by Leah Parodi
Fans of the reality television show The Biggest Loser may remember a stand out couple from season three; Marty and Amy. They met on the show, fell in love and are now married with an adorable two year old son. As they talk about their time on the show and their passion for helping people of size, it is easy to see why America fell in love with them.
Marty and Amy meet me for lunch and apologize for their sleepiness. It seems that their two year old son, Blaine, was wide awake at two in the morning, the morning just after Halloween. But Marty and Amy beam as they laugh about his bouncing restlessness due the possibility of a little too much Halloween excitement. Married for just over three and a half years, the Wolff’s recount how they first met during the pre-taping of The Biggest Loser.
During the pre-show taping contestants are gathered but are forbidden to talk to each other. But that did not stop Amy. “Here is the biggest opportunity of my life happening,” says Marty. “And Amy couldn’t keep her mouth shut! Where are you from, what’s your name she’d ask. I was afraid we were going to get kicked off the show before it even started.”
But soon taping began and Marty and Amy gravitated to each other as they discovered that they were both from the Omaha area. “From day one we had a connection, a basic level of friendship,” says Amy. “From that first day forward we laughed together, we were always standing next to each other in line and at the weigh-in. And Bob (a Biggest Loser trainer) was always telling us to just stay moving, that we should not be sitting still for more than 30 minutes at a time. So Marty and I would go on hikes, take walks all the time.”
Marty says that he and Amy looked at The Biggest Loser as a wonderful opportunity and made the best of it in many ways, including having fun while they were there. But despite their budding friendship they soon discovered that The Biggest Loser was not all fun and games. “Biggest Loser is different than other reality shows,” says Marty. “You can’t fake it because all day long, every day they beat you up. You can’t fake who you are. They pierce a person’s soul, so when there is a connection, you can see it.”
“But we really enjoyed ourselves,” adds Amy. “The Biggest Loser takes your cell phones, books and magazines. There is no TV, no newspaper, you focus on each other. We loved it, we had a great time.”
And though Marty and Amy are thankful for the opportunity The Biggest Loser gave them, they recall how hard it was initially going from 5,000 calories a day and no exercise to 1,200 calories and at least 5 hours of exercise each day on the show. And while neither Marty nor Amy ended up being the winner of The Biggest Loser they both lost a considerable amount of weight. But when the show was over and they returned to “normal” life they ran into challenges and obstacles that forced them to refocus their weight loss and new lifestyle.
Marty and Amy were now well known as a result of their time on The Biggest Loser. Amy recalls many times when fans of the show would approach her at the store or in a restaurant and ask her how much she weighed. And then there were the looks and stares when she and Marty would go out to dinner. It got to the point that if Marty and Amy wanted to eat something that others deemed unhealthy, they would order in.
And then they became newlyweds and soon began to gain back some of the weight they had lost. The newlyweds realized that they had each gained around 30 pounds fairly quickly so they began exercising and keep food journals. “On The Biggest Loser you learn new habits, new skills,” says Marty. “But you go home to the same environment that you were in before. I realized that I was a food addict and here I am with a McDonalds on every corner.”
In order to help stay in the right frame of mind as well as help others Marty and Amy both became certified personal trainers through the American Council on Exercise. “We wanted to help others and we started a weight loss camp,” says Amy. “That was in January of 2007 and Marty has had the passion ever since. That is why we are starting up Square One that will work with overweight people.”
Marty and Amy know the struggles that people of size experience. But more than that, they know that the body of an obese person is different than that of someone who is 10 – 20 pounds overweight. According to Marty, Dr. Huizenga, the medical doctor and advisor for The Biggest Loser, through years of research discovered that obese people go through physiological changes and their weight loss is very different from those who lose less than 30 pounds.
“There is a medical research side to The Biggest Loser, says Marty. “Never before have there been studies on morbidly obese people who have lost weight. The Biggest Loser and Dr. Huizenga are leading the charge on this research.” Marty says that the groundbreaking studies show that the body of an obese person who loses a lot of weight fights to gain the weight back, like a magnet. “It’s really quite fascinating, that is why Dr. Huizenga is so instrumental and he is the lifeblood of the show.”
Marty says, for example, research suggests that people of size must exercise a minimum of 9 hours a week. “It’s good to understand the battle I’m facing,” says Marty. “But most people don’t, they give up.”
“And they are so afraid to test the limits of their body,” says Amy. “We can exercise for 20 minutes and fool ourselves into thinking that is enough. There are a lot of hard lessons.”
Amy says that Marty has become happy with his weight but she has seen her weight go up and down especially after the birth of her son. “Since having my baby I know I gained more than I should have. I’ve been up and down like a roller coaster. But I am open to the fact that I am still trying to figure out how to manage a full-time job, son and a busy schedule. I take it day by day. I exercise, keep a food journal and make no excuses!”
“I have grown a lot,” Amy smiles. “I worried about the expectations of other people. I used to be afraid of what people would think. But I have evolved, it’s about me and my journey, how I feel about myself.”
Marty and Amy are taking everything that they have learned and are applying it to their new gym called Square One. Expected to open by the first of the New Year, Square One will be geared to those who need to lose 30 or more pounds or those who may have already lost a significant amount of weight. “This will be a great place for like-minded people with issues surrounding weight,” says Amy. “Square One will provide power with people who understand, people who will be supportive of each other.”
“It’s simple, but for us it’s a: for people of size by people of size health club mentality,” says Marty. “Here, we are all people of size, we struggle with weight, we get it.”
Marty feels that the most valuable resource of Square One will be the community aspect. “We come in, work out and then talk and support each other.” Marty is planning on community races, walks, dinners and picnics to encourage support in any way he can. “We will have additional support like an emotional eaters club and cook book club. All of these things help people learn, make life easier. There is power in knowledge.”
And knowledge for Amy is key. “My whole journey has led me to forgive myself,” she says. “What can I do this minute, this hour that will get me to my goals?”
“I struggled for 25 years with the thought that this battle I was fighting had to be done alone,” says Marty. “You need to declare what direction you are going in, where you want to go and what people will help hold you accountable. You need people around who care.”
As we end our lunch it has become clear to me that it would be hard to find two people who care more about helping others get healthy than Marty and Amy Wolff. And even though they may have the same weight related struggles as the rest of us they are still laughing, enjoying themselves and having a really good time.