After losing 415 pounds, Oklahoma man hopes to finish journey on 'The Biggest Loser'

KELLER -- Earl Kennedy longed to appear on The Biggest Loser, but at 913 pounds he knew he was not up to the strenuous workouts that are part of the TV show.

Then he got inspired.

Over eight years of ups and downs, he has shed 415 pounds.

"That's two grown men and probably a fourth-grader," said Kennedy, 39, who lives in Durant, Okla.

He has received lots of encouragement along the way, including support from Sandy Dolan, a contestant from Fort Worth who appeared on Season 10 of the NBC show.

When the two got together Friday, after corresponding daily on Facebook, Dolan was amazed by Kennedy's determination.

"Everybody always says that contestants on the show are such an inspiration," she said. "But I can think of no bigger inspiration than Earl."

By being open about it, Kennedy is showing all people struggling with extreme obesity that they should never give up, Dolan said. She hopes that helping Kennedy work toward his goal of being on the show will demonstrate to others that it's possible to lose weight.

Getting to this point has been a difficult journey with plenty of obstacles for Kennedy, who has always struggled with his weight.

Born at more than 11 pounds, he grew into a chubby child who was teased at school.

In the early 1990s, he did a stint as a professional wrestler, appearing in the ring under the nickname Bam Bam. At a little over 6 feet tall, he was heavy but muscular.

"Then I broke my leg in seven or eight places and that slowed me down," Kennedy said.

When he met his wife, Stacie, in 1995, he weighed 550 pounds. Over the next few years, he attended college, drove a truck and organized a Christian wrestling program. All the while, his weight went up and down. Although his lifestyle became more sedentary, Kennedy said, he was still able to get around.

"I couldn't run marathons, but I could certainly walk," he said.

Stacie Kennedy said she tried to encourage him to eat less, but he didn't listen.

"He's an emotional eater," she said.

By late 2002, he had reached 900 pounds. He'd lose 50, then gain it back. By 2007, he had gotten down to 700 pounds.

Then his 8-year-old daughter McKenzie died from a heart defect in January 2009.

"I just lost all hope," he said. "After she passed away, I didn't care if I ate myself to death."

Dolan, whose brother died from obesity-related complications a few days after his own audition for The Biggest Loser, could relate. "You put aside your sadness and fill the void with food," Dolan said.

In spring 2009, Kennedy was back up to 780 pounds. A year later, he underwent gastric sleeve surgery -- a procedure in which 85 percent of the stomach is removed -- after his physician told him that he would die without it. Since then, he has shed 120 more pounds.

He's now at his lowest weight in years: 498 pounds.

"It's the first time I've been under 500 since 1993," Kennedy said.

For Dolan, who lost more than 55 pounds from 259, helping Kennedy is a way to "pay it forward."

She hopes to motivate him to fulfill his dream of appearing on The Biggest Loser. Auditions are held in the spring.

Laurie Graves, a Keller fitness trainer who works with Dolan and helped orchestrate the workout with Kennedy at Bear Creek Park, took Kennedy to the grocery store to help him know what to buy.

To lose more than 400 pounds is quite an accomplishment, she said.

"He still has a tremendous amount of weight left to lose," she said. "For his height, he should weigh 220 to 230."

Kennedy, who does motivational speaking and is on disability, said another goal is to visit Six Flags and be able to fit in a roller coaster seat.

Dolan was quick to offer encouragement.

"When you get to that goal weight, we need to just rent out Six Flags for the day and celebrate," she said.

Jan Jarvis, 817-390-7664