The Big Winner: UCF Alumnus Gains New Perspective on “The Biggest Loser”
Robert Richardson II ’12 is trying to keep a secret. But there are some things you just can’t hide.
After spending three months competing in the new season of “The Biggest Loser” — set to debut Jan. 28 on USA Network at 9 p.m. EST — Richardson must keep specifics about his weight loss and lifestyle transformation quiet while the 10-episode series airs.
But Richardson is wearing his success like a badge of honor. Friends who see him on the street will notice a huge difference in his appearance, and anyone who speaks with him will notice a renewed confidence.
We spoke with the former criminal justice major about his experience competing on the show, and how this journey brought back “The Old Rob.”
Q: How did your time at UCF impact you professionally and through this experience?
A: I bleed black and gold. My experience at UCF — the community and people — really helped me in the real world to never be afraid to do anything you put your mind to. Whatever you set yourself up to do, go do it. Never be afraid to fail, and go thrive in the moment.
Q: What compelled you to apply for the show?
A: Since I was little, I always wanted to play professional football. My dad played three or four years in the NFL as a linebacker. He helped me with that same drive and passion for the game. He’d always take me out at 5 in the morning and train me before school, after school and on the weekends.
My health was never really a factor because I always worked out and stayed in shape, but as I continued to get older those habits of eating more than I needed — being a 6-foot-8 guy, I thought I needed to eat for three people — never really stopped. I started dealing with high blood pressure, prediabetes, cholesterol problems. I had to make a change, especially starting a family.
I married my high school best friend, and we had our first child in 2016. I said, “Something has to give.” One night, I went on social media and I saw “The Biggest Loser” was looking for contestants. I thought, “Uh, I don’t know if I can do this. I’m not going to do it.” But I talked to my wife, and she said, “No. You need to do this. You need to take time for yourself and bring back the old Rob that enjoyed himself and was energetic.” So she really encouraged me to apply. I applied that night at 8 o’clock and received a call the next day to get the process started.
Q: What was your experience on the show like?
A: The experience was amazing. It is a different concept. All the past stuff is the past. The new team, and the new show is amazing. It doesn’t just focus on weight loss as the key. It really is the mental aspect of weight loss and becoming a healthier version of yourself.
If you’re just losing the weight because you want to look good, that’s just fixing the external part of your body. It’s not fixing the internal part, which is loving yourself, appreciating yourself and enjoying life itself. Weight loss and being healthy doesn’t mean you have to walk around eating healthy food 24/7. If you want to eat a cheeseburger, you want to have a slice of pizza or some ice cream, do it. It’s about the way you do it.
The show is teaching you how to live life in a healthier way and enjoy life. I learned so much from being on there. They’re my family. “The Biggest Loser” is now BL Family. Just like alumni is family for UCF. Whoever goes to UCF I always call fellow Knight or family. The Biggest Loser is my family now. That will forever be a legacy.
Q: Is there anything about being involved with a production like this that surprised you? Anything behind the scenes you didn’t expect?
A: I always would see (host) Bob Harper on TV getting onto his team to make sure they are pushing themselves. But to see a person on TV versus seeing how they really are is amazing. Bob is incredible. He has a lot of wisdom, he’s personable, genuine, and he opened up about his own journey and struggles. It helps you realize you’re not the only one dealing with struggles and have a problem asking for help. A lot of times, we have a hard time asking for help. We always like to fix things on our own and hide what we’re battling with.
Q: What was the hardest part about the experience?
A: The hardest part was to actually take time for Rob. To stop everything around me, take my hands off of everything and actually focus on me. I haven’t done that in so long. My father was a great athlete — he was Superman to me — but he allowed his health to spiral out of control on the same path I was taking. He was not monitoring what he was eating anymore and it really affected his blood pressure, diabetes and health overall. The hardest part was for me to take myself out of everything, put myself in seclusion for three months and try to better myself for the long run.
Q: What was the most fun part of the process?
A: I enjoyed being around the other contestants, hearing their stories, growing with them, pushing each other and being around our trainers Steve Cook and Erika (Lugo). Learning different things that I could take home and help my family. The one thing I truly loved was reawakening the old me. I feel great.
Q: You are the owner of the Instagram account @Transformationfitnation, which highlights others’ weight-loss journeys. Was it hard for you to put yourself out there publicly for this experience? Was there a fear of failure?
A: I started the page in 2013 during my first weight-loss journey when I lost 145 pounds. I was in the Huffington Post and Men’s Fitness articles. When I started a family, I got back in the habit of thinking, “Enough about Rob.” And I put all the weight back on. I forgot to go to the gym and watch what I was eating. In January 2019, I weighed 445. But before I got on the show I lost a good amount of weight, so it was like a second round of a weight-loss journey.
I was afraid to show myself to my followers, but I already told them what happened — how I regressed. So they were like, “OK. You’ve been gone for three months. What are you doing?” So when the show finally allowed me to share what was going on, they couldn’t wait to watch me on the show and see what happened.
What I can’t wait to share with my fitness community is that I not only lost the weight, but I gained my confidence back. When I had my first weight-loss journey, I wanted to get back into football. I was training to play in the Canadian Football League. I also wanted to lose weight to look better, but I never truly enjoyed myself during the journey. There’s a difference between losing the weight and not loving yourself and losing the weight when you love yourself. If you love yourself before you lose the weight, you’re going to keep it off.
Q: What’s your message for others who are looking to make a positive lifestyle transformation?
A: Loving yourself is key, but also learn how to enjoy life. Don’t walk around with grudges. Don’t judge people, just live life to the fullest and learn how to appreciate every moment that you’re given.
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