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From Gold Medal Winner to Biggest Loser

By Maxwell Leadership | June 11, 2011
From Gold Medal Winner to Biggest Loser

In 2000, Rulon Gardner experienced the thrill of his life when he stepped onto an Olympic podium to receive his gold medal. These days, the most thrilling moments for Gardner happen when he steps onto a scale to weigh himself. As a contestant on Biggest Loser, the former wrestler is grappling with the toughest foe he’s ever faced—obesity.

In 2004, Rulon Gardner weighed in at 265 pounds prior to capturing his second Olympic medal, a bronze, in Greco-Roman wrestling. However, after the conclusion of his wrestling career, the powerful athlete rapidly put on the pounds. In the course of launching his own business, a fitness center, Gardner neglected his personal fitness and ballooned to almost 500 pounds.

One evening, hours after being inducted into the national wrestling hall of fame, Gardner watched footage of the ceremony while chowing down on fast food in his hotel room. He hardly recognized himself on the television screen. Disgusted by the grossly obese man he saw, Gardner contacted Biggest Loser in an effort to get help.

To date, Gardner has made incredible strides on the show, shedding 132 pounds since his first weigh-in. What lessons can be learned from Gardner’s weight loss journey? First, we must have a purpose inspiring us to make a change. Second, to transform our lives, we must submit to an ongoing process of change. Finally, we must enlist other people to support us along the pathway of change. 


Unless you can see how making a change will improve the future, it’s difficult to find the motivation to adjust. A sense of purpose helps you to make the decision to change and gives you the energy to follow through on it. Once you have the big picture in mind, you’re able to endure the short-term pains of discipline.

For Rulon Gardner, the desire to have a family spurred his efforts to lose weight. He realized his love affair with food was preventing him from having the kind of relationship he wanted with his wife. In envisioning a contented household with children, Gardner found the purpose to motivate him to get in shape.


Change involves more than desire; it requires commitment to a process. We cannot transform ourselves through sporadic effort. Life change happens strategically, by following a concrete plan.

Each week on Biggest Loser Rulon Gardner takes part in a training regimen designed to help him regain his health. His rigorous workout schedule is structured and tailored to his specific needs. When he enters the gym, there’s no question of what to do. Every minute of activity has been determined beforehand so that he can stay on track in his quest to lose weight.


As leaders, we can be stubbornly self-reliant. Nothing feels worse to us than being needy and helpless. Yet, our individual willpower eventually proves powerless to bring about the changes we hope to achieve. We have to realize our dependence on other people and lean on them for support in order to experience change.

Having been an Olympian, Rulon Gardner was well acquainted with fitness routines prior to appearing on Biggest Loser. Certainly, he also had a clear purpose for losing weight before joining the show. Yet, having a reason for change and knowing how to change were not enough to bring about change. The missing piece for Rulon Gardner was surrounding himself with people committed to helping him succeed. He needed trainers urging him to press on and teammates inspiring him not to give up. Only after he enlisted people to help him did Gardner begin to win the battle against obesity.

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