Utah native Jackson Carter finished third this week on The Biggest Loser during the Season 14 live finale in which Danni Allen walked away the winner.
Although Jackson didn’t win the official title of The Biggest Loser, Carter became the first openly gay contestant on the show and an early fan favorite given his emotional journey and lifelong battle with weight. Going into the finale, Jackson joined ranch mates Danni, Jeff Nichols, and Joe Ostaszewski as the final four before Carter was voted as the third finalist by the fans at home.
Once a target of bullies and victim of bullying, Jackson lost 42% of his original weight for a total of 138 pounds and finally learned what it takes to remain healthy forever.
The Deadbolt caught up with Jackson to learn more about his time on The Biggest Loser, his thoughts on being bullied, coming out to the entire country, and his plans for the future now that he’s a new man.
THE DEADBOLT: After waiting for the finale to arrive, how did it feel to be on stage the other night?
JACKSON CARTER: It was like a mixed bag of emotions. I was really excited to see everyone again since I hadn’t seen my other cast members for a really long time. I was really nervous to get up there to weigh in as a finalist.
But I think I was just finally relieved to get that feeling like I’ve finally accomplished something. I took charge of something that I’ve struggled with my whole life and I beat it. Now, even though the show is over, that chapter of my life is done with and I have the rest of my life to look forward to. That’s a really incredible feeling.
THE DEADBOLT: How do you look at yourself now as compared to who you were?
JACKSON: I always thought of myself as a really happy person, and I thought I was okay where I was. After going through The Biggest Loser and losing the weight, realizing why I had gained it in the first place and fixing all of the emotional stuff that led up to it, I realized that I was a really sad kid.
I put on a happy face so that everyone else was happy but I never allowed myself to be happy. Now I am and it’s something I never realized. It’s doesn’t matter how happy you make everybody else if you don’t take the time to worry about yourself. If you never take the time to make yourself a priority, you’re never going to be happy.
THE DEADBOLT: After losing so much weight, is it less of an effort to be confident?
JACKSON: You know, I don’t think confidence has anything to do with weight. I think that confidence is knowing who you are, knowing what you want, and feeling good enough to go for it. I don’t think it was my weight that was holding back my confidence, I think it was all of the emotional reasons why I had gained so much weight.
I didn’t feel like I was good enough for anything. I didn’t feel like I was smart enough to get into any of the schools that I wanted to get into. I didn’t think I was good enough to audition for any of the plays I wanted to audition for. A lot of that had to do with being bullied for a long time as a kid.
After I started to fix those things, the weight just started to fall off, because I was almost hiding behind my weight. My weight was a good excuse to not do those things. Once I started to become more confident in myself, the weight just sort of fell off. The weight was a side-effect for having no confidence.
THE DEADBOLT: Now that you’ve had this experience, how do you feel about being bullied as a kid? Do you have a new perspective?
JACKSON: It’s interesting now to think about having been picked on as a kid. I realized that not only was I being picked on by other kids but I was doing a lot of self-bullying, too. I would allow the bullying to happen. It was almost easier to be the victim than it was to stand up for myself.
That led to a long life of me allowing other people to push me around, not wanting to stir the pot, avoiding conflict at any cost. As my experience on The Biggest Loser progressed, I became more confident in my ability to stand up for myself.
Like when Jillian got into a tizzy in Week 9 because Jeff and I were leaving the ranch, I would have never talked back to her in my life, never, up until that point. I was finally able to stand up for myself and say, “Hey, this is something I need to do for me!” I felt confident in that decision and I wanted to defend it.
So, I just think of all of those times as a kid when I could have stood up for myself and I didn’t. It makes me sad to think about that.
THE DEADBOLT: Before you went on the show, how nervous were you to come out as a gay man and really own it on such a big scale? Was that difficult?
JACKSON: I came out when I was 14. I had come out to my parents, my grandparents, everyone. My friends and family have known for a long time. It was never really an issue. There were a few mean people in high-school, and a few that didn’t agree with it, but I’ve never considered my sexuality an issue. It was just a small part of my personality, a small part that made up the overall picture of who I am.
I never considered it an issue because I was never just that gay kid. I was a student, a student leader, and a volunteer. There were so many things that I was that a lot of times it never crossed my mind.
THE DEADBOLT: Since you’ve inspired so many people, what are your plans with the OUTreach center and for your future?
JACKSON: With the OUTreach center, they have just taken this by storm. After I left, they wanted to follow my example. Every week they have exercise class and all of the kids are taking more charge in the kitchen. So, not only are they learning how to cook healthier meals but they’re learning how to plan, shop, and prepare meals for an entire group of people. They’re just so excited about the show and how far I’ve come. They’re excited to take charge of their own health.
As far as personally, I was going to school for theater when I went to the show. I think the show has sort of turned me over to the dark side because I really like film and television. I think my next step is to get into a really good film school and see where that takes me.
THE DEADBOLT: So, you’ve been bitten by the film and TV bug?
JACKSON: Totally! I loved the production days. A lot of the time the other contestants and I would be working out and cameras would be in our faces and all we wanted to do was take a nap. When a producer would call us for an interview, everyone else would hate it but I thought it was so cool.
THE DEADBOLT: Can you remember the week or moment at the ranch when you knew there was no going back and it was all coming together?
JACKSON: The exact moment when I had my “ah, ha” or turnaround was Week 5. Dolvett sat me down after I had been throwing up all day. I was throwing up the entire time and it was emotionally wearing me out. I was really upset because all I wanted to do was do well for my team. I had been doing very poorly in the weigh-ins and felt that I wasn’t doing my part for the team. I felt that I wasn’t pulling my weight.
Dolvett told me that he saw how hard I was working and he couldn’t ask for anything more than that. It was like he looked inside my brain. I was always insecure about how I looked in front of other people, and he said, “Don’t worry about what other people think about you, worry about you. Be 100% involved in you and everyone else will be as well.”
That’s when I really made my turnaround. That’s when I realized that if I ever want to keep this weight off, I can’t keep trying to make other people happy before myself. I have to make myself a priority. I have to make sure I’m going to the gym. I have to make sure I’m planning and cooking my meals. And if that means that I have to stop doing something, that means I have to stop doing them in order to take care of myself first.
THE DEADBOLT: From a mental standpoint, does it still feel like you’ve got all the weight on, or have you gotten used to it? What’s that part been like for you?
JACKSON: We’ve lost the weight so quickly that a lot of times we still hold ourselves like big people. We’ll slouch over or we’ll put our feet up on a table to tie our shoes like we had to. We’re still getting used to our new bodies.
I actually sprained both of my ankles at one point or another just because I’m not used to walking. I’m used to having 300 pounds of force go down on them. Now that I’m not that heavy anymore, I have to use more control to work them. I’m still getting used to not being so big but it’s been cool. It’s been really cool. Now that I’m on the other side, I don’t ever want to go back.
What did you think of Jackson and his amazing weight-loss journey on The Biggest Loser?