Photo courtesy of NBC Studios.
0113 Gina McDonald Biggest Loser
Gina McDonald is on the current season of NBC's The Biggest Loser.
Gina McDonald has struggled with lifelong weight issues, but she managed to reach a healthy weight when she started practicing law in 1999. However, her weight steadily increased with the burdens she faced following her divorce in 2002.
The stress of divorce combined with troubled finances, emotional upheavals, poor eating habits and being a newly single mother fed into her growing obesity. At 245 pounds, the 47-year-old working mom developed sleep apnea, high cholesterol, diabetes and hypothyroidism. Days felt longer, and she couldn't participate in activities that she'd been able to when she'd been healthy.
Then opportunity came for her to lose the weight, and she went for it. She joined season 14 of NBC's The Biggest Loser, determined to get the weight off once and for all.
“My whole life I have dreamed of being fit and healthy,” McDonald said. “Now I have the courage, desire, dedication and opportunity to finally make my dream come true.”
Working out for up to six hours a day doesn't just burn calories, though. McDonald had to push through the pain and sluggishness of moving more than she'd done in years and find the motivation to keep going - motivation that had been lost behind years of stress.
"I got rid of the emotional things that you hide behind when you weigh an extra 100 pounds," she said.
Dropping the baggage she'd been carrying for more than a decade gave her the strength she needed to persevere in the fast-paced, high-energy world of reality TV show competition. But doubt was another obstacle the show presented. Season 14 featured three overweight teenagers working alongside contestants. The closest female in age to McDonald was 10 years her junior.
"There was a lot of doubt because I was the oldest female contestant," McDonald said, "but I also let that serve as my inspiration to keep going. I wanted people to know that anybody can do this no matter their age."
In the first five weeks on the show, McDonald lost 48 pounds.
McDonald said a large part of her success on the show came from the encouragement she received from home.
"I kept thinking about my family and all the sacrifices they made," McDonald said.
Her husband of five years, Chad Eldred, stepped up to take over the family while she was away. He kept finances in order and kept an eye on her two dogs and her children, Samantha, 21, and Matthew, 18.
"He kept life normal," she said, moved to tears. "He stepped up and became Mr. Mom. The other day my daughter texted methe lyrics to that Brad Paisley song 'He didn't have to be' and he didn't. He's been amazing."
The dedicated work of the attorneys at Gina McDonald & Associates, L.L.C. in her absence also helped motivate her on the show.
"For an attorney to leave the office, it's hard on everyone," she said, "and they've all been there to pick up the slack and cover for me."
If her coworkers could work that hard to cover for her, then she was determined to work equally as hard.
McDonald said even if she doesn't win, she wants to use her weight loss as a motivation for other people. She wants participate more in suicide prevention, anti-bullying and childhood obesity programs.
"I love living here," McDonald said. "It has a lot to offer and I want to use this opportunity to be more active in the community."
Filming for The Biggest Loser started Sept. 7, 2012 and continued into early January. Contestants were then sent home to continue working out until the live finale, March 18.