Category Archives: Strength

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!


Are you ready for your marathon?

Last night I was sitting in church listening to the guest speaker. My ears perked up as he began talking about how his wife was an avid runner—something he had no appreciation for since he had a car and that was his preferred method for getting from one place to another.

I kind of half-laughed when he said that, because with the busyness of life, running has taken a lower place on my list of priorities. In the past I loved to run. It was one of the few times I could get alone with my thoughts. He said his wife was a marathon runner and as he continued to talk about some of the reasons she enjoys running, it all resonated with me very loudly.

Here’s my spin on what he shared about the commonalities between a marathon and the race we call life.  There are three main things to consider:

  1. The preparation. When you embark on any race, you must first get ready. Those who train (prepare) are bound to do better. For example, in a marathon you must be sure to be stretched and hydrated. Likewise, in life’s journey – you must take care of yourself. Nourish yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually and prepare for the road ahead.
  2. The focus. Don’t get distracted by looking at the mile ahead or the one behind. Focus on the mile you are on right now. “Tomorrow has enough troubles of its own.” (Matt. 6:34) Stay focused on where you are right now. This will keep you stronger in this moment. If you do this, you’ll have what you need for the next one.
  3. The reason you’re running. I hadn’t really thought of it this way before, but the guy sharing last night said, “A very small percentage of those competing in a marathon are doing it to actually win it.”  He went on to say that most runners are there not necessarily to win, but just to finish.

I thought about the power of that statement. There is something extraordinarily gratifying about finishing what you started.  Not only do you feel powerful, but it prepares you for the next goal.

Are you running a marathon now? If so, are you prepared, focused and sure of the reason you’re running it?

First Half Marathon

At the finish of my first half marathon. I wasn’t the fastest. But I finished. And that feeling was amazing!


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 Take on a Blog About “Fatties” and Jillian Michaels

I want to “weigh in” (pun intended) on a topic that I actually feel qualified to address:  Jillian Michaels.

In a recent blog from a woman who calls herself “Jeanette” and operates a blog identifying herself as “The Fat Chick” (I’m not going to give any links – if you care enough to find it, you can through a quick internet search) she took on Jillian and criticized her approach and her motives.

Jeanette stated, “In an epic moment…my Facebook feed threw up this little fact:  ‘Jillian Michaels has published her ‘Top 3 Guidelines for Improving Body Image’ at EverydayHealth.com. This seems in line with her recent move to distance herself from Biggest Loser after she made untold millions screaming at fatties on the show.” She went onTHE BIGGEST LOSER Episode 414 further to judge Jillian’s credibility and her intentions.

It’s clear that she has never met Jillian, nor has she been mentored by her.  She’s never sweated through one workout with her.  And she clearly has no personal insight into her motives.  I, on the other hand, do.  And seven years after she stopped being my trainer on “The Biggest Loser” I am still in contact with Jillian.

I will interject here that I know that people have varying opinions of the Show.  Some have lost interest.  Many contestants have come out with negative reports of their experience.  I don’t discount anyone’s right to feel like they do.

But it’s particularly difficult to sit back and watch someone like “Jeanette” be so critical.  Among the many things I objected to in her blog was the term “fatties” – which she used to describe the contestants on BL.

In response to her comments, I want to make my own:

I was one of those fatties that she yelled at on “The Biggest Loser” and I can tell you that never once did Jillian make me feel less-than or unaccepted.  She empowered me to love myself enough to change. Change my thinking, my circumstances, my negativity, my self-doubt, my weakness. Weight comes in many forms and losing it doesn’t make you a better person, it makes you realize the person you were all along; the one God created you to be.  Jillian was a catalyst for acceptance in my life, not from anyone else, but from me.  That was life-changing.

That’s my opinion.  I welcome yours’.

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Grab your oxygen mask first!

Oxygen MaskI learned so many things through my “Biggest Loser” experience.  And Jillian Michaels made a profound impact on my life.  One of the most powerful truths she instilled in me (and all of us who were trained by her) was that “self” is not a bad word.  Sometimes in the society we live in, we are made to feel like it is.

I’m thinking particularly in my role as a mom, it is essential (most of the time) to put my kids before myself.   But I heard a great analogy today that reinforced the opinion that you don’t have to be self-ISH to make yourself a healthy priority.  And I think there’s a big difference.

