FAIRBANKS - A year and a half ago, “The Biggest Loser” contestants Jerry and Estella Hayes tipped the scales at 369 pounds and 242 pounds respectively.
Seven and a half months later, in May 2009, Jerry, 6 foot 3, weighed in at 192 pounds, a loss of 177 pounds, 48 percent of his former body weight, and Estella, 5 foot 9, at 159 pounds, a loss of 83 pounds, and 34 percent of her former body weight.
The Wheaton, Ill., couple, both 64, are the oldest “Biggest Loser” contestants and the first to win at home.
To date, neither Jerry or Estella regained any weight and continue to exercise and follow the lifestyle changes that made their journey to health a reality.
On Feb. 12, the Hayeses and their trainer, Amanda Roush, who kept them moving after they were eliminated from the program, will be in Fairbanks to tell their story at the Go Red For Women Luncheon at the Carlson Center.
The luncheon, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., will be preceded by health education seminars including health screenings from 8:30 to 11 a.m. sponsored by the American Heart Association and Fairbanks Memorial Hospital to empower women to wipe out heart disease as the No. 1 killer of women.
The Hayes’ journey began when they attended a Chicago call for “The Biggest Loser” to get some exercise information. They never expected to be selected as contestants, nor did they have an inkling that before it was over they would drop a combined 275 pounds.
The Hayeses reduced weights also show up in their clothing sizes. Jerry went from a 62-inch waist size to a 36 inch waist size. And Estella’s dress size nose-dived from size 22 to a size 12.
The amazing weight loss also has propelled the retired engineer and retired nurse into not only a new lifestyle but a speaking career.
“We do want to talk and be involved in helping make America healthy,” Jerry said.
When the Hayeses started on “The Biggest Loser” Jerry was on multiple daily medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, gout glaucoma and had severe sleep apnea.
“Our personal doctor’s hand was shaking when she signed off for us,” Jerry recalled.
“It was a leap of faith for her, and thank God she took it.”
Today, Jerry is off all medication because of the dedicated healthy lifestyle he and Estella have embraced, and Estella takes only one pill for cholesterol which is now under control.
Although the Hayeses' TV time was limited to the first two episodes of the season, they were monitored weekly as they worked out back home at a local gym.
Jerry took second place for the greatest weight loss and walked away with $100,000 in prize money.
The Hayeses don’t gloss over the hard work it took, both mentally and physically, to drop excess pounds.
They continue to reap the benefits of their hard work close to home.
In addition to being good role models to their five grandchildren, one of the couples' three daughters followed their example and has lost 90 pounds with exercise and healthy eating.
Estella, who lost a sister in 2007 because of complications brought on by morbid obesity, has another sister who recently joined Weight Watchers and a health club.
And Jerry now hangs out in the kitchen.
“Jerry does more cooking now than he ever did in our (43) years of marriage,” Estella said.
In the process, Jerry has learned to like fish, fruits and vegetables, and he makes his own breakfast and lunch most days.
The Hayeses don’t feel deprived by eating healthy food. They include lean pork tenderloin and fish in their daily planned dinners and eat out infrequently, since as Jerry put it, “You don’t know what is going on in the kitchen.”
And if they do eat out they ask for steamed vegetables, no salad dressing and no glazes on the entree.
The Hayeses praise their personal trainer Amanda Roush who they consider “their fourth daughter.”
Estella found Roush at a local sports center as soon as she was eliminated from the show. When Jerry returned home a bit later, he joined in doing cardio exercises about three hours per day, six days per week.
“It wasn’t easy; it was hard as hell,” Jerry said. But the couple stuck with it, running and walking and using the elliptical machine, treadmill, Stairmaster and biking, but always on separate schedules.
They didn’t exercise together at Roush’s advice, Estella said, since she worried about Jerry rather than focusing on what she needed to do.
During the process the Hayeses kept in contact weekly with the show’s doctor, and had access to a dietitian, a psychiatrist and sports trainer. They survived the 7 1/2 months of workouts without incurring any injuries.
An added incentive to keep going, Estella said, was knowing they were going to go back at the end of the show and weigh in in front of America.
“You can’t hide too much in bicycle shorts and a little top,” she said. “You really want to do your best.
“I am not as competitive as Jerry, but I had pride. I wanted to reach a goal.”
Since it all started, Jerry has gained 22 pounds in muscle mass and lost 199 pounds of fat.
“One hundred pounds of that fat was marbled into my organs,” he said.
From zero muscle mass, Estella gained 15 pounds of lean body mass, which she was told is usually hard for post menopausal women to build.
“I lost 2 or 3 pounds a week,” she said. “It gets exciting seeing it going.”
The secret to success, Jerry said, is the old saw of taking one day at a time.
The Hayeses continue to weigh and measure everything they eat.
“It’s a good tool to keep you accountable and focused,” she said. “That’s why Jerry won.”
The couple weighs in weekly at home to stay on track and each trains an hour per day, six days per week.
Since Roush moved out of state, they have a new personal trainer. Estella trains under supervision a half hour three times per week and Jerry twice per week for an hour each time.
Today, the Hayeses follow the American Diabetic diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, complex carbs and nothing white except milk and cauliflower.
“Food has become a fuel, not a comfort,” Jerry said.
They eat multigrain bread and pasta and brown rice, abstain from margarine and butter and substitute those with olive oil and peanut butter, and drink lots of water; no diet soda.
“Our lifestyle has changed,” Estella said. “It’s not different, it’s part of life now.”
For ticket information for the Feb. 12, Go Red for Women luncheon and seminars, contact Janet Bartels at 456-3659 or firstname.lastname@example.org.