NEW YORK - Erik Chopin, who dropped 214 pounds to win NBC's "The Biggest Loser," was prepared to undergo surgery to slim down before he was chosen for the weight-loss competition.
"That's how hopeless I felt," Chopin, a family man and deli owner from West Islip, N.Y., told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday. "I felt like I needed to go for the surgery but, really, I'm so glad I didn't. ... I knew the whole time, I honestly knew, I was copping out, I was quitting."
He added: "Now, there's no stopping me."
Chopin, who weighed 407 pounds at the start of "The Biggest Loser," said he had considered gastric band surgery to shrink his stomach.
Instead, he went to a weight-loss ranch in California to film the reality show with 49 other contestants. On the finale earlier this week, he weighed in at 193 pounds to win the title and the $250,000 grand prize.
"It's surreal. I'm on top of the world," he told the AP. "It was such a long journey, probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. But it's just so rewarding. I'm getting paid now for something I needed to do. You know, I needed to get healthy."
Chopin, 36, was diagnosed with diabetes and other obesity-related problems while on "The Bigger Loser."
"Everything fits great and I'm comfortable and I need to stay right here," he said.
Chopin said he'll continue to run Emma's Delicatessen and will use his prize money to "pay some bills" - and maybe get a new car. Another plan is a long-delayed trip to Disneyworld with his wife and two daughters.
"I see a big guy somewhere and in my mind I'm not critical of him," he said. "I'm more like, `I need to help this person.' I like to help them, because I know what it's like and how awful it feels to be obese. And I was morbidly obese."
NBC is owned by the General Electric Co.
On the Net:
"The Biggest Loser": http://www.nbc.com/The_Biggest_Loser/