For Utahn Bruce Pitcher, going on “Extreme Weight Loss” was a life-changing experience. Not just because he lost a massive amount of weight, but because he confronted his troubled past and came out the other side feeling great.
“Extreme Weight Loss” is different from shows like “The Biggest Loser.” It’s not a competition. It’s a documentary of a yearlong process of diet and exercise.
And, in Pitcher’s case, of dealing with what he describes as childhood sexual abuse by his father.
“It’s not just about the weight loss,” he said. (You’ll have to watch the two-hour episode that features him to find out exactly how many pounds he lost.) “It really is true transformation — to mentally change yourself. That’s why it’s a whole year. That’s why it’s not just three months or six months, but it’s a whole year to really transform mentally and physically.”
While losing an enormous amount of weight was tough, confronting his father was tougher. “No question,” Pitcher said.
In 1999, his father, Danny L. Pitcher — a youth football coach in Utah County — was convicted of a long list of charges stemming from his abuse of members of his team. Bruce Pitcher says he was another of his father’s victims, although that is not one of the crimes with which Danny Pitcher was charged.
Bruce Pitcher, a former football player and coach at Timpview High and assistant coach at Orem High, never dealt with the abuse. And when he’s challenged by trainer Chris Powell to finally confront his father, Pitcher balks.
“There was no way I was going to do that,” he said. “But as the year went on … I was, like, ‘You know what? This is what I need to do. This isn’t just about me. This is about everybody else that’s ever been a victim of it. That was the main goal and purpose for it all.
“When you get an opportunity like this, you have to pay it forward. And I feel like that’s a step in the right direction to pay it forward.”
It’s one thing to watch the 29-year-old struggle to lose weight. It’s something entirely different to watch him attend his father’s parole hearing and gather the courage to address the parole board. To even be in the same room as his father.
“Bruce carried around the guilt of his silence for years,” Powell says in the episode, “and this is finally his opportunity to take a stand.”
It was a big moment for a man who once attempted suicide because of what happened to him. It’s an incredibly emotional experience for viewers to see Pitcher shaking the first time he’s in the same room as his father at the parole hearing.
“Bruce couldn’t escape his past,” Powell says. “I mean, sitting directly in front of him is his father, who abused him for the majority of his life, And sitting two rows behind him is his dad’s whole side of the family — just sitting there glaring at him.”
But that hearing was a turning point, not just for Pitcher but for his family.
“Oh, no question. The parole hearing was one of the biggest steps for our family,” Pitcher said. “We didn’t ever have a discussion about what had happened years ago until this opportunity happened. We had a family discussion about it. It really was just so powerful.”
Pitcher’s incredible optimism is hard to believe at times. He hopes his episode of “Extreme Weight Loss” proves inspirational. And he wants viewers to come away believing, “No matter what your struggles are or no matter what happens to you in your life, to look at it like — that was a blessing because that is what made me who I am. That’s the way I look at it. I don’t ever want to play the victim card.
“I want people sitting at home that have been through way worse experiences to say, ‘You know what? It was a blessing that this has happened to me. I’ve kept fighting, and I’m still a success. And the sky’s the limit.’ That’s the message I hope they get.”
And he insists he really can look back at his history and make something good come from it.
“It’s been a tough struggle,” Pitcher said. “But this year has helped me realize that if that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be able to speak in front of hundreds of people. It’s just amazing how it’s all come around. That’s my trial that I dealt with.”
P The episode of “Extreme Weight Loss” featuring Bruce Pitcher airs Tuesday from 7-9 p.m. on ABC/Channel 4.