Ali Vincent has energy -- lots of it. The Mesa native lost 112 pounds to become the first female winner of The Biggest Loser, snagging the $250,000 prize. Now, she is an inspirational speaker, spokeswoman, author, and soon-to-be creator of her own charitable foundation. Chow Bella had a chance to catch up with Ali before her upcoming meet-and-greet on January 16 at Hi-Health in Mesa.
NT: For most people, New Year's resolutions tend to be about losing weight. You've clearly been there, done that. What are your resolutions for 2010?
AV: Over the years, I've made a lot of resolutions, and they weren't always successful. Now, I try to do choose events that have to do with being healthy. Like this year, I'm going to run the Boston Marathon.
NT: Wow! How does that feel?
AV: It's exciting and I'm scared to death!
NT: Will it be your first marathon?
AV: Yes, I just started training for Boston but I've done a lot of smaller runs. I used to be that girl who heard about races but was afraid to participate. I was so scared that I didn't even know what a 5K was. I thought it was five miles!
NT: What's your advice for those of us making resolutions to lose weight?
AV: It doesn't have to be New Year's Day to make that choice; it could be any day. Keep in mind that when you set a goal to have a healthier lifestyle, there are going to be times when you're going to slip up. And that's okay. You don't have to slip up the whole day. You have a new choice every moment to stay on track. Stay conscious in living your new lifestyle until it becomes natural.
NT: When was your moment of healthy living clarity?
AV: I had a realization when I was sent home from The Biggest Loser in week four: I was in a grocery store and noticed this woman who was really fit. She was wearing a bodybugg on her arm. I was given one of these on The Biggest Loser -- they help you track the calories you burn. I thought to myself, "Why is this healthy woman wearing a bodybugg? She doesn't need to lose weight." And then I looked in her cart and everything in it was really healthy. The "a-ha!" moment for me was that healthy people are healthy because they choose to be.
NT: What about dieting?
AV: As far as diets go, I'm one that can't live without. I've been on diets where I haven't had any carbs and was carrying around bags of bacon. Before I knew it, I wanted to dive into the bakery section of the grocery store. It's important to live a balanced life.
NT: How are weight-loss goals set, and how can we stay motivated?
AV: The thought of losing over a hundred pounds was overwhelming and sounded impossible. You need to make small goals, one step at a time. Start where you are and build from there.
When I go on a run, it doesn't matter if it's a long or short -- I always want to quit. It's starting and pushing through those parts. I'll say to myself, "I'm going to make it to that stop sign," and when I get to the stop sign I'll say, "I'm going to make it to the next one."
I don't always wake up rarin' to go, and those are the most important days to stay to your commitment because those are the days when, if you don't, you'll beat yourself up, and that's not okay.
NT: What about a support system?
AV: I rely on my friends as my support system. I might break a commitment to myself, but I won't break a commitment to my friends. I think it's human nature not to disappoint people. I try to work on having the same relationship with myself as I do with my friends. The Biggest Loser gave me more depth to my relationships. Now, I'm not afraid to talk things out and I can admit I'm not always as strong as I try to be. I need people, too.
NT: You were the first woman to win The Biggest Loser. How is the emotional process behind losing weight different for a woman than a man?
AV: As women, we give to everybody and sometimes we forget to give to ourselves. And sometimes, giving to ourselves feels selfish. We have to learn to give to ourselves first.
For me, as long as I was giving to other people and staying busy, it became a way that I didn't have to take a look at my life. I believe our bodies are a direct relationship to how we feel. It was true for me at 234 pounds and it's true for me today. I chose to feel beautiful, strong, and confident.
NT: What was it like having to learn to cook and eat healthy?
AV: You have the best choices in your kitchen, but you have to figure it out. There's no chef to help you. I just did what I had learned. I portioned things out and used lots of vegetables and salsa so that it tasted good.
NT: Are there any cookbooks you like?
AV: I just reviewed a cookbook by Devin Alexander. She does a lot of The Biggest Loser cookbooks and she's an amazing chef who's struggled with her weight as well.
NT: What do you like to cook?
AV: I like hearty foods, so I do a lot of spicy stuff, Italian stuff. Everybody loves my spaghetti squash because of the sauce. I don't make my own sauce. I use a sauce base, but I put ground turkey in it and lots of vegetables. I'm a girl who likes to eat, and I know that, so I veggie-load because vegetables allow us to bulk up a meal with little calories. I use spaghetti squash instead of pasta.
NT: You do a lot of traveling. How do you eat well when you're on the road?
AV: It's hard. It you ever sit next to me on an airplane, my bag is filled with food. I have chicken breast, fruits, and almonds. I also love Weight Watchers soup! When I travel, I'll make a pot beforehand with leftover vegetables and freeze it.
NT: Have you ever been surprised by any questions people ask when they see you?
AV: Surprised? No. Taken aback? Some. I mean, I asked for it. I put myself on national TV. I've had people propose to me. I've had people ask me about my skin. When they see me, they want to touch me. It's interesting, but it's cool, I get it.
NT: Where did, "Believe it. Be it." come from?
AV: It started with my mom and I in a hotel room during the final week of auditions for The Biggest Loser. My friend had given me this bell that said, "Dream it. Be it." but I got ahead of myself. I would tease my mom with the bell. We were just having fun. I kind of faked it until I made it. I just put it out there. I believe in collective consciousness. By week four of The Biggest Loser, I was not only saying it, but I felt it with every pore.
I say I created my destiny, some people say NBC bought two more episodes because there was a writer's strike and that's how it happened. Whatever!
NT: "Believe it. Be It." Is the title of your new book. Who's it for?
AV: I wrote my book for everybody who has wanted something that they gave up on to know that they can have it. You don't have to be dealing with weight to read my book and get something out of my experiences. It truly is about believing in yourself and knowing you can create anything you put your mind to. Writing the book was the most vulnerable thing I've ever done in my life.
NT: You showed a lot of vulnerability on The Biggest Loser. How do you keep your professional and personal life separate?
AV: I try to keep my personal life personal because so much of my life is already out there. I remember when I was on Oprah, they wanted to come and film in my house and I was like, "but my house is my space!" But it was Oprah, so I let her in.
NT: How's your mom doing?
AV: She's doing great. She got to her goal of 160 pounds. She has no butt, mind you. I ordered her panties that have a butt in them for Christmas and I haven't got them yet.
NT: What are your favorite restaurants in the Valley?
AV: I live in downtown Phoenix, so my favorite places to eat are Fez, Ticoz Resto-Bar, MoTo Sushi, and Zen 32 Sushi. I also do Zoë's a lot. I love Zoë's. They have six items all under 400 calories.
NT: What are you currently working on?
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AV: I'm in the final steps of finalizing, the "Believe It. Be It. Foundation" It's going to be a place that empowers young women between the ages of 12 through high school to fight obesity and learn to believe in themselves. I want to create a space that empowers young women to give back, to embrace the things that are great about them and to shape their dreams.
Our first camp will happen this summer, but one day I envision centers throughout the country with mental and physical wellness programs. Eventually I'd like the Foundation to be able to lobby and change curriculum in the schools. I want to teach kids about calories. That's one way to change the epidemic going on in this country.
I have enough name power to knock on the doors of big corporations and ask for the big funding. I want to help generations to come.