updated 11/10/2011 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 11/12/2011 AT 8:30 AM ET
When it comes to staying physically fit, tennis sensation Anna Kournikova is an expert. But Biggest Loser contestant Joe Mitchell, who was sent home from the Ranch on this week’s show, says he’s grateful to Kournikova because she was able to “fix my thinking.”
“Anna made me believe that I could [lose weight],” he says. “She drilled in our heads that the only person you can really rely on is yourself.”
Now back home in Knoxville, Tenn., Mitchell, 46, says he holds no hard feelings for fellow contestants Vinny Hickerson and Antone Davis, who voted for his exit. “I don’t hold grudges,” he says. “I was a threat and I understand that.”
But Mitchell does have regrets: helping send home Jessica Limpert. “I would change that vote,” he says. “The first person that I talked to when I got off the Ranch was Jess. I consider Jess and Ramone [Medeiros] some of my dearest friends. I am excited for their future.”
Helping to ease his at-home transition, Mitchell, who weighed in at 348 lbs. and was down to 269 lbs. at the time of his elimination, documents his meals and says the hardest part about staying disciplined is planning ahead.
“I plan my day before it begins so I don’t have to make quick decisions about what to eat,” he says.
But he still allows himself to indulge in frozen yogurt. “And I had a piece of cake at my son’s birthday party,” he says. “But I planned for it. I got in an extra five to ten minutes of cardio in so I could enjoy the cake and not feel guilty.”
Now, simple pleasures like playing tennis with his daughter, going for walks with his wife, and being able jump out of bed in the morning to play with his 3-year-old son are no longer a burden.
“It used to take me 10 minutes when I woke up before I could get moving because my joints hurt,” he says. “I’ve gotten my life back!”