Maria Ventrella Talks The Biggest Loser
"The Biggest Loser is currently airing its Couples version of the show on Tuesday nights at 8 PM ET on NBC and the latest contestant to be eliminated was Maria Ventrella. Maria recently held a conference call to discuss her recent elimination and her experience on the show, and here's what she had to say.
So I was just wondering how you felt hearing some of the contestants say that Michael maybe wasn't proving that he wanted to be there or giving it his all?
Maria Ventrella: Well watching the show last night it sort of upset me because I know how hard Michael worked. And, you know, they only show the parts where he was relaxing but they didn't show the parts where he was really working hard. And you don't lose 10 pounds in a week being lazy. Ten pounds is 10 pounds. And if you remember the weeks before that he did bring big numbers. And your body sort of stops at one point and it doesn't, you know, you can't lose 15 pounds every week, it's impossible. Your body is not made to do that. But we know what he did and, you know, it's just a matter of their opinion and it's not what - how we feel. I feel that Michael's done really great and he's continuing to do great.
And how have you managed to lose the weight at home? You look great.
Maria Ventrella: Well determination. I really - once I got home from the ranch I understood that, you know, this is making me feel good. I really, you know, originally I went to the ranch thinking about, you know, saving my son's life because of, you know, his big amount of weight. And it was a matter of waking up and saying hey, you know, this is for you too; you're feeling great, you're feeling good, continue. And that's what I've been doing. And I do, I feel so much better.
One of the things that was kind in your story on The Biggest Loser was how you haven't really ever put yourself first, you're always tending to family and other people's needs. And I thought it was amazing to watch you take on the swimming last night and, you know, kind of conquer that fear at home. What other things are you doing to kind of put yourself first and make yourself a priority?
Maria Ventrella: I make it a point that everyday I set aside so much time for me. And it's actually not only physically helping me but it's mentally helping me too. It's making me understand that I'm important too and not to forget about me and that's how I got, you know, unhealthy in the first place, you know. I never thought about myself. I would just eat, you know, when I was upset and I've learned not to do that anymore. I, you know, you have to understand that, you know, emotional eating is the worst type of eating that you can do because you don't have control of it, you just, you know, go at it and then after you've eaten it you feel even worse than you started with, you know. But I have, you know, set aside time for me. I have to understand my life is here, I only have one life and I have to start living it.
My other question is diet-wise what are you doing at home? Like what did you learn at the ranch and how are you incorporating that at home?
Maria Ventrella: Well I learned a lot of substitutions for the foods I make because I'm not a big restaurant-goer so I don't have that problem, but I learned that certain things you can substitute it and it makes the food taste just as good and it's healthy. So they did teach me a lot about changing, you know, the fat. There's a lot of, you know, we cook with a lot of oils and, you know, fry. I don't do that anymore, it's a lot of baking and broiling.
And what's your favorite swap?
Maria Ventrella: The favorite one that I think that the meal comes out really good is you know how when you make meatballs normally you would put breadcrumbs in there. And I don't do that. I put chickpeas. I smash the chickpeas and it makes the meatballs really good. And I, you know, stir in a pan so they get some color and I just throw them in my sauce. And it's very healthy.
Since you've lost this weight, have people around you also been inspired to lose weight?
Maria Ventrella: Yes. I have to say, you know, when they look at me and they go oh my God you lost, you know, so much weight and you look terrific, what did you do? And I've gotten my sister - my husband's lost 42 pounds since I've come back. I have nieces on my husband's side that have all started exercising even - not only me with my friends, my son's friends. They're all at the gym with me and I feel so weird because I'm all with these young guys and here's the old lady. But I keep up with them, I feel pretty good.
Oh, that's awesome. And do you have foods that are still your guilty pleasures?
My guilty pleasure probably would be pizza. I love pizza. I've actually only took a bite of a pizza when I first came home because I just - oh I crave it. But now I'm, you know, I haven't touched it since and I'm waiting until I get to my goal to get my next bite of pizza.
There was so much drama at the weigh-in because the gray team swapped you and Michael. But when I was looking at the numbers and you had only - not that four pounds is only but wouldn't you be in the same - wouldn't you have been in the same situation anyway where you would have been below the yellow line? Did you guys look at that?
Maria Ventrella: Yes. When that happened we knew that no matter which way it went either one of us would have, you know, went below the yellow line. It wasn't a matter of being upset with them because, you know, they chose to switch it with Mike, it's the point of where we were more upset is where they were saying Mike wasn't working hard enough. And I know for a fact Michael was working hard enough and he lost 10 pounds that week. You don't lose 10 pounds in a week doing nothing. So that was basically the only thing. I mean Michael is friends with them and, you know, I think they were just concerned about, you know, about Michael.
