Book Excerpt: Getting started with The Biggest Loser Bootcamp

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Excerpted from The Biggest Loser Bootcamp. © 2015 NBC Studios & Reveille LLC; THE BIGGEST LOSER is a trademark of Reveille LLC and its related entities, and is used under license. Reprinted with permission from Time Home Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Bootcamp Philosophy

The Biggest Loser Bootcamp program and experience is about getting real and getting results. Forget excuses. Forget shying away from something because it might be hard. You’re committing to a lifestyle change, and it doesn’t happen just in your kitchen or only while you’re doing physical activity. These changes apply to all aspects of your life.

Meet your trainers

Fitness experts Jennifer Widerstrom and Jessie Pavelka joined veteran trainers, including Dolvett Quince, on The Biggest Loser in Season 16.

Committed to helping people live their best lives through health and fitness, Jennifer was a star of the NBC series American Gladiators. She strives to make her workouts challenging yet inclusive. A native of Lisle, Illinois, Jennifer is very experienced in guiding people through the dramatic changes that take place — both physically and emotionally — while losing weight.

Jessie Pavelka is an internationally recognized fitness expert known for helping others develop practical solutions to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle. A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, and a former professional bodybuilder, Pavelka’s passion for fitness inspired him to become a trainer and help others embrace health and wellness.

A leader in the field of health and fitness, Dolvett Quince joined The Biggest Loser in Season 12. Known for his passion, regimens, and dramatic transformational results, Dolvett is one of the most in-demand fitness specialists in the country.

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Each season, trainers on the Ranch guide people who have spent their entire lives giving up and making excuses as they take on big challenges and discover that they are made of tougher stuff than they ever thought. And that stuff? It’s not a secret ingredient they add to their smoothies or some fancy gadget that does the work for them. It comes from inside. It’s been there all along, just waiting to be uncovered. We are here to help you tap into the same stuff inside you. It’s in there—and we know it’s just waiting for you to rediscover it. A big part of that process is opening your mind and embracing some key imperatives:

     • Get Real
• The Whole Package  
     • Believe in You
     • Challenge Yourself

1. Get real

This program is about getting real and keeping it real. That goes for the expectations you have about the process, the food in your meal plans, the hard work you’ll put in during your workouts, and the accountability that will keep your eyes on the prize. Most importantly, it’s about getting real from the inside out and remembering what it is that’s inspiring you to do this. That’s right; you’re going to take a long, hard look at the person in the mirror and discover what it is that’s holding you back. Together, we’re going to help you be who you’ve always wanted to be.

If you want to get results, you’ve got to get real. Here’s how we’ll help you make that happen.

REAL FOOD: As you’ll hear throughout the program, the keys to weight loss are found in the kitchen. No matter how much work you put in at the gym, you can’t outrun a bad diet, and you can’t load up on junk food, thinking you’ll just burn off the calories during your workout.

“Eat clean. It’s for you and no one else.”  —Nia, Arlington, Massachusetts

WHAT GOES INTO YOUR BODY IS WHAT YOU GET OUT OF IT: If you want to see results and have energy for your daily workouts (not to mention the rest of your life), you’ve got to eat real food—that is, whole foods that are minimally processed and packed with nutrients to fuel your body and help you create this new life.

One of the reasons the contestants post such huge losses those first few weeks on the Ranch is that they’re eating real, clean food—no more processed sugar and no more fast food. Without all that salt, sugar, and the bad kind of fat, the body can focus on fueling itself, growing stronger, and keeping you healthy and happy.

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​Though you’ll be eating clean and healthy foods, we also know that indulging from time to time is part of life. Therefore, it’s also part of the program. We show you how to balance special-occasion eating with your everyday clean meals and snacks. As long as you’re counting your calories, measuring your portions, and making smart food choices, you can indulge sometimes. You will learn that you don’t have to deprive yourself to reach your goals. This helps you develop a healthy relationship with food and can even end the cycle of emotional eating.

One essential step in achieving your goals—whether or not they involve weight loss—is getting your head around giving up on junk food, diet food, and starving yourself of calories. Those tactics don’t work, and we’re going to help you repair your relationship with food and eating.

