Tonight on Extreme Weight Loss on ABC, Melissa Karkowski from Shadyside, Ohio, struggled with weight issues and overeating after her husband, Mike, came back from having served in the military in Afghanistan. He was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and later, in 2009, he committed suicide. Melissa was left with raising her two sons, Elijah and Cody, on her own. One of her sons has also been diagnosed with PTSD. Melissa turned to food for comfort, ballooning up to 301 pounds.
Five years later, Melissa eventually decided that she wanted to turn her life around and lose her extra weight. She did not want to continue putting her health and her life at risk and possibly leave her two sons as orphans. Melissa wrote a letter to transformational coach, Chris Powell, asking for his help. He and his wife, Heidi, who is also a transformational coach, agreed to assist Melissa in her year-long journey to lose enough weight to qualify for the skin reduction surgery she will need once the pounds drop off.
After Mike was diagnosed as having PTSD, Melissa, 46, and her family tried their best to have a normal family and go back to how things were before Mike had gone overseas. However, Mike began to become more and more withdrawn and one day, Melissa’s husband did not come home. He had committed suicide while at work.
Melissa felt a kinship with Heidi Powell, who is also a working mother. However, she did not know really what to expect. Heidi did not allow Melissa to make any excuses during the year that she helped Melissa get to her desired weight loss goal. She knew that Melissa must face her inner, emotional and psychological problems, transforming her inner as well as her outer self. Melissa had to try to come up with a way to celebrate her late husband’s life, rather than continue to mourn for his loss.
At the Extreme Weight Loss boot camp, located this year at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Health and Wellness Center (AHWC) in Aurora, Colorado, Melissa will learn about nutrition from celebrity chef Rocco Dispirito and she will begin her exercise program to reach her year-long weight loss goal. She will spend her first 90 days at the center, with Heidi to also help and motivate her.
This is the first Extreme Weight Loss program in which Heidi takes over the reins. Heidi is the main one, instead of Chris, in assisting in the overall transformation of Melissa. Melissa’s husband had been with children in a hospital in Afghanistan, who had been badly injured by landmines. Mike was deeply affected by the experience, which was probably the root of his PTSD. When he decided to take his own life at work, he took off his boots and glasses, and jumped into the trash compacter, taking his own life.
Melissa says that after Mike’s death, “I probably put on a hundred pounds — yeah, easy.”
Melissa thinks of Heidi as being a “Super Woman,” and she wants to live her life more like Heidi lives hers. Heidi has heard that Melissa rides her riding lawn mower down to get her mail, so Heidi meets her at the mailbox to tell her the good news that she has been accepted into the Extreme Weight Loss program as a contestant. Heidi cannot believe it when she sees Melissa riding the lawnmower rather than walking to it.
At the initial weigh-in, Melissa weighs 301 pounds. She says “It was devastating to see that number.” She is afraid that 400 pounds might be the number that she sees next.
Heidi sets Melissa’s initial weight loss goal to lose 76 pounds and weigh in after 90 days at 225 pounds. Chris Powell is concerned and worried when it does not seem, at first, that Melissa is making much progress, and almost does not even make it through her first workout. After a rocky start, Melissa beats the weight loss goal at her weigh-in by three pounds, coming in at 222 pounds.
Melissa is worried because Heidi has told her she will be taking part in a 10-mile run. Though Melissa has been running on a daily basis to prepare herself, she is still not sure she is ready for the race. Heidi surprises her by showing up and giving her encouragement.
Heidi and Melissa go through her Mike’s stuff, reliving memories. Heidi brings along some of her dad’s things to also go through. They share what it feels like to think about loved ones that had been such big parts of their lives.
At the run in honor of Mike and to spread awareness about PTSD, Melissa makes an emotional speech. Heidi cannot run with her, as she is pregnant and her baby is due in a month. Instead, Chris shows up and runs beside Melissa.
“She needs to do this for herself,” Chris says. Melissa finds a good pace, but the run is also an emotional challenge for Melissa. Part of the run takes Melissa past her old house, where she had lived with her husband.
“He was such a great dad,” Melissa says, as she stops there with Heidi and Chris momentarily before continuing on.
Then, Melissa’s muscles start to cramp and her back seizes up on her. Extreme Weight Loss went to a commercial break, leaving it in doubt whether Melissa will be able to fight through her pain and complete the 10-mile run.
As Chris says, “We started to feel the energy of the community.” People kept coming out of business and their houses along the path of the run, cheering Melissa on, and telling her that Mike would be “so proud of you.”
