Weighty Proposition

(Jennifer’s Dress) Jennifer wore a charcoal cocktail dress, covered in sequins and pailettes, compliments of Aidan Mattox (aidanmattox.com) and Denise Weaver of Pistol & Stamen (pistolandstamen.com). (Jennifer’s Hair & Makeup} Subway Salon in Millburn (subwaysalon.com) treated Jennifer to makeup, haircut, highlights and restyled her hair extensions.

Biggest Loser emcee and soap-opera star Alison Sweeney shares a hug with Jennifer.

Biggest Loser’s first runner-up, Hannah Curlee, with Jennifer at the NBC after party.

Jay wore a fine Italian shirt, belt and trousers from Papillon Exclusive Italian Menswear, Millburn (papillonmenswear.com). Hair and beard styling by Subway Salon. Eyewear by Yan Schwartzman of Alain Mikli at the Mall at Short Hills (973-564-8100).

While many of us routinely step onto the bathroom scale, discover a couple of extra pounds and promise ourselves to eat fewer desserts, we are weight-loss amateurs compared to those who embrace a drastic reality-TV regimen aimed at shedding 50 percent of body weight.

For Jay Jacobs and his daughter, Jennifer, losing excess weight had been a lifelong struggle, until this West Orange duo applied to NBC’s Biggest Loser reality television series, beat out 250,000 contenders, and secured plum spots among the 22 contestants on Season 11.

Jennifer weighed in one year ago at 278, and Jay tipped the scales at 400. After a gut-wrenching, character-testing 20 weeks at the Biggest Loser weight-loss ranch in Calabasas, California, Jennifer lost 114 pounds—enough to wear a glammy size-6 Aidan Mattox sequin-covered cocktail dress to the spring finale episode.

Jay lost a whopping 181 pounds and was among the show’s Final Four contestants. As he was dramatically revealed to a live studio audience in Hollywood last spring, the crowd gasped when they saw his strong and svelte physique. He had shed 45 percent of his body weight and trimmed 22 inches from his waist.

Jennifer, who went home in week 13, and Jay who was voted off in week 7 but returned in week 11 to make a strong finish, tell us about their life-changing adventure in their own words…

PP: What made you reach out to the Biggest Loser for help?
JENNIFER: We both needed professional support, so when I heard that Biggest Loser’s Season 11 would feature couples, I convinced my dad to go with me to the Boston casting call. Then, last September, we were invited to Los Angeles to meet with the producers and undergo medical testing. Two weeks later, we were on the Biggest Loser ranch and began taping.

JAY: Even as a young kid, my body image wasn’t positive and I didn’t feel like a strong person. My weight loss attempts over the years always failed. Jen was the one who convinced me to go on the show. It was really her dream, and I now believe that Biggest Loser saved my life.

My initial Biggest Loser medical tests confirmed that I had sleep apnea as well as a heart arrhythmia. I was at risk for a potentially fatal heart attack and, at one point, NBC was going to send me home. But the show’s physician said that the Biggest Loser ranch was actually the safest place for me because I would be monitored 24/7. During all those scenes when viewers saw me exercising, I was actually wearing a heart monitor. Since my weight loss, my metabolism has greatly improved and I’m sleeping soundly because my apnea has subsided.

PP: What challenges did you face at the Biggest Loser ranch?
JENNIFER:  It was pretty tough, but we were lucky to have Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels as our personal trainers. They stuck by us as we worked out every day in the gym and also survived grueling physical challenges through the mud, across the water and up steep hills.

JAY: At one point, I felt defeated and I had to admit it to myself and to my trainers. I became emotional because I missed my wife, Kim [who lost 60 pounds at home while Jay and Jennifer were on the ranch], and my son, Matthew, as well. I couldn’t even slip into my old habit of bingeing to comfort myself because on the ranch we were surrounded by organic food—and it’s pretty hard to binge on organic food.

PP: What kind of exercise regimen are you following these days?
JENNIFER:  About nine months ago, during our holiday break from the show, I trained on the boardwalk in Long Branch for an upcoming 5K challenge on the ranch, and I came in fourth place among contestants. That really boosted my confidence. Now my dad and I are both training for the New York Marathon on November 6.

JAY:  We also both do treadmill, weight training and spinning five to six days a week for 90 minutes a day. And we always wear our bodybuggs. [The bodybugg is an armband with electronic sensors that record calories consumed versus calories burned; bodybugg.com.] I’m still carrying an extra 20 pounds, but it’s mostly excess skin that hangs around after losing all that weight. Jen and I both plan to have skin excision surgery in the next year.

