The Biggest Loser season 16 premiered Thursday night with 20 new contestants, two new trainers (Jessie Pavelka and Jennifer Widerstrom) and a new element called Comeback Canyon with Bob Harper.

Zina Garrison was the first contestant to be eliminated from season 16. I spoke with her today during a conference call with reporters, where she talked about not being able to finish the first challenge, Comeback Canyon, Bob Harper, the new trainers and what she learned the most during her time on the show.

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The Beach Volleyball Challenge — Trying to Get to Jessie

The first challenge of the season saw the contestants playing a Biggest Loser version of beach volleyball.

It eventually came down to three, with only one spot left. Zina was almost there, but wasn’t able to finish. I asked her what she was thinking during that moment. “I remember looking over and seeing Jessie and just trying my best to get to him,” she said.

“At that point in my mind, I tried every trick that I could possibly do — do it for yourself, do it for your sister, do it for the kids. And I looked over and I noticed that the hoop I needed to put the ball in was way to the right, and I kept hearing everybody say, don’t let the ball fall! … I took one look, and the next thing I knew, the doctors were around me.”

Zina really wanted to be on Jessie’s team. When I asked her why, she exclaimed, “He’s gorgeous!” while laughing. “I was really trying to get to Jessie. After the first workout, I really gelled with him.”

Comeback Canyon with Bob Harper

After coming in last, Zina and Vanessa were send home — or so they thought. Bob Harper surprised them with Comeback Canyon, where eliminated contestants will have a chance at returning to the competition.

Zina was extremely excited at being given a second chance, especially since she would be trained by none other than Bob. She didn’t watch The Biggest Loser that much before, but she did know who he was. “Bob was the one who really helped me with the whole, ‘Zina, you gotta let go of some control,’ in order for them to be able to do their job.”

She also revealed that she bonded not only with the other contestants, despite being in the house for only one day, but also with trainers Jessie and Jennifer. “I talk with them on a regular basis. We text back and forth. And Jen and I have really hit it off. She was really into the fact that I was a strong woman that broke a lot of barriers.” She went on to say, “I think she has such a warm spirit and she can really help a lot of women.”

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What Did Zina Learn the Most?

All of the contestants this season are former athletes trying to reclaim their glory days. For Zina, she was a tennis player, having won numerous titles and medals during her career on the court. After retiring, she was a coach at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, and currently is a coach for Taylor Townsend and others.

Something that Zina has learned from being on The Biggest Loser is to take time for herself. She’s always trying to help others, and as a coach she loves motivating people. But through this journey, she has realized that she needs to put herself first so that she can then help others. “It’s kind of like that saying, you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else — it’s the same thing.” This area of growth has been really insightful for her because “I am probably learning to do that for the first time in my life.”

As a coach, Zina’s used to being in control, so she’s also learned to rely on the professionals. Along with this, focusing on portion control has been key. When she was an athlete, she ate pretty much whatever she wanted. So that self-control and learning about portion size has been one of the most important things she’s learned.

The Biggest Loser airs Thursdays at 8pm on NBC.

(Image courtesy of NBC)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.