Category Archives: Change

My Favorite Lessons from Alison Sweeney

Hearing the news about Alison Sweeney’s departure from The Biggest Loser has caused me to recall the first time I met her and how I felt about her as I got to know her.

When I auditioned to be on TBL I had no idea that she would be the host of the show. She wasn’t the host DSCN0165(B)of the previous seasons. And let’s just be honest, she was a major soap star. So to say I was star-struck was putting it mildly. And she did not disappoint. She looked the part of a star and was as beautiful in person as she was on TV. But what I think we all thought was even more impressive ASis that she is just as nice a person as you would hope she would be. She was warm, genuine and truly cared about the contestants. What you saw on TV was exactly the person she was when the cameras stopped rolling.

I will admit I’m a little sad that she’s leaving Loser, but she has so many projects in the works. I enjoy watching everything she does because as a woman and a wife and mother – she seems to be living proof that you really can “have it all.” A few years ago I wrote a blAS2og about her. I thought in light of this recent news, I would repost it. I called it “My Favorite Lessons from Alison Sweeney.” They all still apply. So here it is again.

When Ali speaks of setting and attaining your goals; you had better listen because she’s obviously doing something right. She is sort of a role model for me in many ways. So I thought this week it would be fun to share My Five Favorite Things I’ve Learned from Alison Sweeney:

  1. There’s no such thing as luck. Some people may think that Ali has experienced a lot of luck in her career. But I have learned from her that there’s really no such thing as “luck”—it’s really about when opportunity and preparation meet. She focused early on what she wanted out of life and began preparing for it. Then when the door of opportunity opened, she was ready! I love that about her. And it’s a valuable lesson for all of us. You have to be prepared to receive all the things you dream of for yourself.
  2. You have got to love what you do! If you do you will excel! She says she was born with the acting bug and it shows. The reason she has been a successful actress and host for so long is because she’s excellent at it! Find what you love to do and do it!
  3. There’s no substitute for sincerity. When my husband Mike showed up on the set of The Biggest Loser a few years back he was a little star-struck to be meeting this Hollywood personality he’d seen on TV for years. We (the contestants) were in the middle of a photo shoot for Prevention magazine and I saw Ali walk up to Mike, wrap her arm around his, call him by name and ask about our son Noah by name. Wow! Talk about first impressions.
  4. It’s not always as easy as it looks. In other words don’t assume because someone looks like being in shape is effortless that it is. Ali is a gorgeous soap star. But she’ll be the first to tell you that her weight is always something that she’s worked on. I remember when the cast of The Biggest Loser went to Jamaica together. My team woke up extra early to sneak into the gym and get a jumpstart on working out to beat out the competition. When we walked in—Alison Sweeney was already in there working out. She always looks healthy and fabulous but it doesn’t come without hard work.
  5. Balance is possible without sacrificing excellence. I don’t know many (if any) other moms that work two jobs like she does. And I went to both of her jobs in one day once. She work(ed) on the set of Days of Our Lives for hours and then sometimes in the same day had to be out until 4:00 in the morning monitoring a Biggest Loser challenge. And yet because of her strong work ethic and integrity she maintains excellence in all she does.

“To whom much is given, much is required.” That scripture comes from Luke 12:48 but I think it really applies to Ali. She’s been given so many incredible opportunities but she makes a conscientious choice to make the most of each of them. I want to live life in the same way!

BLFinale015

So although the Biggest Loser won’t be the same without Alison Sweeney, I do love her and can wait to see the exciting things that are coming up for her next!


Meet Drew, and learn a thing or two…

I want to introduce you all to a very inspiring little boy.  His name is Drew, he’s 9 years old and…well, he’s kind of a big deal.

Drew is the son of a friend of our family.  My husband and his mom, Karen, go way back to college days.

Three years ago Karen took him for his 6-year old “well visit” and found out that—on paper—Drew had gained too much weight and he was headed in a bad direction as it related to his health, according to growth charts.  She very pointedly asked the doctor if her son needed to see a nutritionist.

As a first course of action, the doctor told her that he believed that by being deliberate about portion control, watching WHAT he eats (not just how much of it), encouraging regular physical activity and being mindful of his weight through regular weigh-ins (every three months over the course of the next year)—that he hoped to be able to get Drew on the right track.

