tonight on "nightline" -- from melissa mccarthy to rebel wilson there is a new size of celebrity being welcomed in hollywood. but this holiday season, many largers americans still feel uncomfortable at the gym. tonight we take you to the plus-sized sanctuary where any one can fit in. right now this ship is stuck with 74 on board. with the clock ticking. rescuers race to the bottom of the world. how did this antarctica adventure turn into a holiday in ice. >> a blizzard. lost all communications, didn't we, girl? >> we sure did. >> and into the fire. a trapped driver unconscious
good evening, thank you for joining us. this holiday season, lots of us are already wondering how and when we ate so much. and in just a few days new year's resolutions will send millions back to the gym. will they all feel welcome there? for many overweight americans, the answer is no. tonight, we meet the man behind a special workout facility where it is just the size of your commitment that matters. here's abc's alex perez with a very special story. >> reporter: in a culture that values thin, the controversy rages on.
>> there we go, big smile. >> reporter: from plus-sized models posing for the cameras to actresses lena dunham bearing it all in "girls." >> i feel like i can't keep my mouth shut. >> reporter: rebel wilson tweets about cupcake hangovers while melissa mccarthy graced the cover of "elle," though fans complained she had to cover up too much. plus sized is going mainstream with marketing cute clothes to big girls. >> in today's world when there are positive role models, adele, melissa mccarthy from "bridesmaids." >> "vogue" magazine notorious for featuring paper thin figures, featured kate upton on the cover. is there still real shame in being overweight? for chris, sharon, louis, and david, the answer is yes.
they are all here at down size fitness. >> 15 seconds. >> reporter: a chicago gym where membership is reserved for the overeight only. >> there is a need for a place that heavy people need to go and concentrate on losing weight. >> reporter: they're all self-described outcasts from the mainstream gym scene. >> there is not a culture of acceptance in america for overeight people. you can still discriminate based on size. >> reporter: down size fitness is part of the national argument. are overweight people still treated differently. one hot button issue, overweight airline passengers should they have to buy an extra seat. this blogger says she was humiliated by a southwest airlines gate agent in 2011. >> the gate agent came up to me and he began, asked me, how much i weighed. he said that i was too fat to fly. that i would need an additional seat. >> sharon has also felt the pain of harsh stares and ridicule.
she joined down size fitness last year. starting weight, 376. and still reeling from the sting with a bad experience of a personal trainer at a mainstream gym. >> i don't know if she was afraid of training a fat person. all i was able to do was sit in the corner and work on the treadmill. made me feel like a pariah, i didn't belong there. tie was allowed to join. >> reporter: in six months at down size fitness, sharon dropped 20 pounds. >> workouts are stressful. tiring. we ask people to come five times a week. we call people if they don't show up. >> reporter: they allow membership to those at least 50 pounds overweight. >> some argue you are segregating the obese people, why do they need to have their own gym? how do you respond to that? >> gyms are built for fit people to stay fit. i don't think they're built for fat people to get fit. in a way, seg regating, but fora
reason. >> reporter: goal weight, 225. lewis more than a year ago, starting weight, 310 pounds. th he tried to lose weight and was a member for 12 years paying $75. after one year he never went back. >> reporter: for 11 years you paid for a gym membership and never went. >> it wasn't something i was comfortable going into the gym. you are on your own. there is no one there how to help you. no one to explain what you should be doing. >> reporter: lewis has dropped 50 pounds in six months. his goal weight, 180. >> you are doing a lot of soy and fish. >> reporter: jennifer ventrel says the program works. is this a cop out in some ways. where does it ♪ do you start having grocery stores for big people? do you have bigger planes specifically for bigger people? all awe this is about making some one feel comfortable to
make the change. to engage in a healthy behavior. it's not, oh, it is okay that you are big. you can stay the way that you are. >> chris is their biggest success story yet. his first day, he weighed nearly 550 pounds. almost two years later, he has lost more than 250 pound, and hopes to get down to 190. >> like i said, the fear got the best of me. >> reporter: chris took me back to the his neighborhood and we retraced the half block walk that's eventually brought him to down size. >> i was like this. just trying to hold myself up. my back was hurting to much. >> reporter: now he is one of the most active members at the gym. his bmi has decreased by 35 points. and his body fat percentage is down 20%. a month ago he was part of of a group that completed a climb up the willis tower, more than 2,100 steps in 36 minutes. full disclosure, this is a battle i am all too familiar
with. when i was a teenager, i weighed 356 pounds. size 54 waist. it took me years of dieting and exercising, alone, before i was able to bring down my weight and live healthier. now having other whose understand the frustration of being obese helped. >> there is definite success here. people are losing a lot of weight and a great place to do it. >> for "nightline," alex perez, in chicago. >> alex and many other people in the piece, real inspiration as the new year is upon us. thank you, alex. >> next, rescue teams in a race against time for this antarctica adventure gone south. plus another dramatic rescue. this time as a car went up in flames. often for less. that's one smart board -- what else does it do, reverse gravity? [ laughs ] split atoms? [ flo chuckles ] [ whirring ] hey, how's that atom-splitting thing going?
