May 26, 2010 12:44 PM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

Heaviest contestant ever wins The Biggest Loser

Michael Ventrella is half the man he used to be, and for that the Chicago DJ is the newest champion of "The Biggest Loser."

He lost 264 pounds on his way to winning $250,000. When he walked onto the show's ranch with his mother, Maria, Michael weighed 526 pounds. If someone had told him then that he would prevail against a strong field of competitors, he said, he would not have believed it.

Michael was 30 years old when the show began, and had tried every weight-loss fad diet, pill and magic potion there is. None had worked.

"At 526 pounds, nobody at that weight can ever feel any sense of hope," Michael said. "You feel like any day is your day, is your time: You're going to die."

He had moments of crushing despair during his 18 weeks on the ranch, but he kept coming back and working even harder. "I realized, ‘You know what? I'm going to give it everything I got to battle this and tackle this because I'm done with being like this,' " Michael explained.

As impressive as Michael's weight loss is, he's still got a way to go. He carries 262 pounds on his 6-foot-3-inch frame, which, according to the American Heart Association, is still obese. A man of his height should weigh between 176 and 200 pounds, the association says.



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