Marci and Courtney Crozier of Valparaiso, Ind., in Buchanan April 9.
Marci and Courtney Crozier of Valparaiso, Ind., in Buchanan April 9.

Archived Story

‘Biggest Loser’ team shares their journey

Published 10:03pm Tuesday, April 9, 2013


BUCHANAN — Courtney Crozier once tipped the scales at 435 pounds.

Now she’s waiting by the phone for her call to shoot a summer Subway commercial with Jared Fogle. She talked to Jillian Michaels on Tuesday.

Courtney, her mom, Marci, who competed together on Season 11 of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” and her boyfriend, Alex Respass, from Atlanta, whom she met in California while he competed on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition,” visited Fitness Industry and a standing-room-only crowd Wednesday evening.

Courtney, wearing an “It Starts with a Smile” shirt, didn’t need a show.

She lost 112 pounds before going on television, then shed another 110 while she and her mother constituted the aqua team on a couples season.

The rest of their family was in Youngstown, Ohio, where younger sister Casey, 21, pitched against Detroit, accompanied by Marci’s husband of 28 years, Kevin.

“We’re just normal people from Indiana,” Marci said. Now that they’ve returned to reality from reality television, she works out six hours a week, while Courtney must devote twice as much time because of her body type.

They call their experience The Journey.

A doctor performed two skin removal surgeries gratis after her 212-pound weight loss. She has opened a frozen yogurt shop and is a fulltime business student at Indiana University. She is in the process of starting a non-profit, SMILE, which stands for Start Making Your Life Extraordinary. It will be geared toward helping teen-agers and pre-teens make healthy life changes.

The athletic Marci, who slimmed down from 238 to 158, teases her upbeat daughter, “Zippity Do-Dah.”

At the Season 14 finale in March, Courtney was voted America’s favorite, securing her appearance with Fogle.

Courtney used to be a picky eater, but “I like everything now” and urged others to try new things. She makes her own healthy chicken nuggets. She said for breakfast — eating breakfast and drinking lots of water being keys to losing weight — she consumed three fiber crackers with guacamole and turkey breast. Courtney keeps track of what she eats with the My Fitness Pal app. She plans indulgences.

Marci used to be afraid of public speaking, along with mice and heights.

“If I affect one person tonight, that’s all that matters to me,” said the mother Michaels called “Little Mama.” “I relate our journey to coming home because that was a show. People say, ‘You inspire us.’ Real life is a lot harder. I don’t know if I could have done it in real life. Four or five months before The Biggest Loser, Courtney brought me a magazine with a bling-bling sequined aqua dress — our team color. It was about a size eight and she said, ‘This is the dress I’m wearing to the finale.’ And I went in my room and cried. I prayed every day that my daughter would figure out she didn’t need a show. It will take longer in real life than on a show, but that’s okay. In college, she wanted to study psychology to help people lose weight. Casey wants to be a special education teacher. I can die tomorrow and know everything’s going to be okay. Both my kids understand why God put us on earth, and that’s to help other people. Coming to a club (they run a health club, along with a Dairy Queen; “both industries make people happy”), that first step is toughest, surrounding yourself with other people who want to support you. The second part of the equation I didn’t know is that you’ve got to take care of yourself first or you’re not going to be any good for anyone else. I saw Zig Ziglar, when I was about 22 years old. He said, ‘You will get everything you want in life if you help enough other people.’ ”

Marci said Courtney tried out unsuccessfully twice for The Biggest Loser. Only 22 can be accepted from 300,000 applicants. “It feels like rejection when the phone doesn’t ring. Then the same producers called her about the ABC show. She met  awesome people. They were going to follow eight for a year, then do a documentary. She finished ninth. I would have gone in my room and cried but she actually got mad on her 21st birthday. When she lost 112 pounds, the producers following her on social media started calling her. She hung up on them five times.”

The sixth phone call Courtney invoked her 50-year-old mother’s unconditional love.

“I hated the show,” Marci said. “The pompous producers didn’t know I’m from Gary. They wanted drama and negative things. I’m sitting next to Zippity Do-Dah! They exploit fat people like they’re the only ones who have problems. But I learned to love the show because it gives people hope. Half write about fitness. The other half, gambling, alcoholism, relationship issues, all kinds of stuff. We all have problems. That’s why we’re here, to help each other get through our problems, and we have to take care of ourselves first so we’re strong enough.”

Or, as Courtney put it profoundly, “It takes a while to change your body, but it takes a split second to change your mind.”





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