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Chris Powell Weighs In on 'Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss
MSN TV spends a day with the host of ABC's new
By Minh Nguyen Special to MSN TV
You're probably familiar with ABC's "Extreme
Makeover: Home Edition." "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition" replaces
the concept of fixing up homes in bad condition with getting the super-obese
(individuals who exceed their body weight by 225 percent and who are roughly 200
pounds overweight) healthy and closer to a normal weight range for their height.
"Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition" picks individuals who are super-obese
and teaches them how to lose pounds and maintain their weight. It is not a
contest among other people. The only person they have anything to prove to is
themselves with the help of their friend, coach and trainer, Chris Powell. Chris spends a year with these eight
individuals and empowers them to lose the weight. "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss
Edition" premieres Monday, May 30, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
We spent a day with Chris Powell at the California Health and Longevity
Institute going through some of the things the contestants went through in order
to lose weight. We learned it wasn't all exercise and eating right: A lot of it
was mental. We sweated and worked out, felt how it would feel to be super-obese
(Chris had us put on extra weight with a backpack, and we found out we couldn't
even walk), learned to cook and ate the most healthy and delicious meal
imaginable, then we went to a hypnotherapy session where we overcame one of our
deep-rooted fears. We left the Four Seasons in West Lake Village and the health
and longevity institute much healthier and happier. MSN TV had a chance to speak
to Chris Powell about the show, how he came to specialize in helping the
super-obese and what advice he would give to people to help a friend or family
member lose some weight. "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition" will be
premiering May 30 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
MSN TV: How excited are you to be on this show?
Powell: I am thrilled and I am honored to be a part of these transformations and
to be a part of these amazing individuals' lives.
This is a life-changing process, can you say, for all of
Ultimately, this process is more than life-changing; it is mind-changing.
That's the first thing we need to do in order for them to change the rest of
their life. It's unlocking that potential that they all have. They just don't
realize it yet.
Can you tell us about your journey and how you came to be on the
I'm a transformational specialist. I've been in the training world for well
over a decade now. I started working with the super-obese in 2003. The
super-obese are individuals who are 200 pounds overweight. Through the course of
some of my work, some of the production companies, they found me and they were
inspired to ask me if I'd be a part of this project. They came to me with an
offer to help eight amazing individuals, at the same time to inspire and
motivate millions. It's a dream job.
What drew you to the super-obese?
I was the smallest kid in school all the way to my teenage years. Of course
that led me to have a fair share of bullying and dealing with what it's like to
have a negative self-image. It was my mid-teens, 14 or 15, that I started
training. That's what empowered me to change my life. That's what made me strong
and powerful. So when I went to get my degree in Exercise Science and
Kinesiology, I started working with people who also suffered with the negative
self-image on the opposite side of the spectrum with the morbidly obese. It felt
like we had been through so much. It was one and the same. We were turning to
empower ourselves. It's just taken off from there.
What kind of advice can you give to someone who doesn't understand
what the super-obese/overweight are going through?
It's hard to give advice that's going to truly make a solid impact, if you
could feel what it is like to live at 400, 500, 600 pounds. There's an exercise
that I do with a lot of the family members of the individuals I work with. I had
them put a backpack on that's filled with a couple hundred pounds so they could
see what it's like just to move in their family member's shoes. It's such an
eye-opening experience because most of us can't fathom what it's like to have so
much weight bearing down on us, to feel how painful it is just to move. How we
take for granted some of the things that seem like everyday life for us, it's a
challenge for them. They have to carve and shape their lives around all the
things that they can't do. I have the utmost respect for the people that want to
change and are willing to undergo this journey.
Can you go through their exercise routine?
