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First person

His winning ways

'Biggest Loser' contestant Brendan Donovan, 33, weighs in on shedding pounds, inspiring kids, and craving Sicilian slices

Brendan Donovan (Photograph by Josh Campbell)
By Melissa Schorr
January 2, 2011

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You grew up one of three brothers in West Roxbury. Is weight gain common in your family?

My family is full of athletes. My father and younger brother ran marathons; my mother has been an aerobics instructor for 40 years. I was an athletic kid, an all-star in basketball. I used to run marathons, even when I was 250 pounds.

So what happened?

I let myself balloon out of control. The last few years, I gave up. My weight went up to 360. I developed sleep apnea, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, all from my obesity. I had to man up and do it. If I didn’t, I knew I’d be dead in the next five years.

How did you go from being a police officer to starting an after-school weight-lifting program at Dorchester’s Jeremiah E. Burke High School?

My dad was a Boston police officer; I wanted to follow in his footsteps. After three years as a school policeman at Burke, I discovered I wanted to be a teacher. I went back and got my master’s in special education. I went from arresting kids to helping them.

What inspired you to apply to the show?

I wanted to represent hope to these kids. Before, they would go home to do push-ups and say, why should I listen to him? He eats pastries, drinks Coke. Now they can.

What are your best tips for those of us who need to lose post-holiday pounds?

Keep it moving. We got up and walked 10 miles every morning. If you have the discipline and put forth the effort, the weight will come off. Don’t do it to look good – do it to live longer.

How does it feel, physically, to shed a hundred pounds?

It’s an amazing feeling. I feel like a young kid again. Now I wake up and feel rested. I’m running the Boston Marathon in April to raise money for Children’s Hospital.

What’s the best part of being back home?

I fit easily in the seats at Fenway now. I used to have to squish.

What’s the biggest challenge to keeping off the weight?

Pizza at DeNo’s in West Roxbury. The Sicilian is to die for.

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