PP: How are you adjusting to your new bodies?
JENNIFER:  The first day on the ranch, I thought, How am I ever going to fit into a cool dress for the finale in 20 weeks? I couldn’t conceive of it. I used to go to the Mall at Short Hills, but could only buy shoes and accessories. And I didn’t own stylish clothes because anything I wore had to be loose and stretchy. After I started losing weight on the show, I came home last Christmas and filled four big garbage bags with stuff I’ll never wear again.

JAY: All my life, I had shopped only at the big men’s stores, so I was surprised to be able to wear stylish clothes after all these years. It was a strange but wonderful feeling. Right before the Biggest Loser finale show, Harun Rashidzada of Papillon Menswear in Millburn provided me with wardrobe for the finale show. I was nervous when I first walked into Papillon because I was afraid nothing would fit me, but I walked out with a hip outfit. And Yan Schwartzman of Alain Mikli in Short Hills fitted me for new eyeglasses with high-definition Hoya lenses, and that gave me an updated style.

PP: So this is the first time you’ve felt stylish?
JENNIFER: You have to understand that I weighed more than 250 pounds my senior year in high school, and I wore a big black dress to prom. So, when I started looking at clothes for the finale show, I walked into Nordstrom and had no idea what my new size was. My pre-Biggest Loser size was 26-28. I initially pulled a size-12 dress off the rack, but it was too big. So I tried a 10 and then an 8, but they were too loose. I was shocked. When I actually zipped up the size 6, I thought, Get the hell out of town—I’m in a size 6!

I absolutely love the Aidan Mattox dress and killer shoes I wore to the finale show in Hollywood. And Subway Salon in Millburn treated me to makeup and hair services. When I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t believe it was me! That was months ago, and I’m still test-driving this new body.

JAY:  Instead of shopping at the very back of the clothing rack to search for the size 5X, now I can shop from the middle of the rack for medium sizes. Jen and I recently went to the mall for 10 hours. I know that sounds crazy, but we had a blast—like two kids in a candy store. I was actually in a dressing room trying on J. Crew clothes, and they fit!  I haven’t looked or felt this good since I was 19 years old. That’s when I weighed 175 pounds and was dating Kim.

PP:  So how do you feel when you look at your before photos?
JENNIFER:  Now that we’ve lost the weight and gained perspective, we realize that we were even heavier than we ever realized. Our perceptions were all screwed up. We thought it was okay to be that large, and we just got used to it.
JAY: My mind hasn’t fully caught up with my new body yet. When I get into an elevator full of people, I’m always surprised to find that I can fit. And I can easily slide into a restaurant booth or fit into an airplane seat without people staring at me. Years of stares take a toll on your self-confidence, you know. It actually feels good not to be noticed.

PP: What’s next for you guys?
JENNIFER: I want to fulfill all my personal goals, and that includes becoming a fitness model, a public speaker and pursuing my singing career. Actually, I started to sing at a young age and was even mentored by Liza Minnelli at one point. Then, in 2007, I recorded a club tune, “Don’t Stop Movin’,” but once again, the weight got in my way. It has always been a mega-roadblock.

JAY: Since losing the weight, Jen finally has the confidence to pursue her dreams, and she’s definitely got the chops to pull off a singing career. We’re both exploring interesting new opportunities, and I’ve already gotten my feet wet on the public-speaking circuit. Our family owns a small branding agency, Shurn Group, and we’ve always been interested in the health-and-wellness industry, but it was hard to be viewed as credible ambassadors of wellness if we didn’t walk the walk. Now that Jen and I have lost a combined 295 pounds, we’ve earned credibility and look forward to connecting with like-minded people who can benefit from our experience. We’re both very fortunate and we intend to pay it forward. For Jay and Jennifer’s weight-loss tips, visit parkplacemag.com/weightloss.

You Go, Girl!

A national television appearance deserves a high-glam makeover with all the trimmings. Both Jennifer Jacobs and Jay Jacobs rocked the house when they took center stage at the Biggest Loser Hollywood finale. They were styled by Park Place’s own style editor, Susan Brierly, who also attended the live NBC broadcast and after party.

Follow Jennifer and Jay at facebook.com/jrushjacobs
AND facebook.com/jaylynnjacobs; and Twitter feeds
@jrushjacobs and @jlynnjacobs.

Weight Loss Tips From Jay and Jennifer Jacobs of Biggest Loser:

  1. Don’t weigh yourself every day because you’ll make yourself crazy. Since body weight can fluctuate 2-3 pounds daily, depending on what you recently ate and drank, step on the scales just once a week.
  2. Ask for support from your family and friends. And don’t fib. It’s important to be honest with yourself, your family and supporters. Lying only hurts you and the ones you love.
  3. Share your progress regularly. Jen and Jay have made a commitment to post their weight regularly via their Facebook fan pages (facebook.com/jaylynnjacobs and facebook.com/jrushjacobs) and Twitter feeds (@jrushjacobs and @jlynnjacobs).

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