Melissa says that she has “lost not only pounds, but guilt.” With the encouragement of Heidi, Chris, and her entire community, shhe completed the run, saying “I had to do it, to heal.”
After the run, Melissa is able to focuas more on her regular training. Heidi and chris have provided her with a complete home gym.
Next, Melissa will be on her way to New Zealand with her two sons on a family vacation, provided for by the Powells and everybody else behind the Extreme Weight Loss show. she says “I love, love, love my life.”
After the commercial break, we learn that Melissa will keep on taking “leaps of faith,” to help her grow as a person and become the new Melissa.
She weighed 222 pounds and has a weight loss goal of losing 40 more pounds. Heidi hopes that she has lost the weight, saying that she does not want Melissa to get discouraged and possibly suffer a setback if she has not lost the 40 pounds.
When Extreme Weight Loss returns from another commercial break, we find out that Melissa has hit her target weight on the dot, coming in at 182 pounds.
Heidi has a surprise for Melissa — they are going to climb to the top of the Sky Tower, and both of them will jump from the top of it. Heidi says that “It is at least twice as tall as any buildings near it.”
Heidi has heard that it takes people anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to get to the top of the Sky Tower. Heidi wants her to do it in 20 minutes. Melissa does it in just 12 minutes and 40 seconds!
At the top of the Sky Tower, looking down is intimidating for Melissa. Heidi says that Melissa had “always wanted to be a super hero to her kids,” though. She goes through with it, lowered down rapidly, connected to a harness, completing her Milestone Challenge.
Then, it is Heidi’s turn. She is scared, also, but she takes the plunge, and is soon down on the ground with Melissa.
Melissa and Heidi talk about her next weight loss goal, which they decide will be 165 pounds. Melissa says that she has met a new boyfriend, Kirk, who is beginning to play a role in her life.
Coming back from another commercial break, on Extreme Weight Loss Melissa is ready for her 9 Month Weigh-In. If she weighs 165 or less, she will have made her goal. She did not make her weight loss goal, weighing in at 177 pounds, having lost only five pounds in three months.
Putting her relationship in front of her weight loss goal hurt her achieving her desired weight loss. However, she lost 41 percent of her original weight, as Chris points out, which is enough to qualify for the surgery if the doctor agrees to perform it.
When Chris and Heidi take her in to see the doctor, Melissa is worried because she has not lost as much weight as she had wanted to lose. The doctor tells her that she could stand to lose more weight in her legs and other areas of her body, but tells her that “I actually think that you are a good candidate for the skin reduction surgery.”
One of Melissa’s sons, Cody, is worried that his mom might not make it out of surgery okay. Heidi and Chris reassure him that she will be fine.
When we see Melissa next, it is three months later, the end of her year-long transformation to lose weight.
Heidi tells the audience gathered that Melissa has changed a lot from the person she used to be. She relates to the audience information about Melissa’s past, the death of her husband, and how that lead to her overeating.
“She was the very first person who tried to quit after her first workout,” Heidi says, but Melissa did not quit; she continued on.
After another commercial break, when Extreme Weight Loss returns, we get to see Melissa and learn how much weight she has lost in total. She is dressed in a stylish black pantsuit with a blue shirt.
Melissa says the run she organized and participated in will now be a yearly event. Heidi tells her that if Mike saw her he would thank you for being a rock for his family.”
Melissa wanted to weigh in at 165 pounds by the end of the year, though now she says she wants to hit at least 164. We get to see a recap of Melissa’s struggles throughout the year, all to culminate in the final weigh-in. As the dramatic moment approached, Extreme Weight Loss went to yet another commercial break.
The audience gasps and cheers, as Melissa’s final weight is revealed to be just 159 pounds! She lost 142 pounds in just one year! Heidi tells her “I am so proud of you!”
Melissa says “If my story saves just one life, there’s nothing more I could be blessed with.”
Heidi says that she thinks Mike would be proud of the woman she has become. Heidi gives Melissa a one-week scholarship to the Colorado boot camp. Melissa gives it to her friend, Cynthia, who hopes that it will kick-start her journey to changing her own life and losing weight.
Heidi Powell did a fantastic job with her first year-long transformation ever on Extreme Weight Loss. It was an emotional, tear-jerking episode, ending with a PSA which Heidi and Melissa did together about PTSD and how to get help.
Heidi Powell is always great on Extreme Weight Loss, though she is not often seen very much, as Chris has been the one of them who has been the most in front of the camera. With this episode, Heidi proved that she is just as good as Chris is at hosting Extreme Weight Loss and assisting the people on it in their year-long weight loss goals. Please leave your comments below!
Written by: Douglas Cobb