Chicago attorney Bobby Saleem and Harold’s Chicken Shack executive Tanya Winfield of Plainfield both want to be big losers on TV — the biggest losers, in fact.
They’re among the 15 contestants duking it out to drop the pounds on NBC’s weight-loss competition “The Biggest Loser,” returning Oct. 8 for season 15.
Hoping to lose weight and pick up a $250,000 paycheck for first prize, Saleem and Winfield will be going against the show’s first celebrity player, “American Idol” champ Ruben Studdard. It’s been a decade since Studdard won the Fox singing competition and launched his career in music. Now he’s taking the stage as “The Biggest Loser’s” heaviest contestant this season, weighing in at 462 pounds.
The oldest of nine children, Winfield, 41, was born in Chicago to drug-addicted teen mother, according to NBC. Winfield, who lives in Plainfield, has a different addiction: food. The former DePaul University student and chief operating officer of the Harold’s Chicken Shack franchise has three kids of her own: a 23-year-old son and two daughters, ages 20 and 2. Winfield, who weighs 262 pounds, developed gestational diabetes when pregnant with both of her daughters, the youngest of whom tipped the scales at 11 pounds, 6 ounces.
Winfield said last season’s emphasis on childhood obesity was a wake-up call for her, along with the death of a family friend due to weight-related issues.
“I refuse to allow [my daughter] to be a statistic and understand that starts with me,” Winfield said in NBC press materials.
“The rest of my life will be the best of my life,” added Winfield, who also hopes to shed enough weight to regain her confidence and start dating again.
Saleem tried out for the show after being fed up with not being able to fit into his clothes without ripping them at the seams — a condition he dubs “hulking.” His “a ha” moment came when his pants ripped one morning before a court appearance, and he realized he didn’t want to be a “fat attorney.” Saleem, 28, weighs 358 pounds.The Loyola University Chicago grad has been overweight his whole life. Growing up in Illinois, his parents worked a lot so he often was in charge of feeding himself.
“I would literally eat until I was full,” he said in NBC press materials. “And I had no sense of portion control.”
Saleem, who got his J.D. at Chicago’s John Marshall Law School, said his biggest motivation for being on the show is “to confront the reasons why I gained the weight in the first place, as well as to get a second chance at life.”
If Saleem or Winfield end up victorious on the show, they’ll have started a winning streak for Chicago-area contestants. Danni Allen of Wheeling was crowned The Biggest Loser last season after losing 121 pounds.