Since she's returned home to Bartlett, Maria Ventrella works out at her Bloomingdale gym, flanked by an entourage of her son's friends.
"I'm out with these young guys, but I keep up with them," she said. "I feel pretty good."
The 52-year-old full-time corporate travel agent was eliminated on Tuesday's episode of NBC's "The Biggest Loser." She began the show at 281 pounds and lost 23 pounds over two weeks. Before that, she never had exercised.
Her son, Michael, 31, remains on the show, trying to continue to shed weight from his former 526-pound frame. Over Season 9's three episodes, he's dropped 45 pounds.
Maria Ventrella still is agitated at criticism show contestants leveled at her son. They said he wasn't working hard enough after he lost 10 pounds between the first and second weeks, a steep decrease from his loss the first week.
"I know for a fact Michael was working hard enough - you don't lose 10 pounds by doing nothing," she said.
She worried at first that her son would fall behind without her on the show due to his depression. But on Wednesday she said the show's transformed him physically and mentally. She expects to see him make it to the show's finale and compete in the marathon.
Meanwhile, Ventrella has adapted to life back in Bartlett. She attributed her unhealthy lifestyle to not carving enough time in her schedule. She's the chief caretaker of her disabled mother and helps her husband who walks with a cane. But the show taught her to make time for herself and to live her life completely, she said.
She's also inspired friends and family; her husband has lost 43 pounds. She praised the show's staff including trainers Jillian Michaels, Bob Harper and Dr. Rob Huzienga.
"Losing weight, drastically - the way we are - you need the best to help you," Ventrella said. "Without that, you'd never be able to succeed."
Before appearing on the show, Ventrella feared water and didn't know how to swim. She's since faced her fear. Now swimming is a regular part of her workout routine.
Ventrella's Italian heritage tempted her with diet disrupters like pizza and pasta. She said the show taught her to substitute ingredients in recipes to maintain taste and nutrition. Her favorite? Using ground chickpeas in place of bread crumbs when making meatballs.