April 29, 2010 12:00 AM

On this week’s heart-wrenching episode of The Biggest Loser, O’Neal Hampton asked fellow contestants to send him home after both he and his daughter Sunshine fell below the yellow line. O’Neal — who lost 139 lbs. on the show — talked to reporters about watching his daughter gain independence during the competition, the challenges facing him at home in Minneapolis, and the death of his brother while he was on the Ranch.

What’s the hardest part about being home? This is where the hard work starts. I’m telling you, the beat-downs that Bob and Jillian gave us in that gym and sticking to the right nutrition, eating the right food — it’s paled in comparison to being here, driving and the convenience of everything. Everything we know in our society and our life is set up for convenience, but when you take the time to be healthy, it’s so much more worth it. That’s the hardest adjustment about being home — not falling to the ways of the convenience and doing the things that will make it convenient for you to live longer.

Your send-off was especially emotional because you offered yourself as a sacrifice so Sunshine could stay. What was that like?I always tried to make it crystal clear that if I ever fell below the yellow line with Sunshine, I would definitely want to go before she. Really, I was a father first and a contestant second. Falling below the line with her and having to leave was a bittersweet thing. The bitterness was the fact that I had to leave, and the sweet part was that it was me instead of her.

Throughout this season, we have seen Sunshine really grow in her independence and self-love. What did you notice about her progression and how do you feel about it?I’ve seen her change in that time on the show more than I have seen her change in the 24 years she’s been in my life. It was the most significant change. These changes that she made on the Ranch are the changes that are going to catapult her into the next half of her life.

How did you and Sunshine deal with the passing of your brother while you were on the Ranch?It was a very emotional thing because I didn’t know, going to the Ranch, that my brother had cancer. I didn’t know he had passed because he didn’t want us to know … Because of the unselfish love that my brother had, he wanted to make sure that me and Sunshine continued our journey. They said that he knew that we were going through this and he didn’t want any interruptions. He didn’t want us to have any excuses to not have us finish what we were doing.

How has your knee been holding up with all of the exercise?My knee is very bad — it’s bone on bone, and I’m definitely going to get it replaced after this whole process is over. But my desire to change far outweighed the pain in my knee. When I fell building that tower, they did an MRI on my knee, and they saw how bad it was, they were just shocked. They said, “O’Neal, we don’t know how you’re in this game, we don’t know how you’re exercising daily.” But it has nothing to do with my desire to change.


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