Tara Costa is one of my favorite contestants on The Biggest Loser—ever. First, she rocks one of my favorite colors. Second, she’s totally genuine and refreshing, often speaking the truth even when it’s hard. And third, she’s a tough competitor who never gives up and always pushes that extra bit. In fact, during season 7 of the show, she won a BL record-setting eight challenges. Eight! Oh, and on the show she lost 155 pounds (see her before and after photos here ), and then later ran a marathon and did a triathalon. I heart her.
Tara grew up in a single-parent home in a small town. With her mother’s lessons in personal achievement and independence, Tara became a plus-size model for a top New York modeling agency, graduated from New York University with honors and accepted a finance position at a large beauty company. In September, she decided to leave her job and her life in New York to get healthy on the show. Which she did, with just as much dynamic personality and candor as she always had, only this time it was in front of millions.
We had the opportunity to ask Tara a few questions about her transformation, her time with Bob and Jillian , and the skinny on her latest achievement—starring and leading the instruction with other popular contestants (including Ali !) in BL’s recent workout DVD release . Here’s the 411 on this inspirational girl’s life post BL ranch!
TC: Filming the DVD was a first-time experience for me, and I had a blast. Sione, Ali and I worked extremely well together to put together exercises that were fun but also challenging. All of us were breaking a sweat doing these exercises! It was also the first time I met season eight contestants, and it was a great bonding experience. I was able to share with them how I am doing now and what things were difficult/easy for me when I got off the ranch.
FBG: How similar is the workout DVD to the workouts you did on The Biggest Loser ranch?
TC: The DVD workouts and the ranch workouts have many similarities. Jillian always liked a core set of exercises but would be able to mix things up when training me. The DVD offers many varieties to working out the same muscle group. The basic movements will stay the same, but as you grow stronger you can add in a little variety and keep it interesting. It is also great for the beginner because we say how the exercise can be modified. We (Sione/Ali/myself) understand that when getting into an exercise routine, you are exhausted after a few short minutes—it’s not easy, but it is worth it!
FBG: Do you own the new DVD and work out to yourself? That would be awesome!
TC: LOL, working out to myself is so weird! So yes, I do own them and use them. Lately, I have been traveling a lot, and sometimes I don’t have access to the gym, and it is too late for me to go hit the pavement. I am also a little wary to go running in places I have never been after a recent episode where a man was following me (and he didn’t want to talk about The Biggest Loser). Women: be careful and know your surroundings! What’s hard for me using this DVD is that I am so critical of myself. I hate watching myself on TV, hence why I still have not watched my season of BL!
FBG: What is your workout routine like now, after The Biggest Loser?
TC: Once I left the ranch, I went through a major transition. I had to create new patterns and get workouts in when I could. Life wasn’t about exercise then live—it was live then exercise. I really took a liking to running, especially while I was training for the NYC Marathon. Every morning, if my schedule permitted, I would run. There is something about the fresh crisp air that I could not get enough of. I would also supplement running with a yoga or spin class with friends. Now, I am actually training for the Rev3 series of triathlons (Olympic, Half and Full distance) and Heather Gollnick , a pro-triathlete, is training me! It’s just the beginning, but I can already tell it is going to be intense.
FBG: How hard was the transition from the show to real life? What is your secret to keeping the weight off?
TC: The transition once leaving the ranch was very difficult for me. For so long, I was losing weight, then it was all over and I was supposed to know how to maintain. I went through a learning curve. For me, every day is hard, but I feel so much stronger and healthier now that I want to stick with it. It really can’t be about a diet; it has to be a way of life. I can’t live on a diet, and I stopped living when I was 300 pounds, so it’s about the balance for me. I am and will always be a work-in-progress, but I have certain things in place that help me. When I am having a rough day and want to eat everything in sight, I take out my little black book. In my little black book you will find lists of reasons of why I wanted to lose the weight so badly, why I want to keep it off, memories of Jillian yelling at me to keep pushing and a few quotes that I like to read when I need encouragement. Also, I try to take it one day at a time. I put sticky notes around my house to remind myself that I get to make a choice every day—to live a lifestyle and that I CAN do it.
