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While Olivia Ward, 35, the winner of last season's Biggest Loser, was busy sweating her butt off on the ranch, her husband, Ben, also 35, was at home in Astoria, New York, walking and eventually running on the treadmill every night, working to lose 113 pounds. Their marriage has always been like that: They gained weight together; they tried to lose it together. "Yet we always fell off the wagon together," says Olivia, who dropped 129 pounds on the show.
Now she knows why her previous attempts didn't work. "I never did it just for me," she explains. "It's important to have a partner, but at the end of the day it can't be about 'Ben and Olivia want to lose weight.' It has to be about 'Olivia wants to lose weight.' It sounds kind of harsh, but you have to be selfish in your efforts or it's not going to last long-term."
Going on the show with her sister, Hannah Curlee, instead of with Ben (because, ironically, the producers said he wasn't big enough) gave Olivia the time and space to focus on her own journey. The same was true for Ben, who kept his weight-loss efforts a secret and surprised Olivia when they finally reunited halfway through the show. "I didn't want to be the fat husband she came home to," he says.
Their 13-year marriage, complete with fancy home-cooked meals that Olivia loved making for Ben, was a big factor in her postnup muffin top, Olivia says. "There was comfort in knowing that I have somebody who I know loves me unconditionally, no matter what size I am. That's such a great thing, but if you don't have a really good health and lifestyle regimen, it can be a quick path to becoming overweight," she says.
And now their astounding weight loss -- 242 pounds combined -- has brought huge gains to their relationship. "Everything is revitalized and new," Olivia says. Including their sex life: "It's refreshing, to be quite candid, to not have to think about, Oh, man, I'm just jiggling all around here!" she admits. "I feel confident in my skin. And I feel like I have something better to offer to him."
Olivia, who suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition that causes ovarian cysts and often disrupts the menstrual cycle, went on the show because doctors told her she needed to lose weight if she hoped to improve her chances of getting pregnant. She's now looking forward to starting a family with Ben. But first they're planning a bike trip through Italy and focusing on enjoying the new spark in their relationship. As Olivia puts it, "How often in your life do you get to completely spice up your marriage?"
Originally published in FITNESS Magazine, October 2011.