It's a whole year of exercise, so I get pretty creative with it. There are a
lot of different things we do. It's going to require a significant amount of
cardio. When it comes to the exercise, I'm constantly switching it up, but most
of it is bodyweight movements. We have no business lifting iron over our head if
we can't control our own body weight. I want to teach these individuals how to
be functional in everyday life first. Then we can graduate on to lifting weights
and moving in a whole new capacity. First and foremost we need to focus on
developmental movements, such as pushing off the ground, standing up. Of course
there's a lot of cardio as well. It comes down to just burning body fat.
How involved do you get with each individual?
I've got eight new best friends now. When you spend a year of your life with
somebody and you share so much going back and forth, we're so involved. That's
why you'll see there's so much emotion from me from all the different episodes,
because it's a personal relationship. It extends so far between a trainer and a
client. I lived with these people, so I know what they go through each and every
day. I know their struggle that is so unique to their lives. I want to help them
overcome those struggles and obstacles, and sharing in those victories with
them, there's nothing more personal than that.
Are there any moments that stuck out while filming for you?
There were so many moments. I have a year of the most incredible memory of
these eight transformations. The one thing that I always go back to are these
challenges that I love to do. I call them milestones, and that's when they reach
a certain amount of weight where they can do so much more physically with their
body, so we go out and we do triathlons, bungee jumping, we do half-marathons.
You bike 100-mile bike rides. We do these awesome challenges, and those are the
most amazing moments when we go through that. It's this eye-opening experience:
It's like when you're climbing a mountain and you stop and you turn around and
you look how far you've come.
How do you get participants to overcome the mental aspect of wanting
to shed the weight? You've said it's all mental before they can get to the
Absolutely. These folks suffer from super-obesity. It's far beyond just
liking food. It's all mental. They're not dealing with issues that are unique to
the super-obese -- they're dealing with issues that are unique to human beings.
They're dealing with things that we all deal with. The way they've handled it is
to turn to food. They're dealing with true addiction, which is all mental. In
the process, we focus on the mind first and the integrity they have for
ourselves. When sobriety begins, it's just one day at a time. Through the course
of the year, we have ups and downs, real life happens and we learn how to handle
those obstacles day in and day out. After a certain amount of time, these
individuals learn to love themselves. They learn to value their worth. They grow
their own integrity to a point that true transformation happens.
You seem like an incredibly nice guy. Do you ever get mad when the
participants aren't following your direction?
I wouldn't say I get mad. I get frustrated. I try not to get mad, and it's
hard sometimes because our relationship is personal and it does cross the
boundaries of just being a trainer and just being a client. I live with them. I
know the ins and outs of their lives. Sometimes it is difficult and we can argue
like our family members would. Sometimes it's not pretty. [Uncomfortable laugh]
The only time I truly get upset is when somebody is demeaning to one of my
people or if somebody from the outside is trying to sabotage a beautiful thing
that we are trying to create. That's the only time I'll ever truly get upset.
What kind of advice would you give to a family member/person who
wants to encourage their loved one to lose the weight?
That's a wonderful question. The advice I would give to a family member is --
I know this is a little different -- but just to love them unconditionally.
We're talking about an addiction here. As long as that person knows that they're
loved no matter what the decisions they make are, the shame they have is gone.
If they feel they're being policed in the process, the individuals have a
tendency to hide their addiction, and that's the last thing we want to occur.
It's so important they're open, honest and authentic about what they're feeling
and what their actions are leading them to. The more we can get this individual
to talk about it, to see that they want a change, then that's the only way
change can truly happen.
"Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition" premieres Monday, May 30, at 10
p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
I've struggled with weight issues all of my life, at least the 48 out of 55 years I've been alive. Last night watching & hearing Chris, I wished I was in my 20's again, how empowering and promising life seemed to be. I have lived through a heart attack, open heart surgery, 2 strokes and have been insulin dependent since I was 27.
People are usually shocked to know this, all they see is an obese woman.
If I could make a wish come true, it would be to lose the fat that surrounds me with Chris
as my coach. I saw the beautiful young lady this morning on GMA, I pray she holds close all She learned and accomplished with Chris as her coach. GBY Chris!