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Biggest Loser celebrates opening of Turlock fitness club
Turlocks Planet Fitness celebrated their official grand opening with Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth (right) and The Biggest Loser winner Danni Allen (left) - photo by CANDY PADILLA/The Journal

Turlock’s first Planet Fitness has been up and running since June, but Wednesday marked the official grand opening celebration, which included a large donation to Make-A-Wish and a workout led by “The Biggest Loser” season 14 winner Danni Allen.

“We’re very excited to be a part of the Turlock community,” said one of the club’s owners Adam Pullman. “The reception we have had here has been really great and people really seem to like our judgment free space.”

The club located at 1360 W. Main Street marked their official launch with a donation of $7,500 to the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish foundation.

“This is just amazing and we are so grateful for this donation,” said Michele Flynn, the spokesperson for the local Make-A-Wish chapter. “This will ensure that a child’s wish is granted.”

Allen was on hand at the Turlock location to provide some motivation for those embarking on weight loss plans and those looking to maintain their athleticism.

Allen came into the fitness spotlight in 2013 as a contestant on season 14 of the hit reality competition show “The Biggest Loser” on NBC. She said she was ready to embark on a weight loss plan after her father suffered medical issues from his weight in 2012, but the idea of doing it in front of television cameras with millions watching her progress was not on her radar until the idea was broached my a co-worker.

“My co-worker had been really supportive and together we had been going to Weight Watchers and I had lost 40 pounds,” Allen recounted. “She called me up one day and says “The Biggest Loser” is looking to cast couples for the upcoming season and that included colleagues. Then she tells me the audition is tomorrow morning.”

The Wheeling, Illinois resident and her co-worker waited in line for more than eight hours with an estimated 3,000 other hopefuls and were in and out of the audition in about five minutes.

“It never occurred to me that we might make it one,” Allen said. “There were just so many people and the odds seemed pretty slim.”

The odds turned out to be in Allen’s favor, but not that of her friends. She got a call that night, but the phone never rang for her friend.

“I was already to back out of it, but my friend gave me this push and told me this was an opportunity of a life-time,” Allen said. “I decided to take her gumption and put it in me and go forward with it.”

Allen came on to the show at 258 pounds. She admits she wasn’t a regular viewer of the show, so the initial days of long workouts and the screaming orders coming from her trainer Jillian Michaels caught her off-guard. It didn’t help that she was one a team that continually was at the bottom.

Over the weeks she saw her teammates eliminated one after another until she was the lone member of Michael’s team.

“I really thought I wouldn’t be able to continue on,” Allen said. “I told Jillian ‘I’m sorry, I know you’re back, but you’re going to go home early, because I can’t do this by myself.”

But as it turns out, that solitude is just what Allen needed.

“I have what my mom calls a ‘disease to please,’” Allen said. “I was always putting the focus on others and how I could help them, while ignoring myself. By biggest fear was being alone, and Jillian said to me, ‘Well guess what? You are alone.’ But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It gave me the opportunity to only focus on me and think about what was best for me. By the end of that week when I climbed onto that scale, I knew I had given everything I had to give.”

It was more than enough. She was the biggest loser for the week and it launched a competitive drive inside her that would take her all the way to the finals.

“I knew that if I could handle being all alone, then I could handle anything,” Allen said. “I was ready to fight for myself.”

At the season finale Allen stepped up on the scale and showed a 121 pound weight loss, besting her competition by one pound and laying claim to the title of the biggest loser and the $250,000 grand prize that comes with it.

“It was a very surreal moment,” Allen said of her win. “But really in my mind I had won already. I was over 200 pounds at the age of 14 and here I was feeling strong and fit. I set a record for muscle gain. So in my heart I had won already, no matter what the scale said.”

In the aftermath of her victory Allen had to readjust to a reality that didn’t allow for eight to ten hour daily workouts like on the show and she had to mentally adjust to her new body image.

“It took a while before I could find that place I needed to be at,” Allen said. “Staying at 137 pounds was not realistic for my body. I had to hit the reset button. I gained and lost, but now two years later I’m healthy and fit and I’m doing it while living a real life. I had to throw out words like thin and skinny. I prefer athletic and toned.”

The show continues to bring Allen on for special appearances and she has deals with Planet Fitness, Subway and Lara Bars. She’s gone on to run marathons and is now a certified yoga instructor. But what she loves most is what she was doing Wednesday in Turlock — doling out motivation.

“We all have struggles and there is no magic pill or workout that will fix it all,” Allen said. “It all starts with one change. Make that one change, stick to it, and then celebrate it.”