You can reach even the loftiest of goals. You just have to want it enough. That means persevering — believing in yourself and knowing you deserve to win — even when people tell you “no.”

Just ask Jessica Delfs. A 2001 graduate from Pusch Ridge Christian Academy, Delfs heard her share of “no’s” when she auditioned for “The Biggest Loser.” It wasn’t until the third go-around that she heard the magic word “yes.”

Last week, Delfs shared her experiences on the most recent season of the hit reality TV show with students and staff at Marana Middle School.

The 27-year-old told the students and staff how she reached her highest weight of 385 at the age of 23. She underwent lap-band surgery and lost 100 pounds, but then hit a plateau; the extra poundage told her “no” and refused to budge. Frustrated that her weight prevented her from doing the things she wanted to do, her mood lifted when she heard “ The Biggest Loser” was accepting auditions for its eighth season.

Earning a spot on the show wasn’t easy. Producers told her “no” after her first tryout and again after the second. Reluctantly, she auditioned for a third time and made it on for season 10. While on the show, she lost almost another 100 pounds.

The reality-based television show takes people who are overweight and puts them though a strenuous workout and diet routine. Along the way, people are eliminated. The contestant who loses the greatest percentage of body weight at the end of the competition earns the title of “The Biggest Loser.”

Though Delfs did not win, she came out better on the other side.

“It’s like someone opened this magic door,” Delfs recalled about the experience. “It’s almost like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ in a way, where someone gave me a key and I opened this door, and there’s this world that I didn’t even really know was out there. Now that I know that world is out there, I am more excited about life. I’m more confident that I am going to achieve bigger and better goals that I didn’t even think were close to being achievable.”

Before losing nearly 200 pounds, Delfs said her friends didn’t invite her to do active things like hiking or bike riding. She speculated they didn’t because either they thought she wouldn’t be interested or couldn’t keep up.

“I think there is that misconception, sometimes, that when you’re overweight you just sit around and stuff your face all the time, and that’s not the case all the time,” Delfs said after her speech to the kids. “Sure, there are those people, but that wasn’t me. I was very active. I was running a business, I was teaching.”

Marana students like eighth-grader Courtney Torgrude, 13, watch “The Biggest Loser” all of the time.

“She is just awesome,” Torgrude said about Delfs, her favorite contestant on the show. “She works hard all of the time. I just want to be like her!”

During Delfs visit to Marana Middle School, she educated the students about how to make healthier choices when it comes to eating. It was an important message because she felt the season she appeared on didn’t focus enough on eating.

She asked the students, “Who here likes McDonalds?” to which almost every student raised their hands. She compared the number of calories in a Big Mac meal to that of their total daily caloric intake. For Delfs, the Big Mac meal had more calories than the number a female adult should eat in one day, let alone one meal.

While she didn’t tell the students to omit junk food all together, she did suggest other healthier choices. Like substituting two steak soft tacos for one Beef Baja Chalupa from Taco Bell. Or instead of ordering one small scoop of ice cream from Baskin Robins, she suggested the students satisfy their sweat cravings at a frozen yogurt store for half the calories.

“The choices you make today shape your future,” Delfs said. “I want you to make great goals now and make even bigger and better ones down the line.”

Marana physical education program

“The Biggest Loser” contestant Jessica Delfs spoke to Marana Middle School students on the heels of a grant the school received to revamp its physical education program.

The school is putting a $647,432 federal grant to its intended use: helping students get on board mentally and physically with a new approach to a healthier lifestyle.

Obtaining the Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant was spearheaded by physical education teacher Amy Corner, who is now halfway into her third year at the school.

“Currently, we grade on attendance, participation and dressing out,” Corner said. “Some of the things we are looking to change are to teach the kids how to, and to have them, implement a personal physical activity planner. We want them to write their own goals, to write their own workout, and they’ll have the equipment that they can actually do it on.”

Corner also wants the students to be able to choose which activities they want to participate in, be involved with stress-reduction related instruction and to do some form of fitness-related community service, like walking for cancer or cleaning someone’s yard.

With more than a half-million dollars, Corner said the school will hire a new physical education teacher, re-outfit the weight room with new equipment, install a new cardio room and construct a climbing wall. The school also will purchase indoor rowing, elliptical, stair climbing, biking and numerous other machines, as well as a boxing bag, football and soccer balls, basketballs, hockey sticks, tennis rackets, lacrosse sticks and softballs.

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