July 16, 2007 12:00 PM

AFTER

HE LOST 214 LBS.

THEN SURGERY TOOK OFF 12 LBS.

“HOW’S YOUR SKIN?” The question came with annoying regularity, right after people congratulated Erik Chopin on shedding 214 lbs. to win NBC’s The Biggest Loser in 2006. “I think they wanted me to say, ‘No, there’s no skin,'” says Chopin, 37. In fact, he still had enough extra flesh to cover his old 407-lb. self. To his dismay he learned that even if your body shrinks, your skin doesn’t. “I’d worked so hard and still had apprehension when I took my shirt off at the beach,” says the Long Island deli owner. For a guy who deserved to feel great—he’s kept up running five miles five times a week—he didn’t. The skin “flops against you when you jog.”

So Chopin flew to L.A. to see plastic surgeon Andre Aboolian. “Everything was there, just covered,” Dr. Aboolian says of Chopin’s hard-won muscles. His prescription: a full body-lift ($35,000, though Chopin got a discount). During the eight-hour surgery, Aboolian cut all the way around Chopin’s torso. Any skin below that line was pulled up; the excess, some 12 lbs., was removed. Even with a 360-degree scar, Chopin, now 225 lbs. (more “realistic” than his winning weight of 193), has no regrets: “This makes the journey complete.”

Almost. The last leg of his victory tour took him to Mexico for a June reunion with Loser pals Brian Starkey and Bobby Moore. He strutted the sand shirtless, showing off a nascent six-pack. Jokes Chopin: “I was actually going to get on the plane without my shirt.”

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