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The Biggest Loser is a Winner in Palm Desert

Host Bob Harper, Contestant Gina Haddon and Program Director Kathy Orlando Tell Us About Their Experience

Written By: Angela Hatcher The Biggest Loser is a Winner in Palm Desert
Photographed By: Noble Andrews

The Experts: Host Bob Harper, Corporate Trainer and Program Director Kathy Orlando, Contestant Gina Haddon

Total body transformations plus luxury resorts plus meet 16th Season Contestant, Gina Haddon, The Biggest Loser Celebrity Trainer, Best-Selling Author, and Show Host, Bob Harper, and Corporate Trainer and Program Director, Kathy Orlando. When did The Biggest Loser become the biggest winner?

When NBC decided to bring the daring competitive reality show The Biggest Loser to primetime, reality TV took the leap from simply entertainment to a step-by-step episodic visual diary of the contestants’ hopes, dreams, commitment, frustrations, grit and, ultimately, life-changing makeovers of the body, mind and spirit. This is a show about competition, but it also proves to be a show highlighting competitors cheering for each other, celebrating each other’s wins, and embracing the camaraderie that binds them together. We went behind the scenes to find out more about this insanely popular show featuring ordinary people who embark on extraordinary weight loss and wellness journeys, along with the dedicated health and lifestyle experts who help them transform. But the road to change is never an entirely easy one.

Let’s start with The Biggest Loser concept: The “five pillars of overall well-being” are fitness, nutrition, education, relaxation and close group camaraderie. The contestants go through a variety of hardcore physical activities and routines that impact their lives and their future habits. While the activities are definitely challenging, The Biggest Loser also brings positive energy and nutritional guidance to the table, promoting healthy lifestyle changes. The Biggest Loser’s nutritional guidance includes a structure informed by the 4-3-2-1 Pyramid plan. It goes like this: four servings of fruits and vegetables, three servings of lean protein, two servings of whole grains and 200 calories of “extras.” The philosophy behind it is that by eating smaller meals, your blood sugar and hunger stay in check. Moving on to relaxation, it is important to have down time to rejuvenate, enjoy spa treatments and also gain an understanding of the mental and emotional components of weight loss. Camaraderie is most likely the easy part because there is an inherent sense of togetherness in knowing other people are there who are just like you.  

The Biggest Loser is an international phenomenon. While other countries may have their own versions of the show, the objective is always the same: To see who is able to lose the most weight and win the cash prize. This may be the goal, but ultimately the biggest reward may be a brand new you. The Biggest Loser is designed to show every contestant the bright side of staying healthy, especially when an unhealthy lifestyle seems to be an impossible obstacle.

Having grown up in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, where big hair, big steaks and big football game devotees are the norm, Gina Haddon spent most of her school years as a football cheerleader. She eventually moved on to becoming a cheerleading coach, but once these activities were no longer part of her life, she settled comfortably into a sedentary lifestyle–or so she thought. Gina was mortified when she realized that she couldn’t fit into her work clothes, and that moment was a real wake up call for her.

While staying at The Biggest Loser’s beautiful Malibu ranch, Gina Haddon weighed in at 242 pounds. She lost a total of 65 pounds and came in at a final 177 pounds. So how did she do it?

Q: What motivated you to take on this public challenge, knowing that millions of people would be watching your personal journey on TV?

Gina Haddon: I was motivated to be on the show because I have always felt like I needed a rehab type of program. I was addicted to food the way an addict is addicted to drugs. I wanted to be taken out of my life, broken down, then built back up. A little like boot camp. I knew I needed to get away so that I was the only focus. I tend to get sidetracked with kids and work.

Q: One of The Biggest Loser’s mottos is “Slow progress is better than no progress.” Facing a long journey ahead, how difficult was it for you to stay the course, and were you ever tempted to give up?

