“The Biggest Loser” on NBC will see a two night premiere event on January 6th and 7th.
The big hook is the return of Jillian Michaels, back with trainers Bob Harper and Dolvett Quince.The new mission on the show is to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic. The series is featuring child participants in addition to adult contestants for the first time ever and the group is challenging America to join a revolutionary health movement in which they can get access to all of the weight-loss tools needed to become their own biggest loser.
Today at the winter press tour in Pasadena, CA. (TCA), the panel for the show included Alison Sweeney, the trainers Bob Harper, Jillian Michaels and Dolvett Quince, childhood obesity expert and pediatrician, Dr. Joanna Dolgoff, and executive producers Eden Gaha and Dave Broome.
On Jillian's weight problm as a child:
JILLIAN MICHAELS: Well, I was about 75 pounds overweight at my heaviest. Actually, no, I’m sorry. I was 175 pounds. Well, yeah. OK. Yeah. About 75 pounds overweight at my heaviest. A solid 50 pounds. And I’m joking about it now, but of course it was soul-crushing. It’s soul-crushing for any kid. And you get bullied. You feel insecure. You’re uncomfortable participating. And it takes all the innocence and all the joy out of being a child. And what actually got me out of it is that my mother got me involved in martial arts. And that’s when I really began to understand that it wasn’t just about fitness. It was about how being strong physically empowered me in every other facet of my life.
And I’ll never forget the first time I broke two boards with a sidekick for my blue-belt test. And I walked into junior high the next day and no one ever picked on me again, ever. And I think that all of us on this panel feel very strongly that it requires support, education, information for both the kids and the parents, and that’s what we’ve attempted to do.
On why Jillian keeps returning to the series:
JILLIAN MICHAELS: Several things brought me back. First of all, of course, I missed this one [Bob Harper] and I was excited to meet that one [Dolvett Quince]. But with that said, also, you leave the show, you want to do new things. And everyone’s like, “That’s great. You know, you want to do this. Good for you. We support you. That’s wonderful. Can you go back to ‘Biggest Loser’?”
Bob and I saw Madonna in concert recently and she played a lot of new music and we were like cool, when she’s gonna do “Holiday”? And “Biggest Loser” is sort of my version of “Holiday.” And I greatly underestimated how tremendously inspired the American public gets by the show. So I’m excited to be back for that reason as well.
And then childhood obesity, of course, it’s something that we’ve all fought on a myriad of fronts. Bob works with the First Lady. I work the Clinton Foundation. Dolvett does all that he does. And having a vehicle like “The Biggest Loser,” the resources and the exposure to be able to exploit that is really exciting and I feel we’ve all done that.
And last but not least, there is some new blood on the show. We have a great I happen to be obsessed with her and I’m sure she’s in this room. Her name’s Lisa Hennessy. She’s our new executive producer and she’s superb and fabulous and has also brought a wonderful new direction to the show. I feel safe with her professionally and personally. And everybody that I’ve been working with, everyone new. Of course, Eden is new to me as well in this experience. And I’ve loved it, so I will stay on at this point as long as you’ll have me.
On seeing a change in pop culture now to a more healthy body image and way of living, or if it is a constant fight?
DR. JOANNA DOLGOFF: I think it’s still a constant battle. I think the kids of America have a really tough road in front of them. They go to school and they’re served pizza for lunch. It’s counted as a vegetable. They have a cupcake for their party celebration in class.
So I don’t really see things have gotten better. I’ve long said that for the obesity epidemic to be curbed, something big has to happen. I thought it would come from the government, but when I started speaking with Shine and “The Biggest Loser,” I realized, you know what, “The Biggest Loser” has the American public’s attention probably more than any other vehicle, certainly the government. And for us to be able to say we’re not going to sit by silently as our children literally eat themselves to death, we won’t do it.
We have to talk about this so that we can get kids healthier, let them know they can get healthy, and then let the food producers know we don’t want this kind of advertising for our children. So I am just so thrilled that we’re finally talking about this because we need to. It isn’t going away by ignoring it.
DAVE BROOME: I’ll just tag up on that. The one thing that is really surprising and shocking that everyone’s going to see starting tonight is just how unaware our kids and their families are about how poorly they’re eating. They know what they look like or feel like and they know what they want to achieve. They just don’t know or are educated enough to understand what the problem is as it relates back to their food, and that is still surprising and shocking. And that’s why it’s an amazing opportunity for us to deal with childhood obesity.
