Joe Ostaszewski didn’t win the big prize on “The Biggest Loser” Monday night, but he got something more valuable than money–he got his health back.
At 43, the Williston resident is in the best health of his life and that’s reason to celebrate.
Since Jan. 6, America has tuned in to see Joe compete in this season’s “The Biggest Loser,” a show that features obese people competing for a cash prize by losing the highest percentage of weight relative to their initial weight.
When Joe checked into the show, he weighed 364 pounds – an amount he knew was both unhealthy and dangerous.
“I saw Dr. McCoy there in Williston,” he said in a telephone interview Friday, “and he told me I was on the cusp of diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, all those things.”
Joe said if that was the future he was facing at 42, he could only imagine what would be around the corner at 50, 55 or 60.
“My first A-ha moment came,” he said, “ when my brother had an EKG and then a heart cath because of an irregular heart beat. I was driving home down 121 from Gainesville when I looked over and saw two beautiful rainbows over a field and then one disappeared.”
In that instance, Joe knew that the rainbows were a sign, perhaps even representing he and his identical twin brother, Henry.
Because, like himself, Henry too had gained about 100 pounds since the two played football under Coach Bobby Bowden at Florida State.
Like many athletes, the brothers continued to eat like they did when they were playing ball, but they weren’t exercising and conditioning at the same pace. The weight piled on.
It was shortly after their father had triple heart bypass surgery, the duo knew something had to be done.
It was Henry, a father of two, who lives near Atlanta, who suggested they audition for “The Biggest Loser.”
Joe admits he didn’t watch the show because it made him think of himself, but agreed to Henry’s idea in the continuing spirit of brotherly competition.
However, the show wasn’t interested in the idea of twins this season and only Joe was selected.
“It was a bittersweet moment,” Joe said when he learned that only he would be competing, when it had been Henry’s idea. “You could feel the tension a little bit.”
But Henry was undaunted, and vowed that he would start a weight loss regimen to coincide with his brother’s public weight loss. And the competition was on.
Each week as Joe weighed in, Henry was doing the same back home – all the while working, chauffeuring children to activities and leading a normal life not filled with trainers and nutritionists.
It worked. As of today the brothers are neck and neck with their weight loss.
“But the final weigh in is Monday night,” Joe said.
They also had a friendly wager going on between them: if Henry wins, he’ll take Joe to Disney World; if Joe wins, he’ll take Henry and his children to Disney World.
“Looks like either way,” Joe laughed, “I’m going to Disney World.”
Friday, Joe said he planned to spend the weekend relaxing and savoring how far he’d come since he first started on a new path.
Monday night, Joe was eliminated early on by America’s vote, as they chose to keep 21-year old Jackson in the competition.
An hour later, with Henry watching from the audience, Joe stepped on
“The Biggest Loser” scale for the last time.
He weighed in at 217 pounds, down 147 pounds from when he first began.
A native of Boynton Beach, Joe has lived in Williston for 12 years. In 2000, he coached the Red Devils’ defensive line.
His uncle has been a horse trainer in the area for more than 30 years and he said he fell in love with the area passing through on his way to Tallahassee and while visiting his uncle.
“I really like the pace of life here,” he said.
Win or lose, other changes will be in store for Joe following Monday night’s announcement.
He plans to move to Atlanta where he and Henry will jump full force into their foundation, Wear Your Soul. The non-profit is an “organization dedicated to helping kids and young adults explore alternative outdoor sports, enabling them to find their passion and live a healthy, active lifestyle,” according to its website.
The Ostaszewski brothers will team with colleges and universities and, with student athletes, reach out to young people to get then interested in outdoor activities like hiking, biking and kayaking.
With nutritionists, they will teach children and young people about choosing healthy foods to maintain healthy lifestyles in the war to combat childhood obesity.
“It’s a beautiful outreach,” Joe said.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t be back in Williston.
Joe’s looking forward to being back in the saddle on Big Daddy with his dog, Odell, by his side.
That is, if they recognize him.