Originally published on Zimbio.com.
We chatted with the inspirational ‘Extreme Weight Loss’ stars about their fitness backgrounds, tips, goals, and yes, favorite cheat meals.
The weight-loss industry has surpassed a value of 60 billion dollars in the U.S. alone. From a simple diet book to complex stomach surgeries, Americans have displayed an obvious desire to either get in shape or imitate the trends of their favorite celebrities. Unfortunately, these spending habits haven’t translated into positive results. The rate of obesity continues to rise, as well as the number of weight-correlated health issues like heart disease and diabetes.
So what will it take for us, as a nation, to promote a healthier lifestyle that garners successful outcomes? Perhaps we shouldn’t look further than the inspirational ABC series Extreme Weight Loss, which features two of the country’s most respected fitness trainers, Chris and Heidi Powell.
We spoke to the dynamic duo about their lives, backgrounds, and what it takes for their show’s contributors (or as they like to affectionately call them: “peeps”) to drop some serious pounds and commit to a drastically different mindset. Their advice is refreshingly uncomplicated, yet powerful and intelligent in its intent.
Check out the full interview below, as well as an exclusive sneak peek from tonight’s episode at 9/8c. (If you’re a fan of gymnastics, you’re in for a treat!)
Zimbio: What is the first thing that someone can do to motivate the weight loss process?
Chris: Declaring your goals. By simply setting that smart, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-sensitive goal, that is, without a doubt, step one. Write it down and declare it to a friend, family member, or loved one.
Heidi: Accountability is huge in a weight loss process. If you’re saying and making these promises to yourself, you’re a lot more likely to not follow through than if you declare it to someone else who can hold you accountable.
Chris: There is a fear factor involved when you say it to someone else. That’s why it’s also important that what we declare is attainable. We shrink everyone’s goals and promises down to something that is so realistic and so attainable that they know, without a shadow of a doubt, that they can reach it.
Heidi: For anyone making a goal that seems really big, know that everything is attainable and doable, but every journey begins with a single step. It’s really knowing that although this seems huge and we may not be able to conquer it, as long as we keep moving forward and in the right direction…a step today, a step tomorrow, a step the next day…before you know it, we’re going to be at the top of the mountain. It does take patience, hard work, and determination. It takes passion.
Z: Do the same rules apply to someone who may just want to lose 25 pounds instead of 150 pounds?
The secret language of transformation has nothing to do with diet and exercise. It has everything to do with integrity and keeping promises to yourself.
H: Absolutely. It’s also the same for someone who wants to gain five pounds, lose five pounds, build muscle, be successful in a career…no matter what it is, you can apply these techniques or teachings to anything in life. If you set a goal and you know it takes small steps and promises along the way to fulfill, you build your integrity, you build your self-confidence and you know that no matter what you say or think, it can happen. It really is the key to success.
C: It’s the way all humans are programmed. We simply implement the same technique and speak the same language. It doesn’t matter what the goals are.
Z: Can you target certain areas of your body?
C: Spot reduction, which is losing body fat in one particular place, is a total myth. It’s impossible. You can’t do it. Body fat is a blanket of energy that covers the body and it is gained and lost globally.
Z: How about those who have fallen off the wagon? Does it happen with your “peeps?”
H: All of them [fall off the wagon] at some point or another because we are all human.
C: Fortunately, many of them have the tools and knowledge to pick themselves back up. Heidi and I are no exception to that. We struggle in everyday life, as well. We fall over and over again, but we know the techniques to getting back up on our feet and that’s what we teach our people. The secret language of transformation has nothing to do with diet and exercise. It has everything to do with integrity and keeping promises to yourself.
H: Almost any diet and exercise plan can work, but the key is how do we maintain the weight loss instead of just losing the weight and gaining it back.
C: We cover diet and exercise on day one and that’s it. It takes about an hour and it takes 365 days to make sure that these individuals continue to make promises to themselves.
Z: Is there a specific food that should be a staple in everyone’s diet?
H: There’s not. Nature has blessed us with so many whole fruits and vegetables and whole foods and grains and nuts and seeds and everything that we need to live a happy, healthy lifestyle. There are some macronutrient breakdowns that are a must. For example, we do five meals a day and every single meal must consist of a protein. And then, depending on the person’s diet, they’ll either tack on a carbohydrate or a healthy fat, or sometimes both. Load in as many vegetables as you can. This year is your year to try every single vegetable that you can possibly find. Find some that you love and make those a staple to your diet. Vegetables and fruits have so many vitamins and nutrients that your bodies need. Eating a multitude of those foods is like taking a multivitamin.
Z: When did you dedicate your lives to fitness?
H: I was a gymnast growing up, so I always loved physical activity and health. I grew up with a family that was totally into bodybuilding. I trained right out of high school, but I had a break where I was in real estate for about seven years. During that time, I led boot camps and running groups throughout the neighborhood and ran half marathons because I loved it so much, but I didn’t choose to dedicate my life to it until I met Chris and I saw how dedicated he was and how passionate he was. I realized it wasn’t really about what you do to make money in life, it’s about doing what you love and then everything falls into place. Truly, it was meeting Chris and seeing the impact he had on so many other peoples’ lives that guided me in that direction.
