by CINDY M. CRANMER
Celebrating the accomplishment of a family friend typically does not involve a trip across the country and the opportunity to be part of the audience during the live season finale of “The Biggest Loser.” That is exactly what a Rockford family got to experience by celebrating the victory of Jeremy Britt on “The Biggest Loser.”
Mike and Linda TenBrink, along with their son Graham and his fiancée Katie Couturier, traveled to California to watch Britt become the winner of season 13 of “The Biggest Loser.” Britt’s sister, Conda, took third place in the live finale that was broadcast to millions of television viewers in early May.
Jeremy, 23, lost 199 pounds during the season, dropping his body weight to 190 pounds. Conda, 24, lost 115 pounds for her third-place finish.
“This year’s Biggest Loser season was an amazing journey for Jeremy, Conda and their family and friends,” said Mike TenBrink. “We feel very blessed of having been afforded the opportunity to be in the audience for the finale in order to support Jeremy and Conda, and view it as one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”
Mike said Jeremy demonstrated many qualities during the season and the show’s finale, but the one word he always thought best described Jeremy is “loyal.”
“Jeremy has always been loyal to his friends and his family,” Mike said.
Linda said their family got to know Jeremy as Graham and Jeremy graduated together from Rockford in 2007. “We have known him for about 10 years,” she said.
The TenBrinks said they got to know Conda and Jeremy’s family through the season and better through the trip.
“Jeremy was always so funny. He always had a story to tell,” Linda said. “About six years ago, I was watching ‘The Biggest Loser’ on TV and Jeremy was at the house. I told him to check out the show, as they lost weight and had the opportunity to win money, cars, etc. Jeremy was a baseball player when he was young and had athletic abilities. I told him that he should try out for the show because he could win.”
Linda said trying out for the show was a long process and both he and Conda didn’t want to get their hopes up in case they didn’t make it.
“Before Jeremy even made the final list of this season’s contestants, he told me that he was not trying out for the show for the money, but to get healthy,” Mike said. “However, he also stated that if he was selected to be on the show he was going to win it all, no question. While it is easy to see how far Jeremy has come, what is not known are the many hurdles and challenges that Jeremy had to overcome before he even could be selected to be on the show. It was through determination and perseverance that Jeremy made the final cut.”
When they did make it to the show, the TenBrinks were among those supporting them weekly by watching them on television and waiting to hear brief amounts of news.
“Jeremy is one of our youngest son Graham’s best friends, and we have had the opportunity to get to know Jeremy over the last 10-plus years as he came in and out of our home during their high school years,” Mike said. “Jeremy is a very intelligent and articulate young man and has wisdom beyond his youthful years. Even Jeremy’s shadow trainer told me that while Jeremy was one of the youngest contestants on this year’s show, he probably demonstrated a higher level of maturity.”
“We decided to make this trip with Graham and Katie to the finale because Graham and Jeremy have been friends for a very long time,” Linda said. “This step for Jeremy and Conda was huge.”
Linda explained how the Britt siblings had to leave their community, jobs, family and friends to try and make a change to their lives. There were no phone calls home to other family members, no texting friends and no Facebook updating.
“They needed to stand completely on their own merit,” Linda said. “We didn’t hesitate on going to California to celebrate this great achievement in both of their lives. They both won. They have always been amazing people with great strengths, but this journey has helped them to regain their confidence and shine.”
Mike said the experience allowed their family to get to know Conda and the Britts’ mother, Dede, as well. “We are really very pleased for and proud of both Jeremy and Conda as well as Dede,” he said.
The TenBrinks had reserved seats with the family at the studio, but still had to wait in line for three hours before they could go in. There was a seating area for contestants from all 13 seasons and Linda said the past contestants still look amazing.
Linda said they met many contestants from season 13 and past contestants at an after party, along with “ghost trainers,” who work with the contestants on a daily basis when the two televised trainers, Bob and Delvette, are not there.
“These kids have made lifetime friendships through this experience,” Linda said.
“We feel very blessed of having been afforded the opportunity to be in the audience for the finale in order to support Jeremy and Conda,” Mike said. “The determination and perseverance that both Jeremy and Conda demonstrated is nothing short of amazing. Their efforts and success serve as an inspiration for others, as well as a testament to how they were raised and the values their mother Dede instilled in them.”
Visiting The Biggest Loser Ranch—which is where trainers and nutritionists provided the equipment, meals, support and information that resulted in the dramatic weight loss for the Britts—was among the experiences the TenBrinks enjoyed.
“We got to go up to the Biggest Loser camp, which is where Jeremy and Conda and the contestants stay while they are in California,” Linda said. “It is in the Santa Monica Mountains above Los Angeles. The surroundings are breathtaking, but the actual camp is from the 1960s.”
Linda said the location is actually used as a day camp for schools and camp experiences. The facilities include a dorm building for the contestants and pole barn where the gym equipment is stored and used.
“The only sign that it is a Biggest Loser camp is a big sign put up over the large double doors. There are areas around the camp where they do some filming and lots of hiking paths, but it is not a ‘Biggest Loser Ranch,’” Linda said. “These people aren’t being pampered to do what they do. They are there to work hard.”