Okay because they did vote the way you wanted them to vote so they did honor you then. So can you talk a little bit - have you heard from Michael? How is he doing now - well - at the ranch?
Maria Ventrella: Michael's doing great at the ranch. He's continuing. He's changed a lot. He's just determined to get to his goal. He really understands now what this opportunity has brought to him. And you'll see - you'll see in the show he's doing very, very good.
I was wondering so now on last night's episode we saw that the pink team did the - chose who was going to be the student and who was going to be the teacher. Now I know the green team wasn't too happy about that. Do you think that people are starting to play the game at the point where - up until the point where you were on the ranch - do you think people were starting to play the game? Did you see that?
Maria Ventrella: Definitely. The first week - it's like they say a marriage, the honeymoon week it's, you know, a sugar there, sweet there, and then as the time goes on it's more reality hits and the game is being played. And as time goes on it's, you know, it's more of a game play. You know, everyone wants to be The Biggest Loser.
Right and there's only one. And what was your impression of the red team? Do you - do you think Melissa threw the weigh-in?
Maria Ventrella: Yes.
You do? Why or how so?
Maria Ventrella: Well I think she knew she wasn't the one that was weighing in. And I think her thoughts were that as long as her weight is not counting she's going to try to keep the big number for the week that her weight will count. She's a very smart lady. And, you know, she's playing the game.
Well it was obviously a very emotional parting when you had to leave the show and Michael had to stay. What was going through your head during that time when you were kind of waiting to see how things are going to play out with him after you've already had to leave?
Maria Ventrella: Well, you know, I was worried. My son and I are very, very close. And I was afraid that when I left that he would fall behind with the depression because that was the biggest part of Michael's weight gain was depression. And - but I'm happy to say that I think it opened his eyes. He woke up and understood the reason why he had to be there. And he now has changed. He's a complete different person. Physically, mentally, and everything and he's a go-getter. So I'm sure Michael is going to be there at the finale.
How do you feel like you've changed? I mean obviously physically and obviously mentally, do you - your relationship must have changed too because of this experience. You were close before but how do you feel now - the two of you?
Maria Ventrella: I think this journey has made us even closer. I sure miss him a lot, I sure do because Michael is a character and he brings so much life in the room when he walks in and I miss that at home. But I know that he's doing something to help him getting healthy again so I know that we're going to have some good times in the future.
Well so you mentioned, you know, kind of ways that your life has changed going to the gym, being surrounded by these like - your sons and friends and stuff. What other things have you seen like have you found that you're able to do more things? Are you going out dancing? Are you doing anything kind of stuff that you didn't think you could do before?
Maria Ventrella: Well exercising actually. A lot of - I'm swimming, you know, I had the biggest fear of water and I've conquered that. And I'm trying to learn even more, you know, swimming techniques and - which is just awesome. And, you know, I'm on machines, I'm on the Stairmaster where originally before I got on the show I couldn't even go up a flight of stairs and now I can stay on that Stairmaster 20 minutes. Probably can go longer but I limit it to 20 minutes because I have so many other things I'm, you know, I'm doing and pulling up weights. I'm just doing a lot more that I never thought I would do.
And what is like the major - the - kind of the major difference in like - in terms of going out and like maybe - are you like seeing how clothes fit you differently? Are you kind of finding the stuff that you buy is just a lot different in the way it feels?
Maria Ventrella: Well what's great about it is I don't have to go in a plus size store anymore so I'm really, really happy. Yeah, the clothes fit me so much better and they, you know, they all tell me where is your butt? You lost your butt and I go thank God.
From a mother's perspective, aside from Michael's willpower, what do you think that Bob, Jillian and Dr. H can do for him?
Maria Ventrella: They are great support. Bob and Jillian really are terrific trainers; they know how to help you and the specific spots you need, you know, if you have any pains, how to go around them. Again Dr. H too. It's just a great group combined together that help you. And, you know, losing weight drastically the way we are, you need the best to help you because without that you would never be able to succeed. And when you're losing 100 pounds, 150, 200 pounds, you know, you definitely need people that know what they're doing. And, you know, they have the best.
Well now that you're at home and you don't have direct access to Bob, Jillian and Dr. H. what kind of motivational reminders are you using at home to aid your diet and exercise regimes?
Maria Ventrella: Well every morning when I wake up I, you know, I decide, hey, you know, this is the time you're going to go to gym and the motivation is the way I feel. Just know the way my day is so different. Before all I did was, you know, oh my legs hurt me, my back hurts me. I would always complain. Now I'm not like that anymore. I'm feeling great. I'm looking good which is like I can't believe it. And I just - I love the, you know, the way I feel. And that's my motivation and of course my son too just motivates me so much, him there and knowing how good he's doing. I want to, you know, keep up with him and say hey, I'm doing it just as good as you are. Well actually he's doing better than me but it's okay.
