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Author Interview

Biggest Loser Winner Danny Cahill on 'Losing Big'

By Chris Carpenter Program Director - Season eight winner of The Biggest Loser, Danny Cahill, had grown to hate himself.  An aspiring musician, Danny had gone from weighing 175 pounds and opening for Donny Osmond to tipping the scales at 460 pounds with a 69-inch waist.

His downfall into morbid obesity had been gradual.  A music career that slipped away, a troubled marriage, a gambling addiction that nearly overtook him, and the foreboding sense that his best days were behind him drove him to find refuge in food.

When he was at his lowest point his wife convinced him to try out for The Biggest Loser.  Danny’s decision to actually follow through and try out for the show changed his life physically but more importantly fostered a new sense of spiritual hunger within him.

I recently sat down with Danny to discuss his new book, Losing Big: The Incredible Untold Story of Danny and Darci Cahill, advice on how to lose weight, and what he has gained from his greatest loss.

Please take a moment and tell me about your background. What were you doing before The Biggest Loser, and how did you get to the place where you wanted to be on that show?

One day, I’m sitting on the couch and I weigh 460 pounds.  It’s hard to believe but I had a 69-inch waist.  I was feeling like a failure in every sense of the word, not only to my wife but to my kids.  I’m sitting there, 460 pounds, and my seven-year-old daughter walks in.  She says that I’m her hero and that she wants to be just like me.  I thought, “Wow!” Every father loves to hear that.  Then she says, “I want a belly like yours.” This is a seven-year-old daughter that you don’t want to follow in your footsteps, you know?  And here I am with a 69-inch waist, and she’s saying she wants a belly like mine.  It freaked me out.  That’s when I decided something needed to change.

I understand that you lost 239 pounds in six months during your time on The Biggest Loser.  That’s a great deal of weight in a short amount of time.  What does a typical day look like for a typical Biggest Loser contestant?

The first day kind of freaked me out because sixteen of us got on a bus and we’re headed to the ranch (facility where show is taped). We stop and turn into this beach. There’s policemen pulling us over, and I thought, “What, did we get a ticket or something?” No, this is the first challenge right off the bat. So, they line us up on the sand of Malibu Beach, and they said, “You’re going to run a mile. But the year before, the final four had run a marathon, and this was the last mile of the marathon, and you’re going to run one mile today.” And I’m thinking, “I’m 430 pounds, I haven’t done any workouts,” and I’m going, “I’m going to run a mile? There’s no way.” In fact, we were all worried to death, because one of the other contestants had collapsed on the beach. She ended up in the hospital, and another person collapsed at the end, blood sugar went low, and he ended up in the hospital. It was really sobering because we realized how sick we were. And you just don’t go through life with your stuff, whether it’s weight, whether it’s ruined relationships, or whether it’s your finances, or whether it’s your family dynamics, whatever the stuff is that you deal with. And it’s kind of like what you do every day becomes your normal. So, being 430 was my normal.  And being sick was my normal.

I thought that this was not normal. We could die. And so, we went to the ranch. After the first workout, I wrote a letter to my wife that said, “If I would have known it would have been this hard, I wouldn’t have tried out.” And I had meant it with every ounce of my heart, even if God said, “You’re going to do this.” I would have said, “No, I’m not.” Because it was that hard.

If you could pick one significant moment that you think fueled your weight loss turnaround, what do you think it would be?

The thing that flipped the switch for me was my daughter telling me that she wanted a fat belly like mine. That aside, I would have to say that it was my faith. It was the first time I stood up in faith for what God had told me to do, and for some reason it was just different. When I thought that it was time to do this, it was just time to stand up in faith.

It was one of those things where I knew what I knew and I wasn’t going to hear any different. In fact, when people would discourage me from trying out for the show and tell me negative things, I would stop answering their phone calls. I didn’t want anything or anyone telling me I wasn’t going to do this. I was going to speak out of my mouth that I was on the show, and I think what fueled this whole thing was because of Genesis 50:20:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (NLT)

It was the cause. It was that day I got that scripture and I knew that it wasn’t just for me, that it would affect mine and my family’s and my wife’s life. It was going to save our family, but it was going to be for so many more people.

Since the show, we’ve been blessed to be able to go to other countries and do missions, and I’ve been able to speak at 200 events around the country to churches, to businesses, to organizations, to kids, to schools and just share that message that all hope is not lost. Because when you’re 430 pounds or when your hair is falling out, hope seems to be a very dim light.  People need hear that God is bigger than our problems.

What advice can you give to a person who, based on bad decisions they have made, have let their lives fall into a place where they’re tremendously overweight. What kind of advice can you give to folks to change that mindset?

People have to have faith that every step counts. That every step, no matter how small it is, counts. Every journey starts with one step and that step counts. Okay, so the first pound you lose, if you’re 460 pounds, counts. The first dollar you pay off when you’re $62,000 in debt, it matters.  The problem is when those problems are so big that it seems like it doesn’t matter. The biggest word of advice I can give is to lose your “quit.” That’s my mantra. I wear a wristband that says, “Lose Your Quit.”  You’ve got to know that what you’re doing matters in the end, and you’ve got to see where you’re headed and quit seeing where you are, and where God wants you is where you need to go and just lose your quit.

Why do you think people put things off for so long? They live a life of misery before they finally make that decision to put things into God’s hands and say, “Not me, it’s yours”?

What you do every day becomes your normal, and normal is what you do. So, slowly I went from running three miles a day and being a musician and having all these hopes and dreams. It wasn’t an overnight thing. It was a slow process giving all that up and building up to 460 pounds and by the time I turned around it seemed like, “Bam! What happened?” But it happened over a long period of time in my normal, and I think people just get in that rut which is a grave with the ends kicked out. And they just seem like they just can’t get out, because it becomes their normal. So, you’ve got to see differently. You’ve got to speak differently. When you’re sick you’ve got to say, “I’m well.” When you’re in debt you’ve got to say, “I’m out of debt,” because you have to speak it and see it and believe it before it ever starts happening.

Final question for you. What have you gained through your great loss?

I think the biggest thing I’ve gained is a great purpose. Everyone has the faith, you know, faith is believing in the things not seen, but I’ve actually got the knowledge now that all things are possible through Jesus Christ who strengthens me. It’s not a faith thing for me anymore, because it’s a belief. It’s just a belief.  I don’t have to lean on faith in that because I’ve watched it happen with my own eyes for six straight months losing 239 pounds, and I did it because Jesus went with me to the ranch.  And Jesus went home with me after the ranch and Jesus is with me now, that’s why. Do you know that one of the final things in my book is about another one of the ‘biggest losers’ that was on the show with me finding Jesus Christ?  If God used me for only that purpose it was well worth it.  Not because I preached it to her, but because I lived it to her.

To purchase Losing Big: The Incredible Untold Story of Danny & Darci Cahill

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