BWW Interview: 'Biggest Loser' and 'Extreme Weight Loss' Producer JD ROTH Talks Weight Loss Secrets, Motivation, Setbacks, and New Book Launch, THE BIG FAT TRUTH
Award-winning television producer and creator of weight-loss shows such as EXTREME WEIGHT LOSS, THE BIGGEST LOSER, THE REVOLUTION and more, JD Roth has just written a new book entitled THE BIG FAT TRUTH, which is set for release on April 12th. In the book, he shares inspirational stories, advice, and the secrets to losing weight and gaining the inner strength to transform your life.
I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy and then talking with JD about his book, weight loss, kids, the future of his television shows and more.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. I read your book and found it very inspirational, not only as a weight loss book, but as motivation to completely change your life. You really seem to dig deep and inspire people to make life-lasting changes. Weight loss is just a natural result of creating essentially a completely different outlook on life.
JD: Well, that's awesome. You totally get it.
What inspired you to do shows like THE BIGGEST LOSER, EXTREME WEIGHT LOSS, and then ultimately write this book?
I love telling stories. For me it's about telling great stories and looking for stories that are untold. I have relatives that were overweight and and friends whose family members died at a young age, and I couldn't figure out why people wouldn't do the obvious - you move more and eat less. It never seemed that big a deal to me until I realized that it was really about the mind game. So, the reason I wrote the book was that every medical professional I dealt with while trying to come up with and produce THE BIGGEST LOSER told us the same thing - You can only lose 1-2 pounds per week. But what they were looking at was the scientific way to lose weight - the science involved of calories in, calories out, calories left over.
I knew there was an emotional component to it, so I added the one ingredient that they didn't really consider, and that was love. When you really love people and tell them you believe in them, you tell them that you're willing to hold their problems while they're working out on the treadmill, and believe in them more than they believe in themselves, then that 1-2 pounds a week turned into double digit weight loss every week. We had people losing 10 pounds a week, several weeks in a row - and that's not because I'm better than doctors or smarter because I don't even have a college degree. It's just because I play the game of the mind.
So, in your mind is the problem. If you fix your mind, your body follows. That's what I really wanted to portray in the book is the idea that you can have tough love, but tough always has to follow with love. Tough without love is never going to work. So I am the TOUGH LOVE guy in all these shows, but remember that my tough is always followed in love.
Yeah, what's great about Jill (and we're in touch all the time) is that she's an admitted "work in progress" - and I love that. I love someone at her level who can admit, "You know what? I don't always make the right decisions." It makes you so much more human when you can step up and admit that things aren't perfect in your life, and I always appreciated that about her.
Can people simply go to the gym 3 times a week, make basic changes in their diet, and expect to lose those extra pounds.... or is it really necessary to hit 'rock bottom' and dig deep to achieve permanent weight loss?
Every time someone makes the choice to be on one of our shows, it's what I call the 'nuclear' option: you chose the nuclear option because you're out of options and you realize it may be too late. You come to us hoping that you'll get on the show because you want a magic pill. But there's tons of work involved, and I think that people who are massively overweight have to work that much harder to keep it off versus someone like me who has never been overweight. And I'm not apologetic about it. They're in that situation; that's the hand they've been dealt, so just deal with it. Stop complaining about it. I think sometimes they need to hear that. They may need to whine and say, "Oh, I need to work so much harder," and I say, "Yeah, you sure do. Now what are you going to do about it?" But once they get past that, and they come up with the agenda and they make their promises and they keep their promises, they find that they can motivate other people along the way.
So I don't think that people need to make drastic changes in their life to lose weight. I've never really felt that. I mean, for television and for the size of people that we deal with, we made choices to get the weight off of people in a hurry; but you can start with one change a week - and that's what I would recommend - and stick to it and literally keep your promise.
The people that I work with, they keep their promises to everyone but themselves. They always tell their friends, "Oh yeah, I can pick up your kids," or they tell their boss, "Oh yeah, I'll do that work for you," but when it comes time to "I'm not going to eat that donut," they never keep that promise. When it comes time to "I'm going to wake up and go to the gym," they never keep that promise. And so I tell them, "Start keeping promises to yourself first before keeping promises to everyone else."
If you make one change this week - let's say soda (even if it's diet), just stop drinking it. And keep that promise for a week. Then after that week, make a second change. Then after that week, make a third change. And pretty soon after a month, you've made four pretty significant changes in your body. Once you start doing better by yourself, you look in the mirror and you feel better, and you start to manage the other things in your life that are higher quality. So, it's that idea that a lot of people spend their life as the puppet and they feel like everyone else is pulling the strings in their life. And I always tell them, "It's very empowering to be the puppeteer." When you feel like you're the one pulling the strings, it feels really good, and that will make you make other good choices. But it always starts with the first change.
What is your view on fad diets, cleanses, supplements and other "quick fixes", and do you think they are successful?
