Jackson Carter of Layton recently came in third place out of 15 contestants on this season's "The Biggest Loser" and was the show's first openly gay contestant.
For someone like me, who had never watched the show prior to this year and can't compare it to previous seasons, Carter by far brought the most entertainment and laughs, and I am sure I'm not alone in this statement. People all over the world tuned in to see his humorous and amazing personality.
At the first weigh-in on the show, Carter was 328 pounds; now his weight is 190 pounds. That's a difference of 138 pounds lost over the season.
" 'Loser' was probably the most difficult thing in my life," Carter says in a article on the Ogden OUTreach website. "I passed out, threw up pretty much every day (still do from time to time), sprained both ankles, felt sore on every part of my body, and the list goes on and on. But I would never trade this experience for anything else in the world. Because I learned that, no matter what life throws at me, I can push through it."
Before the TV show, Carter was an assistant manager at a movie theater and a volunteer coordinator at OUTreach, a resource center for LGBTQ youth and straight allies. He started going to OUTreach at age 15, he began volunteering at 18, and a year later he was asked to join the board of directors.
"Jackson is the perfect role model for youth," said Marian Edmonds, current executive director of OUTreach, on the website. "He has experienced bullying and knows what it is like to struggle to attend school and face harassment. In his role as a mentor at OUTreach, he teaches youth to believe that they are worth it, that they have value and potential. With some of the highest suicide rates in the nation locally, this is a message youth desperately need to hear."
Now that "The Biggest Loser" has ended, Carter and his friend (and runner-up) from the show, Jeff Nichols, are working on a proposed web series titled "Mancation." "Mancation" was announced in a March YouTube video and will feature Carter and Nichols traveling the world by air, land and sea in hopes of "bringing a smile to everybody's faces."
"We're gonna document our travel experiences, and hopefully get some really funny footage of us just getting into absolute shenanigans," Carter says in the video. More information about the project is available in a blog at www.mancationtv.net.
One of the pair's first adventures was a "3K Twitter challenge." After getting 3,000 Twitter followers, the two posted a video of Carter running a 3K in a pink flamingo costume.
I sat down with Carter, 22, over coffee recently to ask him about his experiences.
Q: When will "Mancation" start?
A: Hopefully sometime in the summer, he said. The project is in really early stages of development and they need more sponsors to get it off the ground.
Q: What does your diet consist of? How do you avoid eating really fatty foods?
A: Carter said he eats mostly proteins, whole wheat and vegetables. He said he has a piece of cake every now and then, but he has the tools now to keep himself from binge eating.
Q: Did you/or were you worried that you might experience homophobia firsthand on "The Biggest Loser" ranch? Or were the other contestants so focused on their common goal that no one was discriminatory?
A: Everyone at the ranch had been through enough torment and bullying in their lives that they didn't discriminate against him, Carter said. Everyone there had a common goal and was very friendly, as opposed to most other reality competitions, he said.
Watching "The Biggest Loser" this year and witnessing Jackson Carter's transformation was inspiring to say the least. I wish I could come up with a better word to describe it than "inspiring," as Carter told me he hears that word so often now that it is almost meaningless to him.
So let's just say that the effort that millions saw him put in on the ranch has motivated people -- including those who have never met him before. But for the teens at OUTreach, Carter found out when he came home in December for the "homecoming" episode, that some of the kids had already taken it upon themselves to start fitness programs, and to watch what they ate and make healthier choices.
He said he wasn't expecting this, but to replace that word "inspiring," let's just say Carter's motivation has moved mountains for those here at home who know him.
Alex Esplin is a senior at Dorius Academy. He enjoys writing short stories and is working on a novel. Email him at email@example.com.