The Biggest Loser, which faced a wave of backlash after 17 seasons, promises to be different when it returns in January 2020. The reboot focus on overall health versus quick weight loss, according to host Bob Harper. And to carry out this strategy, the show enlisted two new trainers: Erica Lugo and Steve Cook.
Helping others make lifestyle changes aren’t new to the pair: both offer online nutrition coaching and training. Lugo went through her own weight loss journey and lost 160 pounds after weighing 322 pounds. She believes this puts her in a unique position to not only empathize with contestants but also allows here to hold others accountable for their goals.
“I know every excuse in the book because I’ve tried them and I’ve used them on myself for the past five years,” she tells Men’s Health.
Lugo began her journey in 2013 after she didn’t have the energy to play with her three-year-old son.
“I’d rather have sat on the couch and eat snacks,” she remembers.
Within the next few days, Lugo signed up for a gym membership and walked for an hour on the treadmill every morning. Instead of changing her diet, Lugo decreased portions.
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“If we had pizza, I would have one piece instead of a whole large pizza,” she says. “I slowly started getting better with cooking. I just started with the basics,” she explains.
In 2017, Lugo was diagnosed with chronic Epstein Barr Virus and Addison’s Disease, which required tweaking her diet and exercise plan.
“I got so sick that what I was doing with my workouts and nutrition was no longer working for me,” she says.
Then in 2018, Lugo developed thyroid cancer and underwent surgery and radiation to treat the disease. But these hurdles helped her realize the importance of doing what’s best for your body.
“I fell on my face 50 million times,” she says. “You have to keep going and tweak things and figure it out.”
Cook’s path to The Biggest Loser is vastly different from Lugo’s. the 34-year-old grew up in a fitness-minded family.
“If I wanted to watch TV as a kid I had to do push ups during commercials,” he remembers.
Cook played college football and went onto competing in Mr. Olympia and served as the spokesperson for bodybuilding.com before launching his online coaching business.
Admittedly, Cook can’t imagine the anxiety that comes with a large weight loss goal. But the trainer believes his own struggle with body image will help him relate to contestants.
“I know what it’s like to not be happy with who I am,” he tells Men’s Health.
Cook says physique competitions left him in a perpetual feast or famine mindset.
“If I wasn’t prepping my body for a show, I didn’t know how to eat,” he explains. “It was either that I was weighing out my food or I was binge eating.”
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Cook believes his own experience will help him coach others to find value outside of their weight.
“If you put your own self worth on how you look you’re always going to be unhappy,” he says.
Although the show is still a competition, both coaches say their main priority is to enable people to accomplish their fitness or health goals.
“Five or six years ago I was 322 pounds, and now here I am a trainer on America’s number one weight loss TV show,” says Lugo. “There is no one who can stop you if you want to do this.”
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