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if you are into this sort of thing, a trip to retrace the trail of an early explorer would be a thrilling, icy adventure. it wasn't supposed to be this icy or thrilling. 74 modern day explorers on a ship facing the perils that haven't changed much with time. caught in a deep freeze, literally. gio benitez has the the story of the real-time rescue effort. >> reporter: it's not everyone's idea of a winter cruise, 74 people stranded on the antarctica ice on a ship, waiting for days to be rescued. the vessel hasn't moved for two days surrounded by sea ice. we can't get through.
>> reporter: with ice breaking ships like this one rushing through frozen sea to reach them. this group of explorers and tourists steam to be relishing every moment of their cruise turned misadventure. >> it continues here. drilling the ice. >> reporter: chris turney leading the expedition that set off on december 8th. >> sea ice -- >> reporter: from new zealand, sailing through some of the world's roughest waters to a frozen continent. >> wind speeds, 50 kilometers an hour, in excess of 70 kilometers an hour. >> reporter: their mission to retrace the route of early 20th century explorer, douglas mossin who charted antarctica, 100 years ago. >> a glorious day. exploring amidst the sea ice. we got up really close to this berg. >> reporter: five days into the trip. >> the expedition made it to the
ice. >> reporter: the voyage was going according to plan. >> we struggled with sea ice. bashed through. headed south. 65 degrees. >> reporter: this ramshackle hut is left over from mossin's time. >> just cleared the entrance to mossin any hut. let's go in and take a look. the cold preserved the artifacts from a century age the goal of the expedition was to repeat mossin's experiments to measure how the climate changed over the past century. >> storage area. that's the kitchen stove. food preparation area. >> reporter: at first, they were blessed by unusually good weather in one of the windiest places on earth. they made it off the antarctica coast into commonwealth bay. on christmas eve, conditions turned ugly. >> hit by a terrible blizzard and lost our communications
didn't we, nicole? >> sure did. >> reporter: the ship found itself trapped in the ice. >> at least it is not snowing. turney joining us on skype from the weather nightmare. you are battling weather conditions? >> very much so. misconception over here that things move at a glacier pace. everything looked all right. sudden leap t suddenly, swung in, instead of breezes we got strong easterly winds. the captain made a decision, christmas eve. realized we needed to send out an alert to help get us out again. >> we are in the ice. all the well. happy christmas. >> reporter: the team has been chronicling the journey on social media. >> minus 15 degrees. >> reporter: capturing dramatic winds. 70 kilometers an hour. for members, it was a christmas day like no other. they were determined not to let a little or a lot wind and ice
to dampen the holiday spirit. i saw the pictures of a christmas tree in a truf didne wonderland. >> you have seen it on a good day. >> reporter: the professor is keeping morale high. he knows when the extreme trips go bad. they don't always end well. >> we are constantly keeping an eye on, the, environmental conditions. seeing where things are. the captain, just rebalanced the ship. redistributing the fuel and walter in the ballast. just to keep the ship level. it could change at any moment. the important thing is to reassure family, friends, everyone is well. the ship is in no danger. everyone looking for ward to getting home and seeing loved ones again. >> reporter: in 2007, the "explorer" struck ice and sank off the coast of antarctica. 154 passengers and crew were left stranded in life boats before they could be rescued by a passing cruise ship.
