Danni Allen, the 26-year-old advertising account coordinator from Wheeling, left “The Biggest Loser” 121 pounds lighter and $250,000 richer.
As a member of Jillian Michaels‘ white team, Danni had a rocky start on the Ranch. Her team members were eliminated one by one each week, leaving her to fight for herself against the larger red and blue teams. But Danni didn’t let that stop her. She continued to put up unbeatable numbers on the scale, and ultimately won more weekly challenges than any other contestant.
During Monday night’s live finale, viewers watched Danni step on the scale, revealing that she beat finalist Jeff Nichols by less than a pound. She dropped from 258 to 137 pounds and gained an impressive 19 pounds of muscle.
We talked with Danni about life after “The Biggest Loser,” and she let us in on her best diet and workout secrets.
Make It Better: What was going through your head when you got up on the scale and realized that you won?
Danni Allen: I honestly don’t even remember what I was thinking. I was in pure shock because I really didn’t think I could do it against those bigger boys (finalists Jeff and Jackson). In my mind, I knew I did everything I could to get to my goal weight. I felt great, and for me, I had already won. That “Biggest Loser” crown would be nice, but I told myself in my head I had already won. You know, only certain things you can control, and I was able to control how much I’d lost, but that was it. So it was just a huge surprise.
Looking back at your time on the show, what was your most memorable moment?
It really was mostly the week when I wasn’t supposed to make it, and I thought it wasn’t in the cards for me again (the week after Pam went home, and Danni was the remaining member of the white team). Jill was even kind of preparing me that if I went home we’d be OK and how I would keep going when I was off the Ranch.
And then after I made it, she told me for the first time she was proud of me. It felt like everything in the room went dark, and it was just me and her, and that was something I’ll never forget.
What about your most challenging moment?
The most challenging moment for me was mentally coming to the understanding that I do deserve greatness. I never thought that I was worthy of a lot of the things that I had ever gotten, like there’s so many people in the world that deserve so much more. And Jill would say over and over to me, you DO deserve greatness. Once you get that mental understanding, anything is possible.
It was a madhouse. When she first started, it was scary. She came back with a vengeance and it was really, really scary. She also knew how hard the road ahead of us was going to be, so she knew what it was going to take to get us there. But it was really hard; it was really rough, and I even told her, “Please don’t judge me in the first few weeks when you watch the show. I said a few choice words about you, but I swear I don’t mean it!” It definitely turned around into a great friendship. We still talk every day.
What’s your plan for maintaining your new lifestyle at home?
I just found out today that I was accepted for the Chicago Marathon in October, so I’m going to be training for that. I’m also going to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Nashville and the Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago. So I’m just going to run around the nation and spread what I’ve learned with “The Biggest Loser” so I can help others achieve their goals. Being on the show, it wasn’t a diet; it’s a lifestyle that’s going to continue for the rest of my life.
What advice do you have for others who are trying to lose weight and turn their lives around?
The first step for me was when I got home and off the Ranch—and I was terrified because I wasn’t surrounded by people to help push me anymore. I made my apartment a safe zone. I stocked up on healthy foods and took everything out of all the hiding spots so there was no way to mess up. Everyone has weak moments. You’re not always strong, so I needed to make sure that I set myself up for success.
What do your daily meals look like? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks?
Breakfast is when I get in my carbs for the day. I’ll have steel-cut oatmeal. I do keep the gluten-free route right now, so I’ll have some berries and good dairies, like Greek yogurt and egg whites. But breakfast is my biggest meal of the day. A third of my calories is all through breakfast.
For lunch and dinner I usually have proteins and greens if I can. And I’m having fun too, so every once in a while I’m going to throw in a dessert or something I’ve been craving. If you work hard you can earn yourself that treat. Then for snacks I’ll have some nuts or low-fat cheese.
What’s your favorite healthy meal to make at home?
I love Ezekiel raisin bread French toast with fruit on top. Before all of this, that’s never something that I would have craved or thought was good. I don’t even think I knew what it was. I would have thought Ezekiel was someone from the Bible or something (laughs)! But now that’s one of my favorite meals. I’ll dip the bread in some egg whites and cook it up, and it’s delicious. It just kind of hits all my cravings in one and will fill me up. I love sweet stuff! My other favorite meal to make is eggplant Parmesan.
What’s your favorite place to go out to eat in the suburbs?
I’m still experimenting with going out to eat, but I really love Cooper’s Hawk. The pretzel bread is amazing! But they just have so many options. I can trust them, and they’ll customize an order for me no problem. And now I can drink wine! I love their wine.
Back at home, what are your workouts like?
I’m going to be training for the marathon, so a lot of running, and I do spin classes at Flywheel twice a day. I’m going to kind of keep [my routine] the same because I liked it. I get such a rush from spin, because in 45 minutes I can bust out an 800-calorie burn. And don’t tell Jillian, but I might try CrossFit. Bob (Harper) was all about CrossFit, but Jillian says it builds too much muscle—but I build so much muscle anyway; I could build muscle in my sleep!
How has all of this changed your life?
I feel like I got my life back. I feel like I can dream again. I’m not just going through the motions of life, I’m taking life now. I’m excited for life again and I think that’s the best reward of this whole process.