GH: I have to say being on the ranch was the easy part. When you go home—that is when your real challenge begins. The minute I got to the airport to come home, I had temptation all around me. I decided in that moment that I was going to stay the course and not eat the fast food at the airport. I feel incredible when I eat clean and it’s a natural high to be on. When I got home, my husband had lost 20 pounds. He had made changes at home and gave me a supportive environment to come home to. He has been my cheerleader along with my children.

I joined a couple of gyms looking for that magic thing and was unsuccessful. Then I got the call that I believe has been the reason I have not stopped. A friend invited me to Rowlett Crossfit. It was an instant connection. There is a magical thing about finding a team as an adult. No matter the age, we need our people that cheer us on and keep us motivated. Did I ever think about quitting? Hell, no! I tried out for the show for 14 seasons. If you ask me, I won the lotto. I couldn’t quit because there were too many other people who wanted this opportunity that I had been given.

Q: How do you stay motivated now that the cameras are no longer following you?

GH: Motivation has a different meaning to me now. I used to think it was to look good in jeans or fit into a new outfit. Now, motivation is setting a goal that I am a little fearful of and then chipping away at any doubt by training for that race. I am currently working on doing a GoRuck Challenge [a 12-hour, 15-20 mile guided city tour in which participants solve puzzles] with my girls at Crossfit. I am petrified to do this but I am doing it! I also have some very inspiring people around me at the gym. I watch them and know that one day I will do what they are doing. I believe it and that is my motivation.

Q: Now that you have undergone a radical transformation and reached your weight goal, do you have a favorite new recipe or food that you enjoy? What is your guilty pleasure?

GH: I have thousands of recipes, but to stay the course, I keep it simple. I have found that if I start to make things too extravagant, that’s where I get into old habits. I have taken the basics from what we learned on the ranch and just put a little more love in them. I try to remember the “eat to live” motto. I think sticking to the same foods has kept me on track. For me, too much variety leads to temptation. My favorite food that I eat everyday is a veggie omelette. I fry onion, bell pepper, asparagus and broccoli in a pan with coconut oil. I also have one slice of gluten-free toast with real butter. Yes, real butter! My guilty pleasure would have to be dark chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Q: What was the most difficult physical challenge that you had to face on the show and when did you start believing that you could do it?

GH: The most difficult physical challenge I faced on the show was the challenge where we had to pull ourselves across a zip line while harnessed in. We had to pull ourselves across a football field. To be honest, I have never had much strength in my arms and this challenge showed me how weak I really was. I cried the whole time because I feared letting my team down. Actually, I cried when we pulled up to the structure. When I was about halfway across, I wanted to stop, but I had Damien on one side, Lori Mac and Jackie Pierson on the other cheering me on. This was the first time I had ever been on that side of the fence before. I have always been the cheerleader. All I heard the last five minutes was, “Come on baby; come on Gina, I got ya, reach out and I’ll bring you in.” It was the most calm, sweet voice [I] had ever heard. Then out comes the huge hand of Damien Woody. He grabs me and pulls me to the finish line. We did not win that challenge, but at that very moment, I understood how important a team is. I also stopped making light of the fact that I was “just a cheerleader.” I would love to go back and do that obstacle course one more time and crush it! Now, after being home and working out at least five days a week with my Rowlett Crossfit group, I know that I could do all the challenges with ease. I used to freak out and become super anxious and yes, you guessed it—cry! Now I get excited to try new adventures. Of course I get scared, but I look at it from a different perspective.

Q: What are a few of your favorite workout routines?

GH: Three of my top workout routines are “WODs” that we do at Crossfit. I love workouts that go a little like this: 50-box jump burpees, 10 toes to bar, 10 lunges, 400 meter run, repeat. A box jump is an exercise using a 20-inch bench and you jump straight on top of it and jump down into a burpee, which means you fall to the ground on your stomach then jump up. Toes to bar is hanging from a bar, then lifting your toes to the bar in a controlled swing. I also love to run marathons and spin or ride with my husband at the gym.

