The Big Fat Truth

The night before the first winner of The Biggest Loser was announced, the guy in the lead – his name was Gary – went out for a healthy dinner with his family, shared some laughs, talked about what he’d accomplished, and went to sleep. Gary’s closest competitor worked out, pushing hard to the bitter end. He beat Gary by 435 grams. Those 435 grams cost Gary $250,000.

When I saw Gary many years later, he was still slim and healthy – but the winner had put all his weight back on. Competition is the premise behind The Biggest Loser, so people motivated by beating others often get the cash. But the real winners are those whose reasons for losing weight evolve into something deeper. Gary was very upset about losing, but then he realised that he wanted to get his life back, and he did. The other guy was in it mostly just to win it. That got him only so far.

Win the Health Head Game

As the man who created the weight-loss TV shows The Biggest Loser, Extreme Weight Loss, Fat Chance and The Revolution, I’ve seen our participants shed weight, get off serious medications, and do things they had never done or had been avoiding for years. They are able to get their lives back by resolving the issues that made them fat. Addressing your mental and emotional blocks is the secret to sustained weight loss or any other significant life change. By tweaking your mind-set, you have the potential to change your inner dialogue – and your life. Here’s how.

Say ‘I Can’

The power of an ‘I can’ mentality can be amazing. A guy named Danny who tried out for The Biggest Loser weighed more than anyone I had ever seen at his age – 19 years old and 204 kg. He couldn’t even close his hands to make a fist. I usually think anyone can do anything, but I had my doubts about him. “You scare me,” I said. “I don’t think we can have you on the show. Honestly, I don’t think you can do it. And by the way, where are your shoes?”

“It’s too hard to get them on,” he replied. “Name it. I’ll do anything to be on this show. How do you want me to prove that I can do it?”

I couldn’t tell if the desperation in his voice was genuine. “OK,” I said, figuring I’d scare him off. “Go out of this room, and take the first door on your right. It’s the stairs. Take them down to the bottom” – we were on the 20th floor – “then climb back up.” Without hesitation, he walked out of the room, still shoeless.

After about 15 minutes, I became worried and went to locate him. I found him on the ninth floor on his way up, huffing and puffing, spitting and coughing, soaked in sweat. When he finally made it back to the room, he burst through the door, barely able to speak. The place erupted with applause. He did it. Barefoot. The kid went on to appear on the show and lost almost 113 kg over two seasons.

When you say ‘I can’ to resisting a biscuit and ‘I can’ to running a 5 km race, it’s a small leap to saying ‘I can’ quit this lousy job and ‘I can’ tell my partner that I want to be treated better. When you become an ‘I can’ person, a world of possibility opens.

Take Moses, a Biggest Loser contestant who blew out his knee within the first week. He couldn’t run, walk or do anything else that required being on his feet. That was a big problem because, to stay on the show, you have to drop kilograms each week.

So what does this guy do? Fold? A few weeks earlier, he might have played the victim card. But he came up with the idea of shadow-boxing from the edge of his bed for 12 hours a day. Sweat poured off him in rivers. The bed was soaking wet. Desperation is the greatest motivator.

These are ordinary people with ordinary families and ordinary jobs. What set them apart is they believed that they could do something extraordinary. (By the way, have you ever tried to shadow-box in bed for even 12 minutes? It’s exhausting – and he did it for 12 hours!) The power of the mind still amazes me each day.

Starting Small

We ask cast members to write down their small victories. One of the best I ever heard was this: “I tried today even when my trainer wasn’t looking.” Most people would gloss over that, but I read it to the whole group.

“Here’s what this guy is really saying,” I said. “When no-one was looking before, he wasn’t his best as a father, his best as a worker, his best as a husband, his best as a human being. That’s what he meant. But today, he said that even when no-one was looking, he gave his best. Is he now going to try harder as a father, a worker, a husband, a human being? That will be a much greater victory than whatever his numbers on the scale end up being.”

Little achievements snowball into bigger accomplishments. Small acts of willpower generate confidence.

Do Something Impossible

Jen, a cast member on The Revolution, was a single mother who had recently recovered from a rare form of cancer. When I announced that the first person to burn 30,000 kJ in one day in a challenge would win an iPad, Jen chimed in right away. “I wanted to win for my son,” Jen says. “I couldn’t afford one.”

Jen – and her ten-year-old, Ryan, who stayed with her the whole day – hit the gym at dawn. She took spin classes and worked out on the treadmill, the rowing machine and the stair-climber, hour after gruelling hour. When Jen had about 2000 kJ to go, after nearly 20 straight hours of exercise, the gym was closing. It was 10 pm. So Jen went outside and ran around the gym building by the light of the moon. “I don’t know what came over me,” says Jen. I didn’t want to let my son down. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it too.”

Needless to say, Jen won the iPad. But that was the least of what she gave her son. She showed him that she was a superhero. That kid (who’s now a high school American football player with offers for a full college scholarship) will never forget the night his mother did the impossible. “That day, I realised that your mind is in control of your body,” Jen says. “You can convince yourself to do anything.”

From The Big Fat Truth © 2016 J.D. Roth. Published by reader’s digest.

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