FBG: We know that during the show, you were logging three-plus hours of exercise a day. How much do you work outnow and how has your schedule changed now that you are maintaining your weight loss?
TC: During the show, I was logging around six to eight hours a day! Now, I try to get in a solid one-and-a-half hours in the morning. At night, if my friends are up for doing something, I will take part in an activity (either walking or yoga class). This schedule will be changing though as I prepare for the Rev3 triathlon challenge!
FBG: While on the show, you were a fierce competitor. What fuels your workouts now? How do you stay motivated?
TC: Yes, I was a competitor because most if not all of the things I was doing were something I have never done before. Like pulling a car, being on a tight rope or running a marathon, I was pushing myself to see what I can accomplish. Most of the time I surprised myself. The feeling of surprise and “no way, I did not just do that” was AWESOME! Now, I want to continue to challenge myself and keep the awesome feeling alive. I have also come to realize I get the same feeling when I help others do things for the first time—there is something that happens in that moment, and I love to be a part of it.
FBG: What are your food habits? What do you eat in a normal day?
TC: I go through food phases! A normal breakfast would be veggie egg white (with one yolk) omelet, turkey bacon and a slice of cinnamon raisin bread or oatmeal with some dried fruit and nuts. For lunch, I love salads with tons of fresh veggies and a bean for protein or an open-face tuna melt with cup of low-sodium tomato soup. For dinner, I have been having lots of fish and various kinds of squash and steamed veggies. For snacks, I always have an apple a day, coffee or latte, and prepackaged trail mix.
FBG: Do you listen to music while working out? If so, what’s playing on your iPod now?
TC: I have such an eclectic taste in music. On my iPod, you will get classic rock, pop, country, instrumental, rock—really a little bit of everything. Right now I am on an Anberlin kick.
FBG: What’s it like to watch The Biggest Loser seasons now, as a Biggest Loser success story? What’s it like to inspire others?
TC: Watching the show now is nostalgic for me. I love how others are getting to experience what I did and that the network of people who can understand what I went through is constantly growing. All contestants really try to support one another! As far as inspiring others, it is strange for me. I never went on the show and intended to do that. I went on national TV because I needed help so badly. When people tell me how I was able to help them, it is a remarkable feeling. And I now take pride in it. The only way I feel that I can continue to inspire is to be honest and do my best to lead by example.
FBG: Behind the scenes, what are Bob and Jillian really like?
TC: Oh boy, Bob and Jillian are such characters. I feel like I am watching myself and my brother, Michael, interact when I see them together. They share a bond together that can’t be put into words. They understand that they are helping not only the contestants but also America transform—but still have a great time doing it. It is like a sibling relationship. There might be some bickering, but when it comes down to it, they are always there for one another.
FBG: What’s your current big fitness goal? And what can we expect from you in 2010?
TC: As I mentioned earlier, my next big fitness goal is the Revolution3 series of triathlons. The first Olympic distance is on May 9 in Knoxville, TN (.9-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike, 6.2-mile run). The second event, half distance at Quassy in Middlebury, CT (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run). And finally the full distance triathlon at Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run)! I know—it is crazy, but I hope to be able to encourage others to take part in the challenge with me or at least part of it. I never thought I would do something like this, but why not give it a shot? All of you can be a part of Team Tara ! As far as other things, cooking in the kitchen…I am in the process of writing a book! This book is not about my life, but more about what I have realized through a life transformation. It’s upbeat, funny and inspirational, plus I get to share some of my personal stories with the reader.
FBG: Any other words of wisdom or advice for our Fit Bottomed Girl readers?
TC: Don’t let “other things” get in your way of doing something that truly makes you happy. I understand it is hard to make time, especially time for you. For me, when I am truly happy, I am able to give more to my family and friends. Everyone is better off!