Think about when you are ready for take off on an airplane.  The flight attendant says, “If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.”

Wow, how true is that!  In other words, if we are not getting enough “oxygen” for ourselves how can we possibly be healthy and high-functioning for others?

What is your oxygen?  Maybe it’s quiet time alone to gather your thoughts as each day begins.  Or maybe it’s going for a run to get the endorphins in your brain pumping.  It could be taking the time to plan healthy menus, or reading a really great book, or soaking in a hot tub.  Or maybe it’s something as simple as sitting out on the porch at the end of the day and reflecting, or praying, or just listening.

Whatever the oxygen is in your life…I encourage you to “grab your oxygen mask first” – and by taking care of yourself, you will be so much better prepared to help those whom you love the most!


Abercrombie & Fitch thinks you have to be skinny to be cool? Think again.

The headline “Abercrombie & Fitch targets skinny shoppers, won’t sell larger sizes for plus-sized women” caught my eye this week. In fact, the subject has been all over the Internet, so I decided to finally weigh in on the topic (pun intended).

I have been a size 2 and I have been a size 22, and to be honest A& F has never been on my list of frequently visited stores. They are just not my style, regardless of my size. But I have a 12 year-old son (going on 21 in his own mind) who does like their clothing.

Basically, if you are bigger than a size large, don’t bother shopping at A& F. They don’t want you to and you won’t find anything there to fit. They have XS on the racks, but not XL (for women). And that’s ok. In America we are free to conduct business in whatever way we chose. And likewise, we are free – as consumers – to shop anywhere we choose.

Although I haven’t heard a direct quote from CEO Michael Jeffries this week, I did read an article in which he was quoted back from 2006. Here’s what he had to say:

“Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny.”

I don’t take issue with A&F’s right to engage any marketing strategy they choose; nor do I critique Jeffries’ right to take any stance he wants. What I do find unfortunate, is that in this image-conscious, media-driven society we live in, that all the buzz about A&F not selling clothes to “normal sized” healthy people (over a size 10), means they are alienating a group of very impressionable kids who are developing body image issues every day. And these issues go far beyond just being frustrated because they can’t fit into a cool pair of trendy jeans. These issues penetrate into the deepest core of their beings and affect the way they see themselves and value themselves. And as superficial as something like this may sound, it affects (in some people) the course they choose for their future.

The most important thing I learned from my “Biggest Loser” experience is that I am WORTH the effort to live the life I’ve always dreamed of. We all are! And that worth is NOT linked to a number on a scale, or the brand name on my shirt or jeans. And although controversy with the A&F brand is nothing new [I mean seriously, some of their ads feature so many naked bodies, you’d wonder if they are selling clothes or something else] I do hope that we as parents and adults-of-influence in the lives of kids will use all our influence to positively affect their lives and their developing self images.

And as a mom of three kids…cool or not (the verdict is still out), I’ll probably spend my money at Target.


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.


Which Wolf Wins?

As school starts back and other activities continue to heat up I find prioritizing and focusing especially essential. You can probably relate. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a busy life nowadays.

Priorities. Where my heart is. That’s what’s on my mind as I write today.

That topic reminds me of a story that a friend emailed me a while back that contained such wisdom. She didn’t know the origin of the story, and yet it’s apparently been around for years. Here’s my best paraphrase:

A wise Cherokee Indian was talking to his grandson. He described the battle that goes on inside of people and he compared it to two wolves. He said one wolf possesses the characteristics of anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, inferiority and ego.

The other wolf possesses the characteristics of joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, generosity, compassion, truth and faith.

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “In this battle, which wolf wins?”

To which his grandfather simply replied, “The one you feed.”

A simple story, but so powerful.

We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can control our priorities. We can choose which desires of our heart to pursue and we can control “which wolf to feed.”

Whether it’s a personal struggle with your weight, or self-esteem or it’s a battle you have with another person—decide today which wolf you’ll feed. Decide what you want your priorities to be and what the true desire of your heart is.

I just heard a saying that I had never heard before but I absolutely love: “You will never possess what you do not pursue. Pursuit is the proof of your desire.”