Secrets from The Biggest Loser
Next: Helen, The Biggest Loser "Mom"
Hometown: Sterling Heights, MI
Starting weight: 257 lbs.
Lost so far: 86 pounds
Soon after she arrived at the ranch, Helen earned the nickname "Ma." One reason: She (along with Ron Morelli) is the go-to cooking instructor for younger contestants. "They were clueless," says Helen. "They'd make smoothies without putting the top on the blender! My own daughter" — Helen came with 29-year-old Shanon Thomas, who has since been eliminated — "once set her dinner on fire." Helen is also a bit of a devil. Following an episode that featured a "temptation" with Krispy Kreme donuts, the producers accidentally left behind a box. Helen placed three donuts on a plate by Tara's bed, with a note: "Good job today!" (Tara resisted.) But beneath it all, Helen isn't so sure of herself. When she got to the ranch, her self-esteem was so low, all she could think was, "Maybe I'll lose 10 or 20 pounds and then gain it back, like I've done my whole life." As she started working out, however, she was surprised by her own strength. "When you're as big as I was, your emotions shut down. Once you realize you're worth the effort, it's such a positive feeling." She had the ultimate payoff when Jillian, her trainer, told her she ran like an athlete. "Tears rolled down my cheeks, because I'd never been good enough to play sports, and I'd let all those opportunities pass me by," says Helen. "Now I want to go home and inspire other women my age — people who feel the way I used to."
Next: See Helen's transformation
At-Home Challenge: Cooking fun foods for her 17-year-old son and his friends on the football team. "I was the ultimate sports mom," Helen says. "I have a refrigerator in the garage stocked with soda and pizzas and hot dogs and burgers. I was the maniac chef for these boys, always having cookouts and making cookies and candy. But now I don't want to be tempted by those foods, and some of the boys who are heavy want me to help them lose weight, too."
GH Strategies: Since Helen and the team are frankfurter fans, we recommend she try one of the winners of our "Healthier Hot Dog Taste Test." Ball Park Lite Beef Franks, for instance, have 50 percent less fat and one-third fewer calories than most dogs, Cassetty points out. "If Helen's firing up the grill, I'd also suggest roasted fruits. Plums and peaches work well," says Cassetty. "And vegetables — even confirmed veggie haters have been converted when they tasted asparagus or peppers off the grill." The goal for Helen is to incorporate healthier choices into the same fun activities, like cookouts. For dessert? A leaner version of the cookout classic, s'mores: Place one roasted marshmallow on top of a 2.5-inch graham cracker square, and drizzle a teaspoon of chocolate syrup over it. Or serve with one Hershey's Bliss square (each s'more, about 90 calories).