"The Biggest Loser" returns to television with one of the biggest Long Islanders: Domenico Brugellis, who tipped the scales at 323 pounds when cast in the weight-loss competition, now on cable's USA Network after 17 seasons on NBC. The season premiere airs Tuesday at 9 p.m.
"The heaviest I hit in my life was 390," says Brugellis, 35, who was born, raised and continues to live in Elmont. Becoming that heavy “happens through stress and emotional eating, if you’re unhappy with yourself," he says. "People look in the mirror and they're not happy with themselves and they just keep eating and eating and eating" until it becomes a vicious circle. "How can you say, 'I'm comfortable in my body' when you can barely make it huffing and puffing up the stairs or you can't run around the park with your daughter? You know, obesity is really linked with depression."
Brugellis, the son of Antonio and Rosemarie Brugellis, attended elementary school in Elmont and graduated from Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park in 2003. He obtained a degree from the Culinary Institute of America in upstate Hyde Park and worked as a line cook before eventually becoming a sous chef at Volpe in Woodbury. From 2014 to 2016, he was owner-manager of George's Place, a Greek-American takeout restaurant in Hicksville. Various sales jobs followed.
He and his former significant other, who together had daughter Alessia, now 6, had once applied for a couples edition of "The Biggest Loser." "Before she got pregnant, there was an opportunity, so I had an interview with one of the casting producers and she really liked me," Brugellis says. "I remember having a strong opportunity to get on the show. But my daughter's mom was kind of camera-shy. She doesn't like her personal life out there, so she didn't want to do it."
Then sometime last year, "I was coming home from the gym and I saw that the show was coming back, and I was like, 'Wow, this is my opportunity.' " He found the casting notice on Facebook and applied. "I think maybe the next day someone got back to me and from then on it was a process" that eventually landed him a spot among the dozen men and women working with two trainers and others in a race to lose the most weight.
He felt so strongly about the benefits of being on the show that he quit his job as a food manager with the New York City Department of Education. "I didn't have any time built up with the city, so in order for me to go on I had to resign, because I wanted this opportunity so badly," says Brugellis, whose long-term goal is to be "a working actor. I know that it's a tough business, but I'm going to pursue that dream."
His other goal, he says, is to find a way to inspire others who are like him.