the passengers aboard the australian antarctica had no illusions. >> the captain spoke to the french vessel. it sound like it might be here later this afternoon or early evening. 24-hour day light. a chinese ice breaker, "snow jacket" and australia vessel, which is following up behind that. an amazing international effort. very kindly helping get us out. >> meanwhile, extreme weather could make any effort lengthy and difficult. >> it's quite strong. and quite conditions. we have to wait and see. there is ample food on board. ice breaking ships are getting closer by the hour. a short while ago we heard on the bridge from the chinese ice breaker vessel, snow dragon. they're close. the bad news, the sea ice is 20
kilometers out from where we are now. a long way from where we first got locked into sea ice. >> they will have one great adventure story weight to be told when they make it back home. for "nightline," gio benitez, in new york. >> good to see they're in such good spirits. talk about a holiday hero. this guy reached into the fire to save a stranger moments before his car was engulfed in flames on christmas day! sign. then drive. get zero due at signing, zero down, zero deposit, and zero first month's payment on any new 2014 volkswagen. hurry, this offer ends january 2nd. visit vwdealer.com today
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incredible video of an l.a. motorist trapped in a burning vehicle, unconscious. he survives thanks to the kindness and bravery of strangers who pulled over on the highway. here's abc's correspondent. >> reporter: a terrific crash followed by a fiery blaze. >> oh, my god. >> reporter: a scene that most people would run from. >> i saw this car -- just veer into the -- into the retaining wall. right after the impact. it, it went all the way across all lanes of the 405. it looked to me like, a classic nascar type of collision. because of the speed was pretty high. it went all the way across. soon as it hit the rail, there was fire, fire just came from
the vehicle. >> there is nothing anybody can do, man. >> in what many are calling ate true christmas miracle, officer thompson didn't hesitate to help. >> managed to get my vehicle over. i jumped out of the car and ran to the car. and, i got to the door of the car. and i tried to open it. >> he found the driver unconscious with his seatbelt stuck. >> i started fumbling again. and, i just keep thinking, the heat, the heat. and i -- and the fire. and smoke. and i, i found that button. i hit the button. and soon as that belt released. it was just -- relief. it came. i was just relief. the button came off. i grabbed him. and i -- began pulling him out of the car. and he, he felt as if he only weighed one pound. he was so light. when i grabbed him. >> local actor drew gash among the witnesses. >> it was like four lanes of traffic. i didn't want to be, add to the
problem, get hit by a car. >> you juwanted to help? but couldn't? >> yeah. >> he may not have reached there in time any way. >> he jumped in. opened the car door. reached in there, grabbed this guy out. literally, not exaggerating, if that cop hadn't grabbed that guy, if he was 3 seconds behind, it would have been too late. >> reporter: officer thompson was assisted by a few passers-by and the officer needed help as well. the smoke and heat left him disoriented at the scene. >> he felt like a feather. soon as i got him out -- there was some good sa mare thmaritan, people grabbed him. people grabbed me. they pulled both of us over the k-rail. >> you risked your life? >> maybe. maybe not. i know his life was definitely -- right there. he was either going to live or
die. the opportunity was 10, 15 second, that's all he had. >> 10 second was all that officer thompson needed. everyone is calling you a hero today, do you feel that way? >> no. >> why? >> i just don't feel that way. if someone else did that for me, my family, wife, child. i would be the first in two call him a hero. i owe you my life. you saved my life. you stafd my chiaved my child. i owe you. but turn the other way. i don't feel that way at all. that bomb squad officer walked away with burns on his arms and what must be warmth in his heart. sadly the driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. thank you for watching abc news. and "world news now" soon with breaking overnight news. tune into "good morning america" tomorrow. and as always online at