Checking in with Jackson Carter: 'Biggest Loser' finalist shares some insights

Jackson Carter

Story by Valerie Phillips
Mon, Apr 8, 2013
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Jackson Carter of Layton might have stunned fan of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” with his 138-pound weight loss. But since the show’s finale on March 18, he’s lost another 10 pounds.

“I weighed in at 190, and my goal weight is 165, so I still have a little bit to go,” said Carter, who started out on the reality weight-loss series at 328 pounds.

Last week, he took a break from his workout at the Clearfield Aquatics Center to share some insights about the show, and what he’s been doing since it ended.

Although Danni Allen ended up winning the $250,000 grand prize, Carter contends that learning to control his weight was “worth something that no amount of prize money could ever buy.”

He’s now working out 60 to 90 minutes each day, but admitted that weight loss is more of a challenge now that he’s returned to life in the real world, with other pursuits to take up some of his time.

He and fellow finalist Jeff Nichols are working on an idea for a web series called “Mancation.” The idea came out of “The Biggest Loser” Week Nine, when he and Nichols spent a week living away from the ranch.

“Everyone seemed to enjoy our shenanigans,” Carter said. “Hopefully, we’ll travel around the world and document our experiences. There’s a myth that you can’t travel and stay healthy. We want to show people it’s possible.”

Currently, the two are seeking potential sponsors. Carter has a website,, and plans to do some public speaking. He’s also doing rounds of media interviews and is “buried in Twitter” by his fans.

He’s also continuing to volunteer at the Ogden OUTreach Resource Center, a support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths. That is where he found a refuge from the bullying he endured for being a gay, overweight teenager.

He’s thinking of pursuing a degree in film studies, but doesn’t see himself competing on any other reality shows.

“I worked at the Cinemark Tinseltown theater for years, I’ve always found something fascinating about the entertainment industry,” he said. “But I went on the show to lose the weight, not to be famous. I wanted to show the kids at the Outreach Center that when you put your mind to something, you can accomplish it. It was fun, but very stressful a lot of the time when you are living with the same people 24 hours a day, seven days a week and you’re starving and sore — and like me, throwing up all the time.”

Viewers might recall that Jackson did a lot of vomiting during workouts. Some days, he was able to hold down maybe 600 of his daily 1,400-calorie “budget.”

It still happens during some intense workouts, he said, adding, “It’s an intensity thing. It has to do with the way my nerves wrap around my stomach.”

Behind the scenes

Carter thinks cast members were portrayed accurately in the reality series.

“We filmed 12 hours a day for an entire week, for each episode, so there are a lot of things that weren’t shown,” he said. “But the show sticks true to the story. When you cast good people and good things happen to them, you are going to get good TV.”

“TV is a lot more fun to watch than it is to make,” he said. “There’s a lot of production time. We would film 12 to 15 hours a day.”

The contestants worked out four to eight hours a day, between the training sessions and their “homework.”

There were no pills or gimmicks.

“It’s strictly diet and exercise,” he said. “They really teach you how to be successful for the future. The nutritionist comes in and teaches us how to prepare food so that it’s healthy. And we learn the numbers — how many calories you are taking in and burning, and what that translates to on the scale.”

Once a week after the weigh-in, they would allow themselves “a little taste of something that wasn’t just lean protein and vegetables,” Carter said. He became adept at making guacamole. “Danni would make chips from Ezekiel bread (a bread made with sprouted grains). So we would have chips and guacamole.”

Why aren’t there more injuries with those excruciating workouts?

“We do so much rehabbing on the show,” he said. “As soon as we’re done, we go into the medical office and we ice our joints, eat some food and if there’s time, take a nap.”

The trainers sometimes come across as tyrants to some viewers.

“What I will say about Jill (trainer Jillian Michaels) is she’s very passionate about what she does. I tried to remind myself of that when she’s screaming at us,” Carter said. “Every trainer has his own method. Bob (Harper) is very much about measuring yourself against yourself, and improving. You don’t have to be the best, just the best you.