Q: What do you consider to be the most important thing you learned and how do you implement that into your life now that you are back home?

GH: The two most important things I learned while on the show would have to be: 1. Get out of your own way. It sounds so simple, but it took me a year to figure it out. 2. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I was the one in the way most of the time.

I blocked myself from opportunities due to my self-doubt. I was listening to myself instead of talking to myself. Today, I tell myself how strong and capable I am. I talk myself through runs and obstacles. I shut off the negative thinking and let my body do what I know it can do. And, well, to be honest, I have found out that life begins where comfortable ends. When you do things out of your comfort level, you grow mentally and physically.

Q: What are your favorite tips or tricks that you are willing to share with others, and without The Biggest Loser’s state-of-the-art gym close by, what is your typical daily exercise regimen like today?    

GH: I think my best tip would have to be: Find your people. Find your group of friends who are like-minded and health conscious. Shop around for your gym. Interview them and try it out for a week. Ask for their support and always be honest with your feelings. When you are having a weak moment, talk with them and be vulnerable. One bad day is just that—only one day. Progress, not perfection. Never, ever, ever go more than two days without exercise. You have to establish habits. You have to stay the course. Tricks? I admit it. I love chocolate! I will wait until evening and make my healthy hot chocolate. It is a cup of unsweetened cashew milk, a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa, a drop of stevia leaf extract and a dash of cinnamon. It tastes amazing. Sometimes, if I am hungry, I will throw in a scoop of protein powder. Best trick for losing weight is to go to bed hungry. It is hard at first, but you get used to it. I tend to wake up more alert and on time when I do this.


The Man on a Mission: Bob Harper

Q: What’s your workout routine?

Bob Harper: My workout routine consists of Crossfit pretty much exclusively. I have found that it is the best workout for me. It is constantly varied with so many different elements that require physical strength, coordination, agility and metabolic conditioning. I’m obsessed!

Q: How important are diet and exercise in relation to each other? Which one should people focus on more?

BH: Well, I used to think that it was all about what you do in the gym, but the truth of the matter is that nutrition is the number one factor to getting the body you want. Start working out in the grocery store and your kitchen first and foremost.

Q: Best foods to eat for your health?

BH: I pretty much eat plenty of vegetables, good fats and a good source of farm-raised and organic proteins. I’m not as protein obsessed as a lot of my peers.

Q: Worst foods to eat for your health?

BH: Sugar is the devil! And, artificial sweeteners. Stay away from them at all costs.

Q: What should someone’s daily workout routine be if they want to stay fit but not join a gym?

BH: Well, that’s a tough one because gyms are so well-equipped. I would say that there are many great workout DVDs out there (including mine) that you can do in the privacy of your own home.

Q: How do you keep the contestants honest and authentic while on camera?

BH: That’s easy. They are so motivated when they are at the ranch. They never stray away from the regimented lifestyle that is required of them.

Q: Do you keep in touch with contestants after the show?

BH: I’ve been on the show since Season 1, so it is so hard to keep up with all of them, but I have a few that I hold very dear to me. Season 3 winner, Erik Chopin and Season 11 winner, Olivia Ward. She is a very dear friend of mine. She recently had a baby and named him Harper.

Q: What’s the number one mistake when diving into a diet and exercise regimen?

BH: Changing everything at once. It is a recipe for disaster. Start with one goal for 30 days and build from there.

Q: How does hosting change your perspective on weight loss in America?

BH: My perspective has not changed. I know that Americans need help with their diets desperately. We need to go back to eating whole foods again and doing our best to stay away from fast food at all costs. I realize that it is easier said than done.

Q: How does the show keep things fresh?

We change up things every chance we can but at the end of the day, it’s all about the stories that compel the audience and inspire.

Q: With the theme of temptation, can you expand on how that changes the face of the show?

BH: Well, we are tackling every single temptation, and I think it’s important because we want to give people every single tool they can use when they are faced with the same temptations that they will confront when they are in the outside world.


