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<i>Biggest Loser</i> Michael Talks Weight, Love, and the Fun Kind of Rollercoasters

While this cycle of The Biggest Loser had its share of absurd moments, 526 lb Michael's victory has made us feel justified in watching all 38 hours of the show this season. Even though we were all a little mad at the guy for divvying up the Black and Blue Teams so unevenly, we were still rooting for him, because let's face it: He has a sweet personality, was generally not a game player and went relatively light on the motivational speeches (at least compared to all of the other contestants). In celebration of winning the $250,000 and being this season's Biggest Loser, Michael took a media call and opened up about life on and off the ranch. Below are the highlights.

What's the biggest difference between watching The Biggest Loser on TV and actually being on the ranch?
Michael Ventrella: Before I auditioned for the show, I studied it and watched all the episodes. I looked at everybody's relationships -- how they reacted to one another, how they reacted to the challenges -- and I told myself I would never partake in an eating challenge, or that type of thing. But when you're there, all of that goes out the window. I was in survival mode. The old Michael would put so much of his fate in other people's hands, and that's what made me so unhappy and contributed to be being 526 lbs. I really had to get over it and say, "I am going to play the game," because my life was on the line.

What are you planning to do with your prize money?
Ventrella: Get out of debt, or at least try to. We'll see what happens once Uncle Sam gets a hold of me. That's first and foremost, because being in debt, you feel like all the world's on your shoulder, and that just weighs you down, along with the fat on your body. So, as I'm losing weight, I'm getting things sorted out. I'm really cleaning up my life in every angle.

Is there anything going on romantically between you and Ashley? You two were very flirty during the finale.
Ventrella: No. We're flirty with each other, but that's our relationship. I had a friend who passed away last year -- her name was Janine, she was my high school sweetheart and just a beautiful girl -- and her and Ashley share so many characteristics. They look the same, they're both blonde, they're both vibrant young women. When I lost Janine, there was a void, and when I met Ashley, it was like she was reincarnate.

And we have such a strong friendship! We're loud, we flirt, we joke around, and we like getting a rise out of people when they ask if we're dating -- we look at each other and just giggle. But if it ever went past that, it would just ruin it. We've both talked about it, and we're obviously attracted to one another physically, characteristically, emotionally, mind, soul and spirit, but it's just one of those things that if it went past that, it just wouldn't work.

What's the hardest part of transitioning from the ranch to back home?
Ventrella:
I thought the biggest challenge of when I went home would be just fitting in my workout regimen and my new eating habits, but, surprisingly enough, it wasn't that. I'm not the person I was before; I don't think that way, I don't eat that way, I don't live that way.

The hardest part of being home was having everybody understand what I was going through. My friends who are thin don't know the degree of commitment and hard work I'm putting toward being healthy. And I have friends and family who are overweight but who've never tried to lose weight, so they don't understand what I'm going through. They think I'm the old Mike and that it's party time, and assume that I'm still leisurely, but that's not the case.

I'm active; I live an active lifestyle, and I love that. I'm trying to incorporate an active life in all different facets of my life, including friends and family, and they -- some of them, very few -- just don't seem interested, and that's a shame. It's been wonderful! Look how happy I am!

We briefly saw your sister, Rosangela, on the show this season, and she talked about wanting to lose weight herself. Any chance she'll be a future contestant?
Ventrella: I know that she auditioned while I was away, but I don't know what came out of it. With my sister, the way that she'll have to attack the weight loss is going to be different than how I did it. With me, their first step was to acknowledge that there was a problem, and the second step after that was being open to all the things I needed to do and sacrifice and work on in order to solve this problem, and I was committed to everything I had to face. My sister is just starting step one; she's assessing that she's not happy, healthy, or feeling good about herself, and she's starting to feel the effects of being a heavy person, feeling exiled, unhappy, unwanted, and depressed. I've yet to feel that she's ready to totally encompass everything that you need to in order to lose the weight.

Let's face it, folks: It's not a magical pill you take overnight. It's not a DVD or a piece of machinery. It's hard work! You really have to bear all, and accept the fact that you're going to bust your butt in your workouts -- whether they be in the gym, or outside, or in the stairway of your condo -- you really have to push it to the limit that you're going to cry. You have to break that mental barrier. I think my sister understands that it's not going to be easy, and she's a bit scared.

I talked to Mike Morelli about this during the marathon (in episode 18) when he was running with me, and he had the same experience with his younger brother Max. Even well after my season, he still doesn't think his brother is ready. You really can't take someone's hand and drag them, you have to wait for them to find that on their own. They're going to find out, one day, how amazingly bright your personality and character are from everything you've done, and they're going to start feeling envious, and they're going to want it, too, and then they'll come to you and ask for help. But until then, you can't do anything about it.

Is there anything you're looking forward to doing now that you couldn't do when you were heavier?
Ventrella: I'd love to go to a theme park with all my cousins and ride a rollercoaster and be a kid for the first time in the life. I'm thinner and have a smaller waist now than I did when I was 13 or 14, so I never got to experience what being a kid really was. I want to do that now. I love kids; I love to be around them, I like to be playful, and I love my family. I'm so excited to spend a couple days at a theme park and take all my little cousins out and just live it up.

Look back at this Biggest Loser season's most ridiculous moments.

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