Courtesy Tyler Golden/NBC
En español | Want to get fit fast for summer? NBC's Biggest Loser guru Bob Harper, who has whipped many obese contestants into shape in a TV season, says start small and stay focused. But he also asks, why do the work just for summer? Healthier lifestyles (and drastically slimmer bodies) can be had for good. Here's how to do it.
Q: What's your best advice for people over 50 who want to get in shape by summer?
A: First of all, people have to realize that age is nothing but a number. I'm 47. We've had so many people (on Biggest Loser) in their 50s-plus who have really turned it around. Of course, when you're first starting off you need to check with your doctor to make sure that you're able to handle or sustain workouts, but after that it just becomes about setting up manageable goals, finding things you enjoy doing and just really start to create a routine.
[Second,] don't try to change everything all at once. It can be one thing. It can be, "I'm going to go for a walk for 30 minutes in my neighborhood," if you've never done that before. It starts to set a tone for the body to go, "Working out is going to be part of my routine." If you really are in it, if you really want to do it, you're going to realize that this is a lifestyle and this is going to be something you do for the rest of your life.
Q: So you're saying it's no good to go on a crash diet and exercise plan just to look good for summer?
A: Why go through all that when you can find something that really works, that you're going to be able to stick with?
Q: How can people find the motivation to stick with it until — and hopefully through and beyond — summer?
A: You've got to be able to find that fire within yourself to say, "I'm worth it enough to take care of myself." Nobody can do it but you. Go up to anybody whose body you admire, and say "What do you do?" and I guarantee you that they're going to say, "I make [fitness] a priority every day, I have to make the right choices every day." It does not come easy for anyone. I've just heard that excuse so much [that people can't stay motivated], it just presses a button in me. It's like, really?
Q: What should a newly motivated person do first? Should they join a gym?
A: If you have that motivation, then [ask yourself] what kind of physical activity do you like to do. I know plenty of people who love to swim, they look forward to going to the pool. Or it can be about joining a gym, taking a spin class or group classes at gyms that I think are really good motivators. The bottom line is that you've got to find something that's going to make you sweat, and you've got to find a way to do that three to five times a week.
Q: What do you say to people who get discouraged because they realize they are never going to look like a model, let alone within a few months?
A: You've got to really set a realistic goal for the body type you have. I never want to sell people a bill of goods. If someone says, "I want to look like Gisele" or whoever, I'm like, "If you don't have that body type, you're not going to have that. But you know what? Working with what you've got and with you motivated, we're going to get you looking the best that you can look and we're going to get you feeling better than ever."
Q: That's certainly true on The Biggest Loser. What is the takeaway message of the show?
A: You see people on our show who have completely lost their way — like a man weighing 500 pounds — and they've been able to turn it around. You realize that our bodies all want to be healthy and no matter how fat or far you feel like you've gotten off track, you can get yourself on track. I think that's one of the big things that people get from The Biggest Loser. It's like, "Gosh if they're doing it, what's stopping me from doing it?"
Christina Ianzito is a writer and editor for AARP Media.
'BIGGEST LOSER' AT HOME: Want to lose weight like a contestant? New study by the NIH examines whether that kind of weight loss is attainable by people doing it on their own.
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