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  Women of Color Task Force conference
'Biggest Loser' contestant actually a winner

Ypsilanti's Pete Thomas, who won $100,000 for losing 185 pounds on network TV's "The Biggest Loser 2," will bring his weight-loss insights to campus.
Pete Thomas, who has lost nearly 200 pounds since appearing on the network TV show, "The Biggest Loser 2," will be the keynote speaker for the 24th annual Women of Color Task Force Career Conference March 3. (Photos courtesy Pete Thomas)

Thomas' philosophy, "The key is not to deny—just modify!" will guide his keynote address for the 24th annual Women of Color Task Force (WCTF) Career Conference at 8:30 a.m. March 3 in Rackham Auditorium.

Since last March, Thomas has gone from 401 pounds to just over 200. He says that while intensive workouts during filming last spring accelerated his weight loss, the number-one key is substituting low-fat items for the calorie-rich foods he used to eat—without reducing quantity.

"I can modify, it's not so much denying," explains Thomas, a real estate developer who has accepted speaking engagements since the show aired.

Thomas' message follows the task force theme "Healthy Person, Healthy Society." "It's not only losing the weight but how he lives his life," says Janice Rueben, WCTF program coordinator at the Center for the Education of Women. "He solicited the support of his spouse to do it. Personal development as well as physical health impacts all the parts of your life." Rueben notes that the message also is fitting as it is in line with the current Active U drive to encourage University staff to increase activities to encourage good health.

"My wife (Pamela) and I were fans of the previous season," Thomas says. Both applied to be on the show, sending in videotapes. He was accepted. "They probably saw I was an outgoing jovial type of guy; they cast roles for these things," he says.

Thomas weighed 416 pounds when he applied in January 2005, and 401 when he showed up for taping March 8. "It really did start when I was young, I grew up in foster care; that was part of the reason I developed poor eating habits," Thomas says, adding he moved from home to home while his mother dealt with mental health issues.

Thomas wasn't heavy as a youth, as he was active. "When I got married my poor eating habits were exposed," he says. He was less active but still eating the same amount. Thomas gained 10 pounds a year—140 pounds over 10 years. "Basically I ate what I ate before, just a lot of everything. For breakfast I'd have two or three eggs, two or three sausages, and a large glass of orange juice."

The show was taped on a horse ranch in Simi Valley, Calif. Contestants were kept out of contact with families for almost two months. "There was a couple times I got to call," Thomas says. Workouts were four hours or more each day. They included walking on an incline, riding a stationary bike two hours, and weights. "The exercises allowed us to burn off a lot of weight in a hurry," Thomas recalls.

When it came to eating, Thomas found he could substitute EggBeaters for real eggs, Crystal Light for real orange juice and Canadian bacon for sausage, to cut breakfast calories by nearly a third. He applied the calorie-cutting approach to all meals without reducing the amount of food. During the 63 days of the show Thomas lost 82 pounds to earn him the fourth place $1000,000 prize. "At home I lost another 102 pounds," he says.

"I honestly believe that anybody that struggles with their weight can overcome it with knowledge and encouragement," he says. "There's so many things out there, so many diets, so many fads; people get confused. I hope to teach people a basic understanding of nutrition."

Inspired by her husband's commitment, Pamela Thomas lost 30 pounds while he was away at "The Biggest Loser 2" taping, and 70 pounds overall last year, Pete Thomas says.

"I never go hungry," Thomas says, but adds that he does miss chili-cheese fries—one food for which he hasn't found a healthy alternative.

The Task Force Career Conference is 8 a.m.-5 p.m. with programs also at the Michigan League and Modern Languages Building. It is open to staff and the general public.

For more information on the conference, call (734) 998-7080. More information on Thomas and his before-and-after diet is available at www.winningman.com.

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