Trainers accept being in the spotlight

'The Biggest Loser' 200th Episode

Here’s what it’s like to be Bob Harper, who has trained dozens of people to lose thousands of pounds on “The Biggest Loser”: He’s just had “the hardest workout ever” and may be “on the couch dying,” but fans of the show still approach him, body odor and all.

“I was pouring sweat on the floor, and people were asking for autographs,” he chuckles.

Becoming a celebrity has been something of a learning curve for Harper, who has been with the show since 2005. These days he works alongside relative newcomer Dolvett Quince, who joined the series last year, in its 12th cycle (replacing longtime trainer Jillian Michaels), and both are responsible for whipping their team’s contestants into shape.

It isn’t always easy. Says Quince, who runs the Body Sculptor Fitness Studio in Atlanta: “You first have to convince them that they have an issue. They have to accept they have a problem. There really are similarities to addiction programs (on this show). I’ve always said you have to work out your mind first, and then your body. There’s more weight in the brain than there will ever be on the body.”

The thing is, outside the gym trainers don’t have much control over what happens on the show, a harsh reality Harper has learned to accept.

“You have to remember we’re shooting a TV show, so they have to hit all these beats, and we do the best we can with that,” he says. “People are always asking me, ‘I need to see what (the contestants) are eating more, what their daily life is.’ Our show has become like info-reality.”

Both trainers have seen an uptick in their recognizability factor amongst the unwashed (or un-dieted) masses. Both mention being approached randomly for photos and, more rarely, tips. Harper’s empire has expanded into books and DVDs, and he has started up his own weight-loss program. Quince, meanwhile, is still beginning his celebrity climb, working on a book deal and thinking of expanding his studios to Los Angeles, where he works on “Loser.”

Thus far, he says, there is one distinct advantage to moving up the ladder: “It’s much easier to get a restaurant reservation in Los Angeles.”

In its own way, “Biggest Loser” has been almost as life-changing for its trainers as it is for its contestants. Harper, whose regular training jobs once included bulking up actors for movie roles, says “Loser” helped him “realize my true calling.

“Helping celebrities look a certain way for a certain role, it’s rewarding, but there’s something a little shallow about it,” he says. “When I started working with people who were trying to gain control of their lives, it all makes more sense to me now. I don’t think in terms of what celebrities I want to work with, not when there are two people who need my help in Nebraska.”

‘The Biggest Loser’ 200th Episode
Series a good fit for NBC, overweight public | ‘Loser’ brand breaks new horizons | Trainers accept being in the spotlight | Sweeney takes host gig to heart | Past contestants spread the message