Tuesday is the big day for 'Biggest Loser'

As the season finale for the reality TV show The Biggest Loser draws closer, Kennewick native John Rhode finds himself pumped, nervous, grateful and bursting with excitement.

"This is the godfather of all finales," Rhode said in a telephone update with the Herald this week. "I might even be a little giddy."

So does that mean he is ready for the final countdown of Season 12, which is set for Tuesday on NBC?

"Absolutely," he said.

The 6-foot-4 Rhode, who grew up in Kennewick and now lives in Mesa, Ariz., describes his weight loss journey from 445 pounds in September to 267 pounds this week as a living miracle.

"I lost a full grown adult," he quipped.

He still is in the lead with the most weight lost during the filming. He could walk away with the top prize of $250,000.

But Rhode won't let himself think about winning in the physical sense. The 1988 Kennewick High School grad keeps his focus on the importance of his emotional growth because that's the key to keeping the weight off once the show is finished.

"I'm nervous as usual about the finale," he said. "Nothing changed in that regard. I have a great respect for every contestant on this show, and if I get beat on Tuesday it won't be because I didn't give this journey everything I've got.

"This whole process has been one wild ride."

Rhode has been on a roller coaster ride as a heavyweight for the past 20 years, and the high school teacher has no plans to fall back into that lifestyle after The Biggest Loser experience is over.

"I haven't weighed this little since I married my wife 19 years ago," he said. "When we got married I weight 255 pounds. I got progressively heavier every year from there, losing weight from time to time then putting it back on."

As for his wife Jill, the only thing she recognized about her husband this week was his voice.

"It's been fun to watch him change from week to week," Jill Rhode said. "But more importantly, I've seen an emotional change in him. He's more motivated, positive than he's ever been."

She already has made changes in their Arizona home when it comes to how she shops for food.

"There's definitely no more buying junk food," she said. "When you're hungry late at night, it's so easy to snack on junk food and we were very guilty of that. But not anymore."

Jill Rhode is a 1986 Richland High grad, and her parents, Chris and Gwen Christensen, still live in Richland.

She also has no doubt her husband will keep himself on track to a healthy lifestyle too.

"John is one of those never-say-die kind of guys," she said. "The changes that we're making are exciting."

As for John, well, he has no plans to fall back into a miserable existence as an overweight human being.

"I was miserable, tired and lost hope for myself for a whole when I was 445 pounds," he said. "I am so grateful to have been a part of The Biggest Loser -- win or lose."