DR. JOANNA DOLGOFF: I see that in my practice. They don’t know they want to eat healthy. They don’t know what to do. One of the kids asked me, “So sweet potato french fries, those are really healthy?” They don’t know. There’s so much misinformation. So if we can educate the public and educate families so they want to make healthy choices, then they can do the right thing. They try to make healthy choices, but the choices aren’t healthy. So I 100 percent agree. We have to educate America.
EDEN GAHA: And what’s added to the show is the Challenge America campaign through our new website biggestloser.com. People can go there and have their own “Biggest Loser” experience at home with all the information and all the tools they’ll need.
DR. JOANNA DOLGOFF: And we’re offering for any child free 60 day trials to my “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right” website so kids across the country can get all of the same materials that the kids on the show are getting, create their own programs for free, because we really do want to help.
BOB HARPER: I really think that you hear so much about nutrition right now, and that’s what we’re talking about. It’s extremely important. The side that I really have seen from children, the years that I’ve been working on this program and working with Michelle Obama with her Let’s Move initiative, it’s about getting kids to start moving around again.
It’s about getting kids to be kids. I remember when I was a child, the rule was that I had to make sure that I was home before the sun went down. Kids stay in front of their computer devices and video games for seven plus hours a day. We’re addressing that on the “Biggest Loser” this season.
We’re talking about that. We’re trying to show kids that it’s OK to get outside and have a little fun. And we’re really wanting to really show kids having fun again. You’re going to see our kids on the show doing obstacle courses and rowing and playing baseball and cheerleading. And it’s just like when you get your kids more active, because our kids are so sedentary these days, which is like breeding apathy. And it’s like we’re trying to create excitement again. We’re trying to spark our children into feeling this excitement again about moving around.
DOLVETT QUINCE: And the goal is to help parents get excited, too, to help them get involved, because we can’t do it alone. We need the parents’ help. The parents have to be a part of this panel in a lot of ways, helping the kids say, “Hey, eat this, not this.” Let’s go outside as a family. Let’s be active. That’s the message. That’s the ripple effect you’ll see this season.
On how the kids do as “Biggest Loser” contestants?
BOB HARPER: It’s great, because you’re never going to see our kids get up on a scale. You’re never going to see our kids compete in any way. There’s no child that’s going to be eliminated. I mean, our children are our ambassadors this season and they’re like our co captains at times. I mean, they’re a part of the team. They’re with us throughout the whole process, so which makes it really exciting.
DOLVETT QUINCE: They’re fun. They’re exciting. It’s about having fun and having a good time. You’ll see the contestants being inspired by them saying, hey, look, if this little kid can do it wait a second. Even more, I was that little kid. So, if anything, I’m going to learn what not to be and be inspired that way as well.
DR. JOANNA DOLGOFF: And the kids are doing it from home. And one of the reasons that was chosen was so that kids watching the show can say wow, they’re doing it at home; I can do it too. So they come to the ranch to film certain things, but they’re still going to birthday parties and they’re still doing everything that a kid does and still getting healthy. And that’s what we want America to see.
ALISON SWEENEY: But the trainers also worked on a “Biggest Loser” fitness test that they did in the beginning so that the kids could have a frame of reference of what like setting goals for themselves so that they do have a way of framing, I don’t know, what those changes are and what their progress is.
On if the new contestants coming in would be disappointed if Jillian and Bob did not scare the crap out of them?
JILLIAN MICHAELS: No, I don’t think they’d be disappointed at all.
BOB HARPER: I think they would find it a breath of fresh air. But somebody was really asking, like, why the cursing...It’s almost like this raw it needs to be raw. It’s brutal. You go into that gym, and you you don’t know whether you’re going to have these people for a week or two weeks, and you have to make a difference. And Jillian and I are extremely sensitive and extremely passionate about this.
So when those words are coming out, I find myself, at the end of the day, just going, “Oh, my God, how many times did I say the F word?,” for instance. But it’s like that boot camp. If you saw “Full Metal Jacket,” I mean, that sergeant didn’t hold anything back, right? So it’s almost like taking these contestants through this brutal process and hopefully coming out shining bright like a diamond at the end.
DOLVETT QUINCE: Knew you were going to go there.
JILLIAN MICHAELS: Yeah. We all take it very seriously. We have our different approaches, but what seems like a television show to the American public, to us, is a life or death intervention. So when we get crazy and we get intense, we do it for a reason.
On if Jillian ever realizes “Whoa, I pushed that person too hard”?
