'Biggest Loser' credits God for life changes
BY BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
Saturday, January 05, 2013
1/05/13 at 5:39 AM
BROKEN ARROW - Danny Cahill still holds the all-time weight-loss record on the popular NBC show "The Biggest Loser," which starts its 14th season Sunday.
Cahill went from 430 pounds to 191 pounds in 2009, losing a record 55.58 percent of his body weight in just less than seven months.
While a national audience saw Cahill work hard at the Biggest Loser ranch in Utah, no one saw the spiritual battles he and his wife, Darci, fought that year and the previous dozen years of their marriage.
The couple talked about those battles and their new book recently in their modest Broken Arrow home.
Both from the Oklahoma City area, Danny and Darci met in their early 20s at a concert they were both playing in. He was a trim 175 pounds, working as a land surveyor in his family's business and playing bass guitar in bands.
By the time they married three years later, he weighed 270 pounds.
Darci was raised attending a large Oklahoma City charismatic church, was active in the youth group and considered herself a Christian, she said.
After high school, she worked as a bartender and soon was partying and drinking heavily.
Danny was raised Episcopalian and made a conscious decision to accept Christ as his savior when he was 9, he said.
From the start, their marriage was difficult.
Addicted to alcohol and unhappy in her marriage, Darci accepted an invitation to church, where she had an encounter with God that changed her life, she said.
She started praying for Danny and asking him to come to church.
"These people are crazy," he said, but he eventually decided it was better to go to church if it meant having a sober wife who stayed home at night.
He loved the contemporary music at church and soon was asked to play the bass guitar on the worship team.
He slowly began to accept the message, and on March 17, 1997, he was baptized.
"Then things really started happening," he said.
"It was the first time I had physically felt the presence of God."
He lost all desire for cigarettes, ending a 12-year, two-pack-a-day habit.
Darci, meantime, had all but quit drinking and partying.
In 2001, Danny got a good job offer in Tulsa, and they moved to Broken Arrow, losing their close connection to their church and families.
"It was a stressful time," Danny said.
Two things remained unchanged after his baptism, he said: his addiction to eating and to gambling.
"I was a typical addict," he said, covering up his behavior and feeling guilty all the time.
"I had no idea he was gambling," Darci said.
His weight and his credit card debt continued to grow as he bet on horses and played poker online.
He estimated he lost about $120,000 gambling over 10 years.
As his weight increased, he suffered from sleep apnea and had to sleep in a recliner.
Financially and emotionally, they were bankrupt.
"It felt like we were roommates," said Darci, who was battling anxiety and depression.
Her hair began to fall out in chunks, a condition her doctor said was stress-related.
"I was mad at God in my heart, but I would never express it," she said.
Darci met regularly with a group of women for prayer. They were worried about her and urged her to take better care of herself, and also to get to the bottom of why they were always broke because Danny worked hard and made good money.
Against Danny's orders, she privately looked at their bills and discovered the gambling.
When she confronted him, he said he would quit and refused to talk further about it.
He did quit, but his weight ballooned to more than 400 pounds.
One of her prayer partners said Danny should get on the "Biggest Loser" show, and they all began to pray for that, she said.
"He's going to win it," the woman said.
Danny began to watch the show.
"God gripped my heart," he said, "asking me, 'When's the last time you challenged yourself?' "
"I'm an athlete," he told himself, a player on a state champion Midwest City high school football team.
He told Darci, "I think I could be on that show."
Danny went through the long application process and was turned down.
The next season, he applied again but was rejected near the end of the selection process.
The following season, Danny was accepted, and he went on to win the contest and the $250,000 prize.
He told Jay Leno the first thing they wanted to do with the money was replace their old, stained carpet.
Besides Leno, Danny appeared on the "Today" show, "Live with Regis & Kelly" and dozens of other television shows and has been in numerous publications, including People magazine and The New York Times.
Still trim, he now makes a living giving inspirational, motivational talks for churches, businesses and organizations.
"It's never been about me. It's about helping people," he said.
"I tell people that God has a plan for your life, but you don't always see the plan.
"God has a way out of addiction."
Darci said her heart is "for the hurting Christians in the church who feel they aren't living up to God's standard.
"People have to be transparent with God, no matter where they are in their lives," she said.
The Cahills' book:
"Losing Big, the Incredible Untold Story of Danny & Darci Cahill"
Harrison House Publishing
Available at Mardels, Barnes and Noble, and tulsaworld.com/dannycahill.
Original Print Headline: 'Biggest Loser' credits God
Bill Sherman 918-581-8398
Danny and Darci Cahill talk about their marriage struggles in their new book. Bill Sherman/Tulsa World
Danny Cahill was winner of season eight of "The Biggest Loser." Courtesy