Corporate Trainer and Program Director, Kathy Orlando

Q: Have you always been active and health conscious? How did you first become a trainer and coach?

Kathy Orlando: Yes. I wanted to become a dancer from a very young age. I have always been involved in movement, physical fitness and high energy activities. The transition came about when I performed in exercise videos for fitness icons. I was asked by one of them to instruct at a local gym in Pacific Palisades. This is where I got my start as an instructor.  

Q: Having seen you in action at the resort, it is easy to understand how you inspire and motivate others to keep going and focus on their goals, but what keeps you motivated?

KO: I have always had fitness mentors. I am motivated by my current teachers who are icons in the industry. They include Louis Van Amstel from Dancing with the Stars, Karen Voight—a founder of fitness in the Los Angeles area—as well as Kendell Hogan, who was the host of a daily exercise program and currently the regional manager of Crunch Fitness. But, most importantly, the daily progress of my dedicated students and participants is the essence of what keeps me motivated.

Q: Some of the physical challenges seem like impossible tasks, even for people who are in perfect condition. Who comes up with the ideas for the physical challenges and how is it decided what makes the cut?

KO: Yes, these physical challenges are difficult. The participants work at their own levels. We do follow The Biggest Loser protocol, yet I keep it fresh and exciting by adding dance, kick lines and conga lines, plus I enjoy the participants’ suggestions.

Q: Describe the overall program at the resort. Are there different types of programs for people of different ages, different levels of ability, or specific health issues?

KO: Our five point program provides a full suite of tools you need to take control and keep control of your life. Your Wellness Coaches will give the tools to help you establish good sleep habits, learn the latest in nutrition and fitness, and help you develop a healthy relationship with food. You will enjoy delicious fresh meals and snacks every day at the resort, and you’ll gain tools for healthy shopping and cooking back at home. You’ll learn sustainable exercise habits tailored to you, and then relax and rejuvenate for long stretches in the spa environment of the resort.

Q: What are the best workouts to get in shape for your spring and summer beach body?

KO: There are numerous workouts to choose from, such as cardio kickboxing, indoor cycling with hand weights, dance fusion. The key is to push the body.

Q: For the best results, how often should you hit the gym?      

KO: Since The Biggest Loser Resort promotes movement on a daily basis, whether in a gym or an outdoor setting, I encourage 5-6 times per week. The human body was meant to move on a daily basis.

Q: Name three top workout routines that will bring the best results and include step by step instructions. What parts of the body are they working?  

KO: 1. Cardio kickboxing with weights, using punches and kicks with and without weights. 2. Cycle sculpt—Sculpting and toning while improving stamina and endurance. 3. Using cardio machines, such as treadmills and ellipticals, with strength equipment in intervals. All three of these incorporate the entire body from head to toe. These have all proven to be very successful.

A Real Calorie Burner: Cardio kickboxing is a variant of kickboxing, and the basic difference is the size of the movements and the option to use weights while punching and kicking. In cardio kickboxing, large, exaggerated movements bring big results. Some basic guidelines are: 1. Never punch or kick to full extension. 2. Stay on the balls of your feet and keep shifting your weight from leg to leg. 3. Keep your core tight.

Luxe Living: J.W. Marriott has partnered with The Biggest Loser Resort offering state-of-the-art amenities, gorgeous swimming pools, an award winning tennis program and one of the most luxurious spas and wellness programs on the West Coast in beautiful Palm Desert.   

The Biggest Loser Fun Facts
* The heaviest contestant was Kevin Moore in Australia who weighed in at 562 lbs in Season 9.
* Season 11’s Moses Kinikini lost 41 lbs in a single week!
* Bob Harper has been on every single season!

JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa
74-855 Country Club Dr
Palm Desert, CA 92260
W E I G H T I N G /// Games with the Fitness Experts of The Biggest Loser, Including Bob Harper.

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