Originally published on MassLive.com.
CHICOPEE ? Name a diet and Jami Witherell has tried it.
?I was on Jenny Craig, Weigh Watchers, I tried not eating for a while, I was definitely a yo-yo dieter,” said Witherell, a Westfield resident, who was on ABC?s Extreme Weight Loss.
Witherell started her journey in the spring of 2012 weighing in at 292 pounds.
Initially, she had tried out for the Biggest Loser television show with her sister, but they were not selected. She was then contacted by ABC to audition for the program.
During each episode, the show, which is in its fourth season, follows the life of one person for a full year as they transform physically and mentally.
“I had never seen the show, so I really had no idea what I was signing up for,” said Witherell, who had been overweight most of her life.
After a week of casting and health exams Witherell was asked to write a personal letter to Chris Powell and he chose her to be on the show.
“It’s different then the Biggest Loser because it’s not a competition. You go into it knowing that you have a full year to do this and that worked really well for me because I’m not a competitive person,” she said.
After spending a week getting to know Powell and training with him, Witherell was sent home to work with personal trainers.
At the start of the show she was living in Philadelphia, caring for 33 young ballet dancers at a private school, but work and working out did not mix.
“Working 150 hours a week taking care of these kids and trying to work out four to six hours a day was becoming too difficult,” she said.
So, Witherell quit her job and came home and lived in Chicopee for awhile. There she was introduced to Ken and Joli Hamilton, owners of?CrossFit Firestorm, a gym on Chicopee Street.
“They were such a big part of my journey, “she said.
When she first walked into the gym, which is less treadmills and elliptical machines and more weights and metal pull-up bars, Witherell had her doubts.
?I walked in there and I thought there’s no way I can do this, but they have been there for me every step of the way and have tailored everything to my needs,? she said as she demonstrated some assisted pull-ups with exercise bands.
She calls the gym her second home since for the past year and a half of her life she has spent most of her time there.
While on the show, Witherell had several intense moments, starting with her confession that she was considering suicide.
“I was probably as close to clinically depressed as you could get and I had suicidal tendencies,” she said.
Witherell said what saved her was getting into therapy as soon as she was chosen for the show.
“I started meeting weekly with a therapist in Northampton and I still do,” she said. “I really needed some guidance.”
Another big moment was meeting her birth mother and biological sister in Chile.
Witherell was adopted at the age of three and was raised by two moms and her grandmother.
“I was given this blessed life and raised by this wonderful community of people in Western Massachusetts and mostly I just wanted to say thank you to her for that incredible gift,” she said.
Although the show only focuses on a short visit, Witherell actually spent two weeks in Chile getting to know her biological family. She still communicates with them daily.
At her final reveal, Witherell chose to do her weigh-in in a bikini. In a year she lost 132 pounds, weighing in at 162.
During the episode, she said although her body still has stretch marks and it’s not perfect, she is proud of her accomplishments.
Witherell has a master’ s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and hopes to return to get her doctoral degree.
“One thing that was left out of my episode is that I was hesitant to start a doctoral program at UMass because I couldn’t fit in the seats,” she said. “Since then I have been back and I fit comfortably.”
She has also developed a love for acting, being cast in the role of Eponine with the Exit 7 Players in Ludlow this fall.
“That is something I would have never done before this experience,” she said.
Asked if the show changed her life, Witherell hesitates.
“I don’t think the show itself or any one person changed my life, but the experience as a whole definitely did,” she said referring to the support she got from her family and friends, her therapist, the crew at CrossFit and Chris Powell and his wife Heidi.
Witherell hopes the show gives a more realistic look at weight loss.
“I had to get real,” she said. “Just because you don’t reach a weight loss goal it doesn’t mean you should just give up. You have to set smaller goals that are achievable and stick with it.”
Witherell’s episode originally ran this summer, but can be seen on ABC Oct. 27 at 4 p.m.