By Bill Bradley, contributing editor
But the way he sees it, he's no loser because of the way the NBC reality series changed his life, mentally and physically.
"I was going to die if I didn't change," the 47-year-old Mitchell said Friday during a conference call. "I knew I had to change. It was getting the knowledge of how to change. There were things I didn't realize. I was eating almost 1,500 calories in just breakfast alone. ...
"Then surrounding myself in an environment with friends who can really help me and succeed. It's not just my willpower alone, but I got great support from family and friends. You kind of have to remove yourself from people and situations that are going to entice you not to do this. It's more than just your willpower. It's having other factors involved and recognizing how to put a plan in place."
Mitchell, who mainly played for the Miami Dolphins and the Detroit Lions during his 12-year NFL career, started this fall at 366 pounds and he finished the show at 240 pounds. He was eliminated from the taped series when he needed to lose five pounds for this week's episode and lost two pounds.
Former offensive lineman Damien Woody, who played for the New England Patriots, Detroit Lions and New York Jets, also participated this season, losing 107 pounds before he was eliminated a few weeks ago.
Mitchell said he received numerous well-wishes from former and current players after participating in the 16th season of the series. But those players were the reason he originally was hesitant about appearing on "The Biggest Loser."
"That was one of my biggest concerns coming on the show -- my peers," he said. "You compete at this high level among people and there's kind of this standard. I was so concerned that people would look at me and go, 'Oh my God. What a loser. He really didn't take care of himself.'
"That was not the reaction I got at all. People have just been so supportive about the fact that I was willing and had the courage to come and do this. That has really been the overriding them that I have seen from many of my former peers and friends and even contemporaries that I didn't know that well, saying 'It took a lot of guts to go and do that and we really appreciate that you're willing to show we all have problems in our life.'
"It meant a lot when the NFL players came on during the middle of the season. I spent quite a bit of time with (Hall of Fame wide receiver) Michael Irvin. We just had a real conversation that meant so much to me in this whole process."
During the September taping of the series, Mitchell told NFL Evolution that his father's death gave him the motivation to take the televised challenge.
"The hardest part for me was just being willing to go on a national show in public and be vulnerable and really let myself go. ... To open up emotionally and find out the reasons why I gained weight," said Mitchell. "That was a huge obstacle for me to overcome.
"I didn't want to be on the show initially when it was introduced to me. Just overcoming that and opening myself up to getting to the root of why I gained weight was important."
Mitchell said that, although his run on the series is over, he has maintained a healthy lifestyle. For instance, he said he recently had to take his truck into an auto shop for brake repairs. Instead of taking a courtesy ride or sitting in the waiting room, he ran seven miles back to his house.
"I would have never done that in the past," he said. "I've kind of turned exercise into an enjoyable thing.
"With food, I really caught onto very early (on the series) how to make healthy food taste great. I've learned these tricks about making egg whites amazing. ... I've kind of taken on this challenge of figuring out how to make these things that were hard for me taste good. ... I don't struggle with eating terrible. It's because I've changed in my mind how to do it along with having a support system."
As for other former NFL players worried about their weight, Mitchell said they need to find motivation to be healthy and overcome some of the league's macho culture.
"We live in a world of former athletes and the environment that I was in where you can't show weakness to your competition, weakness to your bosses. In this league, you have to appear almost to be perfect," he said. "You almost have to a little bit of humble pie, which has no calories in it by the way. You have to be willing to admit, 'I can't do this by myself. I'm not invincible. It's going to ultimately impact my life in a very significant way.'
"When I got on the show, I thought it was all about my physical health. I very quickly found out it was about my emotional health. That I really shut myself down emotionally and I was missing out on so much, whether it was my relationship with my wife or my kids or finding these simple beautiful joys in life. ... By opening yourself up emotionally, you can see and really appreciate all of these things."