On Sundays, behind the doors of The Biggest Loser ranch, and unseen by almost 9.5 million viewers, several contestants of the hit reality television show meet in Moses Kinikini's bedroom for a worship service and to share their testimonies.
Six of the 22 contestants on NBC's "The Biggest Loser" this season are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, namely Moses Kinikini, Kaylee Kinikini, Rulon Gardner, Justin Pope, Sarah Nitta and Denise Hill.
"We are always here at the ranch," said Moses Kinikini, who graduated from Brigham Young University in marketing. "We don't have an opportunity to attend church anywhere. … Our schedules get so hectic sometimes that we don't get to it, but for the most part on Sundays we are able to (worship with the) other contestants that are LDS."
Kaylee Kinikini, Moses' daughter, said she has found even though they are unable to attend church, they treasure the time they have to talk about their beliefs.
"For me, it is actually a really special experience, especially being away from everyone," Kaylee Kinikini said.
"We are from Shelley (Idaho), and that is pretty much Mormon town, so I'm used to having that type of environment around me. But here we don't have that spirit around us all the time, and to have that separate time to really focus and think about our standards and the gospel is a really special time and I know I cherish it. Having that special time we do and having my dad here … really means a lot to me."
Since being on the show, Moses Kinikini has said he has found his journey is more than losing weight, but is a spiritual journey as well.
"I've been LDS my whole life and we believe in the Word of Wisdom," Moses Kinikini said. "Unfortunately, being Tongan when it comes to eating meat sparingly, well, that is something that Tongans don't really do well. However, being here you realize the truthfulness of the Word of Wisdom and eating right."
The LDS contestants are learning a lot about losing weight and growing spiritually together.
Moses Kinikini and Pope hold the top two spots on the leader board with the highest percentage of weight loss, at 26.8 and 26 percent.
Moses Kinikini also holds the only two records beaten in season 11, specifically, the most pounds lost in one week at 41 and the fastest to lose 100 pounds, the most coveted record, which he did in only six weeks.
In eight weeks of competition during which nine of the 22 contestants have been eliminated, Denise Hill, of Bountiful, is the only LDS contestant to be eliminated. The LDS contestants have a total weight loss of 23.98 percent. The other contestants have lost 22.56 percent.
Moses' wife, Anita Kinikini, has been watching the show and said she was thrilled to see Moses lose 100 pounds.
"Before he went, he told me he was going to break that record and he did," Anita Kinikini said. "He's just that type of person. He likes to set goals and achieve them."
Moses Kinikini said he was relieved when he finally beat the record.
"I did it for (my friends and family)," Moses Kinikini said. "I didn't want to let them down. I was really proud of what I did because it was something I set out to do and I worked my tail off to get there."
Anita Kinikini said she is proud of her husband and her daughter, Kaylee, who is a BYU-Idaho student.
"Kaylee has just blossomed being on that show," Anita Kinikini said. "She looks so amazing. For her to be able to come home and look so wonderful is just a confidence boost for her. She is so excited to come home and go back to college and date and do all the things that she never participated in before."
Kaylee Kinikini has lost 53 pounds so far, but she said she has found this journey has taught her more about her individual worth than about weight loss.
"After coming here, (I started) realizing how much I am actually worth," Kaylee Kinikini said.
"There is so much more to me. I'm starting to see what my Heavenly Father sees and I think it just so important for people to realize that in anything they do, that to see what Heavenly Father sees in everyone of us, that he loves us and that we are all special and worth something.
"Once you see that and once you realize how special you are, that is when your dreams come true. That is when you can change your life and become a better person, when you have that eternal perspective to realize that you are a child of God, that you are worth something."
Gardner, an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling and another LDS contestant, has lost 107 pounds so far. He said he has found much success in losing weight and through his journey on "The Biggest Loser," he is slowly regaining his life and health.
"I never thought I could do this," Gardner said on the show.
"It is just amazing. My belly is going away. This is the most amazing thing just knowing that we are going to get something back that we didn't know we lost, and that means everything to me. I have my family, I have my life and I'm going to fight for it. It's time to get it back."
Natalie Barrett is a Brigham Young University student studying journalism.
2 NBC shows seeking contestants
Two NBC series will hold open casting calls in the Salt Lake area this month.
"Minute to Win It" will hold a casting call on March 5, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., at Mountain America Credit Union's Corporate Annex at Jordan Landing, 7167 S. Center Park Drive in West Jordan.
According to Aaron Simnowitz, the show's casting director, producers are looking for energetic and confident competitors age 18 and older for the chance to win $1 million on the game show, which airs on NBC on Wednesdays at 7 p.m.
A casting call for the 12th season of "The Biggest Loser" will be held March 12, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., at the Maverik Center, 3200 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City.
The show is looking for people who have at least 100 pounds to lose. Teams of two — parent and child, siblings, married couples, teammates, co-workers, best friends — or individuals without a teammate may attend the casting call. Home video submissions are also being accepted. Applicants must be 18 and a legal U.S resident. Contestants on the show, which airs on NBC Tuesdays at 7 p.m., compete for a prize of $250,000.
For more information, visit www.thebiggestlosercasting.com.
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