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Biggest loser gains new life

Gresham's Ken Coleman joins reality show, loses 200 pounds, is now personal trainer
by: Carole Archer, Personal Trainer Ken Coleman of “Biggest Loser” fame instructs a client on how to do crunches at Cascade Athletic Club on Monday, Jan. 7. Coleman’s present weight, at 6-foot-4, is 210 pounds.

There's something infectious about Ken Coleman. Everybody he knows tends to lose weight. He's not peddling any magic solution, no diet pills or fancy exercise regimen. He's just spreading common sense.

Coleman's sales pitch? His own example. The reason he succeeds? Exuberance and self-determination. His muse? A reality television show.

Coleman, who lives in Gresham, has lost about 200 pounds since he joined the 2006 cast of 'The Biggest Loser, Season 3,' a reality television show on NBC in which overweight contestants compete to see who can lose the most weight. Before joining the show, he maxed the scales at 410 pounds.

'I did try all the advance-style programs - the Weight Watchers, the Atkins Diet,' Coleman said. 'It was more cumbersome than anything else.'

Coleman said his weight gain began after a major back injury in 1983. He had surgery 10 years later and the weight just kept coming.

'I said I'm going to die fat and happy,' Coleman said. 'That was basically the mentality until my father died.'

His father died from hypertension at age 58 in 1997. Coleman realized he was headed for the same fate if he didn't shape up. But nothing worked. Finally, he started following the television show and learned about a casting call in Seattle. There were about 3,000 people at the casting call and, through a months-long process, the cast was whittled to 50, one person from each state.

Coleman lived at The Biggest Loser ranch in Simi Valley, Calif., and lost more than 60 pounds over six weeks as a cast member simply by eating right and exercising regularly. At the six-week mark (there are 12 total) Coleman said he was eliminated by his fellow team members because he was losing the most weight each week, which they thought lowered their chance to win.

After he came home, he lost another 93 pounds. Then his wife lost 75 pounds. Then his neighbor lost 23 pounds. Even the people who bought the neighbor's used car now are working with Coleman to lose weight.

Michelle Minor, along with her husband and two kids, moved in next to Coleman and his wife in west Gresham three years ago.

'We were unloading the moving truck and he comes running over, talking to everyone,' Minor said.

'He was the big Pooh-bear,' Minor's husband, Ramon, said.

The couples became fast friends, bonding over card games. But then Coleman disappeared two years ago - he had to keep his participation on the television show a secret. When he returned, life changed.

Michelle Minor had been trying to lose weight through 24-hour fitness training and yo-yo diets. But nothing worked until Coleman taught her his common-sense approach - and helped her stick to it.

'He'll come over and say 'Hey! You want to do some squats?' ' Ramon Minor said. 'They'll both go outside together and do some squats.'

Coleman then started working with the Minors' children, and their 12-year-old daughter has taken a sudden interest in sports.

'She wanted to do all that beauty stuff,' Michelle said. 'Until she met Ken.'

Michelle chuckled when she recalled the day that Ramon was trying to sell his car to two women, and Coleman ran out of the house to the front yard and convinced them to work out with him.

Before the TV show, Coleman owned a paintball company. Now he is a personal trainer through Cascade Athletic Club and getting ready to lead a fitness group that will emulate techniques he learned on the show. He travels the Portland-metro area doing motivational speeches about his experience and about losing weight and eating right. He hopes to earn a nutrition degree from Oregon Health and Science University.

'It's been a life experience that's completely changed and turned us all around,' Michelle Minor said.