Nancy Rajala before (left) and after
02/03/2012 at 08:00 AM EST
Tensions were high in the Biggest Loser
elimination room Tuesday after a polarizing teammate secured himself immunity, and Nancy Rajala was the one who paid the price for his victory.
"I had always expressed to everybody that if I have to go, it's okay. I'll be fine," Rajala, 63, told reporters Wednesday.
The contestants got emotional as the red team said goodbye to the retired grandmother, but things got heated when new team member Adrian Dortch interrupted the ceremony.
"I know [Adrian's] heart was in the right place," Rajala said of the new, outspoken contestant. "He really hated to see me go but it was the time. I just wanted to have my moment with all of the people that I loved being with and say goodbye to them."
And Rajala had goodbyes prepared for everyone. In fact, every week before eliminations she wrote letters to not only her fellow contestants but also her trainer Dolvett Quince as well as the filming crew.
"The people that are behind the scenes, nobody hears their name or sees them and I wanted to write them a thank you letter," she explained. "They're what makes the show."
Rajala – a mother to 13 and grandmother to 55 – believes putting everyone else's needs before her own caused her to gain weight in the first place and gave her the mentality that "I was the weakest link because of my age and not having these huge numbers [on the scale]."
But during her five weeks on the Ranch she gained the confidence necessary to motivate herself in the gym.
"I think part of my journey was learning how to feel like I deserved to be first once in a while," she said.
Unfortunately, the timing of her elimination made Rajala's return to Fowlerville, Mich., more difficult – she went home two days before Thanksgiving.
"When I got off that plane I had probably 50 people that were going to have Thanksgiving at my house," she explained. "They were going to have it at my house without me – they just didn't realize I would be voted out that week."
Then came the holiday shopping season. And with such a large family, shopping took up a large part of her days.
"I bought 83 gifts between Thanksgiving and Christmas," she said. "Plus getting my house back in order because we have Christmas Eve parties."
But Rajala says she has managed to lose weight every week since returning home and has now lost a total of 45 lbs.
"I had to work in exercise, shopping and getting food in the fridge that was organic and healthy," she said. "You have to find that fire in you, that burning desire that you really want to do this." Not the easiest task back at home.
"You kind of shut down a bit mentally," she said. "But all of a sudden I got that fire, that pop, that fizz back that I had years ago that I can do this. I can do this!"