I feel like people can’t grow unless they see the reality of their situation.
C: For me, I was always the tiniest kid in school. I had some run-ins with bullies and felt pretty powerless. When I was 14, my parents noticed my spirit was a little bit broken, so I came home from school one day and they had put a weight set in the middle of the living room. After a little while, I found myself doing a bench press, and then doing some bicep curls and some lat pull-downs. After a month or two, I noticed such a huge change in my body. I was hooked. I ended up going to ASU and got my degree in exercise science. My passion, at the time, was performance, sports, and taking the body to the next level. In 2003, I landed a gig as a Good Morning Arizona fitness pro. I was getting all of these emails from individuals that were 400-600 pounds and I realized that there was this whole subculture of super obese individuals that pride themselves on being invisible. One gentleman was about 635 pounds when he wrote me. The doctor gave him a couple more years left to live. I ended up going out there and meeting with this guy and I was just blown away. I told him ‘I don’t know where this is going to go, but I’m going to show up in a couple days and take it from there.’ So I ended up showing up every other day for a couple of years and he ended up losing 400 pounds. That was the turning point where I was like this is what I’m meant to do. This is what I want to do. This is the most rewarding and fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my life…to help somebody get their life back.
Z: It’s clear on the show that you both have different training styles. Chris — you tug at the heart strings, but Heidi — you’re kind of a hard-ass. Can you explain your approaches?
H: Chris and I have the exact same goal. We care so much about these people, but the way we show we care and love them is very different. I feel like people can’t grow unless they see the reality of their situation. That was the case for me growing up. I am open to that kind of tough love and I feel that close to 100 percent of the people we work with know where my heart is and that I care so deeply about them. I feel like I love them more than anyone else, to the point where I don’t want to see them making the same mistakes over and over and over. It’s hard to call people out. It’s really difficult to put yourself in a position where they might view me as, for lack of a better word, a “bitch.” But, from day one, if they think someone [on the show] is going to quit, they always send them to me. Always. Because even after everyone else has given up or feels like they’re going to give up, I refuse to see that happen. I feel like I can fix or save everybody by just making them see the reality. But I am firmer. I had two kids before Chris and I met and I’ve always been a firm parent. Discipline hard, but love even harder.
C: I couldn’t do this alone. I don’t know if Heidi could. We complement each other so well. There’s plenty where I’m weak at and Heidi fills those gaps so incredibly well. I can be the believer and give them that hope and Heidi can teach them those valuable life lessons that they need to really become stronger.
H: Chris has this amazing ability to believe in everybody. He also knows how to dream big. Just being around Chris, people want to be better. Not because they are scared of him. With Chris, people work hard because they want to impress him.
We’re all perfect in our imperfect form.
Z: So we have to ask. What is your favorite cheat food?
H: I am totally a routine person. I could eat the exact same thing every day. Every single day, without fail, I have, first thing in the morning…because I like to front-load my calories…I have a protein shake and a Starbucks morning bun. They are like little cinnamon rolls that do not have icing on it…they have a little bit of fine-dusted sugar. They are the most amazing things in the world. I shouldn’t say I’m addicted, but maybe.
C: I’m a variety guy. Mine changes weekly. I never do the same cheat food twice. I’ll reward myself between one and three and sometimes even four times a week because we train hard and I can definitely enjoy a few extra calories in a meal here and there. Last week I took the kids to get some ice cream and I had some myself. A couple days ago, it was these awesome pork tacos. They were loaded with guacamole and cheese. Every once in a while it’s pizza. We eat five times a day and we eat these smaller frequent meals. Once you train your body to do that, I can’t sit down and finish any cheat. I can’t tell you the last time I finished a whole cheat meal. It’s probably been years, but I enjoy it. I enjoy the experience. I enjoy the flavor, but I’ve programmed myself to not finish all that food.
Z: We really enjoyed the upcoming episode and felt like the peep’s story had a lot of universal themes and emotions. What separates Georgeanna from others this season?
C: As she went through the journey of transformation, she shared so much about the emotional side. We’ve learned from everyone that they are so unique and so different, so the more they can open up and be vulnerable to us, the more we can learn and apply this in our lives and help others with it. She was so open…the awesome parts, the insanely embarrassing parts, the vulnerable parts, the weak parts…it was a huge form of therapy for her to trust us. At the same time, we were her disciples because we wanted to learn just as much from her. It gave us permission to do the same things in our lives. She’s just real.
H: One of the biggest takeaways from the episode is that we’re all perfect in our imperfect form. We all have insecurities and struggles in our lives and I have to remind myself daily that it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being me. Georgeanna realized she didn’t need to be perfect and she taught us things that weren’t shown on the show. She taught us so much about just good living. She is a wonderful person, a wonderful wife, a wonderful mom, just such a good friend to us. We will have her in our lives forever.