Their family had to draw a line in the sand that day and decide what they would do.  They knew it wouldn’t be an easy road many days.  Let’s face it, “moderation” isn’t a concept many kids (or adults) embrace.  And no matter how much a parent loves their child they cannot make this decision for them.  Because when it’s time to do the hard work of eating healthy and being physically active, no one can do it for you.

By listening to the advice of the doctor and making a commitment to healthier living, himself, slowly Drew began to see a change.

He had to truly buy into the mindset that occasionally a slice of pizza or a piece of cake is OK.  (And it is.)  But it couldn’t be a way of life; he couldn’t consume these things every day.  And life isn’t always fair.  Not everyone’s metabolism is the same, and that stinks.  When other kids could shovel in multiple cookies or donuts, Drew had to make the decision to limit his intake to one cookie or ½ a donut even while his friends over-indulged.

Drew has a love of sports that runs deep, so he decided that instead of sitting in front of the television with a bag of chips in his lap after school, he would become active with participation in flag football, basketball, baseball and wrestling.  He and his mom tracked his progress and they began to read the labels on their food and talk about smart choices.

This kid is 9!!  What wisdom!!

He recently went back to the same doctor for his annual wellness visit—now three years later.  And get this, he has grown 6 inches…and only gained two pounds!!

I’m not even his mother and still my heart bursts with pride for Drew.

He is proof positive that little changes—over time—make big differences.  I am so proud of him, on so many levels.  We should all take note of the example he sets and remember these things:

  • Be deliberate about portion control
  • It’s not just about how much you eat, but WHAT you eat
  • Look at labels and make smart choices about what you put in your body
  • Choose to be active instead of a couch potato—and find activities that are fun for you
  • Not everyone’s metabolism is the same, so learn to work with yours
  • Stick with it and don’t give up and you can see amazing results

Here is Drew at the beginning of his journey just three years ago—mid-journey—and now today.  What a special young man he is.

Drew

What is so remarkable to me is that because Drew “gets it” at his early age, he won’t have the same struggles many people when they get older in the areas of their health and weight.  I think his success is amazing and he is such an encouragement.  We could all learn a thing or two from Drew.


“Make-Over Memories”

Last night’s episode of “The Biggest Loser – Glory Days” was the popular Make-Over Episode.  I always watch with curiosity to see the mid-way transformations and to observe the contestants’ reactions to themselves.  And I always wonder how they really feel.

I viewed myself for the first time during the "Make-Over Episode" of The Biggest Loser, Season 4 - not convinced that I was satisfied with what I saw.

My first look at myself mid-way through the transformation process.

To be honest, when we did our make-overs in Season 4, I knew there was an expectation that I be elated with my appearance. I mean, they staged a big dramatic lead up to seeing ourselves for the first time in a full length mirror…then the great unveiling.  I tried to be exuberant…but truthfully I knew I wasn’t finished and wasn’t satisfied with what I saw.  I wasn’t even where I wanted to be for that point in my journey.

I recently read something a friend of mine (Misti Bryson) posted on Facebook that really sums it up with crystal clear clarity.  She wrote:  ” A person’s future is not based upon where they are.  It’s based upon whether they decide to stay there.”

Future Quote

I love that statement because it’s so true!  And it’s a philosophy I continue to embrace even all these years after my Biggest Loser experience.   When we experience anything in life [success or failure], whether it be in weight loss, or relationships, or career, or family…whatever it is – we can’t let that “moment in time” or those circumstances forever determine our future.  We have to constantly be striving for improvement.  New challenges.  New goals.  New dreams.

I guess the point of what I am trying to say is that our futures really are limitless!  And it’s exciting to think about what lies ahead.  If there’s something in your life that you aren’t happy about, it’s not a life sentence.  You can make a change.  Remember, your future is not based upon where you are!  It’s based upon whether you decide to stay there.

If you don’t like it, don’t be content to stay there.

