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article imageZina Garrison reclaims her ‘Glory Days’ on ‘The Biggest Loser' Special

By Earl Dittman     Sep 11, 2014 in Entertainment
Once possessing a tiny, well-honed physique, the Olympic-winning tennis great had gained an enormous amount of weight. In a bid to return her body and mind to their former selves, Zina joined other athletes to compete in ‘The Biggest Loser: Glory Days.'
Olympic gold medalist and former professional tennis star Zina Garrison began gaining weight in her 40s, due to no exercise and consuming too many carbs. "I developed an eating disorder (bulimia) from 19 to 25, so, I was always dealing with some form of body image in my life,” admits the 50-year-old tennis great. “The biggest thing when I finished playing, I wasn't exercising as much as I was before, and my portion sizes were the same and that definitely got me in trouble. Then, when I gained an enormous amount of weight from 40 to 50, with early menopause and things like that coming on, I mean, your body, your hormones, everything is changing. For me, basically it was just like, way too much – too big portion sizes. Then, I stopped eating a little bit and then when you do start eating everything is just piled on. So, all the weight gain had to do with portion sizes and exercises. I didn't like to exercise that much because I did so much of it when I was training.”
After losing her sister to a stroke, last year, and realizing that her once svelte physique had ballooned to 263 pounds, she knew it was time for a change. Her chance to shed the unwanted pounds came in a miraculous invitation to take part in The Biggest Loser: Glory Years. For it’s 16th season, The Biggest Loser has assembled 24 former athletes, including Garrison, NFL players Scott Mitchell and Damien Woody, WNBA standout Vanessa Hayden, three-time Olympic gold medal softball player Lori Harrigan-Mack and nineteen others, whose sole aim is change their lives for the better. Garrison says she just couldn’t pass up the heaven-sent miracle The Biggest Loser: Glory Days was bestowing upon her.
"What was very attractive, first and foremost, about doing the show was that they were using former athletes,” she explains of her decision to do The Biggest Loser: Glory Days. “And, being a little bit vain for the weight that I had gotten and just kind of have taken myself out of the picture for a moment, to know that you have other athletes that had struggles, who were struggling with weight just like myself, was a big reason why I knew I wanted to do it. Because I wouldn't want to be just the only athlete on the show. Knowing that we had all been at the top of our game at one time, we started struggling with our weight, to be amongst the fraternity and a sorority that I'm accustomed to was a big attribute for me to join the show."
The contestants of Season 16 of  The Biggest Loser : (l-r) Front Tier 1: Blake Benge  Toma Dobrosavl...
The contestants of Season 16 of 'The Biggest Loser': (l-r) Front Tier 1: Blake Benge, Toma Dobrosavljevic, Rondalee Beardslee, Jackie Pierson; Tier 2: Sonya Jones, JJ O'Malley,Emmy Lou Munoz, Jordan Alicandro; Tier 3: Zina Garrison, Andrea Wilamowski; Tier 4: Gina Haddon, Chandra Maple, Damien Woody, Mike Murburg, Vanessa Hayden, Woody Carter; Back Tier 5: Matthew Miller, Lori Harrigan-Mack, Scott Mitchell, Rob Guiry
Hosted by Alison Sweeney, this season’s contestants of The Biggest Loser: Glory Days are working with new trainers Jessie Pavelka and Jennifer Widerstrom, as well as veteran trainers Dolvett Quince and Bob Harper. For Glory Days, Bob Harper has an exciting new role, giving contestants a second chance at life on the show. Just when the eliminated contestant each week thinks they are headed home, they will actually be whisked away to a secret location called “Comeback Canyon.” There they will be trained by Harper, competing at a separate secret weekly weigh-in for the chance to return to the competition and a shot at The Biggest Loser title and $250,000 grand prize.
Zina Garrison coaching tennis
Zina Garrison coaching tennis
Garrison says she went onto The Biggest Loser: Glory Days with an open mind. “I kind of went in it with like no expectation,” Zina explains. “I had seen a couple of episodes of the show but I didn't follow it. So, for me, I didn't have like this overly grand expectation other than I knew I wanted to do something for myself and this was a great opportunity."
Zina Garrison in her previous glory days on the court
Zina Garrison in her previous glory days on the court
Zina Garrison has been a tennis superstar for most of her life. She grew up the youngest of six siblings in Houston, Texas and started playing tennis at age 10. She won both the Wimbledon and U.S. Open junior titles and was ranked the world's No. 1 junior player. Garrison went on to become a women's singles runner-up at Wimbledon in 1990, a three-time Grand Slam mixed doubles champion and women's doubles gold medalist and singles bronze medalist at the 1988 Olympic Games. After she retired from the court, she was a coach at the 2004 Olympics as well as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where both Venus and Serena Williams won gold medals. She is currently the coach of Australian Open girls champion Taylor Townsend and, in addition to running her own foundation, works with the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation.
