Women That Inspire: Olivia Ward and Hannah Curlee
Biggest Loser Sister Act is Paying it Forward
By Marie Cauley
It’s hard to believe that it has already been a little over a year since Olivia Ward (right in this picture) was crowned champion on Season 11 of The Biggest Loser and her sister Hannah Curlee the runner-up. The purple team quickly became fan favorites early on in the season, and many people across the country celebrated with them as they conquered the scale – along with their insecurities. Olivia, an opera singer, went from 261 to 132 pounds on the show, while runner-up Hannah’s weight dropped from 248 to 128 pounds.
Olivia and Hannah now travel the country, determined to inspire others to find their self-confidence, lose weight and get fit. They are also spokespeople for many fitness related companies, including Olivia’s affiliation with Go Sport ID, which makes bracelets for runners, cyclists, and all athletes so they can stay safe and get help while working out.
In addition, they have started their own website, MyFitspiration. You will find a lot of the sisters’ personalities on this site, especially in the blogs and videos they post. They give valuable information while entertaining at the same time!
Hannah and Olivia were gracious enough to talk with Hope for Women about their childhood, the experience on the ranch, and what their plans are now and in the future.
HOPE: Were either of you heavy when you were growing up?
O: I was heavy from about the 5th grade on. During high school I wasn’t morbidly obese, but I was always about 25 pounds heavier than my friends. It wasn’t until college that I became very sedentary as a music major…many hours spent in front of a piano…that my weight ballooned out of control.
H: I was not a heavy teenager as I was a three-sport athlete and was always on the go. It wasn’t until my first year of college after a back injury that I began to gain weight, 40 pounds in the first month alone. It was awful. I had no idea how to live in the world as an overweight person. I became depressed and gained around 100 pounds in the first year and a half.
HOPE: How many other diets did you try before the show, and what finally motivated you to try out for Biggest Loser?
O: Oh, both Hannah & I have tried EVERYTHING out there and failed! If it claimed weight loss we gave it a try. The problem was our mindset was always ‘let’s find the quick fix’…and that never works. I knew that after so many years of failure I didn’t want to live the rest of my life overweight. I also knew that The Biggest Loser yielded results. At the end of each season you saw success in each contestant. I wanted that…even if it meant wearing a sports bra & hot pants in front of the world!
H: Well Olivia was always my diet partner in crime! We spent thousands of dollars and countless hours researching diets! The Cookie Diet, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, liquid diets, diet pills, The Atkins Diet, everything! Why did I ever think Velveeta cheese wrapped in bacon for breakfast was a good idea and would make me lose weight? But we never did things the right way, the healthy way. It was all about the quick fix. I also felt like I was broken, that even knowing nothing would work I would still try. It was a horrible mindset and I never stuck it out long enough to find out!
HOPE: Your season seemed to be one of the most positive and inspiring. What was the atmosphere like on the ranch? I can tell that all the contestants on your season really loved one another!
O: From day one we decided to go through this journey as a family…and that’s what we did. I am so fortunate to have my Biggest Loser family…in my season and the alumni…they are the backbone to my continued success!
H: Our season from the very beginning was about family. It was about loving each other enough that it became OK to love yourself. Everyone was rooting for everyone. I really cared about those people and when someone went home it was devastating, and truly expanded my family. These are the only people that truly know what I went through because they shared the experience.
HOPE: What was it like having your sister there with you – did you feel more competitive or supportive?
O: Hannah is not only my sister but she is my best friend. I would have never made it to the end, much less won without her. She was my greatest source of accountability and encouragement on the ranch. We were a team from day one to confetti! I 100 percent share the win with her!
H: First of all I would have NEVER done this without her. She had to bribe me with pizza and clothes to even get me to go to the audition! She was the one person that always believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Having her beside me made me stronger and watching her change made me proud. I found myself through BL but most of all we changed together; we were best friends before the show and somehow became more after. My biggest competitor was myself! She was always proud of me no matter what. We kept each other accountable just like we do today!
HOPE: How do your lives, before and after Biggest Loser, compare? Did you live in the present before, or is that something that really started once you got your health back?
O: Wow…there is no comparison. It was as if I was living life in black and white and now my world is in color AND 3-D!! I spent so much of my time wishing my situation was different. I’m so thankful for what The Biggest Loser not only did for me on the outside, but the inside as well. Now, the sky is the limit and there is no more wishing & waiting!
H: Life is so different after BL. Before, I just wasn’t living. I hated myself and was just going through the motions of life. I was depressed and felt like that was all life had to offer me. Once I lost weight and realized how much life I really deserved my eyes became clear. Jillian asked me “When was the last time you really reached for something?” Now I do nothing BUT reach and I feel good about the things I’m doing and how I have found self- love through fitness and health!
HOPE: How did you manage to live in the moment while on the show? Did it help you focus on each workout and challenge, or did you think ahead to the finale?
O: Just like in life it’s step by step, day by day. Weight loss is a long process…I think it’s great to have benchmark goals, but I didn’t look too far ahead. It was about staying present and putting my nose to the grindstone!
H: Are you kidding? The first three weeks, I was just trying not to die! I was fighting for something different. Not to win but for change. I knew the longer I stayed the more help I would get. So I really tried to live in the moment. I also really wanted to just be myself because that’s who I was really working on.