JILLIAN MICHAELS: No.
DOLVETT QUINCE: You push them because look how bad they’ve been for so long. You see someone being gluttonous and gorging and just taking in all this over-excessiveness. Why would you allow giving up to be an option? They’ve been giving up for so long.
JILLIAN MICHAELS: Well said.
BOB HARPER: And I also think that it’s just like it’s new territory, these guys that have never worked out before or they haven’t worked out in a long time. We know how to walk that fine line, and we know how far to push. And yes, they start to get uncomfortable, and it scares them. And that’s where you see the shock and the nervousness and the puking.
But all of a sudden after, like, a few minutes after they’ve rested, they’re kind of back to normal. So it’s you kind of know how far to do it. We have been doing this for a long time. And it’s just kind of part of the process. You know that first workout. Producers know it. The network knows it. There is going to be a lot of puking, some fainting. Jillian’s famous line: “If you don’t puke, faint, or die, stay on the treadmill.”
DOLVETT QUINCE: I thought I said that.
JILLIAN MICHAELS: You did.
On as the season ends, do they stay in contact with the contestants?
DOLVETT QUINCE: I mean, I do. I take it upon myself to extend a courtesy via email or FaceTime, something of that nature, just to check in to make sure that they’re still encouraged and they’re doing everything that they were taught. It’s difficult, you know, when you don’t have a lot of practice. And granted, four months or six months, however long they’re on the show, it just truly isn’t enough time. So you still hit walls. But I say that now, but as we get more and more busy, it’s very difficult, I know for some other people, to be involved with all you know, with them on a regular basis. We just try to extend where we can.
ALISON SWEENEY: What’s amazing is that they reach out to each other.I mean, 13 seasons later, there’s a network, a “Biggest Loser” alumni family. And they sort of have been through this experience that no one else can ever really relate to. And they support each other, and they are there for each other, and they run triathlons together. When I ran the L.A. Marathon, like, six contestants came and ran with me. It’s a community of people who support each other every day in an ongoing way, hopefully forever.
JILLIAN MICHAELS: I can say for me personally and I think I speak for Bob we’ve worked with thousands of people, but there are some of them that become like family: Olivia, Hannah. Brittany from Season 5 is my assistant. Michelle Aguilar. Abby Rike. Shellay. These are people that are going to be in our lives forever. With that said, there are countless others that we don’t keep in contact with. And that is just the way that it is. There are some people in life that you bond with tremendously, and some, it’s like, “Our job is done here. Go with God.” And the hope is that if they do run into any hardship, they throw up a white flag. And when they do, we will always respond.
BOB HARPER: We get really connected to our contestants. I’ve had to really work with the boundaries. And I really got to a point where I have to look at my job is like I work in an emergency room. And these people, they come in, and they are so sick, and they need assistance. And you want to be able to give them everything that they need. You want to help them. You want to guide them. You want to mold them. And then you want to send them back into their lives. And I think that, yes, they have ways of reaching out to us, and they know that they can always reach out to the community which is “The Biggest Loser.” But it’s really important to get them to be able to stand on their own two feet and not go back to the ways that brought them to our house in the first place. So creating that independence is extremely important to the process that we put them through.
On the actual gist of the problem, not the symptoms, not the fact that people are overweight, but the gist of the problem:
BOB HARPER: The gist of the problem is this: The gist of the problem is the foods that are readily available on any given day in school lunch programs, in the grocery stores, this fast food nation that we live in, this fast food nation is killing us. And to me, is the bottom line. I think that, yes, when it comes to all the other elements of fitness, when it comes to health and wellness, that, to me, seems to be the common denominator.
ALISON SWEENEY: And I actually disagree. I think that they well, obviously I think people know, for the most part, that pizza is not as good for you as a salad. I think a lot of people don’t know that a Caesar salad isn’t good for you.
DR. JOANNA DOLGOFF: Exactly.
ALISON SWEENEY: I think a lot of people don’t know that ranch dressing isn’t good for you. And a lot of people’s definition in this country of a salad is iceberg lettuce with chicken fingers on it and ranch dressing and cheddar cheese.
DR. JOANNA DOLGOFF: And I see that all the time in my practice, where families come, and they don’t understand why they’re not losing weight because they’re eating salads and, bleu cheese dressing, bacon, all of this stuff. If you look at a lot of the chain restaurants, some of those salads have 2,000 calories in them. So even the question itself, I think, is really indicative of the fact that we don’t know what’s good. And so parents try so hard to make the right choices, and they’re getting salads, but they’re giving them more calories than if they’d ordered something else. So I think we have to teach them really from the beginning.