In addition to shedding pounds, Garrison says her experience on The Biggest Loser: Glory Days offered her a great deal of emotional and psychological insight into the real Zina. “I learned a really profound thing about myself,” she reveals. "I had no idea that I, because now that I'm in coaching – and just me personally – I realized, because people have said this to me before, I really like to control things. I like to be ahead of the picture of the way that, you know, I kind of want to figure it out and plan it out and all of that.
“But, when I got on The Biggest Loser ranch I really understood that I was not in control,” Garrison adds. “That was a very hard thing for me. That's one of the biggest things that helped me is to realize that other people – the trainers and everyone – they really know their profession, and they're good at their professions. You have to let go and listen to them, just like I'm asking other people that I'm teaching to let go and listen to me as a professional in tennis. The control had been a huge thing that I've had to let go, but it has definitely been something that has really just kind of set me on my way to dreaming again. Because I had stopped dreaming. I stopped dreaming about it. I figured, 'I'm 50 years old, nobody is going to want to know anything else about me. I don't have anything else to give.' Som, letting go of some control has really helped me, not only in losing weight, but with life in general.”
Trainers Jessie Pavelka  Jen Widerstrom and Dolvett Quince with the contestants of  The Biggest Lose...
Trainers Jessie Pavelka, Jen Widerstrom and Dolvett Quince with the contestants of 'The Biggest Loser: Glory Days"
ZINA GARRISON ON... overwhelming it was to spend time at The Biggest Loser ranch.
"For me, coming from an individual sport, it was very overwhelming for me. I'm kind of used to like everything like I want it, the way I want it because I'm the one who that was paying for it. It was a dramatic experience, but it was very humbling and very uplifting to know that, there are a lot of great people with you and you're just kind of pulling from each other. So, that was my toughest thing is, just coming from kind of a prima donna sport and then put in the house with everybody was a little traumatic for me."
...what it was like working in a gym after being away from one in years, if not decades.
"It's funny because I'd tap into what I have learned when I was playing tennis, it all kind of clicked back in. It's still pretty much the same. I'm one of the oldest ones on the show. What I have learned as I've gotten older, is that I have to do things a little differently, because I don't burn as fast as I would have when I was 20 or even when I was 30. So I've had to add a lot more things into my program, as far as making sure flexibility as well as cardio and also weights as well. I had to rethink how to workout, for sure."
Zina Garrison at this year s French Open
Zina Garrison at this year's French Open
...if it's true that obese men are given more of a pass than overweight women in our society.
"Guys are definitely given a bigger leeway. It is because of the way the world perceives you. For women, it's all about what we weigh and how we look. I mean, there's all these beauty products around and advertising about the way a female should look. Of course, I think it is a little unfair. However, I think now, though, men are starting to get way more into their health. I think it's because people are becoming just healthier overall. We want to try to live longer. But it's something that women have battled for years. So, you know, I definitely think that right now we're in a world of body conscious body image. I think we're on a greater upswing with body image because now we're really starting to understand that people come in all different shapes, forms, and sizes but that doesn't still mean that you're healthy. I mean, I have a friend that was 6'3", weighed probably 140 pounds and he had a stroke and he's 33 years old and didn't eat well at all. So, I think we're in that age now people are just trying to have responsibility about our well being. Luckily, we have more information and more knowledge in trying to be healthier for ourselves, to live longer.”
...the one activity she'd like to be able to do again once losing the weight.
"I would love to be able to play a week of tennis. Now that might sound very crazy, but with weight gain because on my joints I could hit for like an hour, hour and a half, sometimes even two, but then I could not play for another month and just be able to run around on the court. Just for the enjoyment of knowing that I can do it again and not, you know, have to worry about I can only hit for a little bit, and I know that I'm out for like a month or two and I can't even hit balls. That's one thing. The other thing is like to be able to go out shopping and not be out of breath. I mean, something as simple as that. You know, you kind of just have to take a step back after you've walked an enormous amount of time and you're winded. I hated being winded, that's the thing that like bothered me more than anything. I mean, I'm a former athlete and to be winded just from walking for a couple of minutes is ridiculous."
The Biggest Loser: Glory Days premieres tonight, Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 8:00.p.m.EST/7:00p.m.CST on NBC. Watch The Biggest Lover: Glory Days every Thursday night on NBC (check local listings).
More about zina garrison, The Biggest Loser, the biggest loser glory days, scott mitchell, Damien echols
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