Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

What's It like to Be in a Commercial with Oprah? Chicago Man Finds Out

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

What's It like to Be in a Commercial with Oprah? Chicago Man Finds Out

Article excerpt

By Alison Bowen

Tribune News Service

Tony Williams was excited. Weight Watchers was flying him to California to shoot a commercial.

He was going to be on TV! They gave him an outfit to wear and everything. The entire experience felt so rewarding after losing more than 100 pounds on the program.

But the reveal was yet to come.

He entered a sundrenched home in California, walking through a hallway and into a kitchen.

And there she was. Oprah. Oprah!

"Steps from behind the wall, Miss Oprah Winfrey," he said. "She almost killed me. I may have had a heart attack."

Greeting him, in a ruffly offtheshoulder red blouse and sunny smile, was the talkshow magnate, a company spokeswoman. The group of Weight Watchers members was shocked to find out their commercial costar was Oprah herself.

Williams, 44, is a locomotive engineer who lives on Chicago's South Side.

"I was always a chubby kid, which led to being a chubby adult," he said. Add in a mostly sedentary career and long hours where he "ate out of boredom, ate out of loneliness," and, he summarized, "I got big." To 295 pounds, to be exact.

During a doctor's visit while in his 30s, a doctor told him, "You're not going to make it to see 50." That night, Williams said, "I was kind of staring down the barrel of my own mortality."

He and his wife joined Weight Watchers together in 2009, attending meetings and recalibrating their diet.

Nine years later, he said, he's lost more than 100 pounds - and kept it off. He likes the program because he doesn't feel restricted. "I live in Chicago," he said. "I still have pizza. I still have tacos. I just learn to indulge responsibly."

Williams goes to the gym. He runs. He does strength training. He's training for a halfmarathon.

"I'll be one of those people, dressed warmly, running around Chicago like a fool," he said.

And he leads three meetings a week, encouraging others.

But back to the commercial.

What's it like to party on camera with Oprah?

First, the food. A counter was stacked with fixings for a taco fiesta - tomatoes, shrimp, beans, rice, tomatoes, guacamole. …

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