Jillian Michaels, Bob Harper dish on 'The Biggest Loser's new season
By Christopher Rocchio, 09/02/2009
WhileThe Biggest Loser's upcoming eighth season will feature a "second chances" theme, trainer Bob Harper feels there really is no limit on how many opportunities a person should have when it comes to living healthy.
"I come from a world that if their second chance fails they're going to get a third chance and a fourth and a fifth and a fifteenth," Harper told reporters during a Tuesday media conference call.
"I don't want anyone to ever put themselves in a box of, 'I lost my second chance,' because life brings with you ebbs and flows and if you miss out on this second chance, guess what, you're going to get another one if you decide that you're ready to have one."
Fellow trainer Jillian Michaels agrees, and she told reporters that there are two paths to take when life isn't all it's cracked up to be -- and she hopesThe Biggest Loser contestants choose to take the high road.
"You can find that alchemy that turns lead into gold, find that magic where you can see the loss as an entry point for learning and grow from it and become wiser and stronger," said Michaels.
"So we have these contestants that have been to hell and back to be quite frank. And they're coming to the campus and the idea is that how do we heal these old injuries and rehabilitate these contestants not just physically but emotionally because ultimately -- although we talk about diet and exercise -- the philosophy of the show has always been about life."
The Biggest Loser's eighth season will begin with the 16 contestants learning that they'll be choosing a partner, with whom they'll compete with in challenges and weigh-ins.
However instead of the contestants receiving either Harper or Michaels as a trainer, they'll have the opportunity to train with both of them interchangeably.
"It feels so fresh and I think adds another new layer to the show. I think it further elevates the show," executive producer Mark Koops told reporters during the conference call.
"Watching Bob and Jillian -- who I believe to be the world's two best trainers -- working hand in hand, these 16 people who came to the ranch this season... they got the benefits of both trainers as many contestants haven't. I'll think you'll see from the results that they really benefited from that."
Michaels described the decision to have her work with Harper as a show evolution that felt "natural" to the trainers.
"I think that this is how the show should have been since its onset. I can't imagine not working together," she told reporters, adding she also learned something about her fellow trainer.
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"We have the same ideas and beliefs about where [the contestants] should end up. We have different approaches on how to get there. And I think that we are complementary to each other."
In addition, Michaels said it "really sucks" when -- as in previous seasons -- she was forced to compete against Harper and the contestants he was training.
"I think that that's been evident to America who see us struggle with that dynamic. And so I personally never want to see it go back another way," she said definitively. "I think the competition exists between the contestants and should not exist - should not involve the trainers whatsoever."
Harper described Michaels as his "No. 1 confidante" and added he enjoyed the experience of working with her.
"She is the one person that I can go to and have always been able to go to. But in seasons past you never really got to see that. Now all of the sudden you see our two forces really joined together. And I really think that there was magic there," he told reporters.
"That's why it's like it's so great and refreshing to see the two of us working together because the competition gets put back into the contestant's hand and it leaves Jillian and I just to focus on what we need to do and that is to help these guys get their lives back."
Michaels said what both she and Harper bring to the table are different "elements and dynamics" that are "necessary."
"It's kind of like every kid should grow up with his mother and his father," she explained. "They had a full education and they experienced every range of emotions and information and knowledge."
Michaels reiterated that it's "no secret" that she was "very unhappy" duringThe Biggest Loser's seventh season this past spring but added the eighth-season contestants helped changed her attitude about the show.
"They were the perfect cast to help me reconnect," she said, adding her personal problems with the show and certain contestants should not hinder her efforts to help them live healthier lifestyles.
"Right now I'm trying to get in that place of being like this is a job; you do your job. You don't get triggered emotionally. It is not personal. You get in and you do your job," she said.
"So the show is an iconic bit of pop culture that I think helps to change the world. And it gives me a platform to do so. And you'll watch both Bob and I, we are human, and we go through ebbs and flows with it. There are days when we both never want to go back and there are days when we're like, 'We're the luckiest people on earth. It's like anything; there's good and bad with everything."
The Biggest Loser's eighth season cast will also include the NBC reality show's heaviest contestant ever -- Shauntina "Shay" Sorrells, who began the competition at 476 lbs..
Sorrells mother was a heroin addict, forcing her to live in foster care until she was 18 years old. She used food as a way to cope with her past -- especially after her mother passed away three years ago due to a blood clot in her lung that was a result of years of drug abuse and poor circulation brought on by obesity.
Harper said it was difficult for him and Michaels to analyze how Sorrells let her health spiral so far out of control.
"I think that was the biggest challenge for working with Shay. This girl came with a lot of baggage and it was up to Jillian and I to take all of that apart ourselves and go through it and help her as much as possible," he explained. "It was a huge challenge and so rewarding because this girl, I mean, like you would just say one thing to her about like having her look at her own life as opposed to anything else and I mean she would just fall apart."
Harper said the goal was to get Sorrells to get to the point where she could "stand on her own two feet."
"Look at that lost look in her eye but still having so much hope, I mean, it was just like - I have chills just talking about it because this girl needed us. This girl needed to be on The Biggest Loser and work with Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper because this girl was going to die," he said.
"It just was something that just really affected me personally and emotionally on a daily basis to help this girl."
Sorrells took the title of heaviest contestant ever from seventh-season participant Daniel Wright -- who tipped the scales at 454 lbs. before shedding 142 lbs. and weighing-in at 312 lbs. at the season finale's previously eliminated contestants weigh-in.
However Wright is back for The Biggest Loser's eighth season to finish what he started, a decision Michaels said she wasn't surprised about given the season's "second chances" theme.
"We were excited. We were really happy that the show was taking responsibility and seeing his journey through, you know, finishing what he started; finishing what we started with him. So for that I'm very proud of the decision that Biggest Loser made to do that," she told reporters.
Harper added that Wright's plight airing onThe Biggest Loser is something that resonates with a lot of viewers.
"He is the face of what's going on in America right now -- he is a 19 year old boy at 454 pounds," he said. "That is not normal but it has become the norm. And for him to continue on his journey coming back on for another season is going to inspire that generation that is in need of such help at this point."
With seven The Biggest Loser seasons and more than 200 contestants in the books, Michaels told reporters that it has an "extremely high success rate of about 55%," which Harper added is "unheard of."
However Michaels offered a reminder than the trainers can't personally check-in on all of those former contestants, meaning they have to take ownership of their weight loss and make it a priority in their lives.
"The onus falls upon them to reach out for help," she said. "And when it does we're there and so is the show. The doctors stay with them, follow up with them. The casting people follow up with them. I mean we are there for them but they have to ask for the help."
Harper said he always tells the contestants on their first day that it will be "easy" to lose weight during filming due to the "controlled environment."
"But what they've got to learn is to stand on their own two feet and get out there and live in the real world like we all do. And talk to the people - like Jillian or me or anybody in their lives that look a way that they like," he explained. "And you're going to talk to any of these people and they're going to all tell you it's a conscious decision that they have to make on a daily basis."
Harper added just like there is no limit on the number of chances a person should receive to live a healthy lifestyle, there is no finish line either.
"There's no like quick fix here," he said. "These guys have to take responsibility of their lives and be able to learn what we give them and take the tools that Jillian and I give them to live a better life and realize that it's hard."