REAL WORK: Changing your diet is necessary if you want to lose weight, but you’ll quickly hit a weight-loss wall if you don’t also include exercise. And working out is key to building a stronger, leaner body with the energy to live the full, active life you want to live. Our program includes six days of workouts a week, with one active rest day, one do-your-own-workout (DYOW) day, and five prescribed daily workouts created by Dolvett. (Of course, you should listen to your body and rest as needed, especially if you’re new to exercise. We also encourage you to see your doctor or health professional before starting a workout plan.)

The workouts won’t be easy, especially in the beginning, but they were designed with beginners and more advanced exercisers in mind. They’ll challenge regular exercisers, yet they’re suitable for those unaccustomed to breaking a sweat. You can do them at home or in a gym, and you don’t need any equipment beyond a towel. We even give common modifications for those with physical limitations. The workouts use your own body weight as resistance to burn calories and build muscle, which will help you look leaner and more toned as you slim down. Building muscle will also help you burn more calories.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. You’re going to be challenged, and if you do the work, you can change over the next eight weeks. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting. We all start somewhere. What matters is that you keep coming back, day after day, and strive to be a little bit better than you were yesterday. No matter what happens, just don’t quit.

“I often tell my friends that the reason The Biggest Loser diet worked for me is because I didn’t have to cut anything out of my diet. I’m allowed to eat fruits, rice, pasta, and even an occasional candy or sweet treat. The main thing I keep in mind is that it’s all about portion control and I can continue to eat almost anything I like, within reason.”  —Lenida, Sunnyvale, California

REAL ACCOUNTABILITY: Using a “Challenge Yourself—Don’t Settle” philosophy, The Biggest Loser Bootcamp is designed to get results. To see those results, you have to commit to the changes—physical and mental—that are coming. This program is never just about the physical; it’s about getting to the core of your issues and working through the mental roadblocks as much as the physical ones.

You’re here because you’re ready to change. You’re ready to make time for you and become the person you know you can be. You owe it to your current and future self to be accountable. Do your workouts. Stick to the meal plan. Get stronger, fight harder, and keep reaching higher—one step at a time. Soon these changes will become habits, and these meal and exercise plans will become your lifestyle.


FIRST AND FOREMOST, YOU HAVE TO SET GOALS: An overall program goal, weekly goals, and even daily goals. Goals provide us with direction and a vision; that direction and vision can be anything from an old pair of jeans you want to fit back into, to a photograph of yourself at a healthier stage in your life, or a number on the scale that you’ve set your sights on. You’re going to vary your weekly and daily goals, not focusing on one thing, but instead concentrating on the overall experience, or “the journey.”

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​The contestants on the Ranch have the added pressure of losing weight while the whole country watches. You don’t have all those eyes on you, but you also have to take a little more personal responsibility from day one.

No one but you will know if you sneak an extra slice of pizza in the kitchen after dinner. No one but you will know if you ate fries in your car before bringing a salad back to your desk. And no one but you will know if you skim a few reps off your workout. But that doesn’t mean those things didn’t happen. Every action you take, either positive or negative, will contribute to your weigh-in each week and, more importantly, your overall success in the program. We don’t want anything holding you back from reaching those goals.

Mike from Season 13 struggled with emotional eating, but creating new, healthy habits helped him stay strong and focused. “A lifestyle is nothing more than doing it ’til it’s just what you do, as easy as tying your shoes!” he said.

Throughout the book, you’ll get the tough love you expect from The Biggest Loser team. That doesn’t mean it’s all going to be tough—there’s just as much, if not more, love in this program as well.

“Move the body; the mind will follow. Did you wake up not feeling into the workout today? That’s your mind. Get up, gear up, and go. Make it happen. A body in motion makes the decision for the mind.” —The Biggest Loser trainer Jessie Pavelka

REAL RESULTS: The Bootcamp’s comprehensive program will challenge you to stop relying on quick fixes and instead learn to rely on yourself. We’re here with you every step of the way as you build a new, healthy lifestyle. After years of yo-yo dieting, this approach to weight loss will feel like a tremendous relief. We help you strip away the last of your excuses and distractions, and you’re left with nothing standing between you and your goals. You can finally reach your full potential—nothing’s holding you back.

Embrace what’s real, what you instinctively know will work—real food, hard work, and a belief in yourself—and you’ll get real results that can last a lifetime.

