by Michael McGee
Special to the NNPA from The Dallas Examiner

Singer Ruben Studdard joins cast of The Biggest Loser. NBC

In the decade since Ruben Studdard won the top prize on American Idol, he has garnered great success. He has recorded five albums – with a sixth on the way, toured the world, and has seen his recordings go gold and platinum.

During this time, the 35-year-old Studdard has also packed on extra weight, currently topping the scale at 462 pounds. Along with the extra pounds, he suffers from high blood pressure and sleep apnea, a condition that causes long pauses in his breaths while he is asleep.

“I guess the thing about being in the public eye for the past 11 years, my life has been pretty much an open book with only one [exception],” he said. “And that’s been my struggle with weight loss.”

This big winner may be on his way to becoming a big loser. Now, Studdard is taking his health struggle public as he steps forward to be the first ever celebrity contestant on NBC’s The Biggest Loser. The new season, which aired locally at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, returns for its 15th season with the theme of “Second Chances.” The show will team the singer with 14 other contestants, all of who take on the task of losing weight to forever change their lives. Studdard said that the second chances theme resonated with him.

“I’ve been really blessed to have a career that has done okay for awhile, but the one thing that I have not been able to tackle consistently is staying at a healthy weight,” he stated. “This show has given me a second chance to live a better life, not just professionally but personally. It’s really given me an opportunity to put me first and not put my career ahead of my health, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years.”

From 2007 to 2010, 38.1 percent of African American men who are age 20 and over were obese. Hypertension affected 37.6 percent of that same group with heart disease being the leading cause of death for African American men, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Studdard, who said that he has been overweight since he was 10, is ready to fight back against those statistics. He revealed that being Southern helped mold how he always looked at food. In the past, he went through a period of eating a vegan diet but eventually returned to the menu choices of his Birmingham, Ala., roots.

“I just have to make better choices. And you know, the problem is not having grits and one piece of fried chicken one time in two or three months; it’s having it every day,” he noted. “In real life there are gonna be times when I am going to have a piece of pizza or have a hamburger but I can’t have those things every single day, you know what I mean?”

Helping to guide Studdard along this journey to better health has been fitness trainer Dolvett Quince, returning to the show for his fourth season. He noted during the interview that, although Studdard is the heaviest contestant on the show this season, he came to the contest ready and enthusiastic to make the “food rehab” commitment.