Former Tri-Citian losing in a big way

John Rhode is a loser in an extraordinarily good way.He is a contestant competing on the reality TV series The Biggest Loser, which airs Tuesdays on NBC.

Rhode, a 1988 Kennewick High graduate who now lives in Mesa, Ariz., weighed in at 445 pounds when the season began.

Halfway into the season, he broke the record for most pounds lost (101) in six weeks, and that is just the beginning, said Rhode's mother, Hazel Rhode of Kennewick. The previous record for the show's last season was 100 pounds lost in the same amount of time.

"I'm so proud of him," she said. "When he cries (tears of joy) on the show, I cry too."

Rhode, 41, moved to Arizona in 1999. He is a football coach and teacher at Desert Ridge High School in Mesa.

In an interview with the Herald this week, John Rhode, who is 6-foot-4, said he has had an emotional issue with food his whole life and was desperate for a change. But, he added, his weight loss crusade began long before he made it to The Biggest Loser.

"I was heavy in the third grade, but by the time I got to high school I worked out to stay in shape for football," he said. "I kept my weight right around 240 back then. But I started packing on the pounds after I dropped out of college. I'd lose weight, then put it back on.

"I had done everything from aerobics to getting a gym membership to try to control my weight gain but it was always up and down, a real roller coaster ride for me."

His love affair with food demanded to be re-examined, not only for his health but for the peace of mind of his wife and kids, he said.

Rhode had to submit a video of himself that described why he wanted to be on the show and that he was ready for the commitment to get his weight under control.

"I knew I was committed to this because I was willing to take off my shirt in front of 22 million Americans on national television, and that's humiliating but necessary," he said. "Every day is a struggle, but I'm ready for that struggle win, lose or draw."

The Biggest Loser features contestants competing with each other to achieve the highest percentage of weight loss to become "the biggest loser."

The series, which made its debut in 2004, provides contestants with challenges, temptations, weigh-ins and eliminations, with the winner earning a $250,000 grand prize.

The show is hosted by actor Alison Sweeney and celebrity trainers Anna Kournikova, Bob Harper and Dolvett Quince.

As for Rhode's proud mom, she hasn't missed a show and keeps a spreadsheet weekly of all the contestants, she said.

Viewers can tune in to NBC at 8 p.m. Tuesdays to catch his progress and find out if he will be named the biggest loser at the show's Dec. 13 finale. The Herald also will be checking in with Rhode weekly for an update.