He Lost 214 Pounds in Eight Months
By Tom Nugent
How did Erik Chopin lose more than half his weight—dropping from 407 pounds to 193? "One meal at a time," he says.
In eight months, 37-year-old Erik Chopin lost an amazing 214 pounds.
And that's not all. After he learned he had obesity-linked type 2 diabetes, the deli owner from West Islip, N.Y., controlled his blood sugar through diet and exercise. He manages his illness and leads an active life with no pills or insulin.
Losing weight was great for Erik's health. But it also put $250,000 in his pocket. Chopin won the 2006 grand prize on NBC's reality show The Biggest Loser.
How did he lose more than half his weight (from 407 to 193)? "One meal at a time," he says, "with lots of hard work and the belief that I was up to this huge challenge."
Paying a high price
"I was morbidly obese until I went on The Biggest Loser," he says, "and I was paying a high price for it." He sat around all day, half-exhausted and scared of exercise. By April 2006, "I was so concerned about my weight that I'd scheduled surgery to shrink the size of my stomach."
But before the operation, NBC tapped Chopin for The Biggest Loser. Instead of surgery, he spent four months at a health ranch in Simi Valley, Calif., where he dropped more than 100 pounds. He completed his program in four more months at home. During The Biggest Loser finale on December 13, 2006, he beat out 49 other contestants.
"It was difficult at times," he says, "and at first I was actually hoping I'd be voted off the show because the diet and the exercise just seemed like they were too tough. But I hung on somehow, and my confidence slowly grew."
At the ranch, Chopin worked with a personal trainer. He spent an hour each morning running on a treadmill and using an elliptical training machine. A two-hour midday workout added more cardiovascular drills, about 30 minutes of weight lifting and other strength training. At day's end came an hour of "homework," such as jogging or biking.
His diet, planned by a nutritionist, typically allowed 1,700 to 2,000 calories a day. Fruits and vegetables led the menu. He ate only quality carbohydrates, from foods like oatmeal and sweet potatoes. White bread, white potatoes, most sugar, and other high-carb foods were off the table.
Maintaining the loss
After he lost his weight, Chopin cut back to an hour a day of jogging and biking. He sticks to a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. One day a week, though, he eats whatever he likes—"even ice cream for dessert, if I feel like it."
Chopin runs Emma's Deli (named for one of his two daughters) in Deer Park, N.Y., with his wife, Michele. After he won, he tinkered with the menu. "Right away, I introduced some new sandwiches containing low-fat cheese and low-sugar dressing," he says. "Today, we also feature a low-carb chicken tortilla that's pretty popular."
Defeating obesity and diabetes was "a lot more important" than winning the prize, he says. He urges people to seek a blood sugar test if diabetes runs in the family or signs of the illness crop up. Excessive thirst or fatigue, frequent urination, and nagging infections are key symptoms.
"In many cases, blood sugar can be controlled effectively by diet and exercise," he adds. "Every time I go for a bike ride with [daughters] Emma and Holly, I'm grateful that my diabetes isn't slowing me down."
Join the Conversation
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!