‘Awkward moment’: Life post Biggest Loser
Fiona Falkiner is no stranger to the concept of transformation. In 2006, Falkiner applied successfully to be a contestant on the Biggest Loser, and she was hoping losing the weight would make her happy. But following major success on the show, she found herself spiralling into a deep depression. Here, she talks about life before, during and after living the reality TV juggernaut.
I still cannot get my head around being recognised.
Thankfully it does not happen very often these days, but occasionally someone will say, "oh you look so familiar, did we go to school together?"
I find myself in that awkward moment where you have to decide whether or not to tell the truth or just make something up because once you go down the route of telling them the reality TV story you're soon faced with a million questions.
Life after Loser was certainly different to the one before it - I had gone from being a poor uni student living off a few shifts a week at my local Portman's store to having an agent and living off endorsements.
I would cut ribbons at gyms, attended fancy events, I even did a photo shoot with a dog that had won a weight loss competition. The dog and I had a lot in common with our weight loss journey … sadly he didn't love me as much as I loved him and he bit me on the face during the shoot. Maybe he knew I was more of a cat person?
When my 15 minutes started to die down things got a bit dire.
I found myself agreeing to do a shoot for a men's magazine, something I didn't want to do but it was well paid and it would tie me over for a while.
I was still very insecure about my body which I now look back and laugh about because I was probably the lightest I had been since I was 14.
Unfortunately I was so critical of myself, there was no self love or acceptance. All I saw when I looked at my body was loose skin, stretch marks and cellulite and the thought of these being on display in a magazine was almost too much to bare.
I remember standing in my bathroom looking at my reflection crying because I was so terrified about the upcoming shoot. Fortunately the shoot never happened because the next day I got a call from my agent … she said "Are you sitting down?"
My stomach dropped - this could be good or bad news … thankfully it was the latter.
"You've been asked to go on Dancing with the Stars".
I'm pretty sure I cried, I was so excited and relieved. It was the lifeline I needed and I told my agent then and there to cancel the men's mag shoot.
I was so excited to be on DWTS but when we shot the promos for the show I quickly realised what was actually going on. I was handed a sparkling moo moo to wear in the ad while all the other dancers were done up in these tiny glitzy little numbers.
It was while I was wearing my rhinestone encrusted bed sheet that it clicked - they had expected me to lose more weight during my training for the show and they wanted my first dance to be the big reveal.
With the expectation that I would lose more weight and the realisation I had two left feet I actually started gaining weight. I was freaking out!
My anxiety went into overdrive, the thought of getting up in front of a live audience filled me with so much fear.
I started training 10 weeks out from the show, which I thought was plenty of time. You would think four hours a day with my dance partner would be enough time to turn anyone in to a half decent dancer. Ha, not me!
I was so bad that after the first week my dance partner asked me to come in at night time and take his two hour beginner class. I did, and I busted my butt every day but I just could not remember the steps, plus the feet, the hands, the head, the spirit fingers … so many moves while trying to look confident and sexy. I even filmed my partner doing our dance with someone else so I could practice in my garage. No matter what I did I was not improving and my anxiety was building.
I started getting home at night and just eating anything and everything in sight, blindly eating and trying to settle that feeling of a thousand birds flapping around in my chest. I would lay awake at night hating myself for what I had done.
When the first show finally rolled around I felt so sick with nerves I was told I actually turned green in the green room.
My first dance was the cha-cha and when my name was called out my heart nearly stopped.
I walked out and went in to autopilot trying not to forget the steps, I stumbled my way through the dance and nearly cried with relief when it was over.
The feedback from the judges was that I "needed to be more sexy."
I had never felt sexy in my life … so how on earth was I supposed to be sexy when I danced? The following week I did the quickstep (should have been called slowstep in my case) and thankfully the Australian public put me out of my misery and voted me out.
You'd think I'd be embarrassed to be the first one voted off the show - nope! I was actually relieved.
Post my failed attempt on DWTS I realised I needed to get an actual job, so I did some time working for a PR company, then worked as a sponsorship manager for a show called Random Acts of Kindness.
My weight throughout all of this was steadily increasing and with it my fear of being recognised at the size I was becoming.
I became too ashamed to train at the gym so I would head out as soon as it was dark and pound the pavement.
Every morning and night I would step on the scales and be crushed, the numbers just kept going up, my self loathing, disgust and embarrassment grew.
The worst part was I was cancelling out all my training by emotionally eating … and soon enough I was tipping the scales at nearly the same weight I had been when I entered the Loser house. All that hard work and now I had nothing to show for it.
I was becoming more and more of a recluse because on the rare occasion I would go out there would always be someone who would make a comment about my weight, I was so young and vulnerable I took every comment said to me to heart. Each night all the comments would circle around in my head and soon I found myself in the grips of anxiety related insomnia.
Not even when I travelled beyond the borders of Australia did the comments on my weight stop. I headed to South Africa for my sister's wedding (which I'm lucky to have come home alive from after being chased by two giant baboons - a story for another day) and standing at the airport I got a tap on the shoulder from a lady asking if I was the girl from Biggest Loser. I said yes, and she said, "wow I thought you lost so much weight what happened."
I was crushed.
I soon found out the show had just aired in South Africa and this was not going to be the first comment I would have made to me.
On Christmas morning we woke up and found out the house we had been staying in had been robbed. The police arrived and sitting in our PJ's still in shock, I was expecting to be questioned on what had happened. Instead, one of the local officers asked if I was the girl from the Biggest Loser show and asked if he could have a selfie with me.
In my dishevelled state it was the last thing I felt like doing, but I did it. I actually think that was the first selfie I was ever asked for. Not one of my finest memories.
My family started to see how much I was struggling so my sister one day suggested I take some time out and "check out" of life for a while … so with that I checked in to a wellness retreat. It proved to be a life changing decision.
You can spend thousands on psychologists, psychiatrists, kinesiologists, naturopaths etc etc etc … but sometimes you just need someone to stop and ask you "what makes you happy"?
It was those four words that turned my life around … because it was when I was asked that very question that I realised nothing I was doing at that point in my life was making me happy.
From that point forward every action I took I would question, "does this make me happy?"
With that in mind came a total shift in my outlook on life.
Instead of training and dieting with the end goal of being skinny, I threw out my scales and instead focused on how good I felt by simply practising a healthy lifestyle. started treating myself with kindness rather than hating myself every day, every negative I would try turn into a positive, I would go for walks to the beach and practice positive affirmations.
Slowly, the negativity that had so badly eaten me away for years finally started to disappear and with it so did a few kilos.
I now have a little philosophy that I live by and it's pretty simple - treat your body as if it's your best friend.
When that negative inner voice starts talking, ask yourself - would you say it to your best friend?
Your body is with you for life - so love it, take care of it and make peace with it.
Fiona Falkiner is a model, presenter and former Biggest Loser contestant. Follow her journey on Instagram @fionafalkiner