'Everyone deserves the same happiness I got'
BEMIDJI -- He said he wouldn't let himself reach 250 pounds.
But once he hit 250, he pledged to never hit 270.
Upon doing that, he swore he wouldn't let himself reach 300.
"And like a thief in the night, I got to 435 pounds," said O'Neal Hampton, the keynote speaker of the 2013 Women's Expo. Tickets to the Expo, to be held Sept. 7 at the Sanford Center, are $6 in advance or $10 at the door.
Hampton became a household name three years ago as the Minnesota man joined his daughter, SunShine, on the ninth season of NBC's "The Biggest Loser."
Together, the pair lost a combined 274 pounds.
He now tours the country on behalf of his O'Neal Hampton Wellness Foundation, speaking to others and encouraging them to make life-changing decisions for better health.
"I speak very little on weight loss," Hampton told the Pioneer by phone, "more on eternal happiness."
The foundation, which recently hosted a bootcamp in Richfield, Minn., helps people address life challenges and confront controllable lifestyle behaviors, including exercise, stress, smoking, drinking, and nutrition.
"I was very fortunate to be able to go on TV," Hampton said. "Everyone can't be on TV but everyone deserves the same happiness I got."
Hampton joined the U.S. Army after college, serving as a paratrooper and in the Green Berets, but upon concluding his service, he began gaining weight. A type 2 diabetic, Hampton developed high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and his knees were in poor shape.
Meanwhile, SunShine, his only daughter, faced weight issues of her own.
It was SunShine who began the audition process to get them both on TV.
Hampton said SunShine had to talk him into it, but together they walked onto "The Biggest Loser" ranch aiming to transform their lives.
"My epiphany didn't come before" the experience began, Hampton said.
But once ingrained in the process, he came to accept and embrace the life changes he needed to make.
"It was very hard," he admitted. "It was hard but necessary."
The father/daughter team didn't win the entire weight-loss competition -- though Hampton did win SunShine a car -- but he spent nine months on the ranch and lost 160 pounds.
"I want to be able to reach out and give back what was given to me," Hampton said. "I was truly blessed to be on that show."
He founded his foundation to begin paying forward his life-changing and life-improving experience.
"We all know what we have to do," Hampton said. "Everybody knows what and how to do it (live more healthfully). They just don't always have the inner strength ... to make those critical choices."