I think if they were successful, there would never be another one. So the answer to that is no, I don't. If you do this the right way, and you read the book and you follow all the examples of how to change your life and demand a better life, you'll never pull your credit card out in the middle of the night at 1am to buy some ab roller or some piece of equipment that you're never going to use.
The fad diets are exactly what they are. They're fad diets. Everyone's looking for the quick fix, and unfortunately, there is no quick fix. The quick fix is the rest of your life. So diets to me have a start and an end, and I don't look at my book like that. There is no start and end. This is the rest of your life, and the choices that you make are important.
A lot of the lessons in the book are the way I raise my kids, the way I run my business, the way I produce TV shows. It's not just about how I eat and how I exercise. Those disciplines go across every aspect of my life. So, I'm not a believer in fad diets, but what I am a believer in is motivation. If you have a 20th anniversary of your high school graduation, or you have a work party, or there's a boyfriend who dumped you and you way to show him up, I am all for that, because that motivation is organic and authentic. If there's something that's going on in your life and that motivates you to make a change or start making a change in your life, then I'm all for that.
In your book, you talk about the 3-step solution as it relates to any problem, including weight loss: 1) Identify the problem; 2) Make a list; and 3) Go do it. Can you elaborate on that?
I tell my kids and my friends the same thing whenever they have disasters in their life. I tell them to go through the 3 steps. They can say what they want and they can make their eyes roll, but in the end, it's what they use in their life. Everyone knows what they need to do, whether it's a weight problem, a relationship problem, or a job problem. So that's where you start. Whether we're willing to look at it or not, that's the unique quality that family and friends and co-workers help us realize. Everybody needs that friend in their life that helps them turn that situation into something positive.
It's just that most people are too lazy or too busy in their life to make those changes. We're on our phones and we're in the car and we're picking up our kids. So in a lot of ways, you accept less into your life; and in certain areas, you accept even less than that; and pretty soon you just turn off the switches in your life and you forget what it was like to enjoy it. You don't have the job you want, you don't have the relationship that you want, your kids don't respect you, you're overweight and you look in the mirror and you don't like what you see. So when all of those switches start turning off, pretty soon you're in a dark room alone and you don't know how to get the light on anymore.
So I go back to basics. There's nothing earth-shattering about my 3 step way to solve a problem, but it does work, so that does become earth-shattering. If you're in a dark room, take one problem at a time - Identify it, make a list of what you need to do to get out of it, and then actually go do it. Don't be overwhelmed by the 12 problems you have, just take on one at a time. Once you activate that first step and actually have to go do it, that's the part that nobody really wants to do because it involves work. So I say, "Put this all down, turn the TV off, sit with yourself alone in silence and really consider what you're going to do, and then you have to go do it." And it takes friends, family and other support in your life to get it done. Nobody should do it on their own.
And that was my next question. How important is your support system, and how do you enlist people who can hold you accountable and believe in you?
TV is the best form of support. When you put cameras up in front of people, it's like "Ok, I can get on that treadmill!" Isn't it amazing that a 400 pound guy who hasn't even walked up a flight of stairs who sleeps on the couch in front of the television because he can't even sleep in his bed for years - yet within 24 hours he's doing hours of cardio a day? I'm blown away that all we have to do is to turn cameras on the guy.
It seems shocking to me that you can walk through your life half dead for decades for some of these people, and yet in one day when you put the cameras on, you're an absolute machine. And they even have a body response to that. People can take 20-30 pills a day, yet in 30 days are never taking a pill again in their life. That's hard to believe! So how many people in America in that same situation, and how many BILLIONS of dollars are being spent at big pharmaceutical companies on pills when if you just ate right and moved more, you wouldn't even need.
To take millions of people on television would be great, but not everyone has that type of carrot that's being dangled out in front of them. So I would recommend getting anyone who would listen. People are embarrassed by their size, but guess what? Everybody knows you're overweight. You're not hiding it. It's not like someone who has an alcohol problem who drinks home alone at night. You wear it, and it's not a badge of honor. Everyone sees it. So you can enlist anyone who will listen and anyone who will help, and you'll be surprised how badly people want help.
As a society, help and giving to others is what our entire culture is based on. And yet we've gotten to the point in society where we're hiding behind so many pieces of electronics that every conversation is one way. You're dealing with all these emotions that make you feel alive, and I think we've gotten so numb to all of that and parts of our personality have been dulled by all these one way conversations. So I would say to engage with as many people as you can, and tell as many people as you can.
You also talk about posting pictures on Facebook to hold yourself accountable, which is the closest thing to being on TV for most people.
Exactly, because think about it. If I post something that says, "I'm going to lose 100 pounds this year," and I did it to every single one of my friends on Facebook, then I have a much higher chance of being successful than if I just tell myself in my bedroom that I'm going to lose 100 pounds this year. There's no risk in that. You're taking no risk by just telling yourself. I realize there are shy people who don't want to put themselves out there, but you have to get out of your comfort zone to be successful; and to hold yourself accountable, you need other people to know what you're doing. Take some risks. Take some personal risks. You'd be amazed at people you barely know who will come to your rescue and want to help.
