SALT LAKE CITY — Chad Smith has always wanted to be able to do all the things his friends can do.
Smith is a 21-year-old from New Mexico said he has a group of friends who are all "skinny" and like to do outdoorsy things like rock climbing, but Smith's weight has always hindered him from joining them.
That's why when one of his friends told him the reality TV show "The Biggest Loser" was holding an open call for contestants in Salt Lake City, Smith and two of his friends got in the car and drove eight hours so Smith could audition. They stayed the night at a hotel and got in line at 7 a.m., already behind a good amount of people. But Smith said if he made it on the show, he would work to make his friends proud of him.
"I want their faith in me to not be misplaced," he said.
Many had a similar story of wanting to change their lives at the open call for NBC's "The Biggest Loser," which was at KSL 5 TV in Salt Lake City on Saturday.
"The Biggest Loser" will begin its 14th season next January. The show challenges its contestants to lose weight by teachings them habits of diet and exercise, all while competing for a grand prize of $250,000, which is awarded to the contestant who loses the most weight.
The show is now on a nationwide search for contestants in 13 cities across the country. Any would-be contestants are encouraged to have at least 85 pounds to lose.
The casting call in Salt Lake began at 10 a.m., but some people were there as early as the night before. By 10 a.m. the line wrapped around the block.
Mark Messer and Liz Stamm were the first two people in line. They arrived at 11:30 p.m. the night before and slept on the concrete, which Stamm said was "like a Sleep Number bed." Though they had never met before, both happened to be from Denver.
Messer, who had tried out for the show twice before, said he wanted to be on "The Biggest Loser" because he felt he needed the expert help the show would provide to reach his goal of losing weight.
"It's not just for the physical but the emotional transformation," he said. "To be able to be who I am and feel complete."
Stamm said she wants to be on the show to set a better example for her 2-year-old daughter by living a healthy lifestyle.
Lily Villalobos from Orem also said she was auditioning for the show for the sake of her daughter, who is 8 months old. She said she wants to be healthy enough to be around for her.
Villalobos arrived at the casting call at 5:30 a.m. with her sister for support. Villalobos had been so nervous that said she hadn't slept the night before, but knew if she made it on the show it would help her break old habits and give her the lifestyle change she needed.
Ginia Flores from Ogden was in line with her 14-year-old daughter, Alexus, and said she had been having health problems lately that had come close to a heart attack. The experience had scared her and her family, and she knew she needed to make a change in her life. She hoped "The Biggest Loser" would help her bring about this change.
Joe Hempel of American Fork was obviously thinner than most of the people at the casting call on Saturday, and he said he thought he was in a category of people "The Biggest Loser" often fails to address.
"Technically I'm obese, but just barely crossing the line," he said.
Hempel said when he watches the show he finds it difficult to resonate with the really big people who have hundreds of pounds to lose. He thinks if the show included more people like him it would resonate with more Americans.
Several Utahns have been selected as candidates on "The Biggest Loser" in the past. In 2011, there were four Utahns at once, according to the Deseret News archive. One of the Utahns on "The Biggest Loser" in 2011, Deni Hill, won the competition for losing the most weight at home after being voted off the show.
While about 60 percent of adult Utahns are overweight or obese, which is less than the national average of about 63 percent. In Utah, 24 percent of adults are obese while across the country, 26.6 percent are obese, according to the Utah Department of Health website.
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