Like many of us, personal trainer Bob Harper cringed when he first learned the title of NBC's reality weight-loss show: The Biggest Loser.
"I wasn't okay with it at all. This was at a time when shows like Extreme Makeover and The Swan were coming out, and I morally could never be a part of any kind of show like that," the Nashville native said by phone from Los Angeles, where the show tapes. "But when I went in for the audition and I found out what they were looking for and what they wanted to do, I went, 'Oh, this is what I'm all about.' Because for me, it is about getting people to get control of their lives again, take charge."
That's also the theme of Harper's new book, Are You Ready! Take Charge, Lose Weight and Change Your Life Forever, which he'll sign tonight in Tampa.
Viewers also got past the Biggest Loser title. The show is in its fifth season — with contestants exercising up to six hours a day to avoid elimination — and NBC is happy enough with the ratings to bring it back for a sixth.
Yesterday while I was reading your book and prepping for this interview, I was eating cheesecake. Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we sabotage our efforts to get healthy?
That's why I call the book Are You Ready! Until you're ready to make a change and decide that you are going to put yourself at the top of your priority list, you are going to have cheesecake whenever you want. You're going to think like a child thinks. A child thinks, "I want what I want when I want it." I get people to think like an adult.
Trainer Jillian Michaels, has been called a bully. Do you think she has ever gone too far?
She and I definitely have two different approaches. She's all about getting the weight off, and I'm all about changing your life. . . . I think that there are times where you've got to go where some people think (is) too far, because you're dealing with people that have gone so far offcourse.
There's a challenge on the show where contestants are put in a room full of very tempting foods. What is the value of that challenge?
When these guys are leaving the show and it's time for them to go back to their real world, they're going to be tempted by a fast food restaurant around every single corner. . . . You're going to be at the grocery store, and you're going to be in the checkout line, and there's going to be every single chocolate bar that you could think of. So it's going to be right there, and you should be able to look at that food and go, "You know what? That food doesn't have any power over me."
What's a simple change we could all make right now?
If people just ate what they normally ate but reduced the portion sizes — because Americans just eat such large portions of food — then they're going to absolutely lose weight.
What did you eat today?
Two packs of weight-control oatmeal that fuels my workout. Then after that, I had a protein shake. Now I'm getting ready to go to lunch, and I know exactly what I'm going to have. I'm going to have a piece of swordfish, a baked potato and some broccoli. Tonight for dinner, I think I'm having turkey burgers.
So planning is a big part of this.
Planning is a huge part of it, because I always tell people, you've gotta eat to lose weight. . . . That's that one thing I've learned about overweight people, too: They tend not to eat breakfast.
Why are we still skipping breakfast? Don't we all know better by now?
Ugh, you would think. And I'm out here trying to tell people every chance I can: Eat your breakfast. I feel like I'm everybody's mother now.
Dalia Colon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.