2. The whole package

The reason the Bootcamp is so effective is that it’s based on the same whole-person plan contestants use on the Ranch. We don’t want you to just cut calories and move your body; we want you to integrate a combination of powerful motivational, emotional, and behavioral strategies to help you deal with the reasons you got to this place in your life. Sure, the big prizes on the show go to those who have the most weight-loss success, but they couldn’t have achieved those goals without addressing other aspects of their health and well-being.

For Season 14 winner Danni, the biggest obstacle was mental. “Sure, the physical and nutritional changes were hard, but really digging deep into the ‘why am I the way that I am?’ was truly eye-opening,” she said. She had to get uncomfortable and question herself, exposing “some demons that I wasn’t willing to face in the past.” The first couple of episodes, Danni was falling apart and in danger of giving up. “My weight has stolen my confidence, without a doubt,” she said through tears in Episode 2. No one would guess that she would go on to be The Biggest Loser.

Once she got real with herself, she was able to work to overcome those demons and focus on getting her whole self healthy and happy. Danni says she’s more comfortable with herself, and the awareness and strength she’s developed make tackling emotional issues that much easier, which directly impacts her overall health and lifestyle choices.

To achieve real, lasting weight loss, you have to connect the dots not just between diet and exercise, but also motivation and goal setting, emotional health, and behavioral modifications. These aspects of the plan are interconnected, and we’ll show you how they work together to get you real results.

NUTRITIONAL: The better you eat, the better you feel. Jackson, a fan favorite from Season 14, was so busy during the day with work and volunteer activities that he wouldn’t eat until just before bed. Then, he would cram in up to 4,000 calories—twice what his body needed—in an hour. His blood sugar was on a roller coaster, and all that sugar, fat, and salt made him feel awful.

Shifting to a whole-foods diet with regular, portion-controlled meals and snacks helps him balance life. He gets to enjoy foods he loves without going overboard like he used to.

We hear similar stories from our Bootcampers and our contestants on the Ranch about their poor diets, and we think many of you can relate.

Do you ever:

     • skip meals, then overeat?
     • eat healthy foods in public, then binge on fast food when you’re alone?
     • turn to sugary quick carbs for comfort, then feel too tired to get up?
     • reward yourself with food, or punish yourself by withholding it?
     • eat when you’re bored, tired, or stressed?
     • finish other people’s food, so it doesn’t go to waste?
     • zone out while eating and consume far more food than you realize?
     • lie about what you’ve eaten?
     • drink too many sugary beverages?
     • eat late at night?

You don’t have to write down the answers, but be honest with yourself as you think about the questions we’ve just shared. If you’ve answered yes to any of them, that’s OK. You can use the next eight weeks to start to change your eating habits and patterns. Shifting your diet is the first step toward breaking the cycle of emotional eating and achieving lasting weight loss, our Bootcampers have discovered.

PHYSICAL: Food is fuel, and without the right fuel, exercise becomes that much more difficult. Have you ever eaten to the point of physical discomfort? Have you eaten sugary foods that give you an instant rush of energy and then an hour later make you want to take a nap? You’re not alone. Combining your workouts with a clean-eating plan helps give you the energy you need to get moving—and keep moving.

Exercise is a high-yield, guaranteed investment, but you have to spend energy to get energy from your workouts. That is, exercise will repay you by giving you the energy you need for your daily life, but you have to work for it. The good news is it gets easier—no matter if you are currently working out or not exercising at all.

Biggest Loser website member Chris started his 102-pound weight-loss journey by following meal plans and using his food diary. Eventually he transformed himself from junk food addict to gym junkie and says his newfound stamina is also making him more productive at work. “When I start work in the morning, I am ready. Before, it would take me three or four coffees to get going, so I wasn’t really ready until lunchtime,” he said. “I think this new productivity is a combination of sleeping better, feeling better, and being happier in general.”

Chris discovered another aspect of exercise: the emotional benefits that can help you overcome stress and anxiety—and even become a better employee, parent, and partner.

“After eight weeks of eating healthy and working out, I no longer feel extremely hungry between meals—smaller portions are more satisfying. I no longer crave sweet treats, and find fresh fruit satisfies my sweet tooth.”  —Julia, Durham, North Carolina

EMOTIONAL: The saying “you are what you eat” really does hold true. Chow down on sugary snacks or fast food all day, and in addition to feeling little to no energy, chances are you won’t feel very cheerful or upbeat. Changing your diet can boost your mood and make it easier for you to identify and cope with life’s triggers and stresses. Add exercise to the mix, and you’ll get a double dose of feel-good energy.

