Pittsford teen Sunny Chandrasekar to be featured on 'Biggest Loser' finale
05:00 AM, Mar 18, 2013
Pittsford resident Sunny Chandrasekar has blossomed in front of America.
One of three teen ambassadors on NBC’s The Biggest Loser , Chandrasekar has become a role model and inspiration for children nationwide as the show addressed childhood obesity for the first time as an addition to its adult weight loss contest.
Chandrasekar, 17, will be part of the show’s live two-hour finale at 8 p.m. Monday on NBC, WHEC-TV (Channel 10). Under her agreement with the show, she could not talk about how many pounds she has lost until after the reveal.
Her journey began in September, when she first visited the ranch and was paired with the show’s star, Jillian Michaels, as a mentor.
“I’m more energized, happier, healthier and more comfortable with myself,” said Chandrasekar, a junior at Pittsford Sutherland High School.
Before taking control of her habits, Chandrasekar said she ate mindlessly, often while studying. She has altered her diet, stopped snacking and made exercise and taking care of herself a priority and part of her daily routine.
“Sunny hasn’t changed,” said Lynne Drake, a school counselor at Pittsford Sutherland. “But she is healthier, more confident and is blossoming as a young woman. All of those traits were there before, but this process has made her more confident in herself.”
She’s also making choices based her interests and goals, rather than focusing on what’s expected of her, Drake said.
Born in India, Chandrasekar spent several years in the Rochester region, then five years in Melbourne, Australia, before her family moved to Pittsford in 2010. An only child, Chandrasekar said her quest led her to address difficult topics with her parents Subramanian and Shanthi Chandrasekar.
“We addressed issues that needed to be discussed, and because of that, our relationship is stronger than ever,” she said. “We’re all getting healthy together and we’re all better for it. I’m so proud of them”
The family used to sit at home most evenings, even though they belonged to a local health club, Shanthi Chandrasekar said. “Now we go, and it’s much more refreshing.”
Since September, the Chandrasekar family has exercised daily at a local YMCA branch. Chandrasekar lifts weights, runs on the treadmill and uses other cardio machines. Occasionally, she takes yoga and zumba classes and, when weather permits, jogs along the Erie Canal.
Michaels, known for her no-nonsense, tough-as-nails approach to whip the adult contestants into shape, said via email that Chandrasekar has improved her fitness level tremendously in the past few months.
She eats healthier and is more active, Michaels said, “but in particular, the bravery she has shown in confronting her family and baring her soul to America has been deeply inspiring.”
“She has brought a new, fresh energy to the show and has not only motivated adults with her commitment and dedication, but has also demonstrated to her peers that change is possible,” Michaels said.
Chandrasekar said enjoyed working with Michaels. “She’s different in training the kids than how she treats the adult contestants,” Chandrasekar said. “I felt like I was in good hands.”
Just a few simple changes make a difference, Chandrasekar said. Swap carrot sticks for chips, add an hour of physical activity to each day, and know that its worth the effort.
Over the summer, Chandrasekar applied to be a Biggest Loser teen ambassador and was selected in the fall along with 13-year-olds Biingo Gray of New Windsor, Md., and Lindsay Bravo of Fillmore, Calif.
As a result, Chandrasekar, an honor roll student, said she missed “a lot” of her junior year. She said her teachers and classmates have been supportive and her grades remained strong during filming, which ended in January.
“She’s a conscientious student, independent and a hard worker,” said Drake, her counselor. “I was thrilled for her. This was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Her classes would still be here next year.”
The experience was a challenge, but Chandrasekar said she focused on her goal of a healthy future. Next, she will prepare for her SATs and getting into college.
As a member of the Pittsford Sutherland’s varsity tennis team, Chandrasekar said she’s also excited to see how the training will transform her swing next season.
And last fall, she won a $5,000 grant for her high school, which according to district officials was used to buy physical education equipment.
The Chandrasekar family traveled to Los Angeles last week for Monday’s finale, when the participants reveal a joint overall weight loss of more than 1,600 pounds, according to NBC.
For the live show, all three teens will be center stage.
“Childhood obesity is a huge problem in this country,” Chandrasekar said, adding that she thought NBC spotlighted the issue, which many people won’t discuss.
“If I can do it, they can do it too,” she said.