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Feb 18 2013
Working Smarter & Harder With Carter: Q&A With The Biggest Loser's 1st Out Contestant Comments (6)

Jackson-headIt seems impossible, but in 14 seasons of The Biggest Loser, there has never been an out gay contestant. The show even has (at least) one LGBT trainer in motivational meanie Jillian Michaels.

But Jackson Carter, a 21-year-old youth drop-in center volunteer from Utah, has changed all that—and he's having a big impact on the show with his empowering message for LGBT people, whether they be small, medium, large or extra-large.

Keep reading for my one-on-one with the role model who proves that a positive message is one size fits all...

Jackson-carter-gay-biggest-loserBoy Culture: What made you decide to be a part of Biggest Loser?

Jackson Carter: One of the biggest things that prompted me to become a part of Biggest Loser was my work with the Ogden OUTreach Resource Center. Each week, dozens of teens walk through our door looking for a safe, welcoming place where they feel free to express themselves and can find guidance from our amazing volunteers. I felt a responsibility to these kids and for that reason, I chose to take charge of my health. I was fortunate enough to have Biggest Loser take me in.

BC: Did you always know you'd be out on the show, and why was that important to you?

JC: I knew from the moment I auditioned that I would be out on the show. I am very proud to be a gay man. But ever since high school, I have considered my sexual orientation to be a non-issue. I'm not the gay contestant on the show, I am just a contestant like any other. I don't think my orientation has anything to do with my ability to finish a workout, so why hide it? I think if more people thought this way about sexual orientation, we'd all see a little more eye-to-eye on a lot of things. 

BC: For older people, hearing that you came out at 14 is a shocker. We were not even dreaming of being openly gay in any way at that age. How did you come to decide you'd come out so young and who was your support network?

Sean-Hayes-Marco-Degrassi-Will-Grace-gay-iconsJC: Haha. I get told that a lot. "Back in my day, we used to wait to come out when we graduated from high school and moved to either New York or San Fran and then came out to our parents over Thanksgiving dinner." Coming out was definitely not an easy decision. It never is. But ever since I was a young kid, I remember always being drawn more towards men than women. This always really troubled me and I would beat myself up over it all the time. It wasn't until I was 13 or 14 that I started to understand that what I was experiencing were romantic feelings. And by this time, I had several great gay icons in the media (mostly "Jack" on Will and Grace and "Marco" on Degrassi) to look up to and I had a group of close friends who seemed to be pretty okay with gay people.

But I think the biggest support I had was at school and OUTreach. When I was 15, I transferred to an arts school and made friends there who told me about OUTreach. OUTreach had some great volunteers for me to look up to and made it pretty easy for me to figure out who I was and what I wanted. I will forever be in debt to them for what they did for me and I hope every queer teen in America finds something like that.

BC: Were you bullied at school over your orientation and/or your weight? One more than the other?

JC: Starting very young, I was bullied a lot. I was one of only a couple white kids living on an Indian reservation. The Native kids would say some horrible things to us and throw rocks at us. I remember going home every day crying. My mom would try to make it better by taking me out to get candy and a movie and that's when I started to turn to food for comfort. That led to weight gain and then I started getting picked on for being heavy. The ironic thing is that I always got bullied more for being fat than I ever did for being gay. Not that it never happened; it just didn't happen as frequently. 

Jackson-328 gay-Biggest-LoserJackson told me, "My experience [on the show] has been nothing but positive."

BC: Why do you think some kids succumb to bullying (referencing the suicide epidemic) and others manage to live through it? What advice would you have for a kid being bullied relentlessly at school?

JC: I truly believe that some kids handle it better than others because they have a stronger support system at home and within their peer group than others. I 100% believe that had I not had such loving and supportive parents, found such a unique place to go to high school or had my amazing role models at Ogden OUTreach, I wouldn't be here today. There was more than once when I was young (the youngest was eight years old) that I considered or attempted taking my own life.

