Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Family Values: This Dynamic Father/daughter Duo Believes the Quickest Way to Inspiration Is through Perspiration

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Family Values: This Dynamic Father/daughter Duo Believes the Quickest Way to Inspiration Is through Perspiration

Article excerpt

ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS at the 2010 Congress and Exposition in Minneapolis, Minnesota, may be the opportunity to lace up your sneakers and meet two of the city's local celebrities, SunShine and O'Neal Hampton, who will be kicking off this year's annual 5K Fun Run/Walk. Having lost a combined total of 300 pounds since their debut on the hit NBC show "The Biggest Loser," the father/ daughter duo has made maintaining their new healthy lifestyle their biggest priority, and they continue to inspire thousands of others to do the same along the way.

A former Green Beret in the U.S. Army, O'Neal had always been the athletic type until an injury nearly debilitated him. Limited in his ability to be active, he quickly gained weight, ultimately topping the scale at 398 pounds. "Unlike most people who have a weight issue, I didn't grow up heavy," he says. "I was in perfect shape. I played football, I wrestled, and went into the service. Then I hurt my knee and was 50 percent disabled, needing a hip and knee replacement. That's when I gained weight. I knew I needed to turn my life around, but I didn't let my injuries stop me or use them as an excuse not to get healthy. I've lost a total of 180 pounds to date."

O'Neal endured rigorous daily workouts and followed a strict diet while America watched him on TV, but still, his biggest challenge came after leaving the controlled environment of the show, he says. "When you get back into real life--going to work, paying bills, running errands, living life--that's where you face the same problems that got you here in the first place."

To maintain his new healthy lifestyle, he makes exercise and proper nutrition his main priority. But that doesn't mean paying for an expensive gym membership.

"You don't need a membership," he says. "All you need is desire. I work out in the morning. On Saturdays I work out in Calhoun Park in Minneapolis, [Minnesota]. Parks have always been a part of my life. I grew up in Hammond, Indiana, and I used to love to play in Maywood Park. I'd be out there until the street lights came on. When I moved to Minnesota, I took my kids to play in Friedmont Park in Richfield. Everything you need to get healthy is in the park. You can walk, run, bike, set up obstacles, and meet other people. You don't need to be trapped in the gym. Parks are flee, and a good place to meet and inspire people." Inspiring people is important to O'Neal.

"People say to me 'O'Neal, what's the secret to losing weight?' and I say, 'come here really close and I'll tell you ... there is no secret.' You can't take in more than you expend. That's all there is."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Losing weight has changed his life in more ways that one. At his heaviest, he had type 2 diabetes and was taking nine different medications a day. "The cost of my medicine was outrageous," O'Neal says. "The legacy cost of being obese means paying for higher insurance, doctor bills, medication, bigger clothes--I actually gave myself a raise by losing all this weight," he laughs.

SunShine was also an athlete, competing as a synchronized swimmer for Richfield High School in Richfield, Minnesota, where she earned five varsity letters. But things started to change for her after graduation when she started gaining weight and losing self confidence--a cycle that continued for years. …

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