone else’s picture because I couldn’t fit in the seats. I just knew that was not the life I wanted or was supposed to have.”

Ward had several motivations going into “The Biggest Loser” competition. After being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, she was told that she would likely never have children if she didn’t lose weight.

Ward, an opera singer who received a degree in vocal performance at the University of Alabama, also believed that she was losing coveted roles because of her size.

Once she arrived at “The Biggest Loser” ranch, Ward learned that she could no longer hide behind the excuse that she was “big-boned.”

“Dr. Huizenga told me that I had one of the smallest bone structures of anyone who had been on the ranch,” Ward said.

Ward received another wake-up call about her weight when she was informed that she had the third highest fat percentage of anyone on her season.

Ward went on to lose 129 pounds during her 22-week “Biggest Loser” journey and won the competition.

Her sister, Hannah Curlee, finished runner-up after shedding 120 pounds.

Ward said before “Biggest Loser,” she made the common mistake of trying to tackle her obesity all at once, which always left her feeling overwhelmed.

“It’s not about moving that 261-pound mountain in one day or one week or even one month. It’s about making small changes that add up to big change,” she said.

Ward also stressed the importance of asking for help from others who are struggling to get started on a weight-loss journey too or have successfully completed one.

This year, Ward and Curlee are encouraging Scale Back participants through weekly e-mails and videos on the contest website.

Ward said she and her sister were excited to become spokesmen for a health initiative that inspired 33,000 Alabamians to lose a combined 143,309 pounds last year.

“These kinds of program work, and to be part of it is a huge honor,” she said.