“Dolvett (Quince) is very much, ‘I see the potential in you, let’s find that together.’ With Jillian, motivation through fear, all about the iron fist. And that works for some people. But I think I did so well because Dolvett helped me realize what potential I had, that not only was I good enough, but I was better than any expectation I had of myself.”

 Jackson Carter’s Weight-loss advice

Jackson Carter came away from “The Biggest Loser” with a sense of the weight-loss strategies that worked for him, and might also work for others.

• Put yourself first. “Something I learned on the ranch is that I have to make myself a priority,” he said. “My health had to come before anything else. For every hour of volunteering I do, I spend 15 minutes working out.” 

• Compete only against yourself. In an upstairs corner of the Clearfield Aquatics Center, Carter created a circuit routine that includes jumping rope, burpees, lifting an overhead weight, and throwing a medicine ball. He times himself, and tries to do the routine more quickly each time.

The key, he said, is finding out where your fitness level is and then surpassing it. “It took me 22 minutes to do a mile when I started on the ranch. I just finished a mile in 8.42 minutes a few days ago. Don’t be discouraged with your first number, look forward to your next number.”

• Control stress. “Stress will make you hold onto weight like nothing else,” he said. “Take some time out and pull yourself out of a stressful situation if you are trying to get your health in order. That’s why some people go on vacations and actually lose weight.” 

• Monitor yourself. He still wears a BodyMedia device on his arm that tracks how many calories he uses throughout the day. “It’s one of the most helpful tools that we got on the ranch,” he said. “We needed to know how many calories we were expending, because it takes 3,500 calories (expended) to burn a pound of fat.”   

• Plan ahead. He grocery-shops with a list, and spends a few hours once a week prepping veggies like carrots, celery and broccoli to store in plastic grab-and-go bags. Knowing he has healthy food already prepared curbs any temptation to stop at the drive-through.

“In my gym bag I have a whole arsenal of things — a baggie of almonds for a good, satisfying crunch and a good protein. Also, hummus and pita chips, or a dried vegetable such as dehydrated sweet potatoes for dipping. And low-fat string cheese.” 

• Go lean. “Dolvett’s big advice was lean protein and vegetables to lose the weight. He probably said that as many times as he said my name. So my dinner plate will be 50 percent green vegetables, and a protein of some sort.” 

Breakfast is often eggs, maybe spinach topped with a little cheese, and toast. “Carbs are a good thing to eat in the morning because you can spend the rest of the day burning them off,” Carter said. 

• Calories count. He tries to eat about 2,000 calories a day. “But it’s a little bit tough when it’s 2,000 calories of vegetables and lean meats like turkey or chicken or lean cuts of beef. That’s a lot of bang for your buck.”

• Curb cravings. “Cravings are never going to go away. There are times that I could definitely go for a piece of cake or french fries, but it’s a matter of visualizing. I keep a pair of my size 42 pants in my room. No packet of fries is worth going back to that. It’s not a matter of diet anymore. This is my life now.” 

• Strategize. “ My friends are never going to stop going to dinner, and since I want to hang out with them, I get creative a little bit. I can find things on the menu that stay within what I need to eat.”

And, he fills up on a big serving of steamed veggies right before he heads for the restaurant.

• Be accountable. “A trainer definitely will push you harder than you think you need to be pushed, and it’s someone to be accountable to,” he said. “If you can afford one, it’s a great investment. But if you can’t, find someone to be accountable to — a friend, one of your kids, a buddy or spouse. You are less likely to fall off the wagon.”

• Start small. “The Biggest Loser” starts people off with intense workouts. “It worked for us because we had trainers,” he said. “But for people who don’t have trainers, if you have 30 minutes, go for a walk. It will clear your head and reduce your stress levels, and make you want to eat better. You have to learn to walk before you sprint. It’s the little things that add up to big changes.” 

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