If there is a kid reading this who is being bullied or considering suicide, I would like to say this: You are special, you are unique, there is nobody in this world like you and that is exactly why we need you here. It takes all kinds of people to make this world run and you have a place. You will never know how many people love you and would miss you if you were to disappear. So find a place where you can be you (a club, an afterschool activity, etc.) and focus on the good people in your life instead of the few bad ones. 

132"Thank you all for the support I have felt. I hope you enjoy watching the rest of the season."—Jackson Carter

BC: There is a stereotype that gay men are fitter than other groups, or at least more fitness-aware. Do you find that to be true and has that made being overweight more of a struggle? Have you found much support in your weight-loss goals from gay peers?

JC: I definitely feel like there is a uniform in the gay community. Every man is expected to have washboard abs, a tiny waist, athletic legs, etc. Sometimes I feel there is more pressure for gay men to be fit than there is for women to be fit. That being said, I always found myself struggling to find a place in the community where I fit in. I didn't fit in at the clubs, I was never really into the bear scene, I struggled to find dates.

However, having started my weight-loss journey, I realize now that a lot of that was just insecurities that I was facing on my own. Sure, there are going to be people who are fatphobic, but if I had felt confident the way I was, I'm sure I would have fit in better in every situation. So to all the young boys reading this, know that you are the only one you need to impress. If you feel comfortable being skinny/athletic, that's great. If you are a little overweight but still love yourself, that's fine, too. Never change your image or body based on what you think others want. Do what makes you happy and the rest will follow.

And for the record, I still have quite a ways to go and I am not skinny by any stretch of the imagination, but for the first time in my entire life, I can say that I love every part of my body—the weird mole on my neck, the belly I'm still trying to work on and the excess body hair are all things that make my body unique and I love me for me. I don't need anyone else's approval to be happy about me. 

BC: I read you've lost over 60 pounds. Is that the most successful you've ever been with weight loss? What works for you when it comes to losing weight?

JC: In just seven weeks, I have lost over 60 pounds, and that is the most successful I have been in any weight-loss quest I have ever been on (and there have been a lot!). I have tried every diet on the market. Since being on the show, I have discovered the secret to weight loss: Diet and exercise. I know it sounds crazy, but it works!

The thing that works best for me is lots of lean protein and green vegetables (the more green on my plate, the better). Also, I have to keep my exercise plan fun. If I don't like what I'm doing, I won't do it. I like to go to fitness classes or try new sports. Current obsessions are boxing, spinning and rock climbing.

BC: What are your "trigger foods" that you really need to avoid, and what are some healthy options that help get you through times of craving?

JC: My big weaknesses are candy and bread. To this day I can't walk past a bakery in the grocery store without giving it a second glance. Luckily, I have been able to trick my sweet tooth by turning from candy to fruit. If I get a sweet craving, I pick up a mango or some banana chips and I feel completely satisfied.

The-biggest-loser-bob-harper-jackson-workoutWorking with Bob Harper could drive any gay boy to cake, but Jackson's lost 60+ pounds so far

BC: What were the Biggest Loser staff like to work with?

JC: Everyone from the contestants to the trainers to the crew were an absolute blast to work with. What we do in the gym and in the kitchen is extremely difficult and without having such great people to live and work with, I don't think I would have lasted a day. 

BC: Did you get along with the other contestants, or was there any rivalry stirred up?

JC: I got along with pretty much everyone on the show. I don't think I ever got into a fight. I will say, though, that I felt the closest connections with Francy (my roommate), Jeff and Pam. They were freaking hilarious and so much fun to be around.

Jackson-Carter-kickBC: If someone came to you and asked, "Should I sign up for Biggest Loser?" what would your advice be?

JC: I would say that it is the greatest experience of all time and I wouldn't trade it in for the world. That being said, there is no preparing for how difficult it can be, so really think about if you're ready to have everything in your world turned upside down.

NBC's The Biggest Loser is on Mondays at 8/7c



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