 


My Thoughts on Bob Harper’s New Book: “Jumpstart to Skinny”

Several of you have asked if I have an opinion about Bob Harper’s new book, “Jumpstart to Skinny.” Yes, in fact I do. Here are my thoughts:

• I know Bob Harper personally. I believe these two things to be true about him: 1) He knows what he’s talking about. 2) He genuinely cares about people.
• I don’t believe the whole 800-calories-a-day concept is something you can live with permanently. But I don’t believe that’s what he’s suggesting. This is a jump start. And sometimes we all need a swift kick in the pants to help get us back on track.
• Consuming only 800 calories a day for three weeks won’t kill you. After all, these calories are coming from REAL FOOD. And don’t forget, you can eat all the fresh vegetables you want. (All of them! You don’t have to be hungry.)
• When I was on The Biggest Loser, I ate 1,200 calories a day normally. But as time got closer to the Finale, I went to 800 calories. It did jump start my metabolism and that’s when I started to see really significant results. (I was also running 14 miles a day too however. That part of the equation was impossible to keep up after leaving the show. Bob doesn’t mention exercise to this magnitude in his plan.  Obviously, if you are consuming 800 calories a day your exercise must be modified somewhat.)
• I think as long as you follow the formula: 20% of your calories coming from fat, 40% from carbohydrates and 40% from protein – you will be safe and not doing anything detrimental to your body.
• As far as gaining the weight back quickly, I was able to maintain a healthy body weight for five years (until getting pregnant) after using this technique initially (not permanently) to get to where I wanted to be. So as long as you keep proper perspective I don’t think re-gaining everything is unavoidable.
• Now when it comes to the word “Skinny”…let me go on the record as saying I would NOT be offended if anyone wanted to use that term to refer to me. 🙂 But I do agree “healthy” is a better choice.

So those are my thoughts. I welcome yours’.
~ J


Don’t get “dogged” by your past…

I’ve shared this story before, but it’s one I need to remind myself of sometimes so I want to share it again here. It’s the story of two dogs: Marty and Sam. Marty, is a Miniature Schnauzer and Sam, is a yellow Labrador Retriever. They both belong to my pastor and he shared this in a sermon a while back and it really made an impression on me.

When Sam was a puppy, Marty would exercise his dominance as the “alpha male” and eat his dog food and then go over and eat Sam’s too.

Now, many, many months have passed, and Sam outweighs Marty by almost four times his body weight. But guess what happens when Marty finishes his own food? He goes over to Sam’s bowl and Sam cowers down in fear as Marty proceeds to gobble up both bowls.

Sam reverts back to the mentality of a six-week-old puppy. Even though his size and strength far exceeds Marty’s now; he has a defeated mindset that he can’t overcome.

This illustrates to me the danger of living too much in the past. It can keep us focused on the wrong things. If we remember our past failures it can freeze us in the present and hurt our prospects for the future. It causes us to say things like: “I’ll never…” or “I can’t…” or “I messed up too many times to…”

But there’s got to be a delicate balance in our thinking. The fact is the past isn’t all bad. I believe we should use the past; both the positive and negative – to build us up and prepare us for the future.

I hear from people a lot who share stories about feeling defeated in their attempts to lose weight or make changes in their lives. They are scared of change, and they are defeated by their past. I try to encourage them to just take that first step to move beyond the past and into the future.

Whenever you begin to make changes in life, it may be scary but more than that it’s going to be exciting. Sometimes when you begin to make those changes things feel beyond your control. But when that happens, just remember that God is in control – His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Rest in that reality and make a change today that will impact all your tomorrows!


Q&A with Julie: How Do You Combat the Negative Self Talk?

I know I say this a lot, but I really mean it – one of the very best parts of being on “The Biggest Loser” and the “journey” that has followed is getting to meet people from all over that I would have otherwise never known.  These people share their stories, their struggles, their victories.  I love it!

So I decided recently to start answering some frequently asked questions via my Blog.

The other day I got a message from a precious lady in Chatham, Ontario.  She shared her heart and at the conclusion of her email, she said:

“Could you reassure me that it is possible to lose weight and keep it off.  Also, how do you (did you) battle the negative self-talk?”

I have gotten variations of those questions many times.  So I thought it would be a great topic for today.