I'm wondering there are probably a lot of things Michael couldn't do because of his weight. But now that he's losing it what are some of the things you'd like to see him accomplish that he never was able to do before?
Maria Ventrella: Well, you know, I've seen Michael change a lot, you know, he has lost a lot of weight. And, you know, I want to see my son running that marathon at the end of the show. And I think he's going to do it, he's going to do it.
And I think her name is (Venise) but the girl from the green team really emotional kind of connection with Jillian last night. Can you talk about that and why she was upset and she didn't want to open up?
Maria Ventrella: Well Migdalia had a lot of emotional problems coming to the ranch. You know that her husband was going to Iraq and that specific week her baby was going to be one years old so a lot of things are going in her mind. You know, she was a little depressed and then with the game of, you know, student/teacher, you know, Migdalia felt that she would be the one to lose more weight than her mom because she's bigger than her mother. So she felt that it was - the game was played which most likely in several cases I think it was.
Now being local was it difficult finding resources to continue your journey over in the Bartlett area? And where did you go?
Maria Ventrella: It wasn't difficult, you know, Bloomingdale has a lot of health clubs and, you know, I joined the health club there. And not difficult because, you know, they teach you so much at the ranch that you know what you have to do and you just do it.
Now where would we see you and your son's friends sort of in an entourage? Where would we see this in Bloomingdale?
Maria Ventrella: In Bloomingdale, yes.
I was just curious how did you find being the student this week and not having Bob and Jillian? Was it a lot harder than you expected or not as hard as you expected?
Maria Ventrella: It was harder because -- excuse me -- Bob and Jillian knew what problems I have, you know, with my knees and, you know, getting hurt the week before that. So I had a lot of things against me where I couldn't pick up the weights, I couldn't do a lot of things because of my hand. I still had lot of pain in it. I think if it wasn't the student/teacher week I probably would have lost more weight because they know how - they would have forced me to do things that even if I had pain they would have forced me to continue on and do it whereas my son had more sympathy for me I think and you know, how could a son want to hurt their mom? He would never do that. So I think if that specific week wasn't the teacher/student week I probably would have stayed on another week or more hopefully.
You mean - well you mentioned as well that you - the hurting your hand so going back to last week and your fall in the challenge could you just talk us through what happened there and what were your feelings when you slipped?
Maria Ventrella: Well actually I didn't slip. It was a matter of me avoiding going into the pool. I have a - I had a deadly fear of water and instead of falling in the water when I lost balance I dove, you know, to the concrete. And I didn't think I was going to hurt myself that bad but I had a panic attack and I just couldn't control myself. So I banged myself pretty hard.
Do you think that hindered your chances then perhaps of losing weight this week if you were still suffering a bit of injury?
Maria Ventrella: Yes, yes. It definitely...
I was wondering if a specific incident is what caused you to have a fear of swimming or fear or water I should say? Something...
Maria Ventrella: You know I, yeah, I don't recall anything happening. You know, but they do say a lot of times when, you know, there's a trauma you forget about it. And it may have happened when I was younger and I don't remember. So - but I conquered that fear. And I'm just so excited about it.
Well I was wondering also how much time do you spend working out now? Like how many - how much time a day do you put in to...
Maria Ventrella: I definitely still put four to five hours per day.
Wow. And you incorporate swimming everyday or...
Maria Ventrella: I'd say probably twice a week.
But I wanted to ask you if you could just walk us through a day on the ranch, exactly what you did, first thing you woke up and then to when you went to bed?
Maria Ventrella: Oh okay. Well we'd wake up and we'd have a small breakfast... It depended, some mornings, you know, it was different depending on what they had, you know, each day they had a different schedule. But it would be anywhere from 5 o'clock in the morning to 8 o'clock in the morning that we would wake up. And normally a day of filming was getting up early, you know, like 8 o'clock and having a small breakfast, going out and doing a five-mile walk or doing the hike. And then getting back and getting ready. We would have another little snack and then off to the gym for four or five hours with the trainers. And then after that would be, you know, lunch time or dinner. We would just have dinner. And then go out again and either walk or go back in the gym and exercise.
Wow and what time were you usually in bed?
Maria Ventrella: We were normally tired by 10:30. And you go, you know, you just hit that bed and you just fall asleep, that's for sure.
And are there any - is there a way to keep in touch with the outside world? Like are you watching TV and on the Internet or are you completely disconnected?
Maria Ventrella: You are completely disconnected from the world. There's no TV, no radio, no computer. You have nothing. It's just a matter of, you know, working out, you know, day in and day out. You had nothing other than that to do. And it's the best thing.
The Biggest Loser Couples can be seen on Tuesday nights at 8 PM ET on NBC.