Anything is possible.

Of all the lessons Mesa resident John Rhode learned as a contestant on “The Biggest Loser” this summer, that one sticks out.

And it’s one the 41-year-old dad and Desert Ridge High School football coach hopes to pass on to his children and the scores of youth around him.

“As painful” as it was to see his “old self,” Rhode said he tuned in Tuesday night when the 12th season of the show began on NBC.

Rhode, 41, started the season at 445 pounds. Driven by a desire to live life to its fullest with his wife of 18 years and their two adopted sons, Rhode went to the casting call last spring.

Tuesday night, he was the first contestant to cross the finish line in a team 1-mile challenge. By the end of the show, it was revealed he’d lost 37 pounds in the first week. His current weight — and his fate on the show — remains a secret until the season plays out.

Since taking part in “The Biggest Loser,” Rhode said he’s learned bigger challenges can be won through small steps. He saw it on the show as he and his 14 fellow contestants battled the weight and each other from the show’s starting point in the Mojave Desert of California.

But it does take an edge — and a better outlook — to achieve that. It’s possible to be born with that edge, Rhode said, and it’s possible to attain it.

“I feel as though I’ve always been, to a certain extent, an athlete. It’s possible to lose your edge and lose your focus. … It’s amazing on the ranch (where the contestants lived and worked out), when someone does something they’ve never done before or have done for the first time in 20 years,” he said. “If you can have a small success or two, you can generate those small successes into a larger success. That’s a great way I found to regain the focus … or gain it for the first time.”

Since he returned home — filming ended in early September — Rhode said his waistline is not the only thing that’s different.

At home, the family is eating healthier. He’s teaching his 8-and 5-year-old sons that they don’t need sweets every day. And he’s hoping to pass along the lesson that food should not be used to address emotional needs.

“I see the value of being in shape, not just physically, but emotionally. Something I learned in my time at the ranch was dealing with emotional issues is very important. The last thing you want to do is suppress the feelings and use food as something other than fuel. We turn to food in times of crisis instead of being open and honest with ourselves and dealing with the crisis.

“I’m blessed that I can get this early with my boys. They’re still at an age where we can impress upon them the importance of making good choices with what we’re eating and drinking.”

Not only will his sons benefit from what he knows, but so will his eldest son’s football team and the Desert Ridge football team.

“From now on, what I like to explain to them is, first off, anything is possible. Any good thing that a child wants to do they can do. Whatever it is, their goal in life, whatever they want to obtain, they can absolutely do that. Once they have that belief in themselves, it’s a matter of putting together the pieces of what they want to do.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or

​Michelle Reese, East Valley Tribune


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