First of all, yes it is possible to lose weight and keep it off.  I maintained a healthy body weight for five years after being on “The Biggest Loser.”  Notice I said “healthy body weight.”  Not necessarily “my finale weight.”  I was running fourteen miles a day (yes, I said a day) prior to the Finale.  I couldn’t keep up that schedule.  But I found a healthy weight and a size I was comfortable with.  And through good nutrition and exercise it is possible to keep your weight under control.  Is it easy?  HECK NO!  It is a struggle every single day.  There are constant highs and lows in the battle…days of both victory and of defeat.

If you are like me, I am a food addict.  It is possible for an alcoholic to eliminate their addiction completely from their lives (not easy, but possible).  But who can stay completely away from food?  You have to have it to live.

So I in no way want to imply that there is anything easy about maintaining weight loss.  I think you must be determined and be realistic.  But as we’ve all heard many times before, anything worth having is worth working hard for.

During my pregnancy I gained weight and I am in the process of getting it back off.  I look at these women on magazine covers that pop a baby out and the next week are back in their skinny jeans.  Well, that has not been my experience (and I don’t own a pair of skinny jeans anyway).   I have discouraging days when the progress is slower than I’d like it to be…which leads me to the second question:  How do you battle the negative self-talk?

Negative self-talk got me up to 218 pounds and landed me on a reality TV show for the morbidly obese.  So I know quite a bit about it.  I was guilty of it my whole life.  And even now, I sometimes catch myself having a defeated or discouraged attitude.

What helped me initially, and still does to this day, is to acknowledge the source of my strength.  For me, it’s my faith that plays that integral role in my life.  I read in the scriptures all the magnificent things God has to say about me.  “I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”  I am “the apple of His eye…”  He calls me His “Beloved…”  And “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  This part of my life truly does help me combat the negative self-talk.  I mean, if the creator of the universe holds me in such high esteem…then I must be something special.  It’s all about feeling WORTHY…worthy of the effort it takes to live the life of your dreams.

I realize that some of you reading this don’t share the same faith.  But you can still drill down to whatever the source of your strength is.  Maybe it’s yourself.  Or your family.  Or your kids.  Whatever it is that motivates you to keep on trying and never give up…lock your mind around that thing.  BELIEVE you really are worth all the effort to make a change in your life.

I read this recently and I have said it to myself many times since then:   “Losing weight is hard.  Maintaining weight loss is hard.  Being fat is hard.  Choose your hard.”


Q & A with Julie: Do I keep up with Season 4 Biggest Loser Castmates?

Run

“The Biggest Loser” was a life-changing – once-in-a-lifetime experience to say the least. I am beyond blessed to have been a part of it.

I am very often asked if I continue to keep in touch with those I was on the show with in Season 4. And the answer is “Yes!” Many of them I am still in contact with.

There’s no way you can go through the kind of experience we all endured together and not forge a forever bond. The experience of “Reality TV” in and of itself is very unique. And the dynamics of “The Biggest Loser” are very unique. On my season, we lived in a dormitory type setting. The quarters were very close. And we lived life together. We cooked meals together. Ate together. Did dishes together. Did laundry together. Worked out together for hours on end. We faced challenges together and my “Black Team” members and I actually survived Jillian Michaels together. Any socializing we did was … together. It was as much like a family as any you could imagine.

I have such positive feelings for everyone on Season 4. And not just the cast, but the producers and all the crew. Facebook is a wonderful way to keep up with everyone. I keep in touch with Bill, Jim and Isabeau a good bit. But Nicole and I text back and forth all the time. And Hollie is one of my closest friends. Me and Hollie...love her.And every once in a while I’ll get an irreverant post on Facebook from Jez and I know that he still loves me.

And yes – for those of you who want to know – I do still keep in touch with Jillian. I think I will forever. She’s an amazing trainer and friend. Me and Jillian

The Biggest Loser “fraternity” also transcends well beyond the season we were on. For years after my season, I went back to every Finale. And made great connections with so many of the contestants that were on years after me. I also got the chance to meet those that were on the previous seasons. The ones I was “in awe” of…those like Suzy Preston Hoover and Poppi Kramer. Scheduling hasn’t permitted me to go back for the past couple of seasons, but each year Chef Devin Alexander hosts a wonderful dinner party for all the former losers. It’s a great time to get together and reminisce and socialize.