The Biggest Loser takes it one step further and asks you to set goals to help you stay on track despite life’s ups and downs. In this Bootcamp, we help you find your areas for improvement, provide you with strategies to cope, and then assist you in finding the strength within to not only lose weight but also become a whole new you.

Lisa Rambo did it. She came to the Ranch plagued by self-doubt and left feeling stronger than she ever had. She is now a motivational speaker who travels the country helping others find the strength and courage to lose weight and get healthy. Before joining the show in Season 14, she had weighed more than 200 pounds for her entire adult life.

“For me, the biggest obstacle came from inside,” she said, crediting her trainer, Dolvett, for her mental shift. “I had to get over my self-doubt. Once I believed I could actually do it, I began to do it.

“I went on a show to lose weight, and by the end of it, it wasn’t about my weight at all,” she said. “There’s nothing more empowering and encouraging than seeing yourself get stronger and healthier.”


3. Believe in you

Each season, contestants arrive at the Ranch with a goal to lose weight. As they set out on their journey, they start exercising, push through their mental roadblocks, completely change their diets, and go on to reach those weight-loss goals successfully. But more importantly, they discover a power and belief in themselves that allows them to make things happen in their lives that they never believed possible.

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We know what it’s like to try a diet and give up. We know how frustrating it can be to start an exercise program after years of being inactive. A key to sticking with a new healthy habit is to believe you can reach the goal, not doubting your physical or mental abilities. But you do have to know that we believe in you—and you have to learn to believe in yourself. Throughout the eight-week program, you will be given the tools to help retrain your mind to put aside unhealthy patterns. We’ll walk you through this mental and emotional work each week and put it into an actionable plan—just as you see contestants do on the show.

We all have a story. Whether you used to be thinner, fitter, faster, or more active, or whether you’ve struggled your whole life, it doesn’t matter. You’re starting over today, and this is your clean slate. You can do this, and you can succeed, as long as you trust yourself and stick to your plan.

This is an important revelation—it’s not just about believing in you, but believing in your investment. You decided to buy this book and put your time, your money, and your goals on the line. You’re committing to this, for eight weeks. That’s 56 chances to wake up, recommit to goals, and fight for your life. You decided now was the time to do this. And you decided that this Bootcamp is the way to reach your goal. You took the first steps. Now, trust us to guide you as we help you find success.

4. Challenge yourself

Weight loss is not only about improved health and physical appearance; it’s about that more powerful truth, the truth of untapped potential in each of us. The weight-loss journey forces everyone, as it will force you, to dig deeper than ever and discover things long hidden or lost: strength, resilience, and trust in ourselves to succeed. It’s that discovery, not the act of shedding the pounds, that makes this journey life-changing.

NO EXCUSES: Here’s where you need to ask yourself if you’re ready. You bought the book, you’ve taken the time to read it (at least up to this point), and you’ve begun the journey. What makes this time different from any other? In this program we want you to ask yourself the hard questions and not be afraid of the answers or the emotions those questions might stir up. If you’re ready, we’re ready to help you.

We’ve all used excuses, quite often unintentionally. Excuses are a big roadblock to getting real. They come in many shapes and sizes, and you’re probably familiar with most of them—no time, physical limitations, no money for healthy foods, not a good time to start, not enough willpower, and so on. Are excuses holding you back? As you get ready to dive in, think about your own excuses. Write them down and then question why you’re making them. Is it fear of failing? Fear of hard work? Fear of succeeding? If you can bring them to the front of your mind instead of letting them chip away at you subconsciously, it will go a long way toward getting them out of your way. You can do this!

“I love this quote from Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, and it sums up my journey: ‘You’ve always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself.’ Until I started this journey, I had no idea how strong I was or what I could accomplish if I set my mind to it. It has been life-changing.”  —Julia, Shawnee, Kansas

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To give you a taste of what The Biggest Loser Bootcamp's workouts are really like, we're featuring the "courage" and "rise and grind" workouts over the next few days. Check back here for links to the latest.