So, the gist of the problem that they don’t know how to count calories?
DR. JOANNA DOLGOFF: It’s not about calories.
DOLVETT QUINCE: It is not just that. It’s just not about calories.
JILLIAN MICHAELS: Right.
DOLVETT QUINCE: It’s the majority of advertising over the years when you see television has been French fries and ranch dressing. No one, like the gentleman said, is saying broccoli and steamed vegetables. There’s nothing being subliminally embedded into anyone’s mind of what’s good, period. It’s what’s bad. So we’re visual people. We see what we see, and we go grab it. So something has to be changed with what we see.
DR. JOANNA DOLGOFF: We don’t want kids counting calories. We really want them just to focus on the nutritional value of foods in general because it’s more than just calories. There’s fat, fiber. There’s a lot more to it, so we need to teach that.
DAVE BROOME: Just to say, from day one on “Biggest Loser,” we made a very conscious decision never to talk about diet on the show. There is no “Biggest Loser” diet. The show preaches a lifestyle and an educational lifestyle so people can get the information needed to make the change in their life. There is no “Biggest Loser” diet. And even though, very early on, we were even talking about testing, and some of our creative, around low carb diets or low fat diets or Atkins diets, those kind of things, and we decided, you know, we’re going to create a lifestyle show. And that’s really what the “Biggest Loser” is. And that’s what we’re trying to do now with the kids.
DR. JOANNA DOLGOFF: And the kids are following my “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right” nutrition plan, where foods are red light, yellow light, green light, so they can understand the nutritional value of the foods without worrying about calorie counting. It’s really all about teaching them and so they can make choices without deprivation.
JILLIAN MICHAELS: It’s not just about working out and eating right. You want to know what’s the gist of it? Heartbreak. It’s a coping mechanism. It’s a coping mechanism for the kids. It’s a coping mechanism for the adults. And the reality is that we, as human beings, develop these destructive and dysfunctional patterns as defense mechanisms to things that are wounding us in other areas of our lives. And we do deal with it. We deal with it with the kids, and we deal with it with our adults. And we handle it across the board.
DOLVETT QUINCE: The tears are heavier than the pounds.
BOB HARPER: And I completely agree with her, and the basic one level that I think is this: We have so much misinformation out there. People are confused. They’re confused. They come up to me all the time. “Bob, am I supposed to eat this? Can I eat this? What exactly” “what is protein?” Like they don’t know their macro-nutrients. There’s too much confusion. It’s like going back to the basics of being able to make sure that protein is good, carbohydrates are good, fat is good, combining the three are good. When you find that balance, then you’re going to be able to get on the right track.
On if they think there’s such a focus on anorexia and eating disorders when obesity is obviously a much bigger problem or at least afflicts so many more people?
DOLVETT QUINCE: I think there I think it’s a problem across the board. I think they all have their issues. Obesity, I think and I just said this today in an interview I think it’s been more of a whisper, especially childhood obesity. And it’s time for a show like “Biggest Loser” to have a loud voice to help people pay attention.
That’s why this season is so important for everyone to pay attention and say, “OK, we’ve ignored it for too long. We’re not speaking about it. We’re not even doing anything about it.” It’s because of a lack of education, because of a lack of motivation, because you break down and you depend on things as opposed to making a move and making something happen. So yeah, let’s talk about it some more.
DR. JOANNA DOLGOFF: And parents are so afraid to address their overweight child’s issues because they’re afraid of causing an eating disorder. But the studies seem to indicate if you treat an overweight child in a sensitive manner, you decrease the risk of disorder eating. It’s the kids who want to lose weight they know they’re obese; nobody’s talking about it; they feel their parents are ashamed of them that want to lose weight, so they either starve themselves, and then they start to binge, and then they purge, and they get into this cycle of disordered eating. And the key is “in a sensitive manner,” and that’s what this show has done. You’ll watch it, and you’ll see it. The show is treating this in such a sensitive manner, and that’s why it’s going to make such a difference.
ALISON SWEENEY: It’s part of the national sort of conversation, is that people used to not talk about the word “cancer.” They used to not say I remember when I was a kid, “anorexia” was something you whispered. Nobody said that word out loud. And now we’re going to make sure that people do feel comfortable having that conversation in a healthy, positive way. That’s exactly how you learn. And now, hopefully, we’re the ones opening up that window.