Some of you may remember that Kelly Fields (Season 5) lived with me for a while as she was preparing for her Finale. She is like a member of my own family. And Michelle Aguilar, winner of Season 6, is a dear friend of mine. I could go on an on about the fabulous friends I’ve made through the Biggest Loser experience. And I watch each season with equal parts enthusiasm and sympathy as I watch a “new class” of losers endure the beatings that will change their lives.

With Suzy Preston Hoover Nicole Mahalik, Bill Germanakos and Me Me and Michelle Aguilar The precious Kelly Fields


When the Answer is…Wait

There’s really nothing easy in life. Whether it be losing 100 pounds or changing careers or choosing a new school for a child.

My family has been undergoing a lot of transitions recently. We’re faced with many important decisions. And we’ve really been seeking God for answers. And still, we wait. Do you ever find yourself in that position?

I’ve heard a lot of sayings over the years that should serve as some comfort. Things like, “waiting times are not wasted times” and “delayed blessings are not necessarily denied blessings.”

I guess it’s then when you really have to dig in deep to find your faith. Live your faith. And you have to trust that the God who created you is big enough, strong enough and capable enough to guide you in the right direction. Actually, it’s never God I doubt; it’s myself. It’s wonderful when He makes things so obviously clear that there’s no denying it’s His will.

When I was cast on The Biggest Loser up against hundreds of thousands of other applicants, it was obviously God’s will for my life. When I was able to work hard and lose the weight that had held me back for so much of my life—God’s will. When we were able to jump through so many hoops and cut effortlessly through red tape to execute the adoption of our precious little boy quickly and smoothly, it was obviously God’s hand at work.

So what about when things don’t fall so precisely into place? What then?

What if you have a weight-loss goal and the scale isn’t budging? You know it’s in God’s will to lose weight and get healthy and be a good steward of the body He gave you.

What if you have a goal to break a bad habit or make a positive personal change? But you can’t seem to conquer it and instead you are filled with anxiety and defeat.

It’s then that what we are truly made of comes through. I find scripture to be very enlightening and helpful during these times. God’s Word is more than just a little pat on the back and the utterance of a cliché from a well-meaning friend. If we can wrap our minds around the power and truth of scripture I think we can all draw great strength during these waiting, anxious times.

Here are two in particular that are blessing me at this crazy time in life. I share them with you in the hope that whatever struggle you may be facing will be made better by resting on these same promises from God.

  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
  • “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)

As you read this, my wish is that you’ll be encouraged if you, too, happen to be going through some “waiting times.” Be sure that God has a wonderful plan for your life! Stay strong in your faith and it will come to pass.


Casting Advice: “The Biggest Loser”

One of the questions I get the most from Biggest Loser fans and those who aspire to be on the show, is “Do you have any advice on HOW to get cast?”

I can only tell you what I did and what worked for me; but I decided to put that information into a blog in the hopes of answering the question.

First of all, let me state that “The Biggest Loser” was life-changing for me! And I believe it was part of God’s plan for my life. BUT…(and this is really important to know and believe) it is NOT the only way to lose weight, get healthy and take your life back. Far from it. In fact, (and I mean no offense my BL family when I say this) it’s the people on the street who I meet who have done it on their own that are my biggest inspirations.

Having said that, I believe the first step in the BL casting process must be a soul-searching exercise.

It’s tough to comprehend how difficult the process is. You must be prepared to be away from your family, friends, home, job, all the comforts and securities in your life for as much as four months. It’s not just a physically excruciating journey – it’s a mental, emotional and spiritual one too. And it’s harder than anything I’ve ever done in my life.

If after you do some serious introspection, you believe in your heart that it’s the right thing to pursue, then I think by all means you should do it with gusto!