HOPE: Olivia, we remember watching your husband Ben reveal his own amazing transformation during your time on Biggest Loser. How have you both influenced your other family members to take better care of themselves?
O: My husband is simply amazing. The fact that he knew he also had work to do and did it on his own it such an amazing testimony. He is living proof that anyone can do this at home! Our family has been so inspired by Hannah, Ben, and I! Everyone has lost weight across the board and exercise is becoming the norm. We even did a Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving. The only running we ever used to do on Thanksgiving was to the buffet table! It’s just amazing.
H: I’m so proud of our entire family. They first started making health changes as a way to support us and then found their own journeys. As a family we have lost over 500 pounds!
HOPE: How do you stay motivated every day to stay in shape, now that you’ve already reached your goal weight?
O: It’s tough…it’s a daily choice. I still have to get up and ask myself “Are you going to make healthy choices today or not?” Believe me, many mornings I’d rather have a cupcake for breakfast over egg whites, but I know how hard I’ve worked and that makes the choice easier. I’ve also found workouts that I love. I LOVE Crossfit212 and SoulCycle in NYC. I wake up every day excited to workout because I have found workouts I love. I think that is KEY to long term success.
H: I never knew how hard it would be! But it is a daily, sometimes hourly choice. I have to wake up every day and make that choice and promise to myself. Do I still love pizza? Uh yeah! But I know how many calories on the treadmill it takes to burn off one piece! Sometimes it’s worth it, but most times it’s not! You have to find what works for you. I have a great support system with the Carter Hays Method Bootcamps and SoulCycle. Also, just being active has changed everything for me and most of all not being afraid to try new things. That’s how you find your groove! Plus, I could never go back to the old Hannah. I worked waaaayyyyy too hard for this! And Bob and Jillian would kill me if I did!
HOPE: The two of you have an extremely busy schedule, with speaking engagements, your website, and all of your family and fitness commitments. How do you stay grounded with so much going on?
O: I have to give my parents credit for this one. They taught us that as life gets bigger always look inward for support. Our family is our rock. Speaking of family, Hannah and I are so fortunate to maintain a very close relationship with both Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels. They have been key is helping us navigate everything! They are both the most loving & giving people…we are blessed to have them in our daily lives.
H: it is tough but you have to make time for yourself and sometimes learn that being a bit selfish is okay. But our family is so strong with supporting each other and turning to our faith for all things. It’s what got us here in the first place! I have also learned that when I’m struggling I have to tell someone! Before I kept most of it bottled up. Now I am more open about everything. We have stayed in close contact with Bob and Jillian; they have been such mentors to us and have loved us through it all!
HOPE: How important is your faith, throughout all of the challenges and changes in your lives?
O: My faith is EVERYTHING. It is my compass in life. I rely on it to guide, encourage, and hold me accountable! I give all glory to God in this journey…He is with me every moment.
H: My faith is the BEST part about who I am. It’s what wakes me up and the morning and puts me to bed at night. Olivia and I always had close relationships with the Lord but through all of this craziness your faith is tested. It is a true test regarding your trust in God’s plan for your life and well, we are still trusting!
HOPE: What does a typical day or week look like for you, workout wise?|
O: It’s pretty simple…90 min a day, six days a week. I do Crossfit and I spin. The two complement each other so well. If I have time to do more some days I will, but that is usually the norm.
H: Six days a week, 90 minutes to 2 hours a day. I do a military style bootcamp that is very intense with Carter Hays who has the best workout in Nashville. I also spin at SoulCycle, box, do yoga, weight train, and I like to try new things. Group classes are my fave!
HOPE: Do you still eat the same way you did on the ranch – or have you made any changes in your diet to maintain your weight loss?
O: I still eat like I did at the ranch. Bob and Jillian taught us how to make healthy food choices for life. I viewed it as a lifestyle not a diet and that was key! We ate whole foods from the perimeter of the grocery store…I still shop and eat that was to this day.
H: I still eat “Ranch Style” whole foods, fruits/veggies and lean protein. I do try to eat organic as much as possible, and local! I can fill my backpack at my local farmers market with veggies for $25! I also still track my calories and journal my food.
HOPE: Hannah, you’re such a positive role model for single women everywhere. What is one thing you would like them to know?
H: That YOU are worth the wait. I used to get so down about being single. Now I know I’m just waiting for the one man that is waiting for me and I know we will come together at just the right time. I have finally found self love that has prepared me to love someone else. Can’t wait to see who the lucky guy is.
HOPE: Olivia, many of us fell in love with your voice as you sang on the scale. Are there any opera performances in your future…especially the leading roles you always dreamed of?
O: I’ve had the opportunity to sing some concerts since the show ended and it has been wonderful. Right now I’m so thrilled to be working with Hannah and beginning this journey with her and MyFitspiration. Singing will always be a part of my life; I’m just spreading my wings a little wider now. I’m also hoping to put out a recording in the next year.
HOPE: What plans do both of you have for the future?
O: Hannah and I want to continue to grow the MyFitspiration brand. We want to continue to bring hope to people everywhere…the sky is the limit!
H: We want to continue to bring hope to people through MyFitspiration, oh and some fun, and laughs too. But most of all, plans to be healthy and happy!
For more on Olivia and Hannah, please check out their website MyFitspiration to hear about their latest adventures, get fitness and food tips, and be inspired!