'The Biggest Loser' 's Gina Haddon: I Put Myself First Now

"I would feel guilty if I decided to do anything for myself. I couldn't validate spending money or time on myself," the mother of two tells PEOPLE

Photo: Trae Patton/NBC

As a wife and mother of two, Gina Haddon always put herself last.

“I just thought that that’s what you did as a mother, you put your stuff to the side and you did everything for your children,” the Biggest Loser contestant tells PEOPLE. “I would feel guilty if I decided to do anything for myself. I couldn’t validate spending money or time on myself.”

Before Haddon, 41, became a contestant on season 16 of the NBC reality weight-loss competition, she relegated herself to a life on the sidelines because of her weight.

“I have one of the most active families, but I would just be the photographer,” says Haddon, who weighed 242 lbs. when she arrived at the ranch. “I took up photography because I needed an excuse to not have to get on the other side of the fence. I was fearful I would be embarrassed.”

And although Haddon was eliminated from the show on Thursday, she is continuing to make great strides as she loses weight at home with her family in Rowlett, Texas.

“Now I don’t even pick up the camera,” says the makeup artist, who has lost a total 65 lbs. and currently weighs in at 177 lbs.

“My husband had always wanted me to participate and now we golf. We mountain bike. My whole perception of life has changed.”

Haddon says she gets up every morning at 3:15 to do a boot camp class before starting her day and is at another class at the gym every evening – even if that means missing some of her daughter’s cheerleading events.

“A football game conflicted with one of my spin classes, but I still made it to the second half of the game,” she says. “And the world did not come to an end. She was fine with it.”

Not that Haddon has forgone all her motherly duties.

“I still believe that a mom should be at her child’s functions. I’m still that mom. I’m still that cheerleader,” she says. “But I’ve just realized that if I don’t take care of myself, then no one is. I want to be around and cheer for them and their kids – my grandkids – so I have to be healthy.”

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