Although I’ve always said there’s no “key formula” to getting cast on The Biggest Loser, I do believe that there are some things that casting executives are probably looking for. I mean, aside from all the serious health benefits to the show; it is at its core a television show

Like I said, I’m no expert; but this is what I would recommend based on my own experience:

  • Everyone has a story. Know yours’ and be prepared to share it, and share it well.
    For me, I was just a stay-at-home mom who dug a hole of obesity five pounds at a time. I didn’t believe there was anything significant about me. But it turns out that was not just my story; but the same story millions of women share. In an effort to put everyone and everything else ahead of myself; I neglected myself. I saw The Biggest Loser as an opportunity to reclaim MORE than just the life I had lost. I wanted to have the life I had never really known, but always dreamed of. I knew my story, as unglamourous as it may have been.
  •  Be ready to passionately share WHY you need the Biggest Loser experience.
    I shared everyting “fat” had stolen from my life: the missed opportunities, the low self esteem, the negative effect it had on every relationship in my life.  I was at a point of desperation and I made no apologies for how I thought The Biggest Loser opportunity was critical for my future. It’s also important to note that if selected, you will be an advocate for the BL brand. You must be on board with their mission and be ready to be an enthusiastic advocate for it. 
  • Be ready to passionately share WHY THEY NEED YOU!
    Let’s face it, there are millions of people who want to be a part of this process. So be prepared to convince them that selecting you would be a win-win deal.
  • Be friendly, funny and sincere.
    Let your personality shine through.  You can probably remember contestants over the years that won America’s collective heart for one reason or another.  Be engaging and check your attitude at the door.
  • Have an audition video.
    Although the casting process doesn’t  require a video submission, I think a visual supplement to your application can only help. There are people who watch all of those videos. And so you will need a HOOK within the first ten seconds of your video; something to make them want to keep watching.
  • Have some good photos of yourself that will catch a casting exec’s eye.
    You will need the good, the bad and the ugly. Have some great photos of you at your thinnest and at your heaviest. I think it’s a great thing to show them a photo of yourself at a weight similar to how you’ll look at the Finale. I think that’s a terrific indication of how great (healthy) you can look at the end of this process.

Don’t get discouraged whatever the results are. The casting process for me took about a year. That’s a long time to be in limbo. But you can’t get off track from your goal of getting healthy and losing the weight that’s holding you back (and I mean both the literal and the metaphorical weight). I know of several Biggest Loser contestants that auditioned for a particular season, but ended up being called back for a subsequent season. So a “no” right now, doesn’t mean the door is closed forever.

If you believe The Biggest Loser may be a part of your journey, then I whole-heartedly encourage you to pursue it with all you’ve got. It can be a part of your story that will change you forever. But regardless of whether your casting experience results in a spot on the show or not, always believe that you are WORTH the effort to do anything you want to do – and you are WORTH living the life of your dreams whether The Biggest Loser is a part of it or not.


A Powerful Life Lesson…from a Couple of Dogs

You know it’s funny how simple things can really make an impact on you.  For example, I learned a valuable life lesson from a couple of dogs.

Marty, is a Miniature Schnauzer and Sam, is a yellow Labrador Retriever. They both belong to my pastor.  This story he shared in a sermon really made an impression on me.

When Sam was a puppy, Marty would exercise his dominance as the “alpha male” and eat his dog food and then go over and eat Sam’s too.

Now, many, many months have passed, and Sam outweighs Marty by almost four times his body weight. But guess what happens when Marty finishes his own food? He goes over to Sam’s bowl and Sam cowers down in fear as Marty proceeds to gobble up both bowls.

Sam reverts back to the mentality of a six-week-old puppy. Even though his size and strength far exceeds Marty’s now; he has a defeated mindset that he can’t overcome.

This illustrates to me the danger of living too much in the past. It can keep us focused on the wrong things. If we remember the bad things from our past—the mistakes and failures—it can freeze us in the present and hurt our prospects for the future. It causes us to say things like: “I’ll never…” or “I can’t…” or “I messed up too many times to…”

But there’s got to be a delicate balance in our thinking. The fact is the past isn’t all bad. I believe God wants to use the past. He wants to use the positive and negative to build us up and prepare us for the future.

I communicate with people almost every day that share stories about feeling defeated in their attempts to lose weight or make changes in their lives. They are scared of change, and they are defeated by their past. I try to encourage them to just take that first step to move beyond the past and into the future.

Whenever you begin to make changes in life, it may be scary but more than that it’s going to be exciting. Sometimes when you begin to make those changes things feel beyond your control. But when that happens, just remember that God is in control. And as the scripture tells us, His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Rest in that reality and make a change today that will impact all your tomorrows!