Teri Aguiar won the Miss Missouri contest when she was 26 in 1999 and currently works as a flight nurse.
She also won the Miss Illinois Teen USA in 1990, swam competitively in school and has completed several triathlons.
And, at 256 pounds, the 47-year-old Columbia woman is one of 12 contestants on the revamped version of the hit TV show “The Biggest Loser.”
“My primary goal was to break the bad habits and set myself on a new track in life,” Aguiar said of why she decided to go on the show. “It was truly to get enough time under my belt that I had a good handle on nutrition and getting back to working out.”
After her pageant career, Aguiar kept in good shape for several years, even while she worked as a nurse in a children’s hospital and became a flight nurse in 2000.
After she got married to former NFL punter Louie Aguiar and had her first child in 2004, however, she did not lose all of the weight she gained during pregnancy.
Aguiar had another child in 2008, and again she did not lose that weight.
Her focus now was fully on her family and her career, not herself, and she struggled to find time to exercise like she used to.
“It was a very slow slide,” Aguiar remembered. “Weight gain can be kind of insidious. You get on the scale and think ‘I’ve seen better, but I’ve also seen worse.’”
She had made several attempts to lose weight, like when she turned 40, but only ever lost the same 25-30 pounds, which she eventually put back on because she did not break her bad habits like stress eating.
Aguiar’s weight also started affecting her work, as the helicopters she flies on have gotten smaller through the years and can only carry a certain amount of weight. Plus, the patients have not been getting smaller.
Knowing this, a friend of Aguiar’s from her days in the pageant world contacted Aguiar because one of her friends was casting for “The Biggest Loser.”
Aguiar’s friend said she thought Aguiar had a great story that many moms could relate to.
Aguiar’s friends and family encouraged her to go on the show, and Aguiar thought the uninterrupted time to focus on breaking her bad habits could be good for her.
She finally decided to apply for the show when she realized, after her divorce a few years ago, she needs to be there for her children now more than ever.
“I couldn’t be worrying about my health and I didn’t want them worrying about my health,” she said. “And between work and taking care of them, I really needed to be the best that I could be.”
So she began the fairly in-depth process to get on the show, which started with speaking to a casting agent and included a completing a teleconference interview, submitting pictures and filling out a lengthy application.
That process began in early July, and about six weeks later Aguiar learned she was chosen as one of the dozen contestants.
The show then started filming at a campus in New Mexico before doing five weeks of filming in each contestant’s home.
Filming recently wrapped after Aguiar went back to New Mexico to film the final episode.
She said she appreciated the experience on the show, though she could not reveal how she fared in the competition.
“It was definitely a life-changing experience in so many ways,” she explained. “I feel amazing physically. I am about halfway to my goal weight, so it’s a huge chunk of weight that you get off yourself both physically and figuratively.”
Aguiar’s goal was to lose about half her body weight, and she took drastic steps “The Biggest Loser” often shows to accomplish that.
“I do not wish to ever start it over, but I would do it again in a second if I had to (in order) to get to where I am,” Aguiar said.
She also said she still feels supported as she continues on her weight loss journey, as the show has put more of an emphasis on overall health and continuing to be healthy beyond the season.
Looking back at all the work she did in New Mexico, Aguiar said she relied on strength and will from loved ones and her hometown.
“A lot of that pride and a lot of that drive came from people here at home,” she said. “It came from being from here. It came from all of the people who come from here who work so hard in their daily lives.”
To see how Aguiar fared on the show, including if she won the cash prize, tune in to USA Network starting Jan. 28.
Visit usanetwork.com/the-biggest-loser for more information.