You can start a walking group at work, you can start a healthy lunch each week where someone brings a healthy lunch for everybody. There are ways to motivate that are positive that can start right in your office. People can say, "At the top of every hour, everyone's going to walk out of their office and do 25 pushups," and in a day, that's 250 pushups! And it takes 30 seconds to do 25 pushups. So it takes 30 seconds ten times a day. That equals 3 minutes out of our day. There are ways to motivate groups of people.
Everyone goes to work every day and sits next to these people for years, and you don't even know their last name half the time. You don't know how many kids they have. You don't know where they live. You don't know what their life is like. We're so busy in the chaos of our own life, so I think getting out of your comfort zone and finding out about other people can be really rewarding. There are BILLIONS of people on the planet and I think everyone should get to know a couple of them.
Do you see a trend with overweight kids? And how do you encourage parents to teach their children proper nutrition and exercise habits, especially when kids are so over-scheduled, not to mention possibly being shuffled between divorced parents who might not be on the same page with healthy choices?
What drives me crazy is when parents say, "Well, I don't eat well, but I feed my kids well." That kind of defeats the purpose because kids don't listen to a word you say but they watch everything you do. You need to set the example. What would happen if you got up and left a note for your kids that said, "Mommy's in the garage on the treadmill. I left breakfast for you. Pour the milk in the cereal (which anyone over 4 years old can do), and I'll be in in a minute." What that teaches your kid is A) it's important for you to be moving in the morning and get a workout in; B) that you chose yourself sometimes over your child which is also important because you need to teach them to self-soothe; and C) you set this great example for them on what's important.
A lot of moms have devoted their life to their kids and they're just a human taxi driving them around, so they're not making many good choices because the kids kind of run their life. And kids don't even want to get their driver's license these days. Parents will drive their kids around and kids will be on their phones texting while you're driving them everywhere. So, why would they want their driver's license? We tell our kids that you can't use your phone in the car, and lo and behold, my son turns 16 next week and his appointment is on his half birthday where he can get his permit.
When kids have to engage and they have to have conversation and look around where they're going, you begin to have a different relationship with your kids. But you have to set that example. For instance, my wife and I don't eat meat. We've eaten plant-based for years and our kids eat plant-based, but every now and then they want a hamburger, and we give it to them. I don't eat a hamburger and I would tell them they shouldn't eat a hamburger, and they see how I eat and they pick up on it. So they make the right choices 90% of the time, and I hear them tell their friends, "You really want to eat those? Those aren't good for you." And I like hearing that because I don't have to worry about THE PITCH to them because they watch what we eat and do and they end up learning on their own.
I think setting a good example for kids is the best approach. Look, it's very difficult in today's day and age where 60% of the population is divorced and kids are getting shuffled back and forth. But we always try to make healthy choices for ourselves, and in turn our kids see that. So at least 50% of the time, if a parent is making healthy choices and the other parent isn't, the kid is still seeing what is good for them.
How can people deal with setbacks and not be discouraged?
Ok, first of all, setbacks are going to happen to everyone. I don't care how perfect you are, everyone is going to have a moment (and I've had many) when you just take the entire sleeve of Girl Scout cookies and eat the entire thing. So, we've all done that, me included. The difference between me and most people is that I don't let that turn into a downward slide. I would say that shame is your greatest enemy. What I mean by that is you're eating the cookies, right? Then you start to feel bad about yourself. "I knew I didn't have the willpower. I'm terrible..." And as you go down that negative slide, you start making worse choices, and you start to feel even worse about yourself... "I'm a loser," that voice in your head is always talking to you. When you start going to that negative place, there's no climbing out of it. So the best way to get rid of shame is to verbalize it.
I believe that shame is in your subconscious, and once your subconscious takes over, you're done. There's nothing you can do. So the only way to get that voice in your subconscious to turn off is to tell everyone about it. Pick up the phone and tell everyone, "Oh my God, I just ate any entire sleeve of Girl Scout Cookies." Tell anyone that will listen to you. And that'll stop you from doing it. It'll stop you from doing it in that moment, and it'll probably stop you from doing it the next time.
I would tell people when they're about to pick up that giant bag of potato chips and dip it in the Ranch dressing, pick up the phone and call someone and tell them, "I have a giant bag of potato chips and Ranch dressing in my hand. Help me." And you'd be surprised how people will talk you off the ledge. But you need that support. If you're going to do it in silence, you're never going to win. You cannot beat food addiction alone. It's impossible. I've seen it and I've seen people say, "I'm strong enough, I can do it," but I've never seen anyone capable of doing it by themselves.
If you're looking for advice I would give, it's better not to have anything in your house that's bad for you. We don't have ice cream in our house and when our kids want ice cream, it's an outing. We get in the car, we drive to get ice cream, we make a choice the car, get the ice cream and then we drive home. And because it's not in the house, you're not tempted to hear it calling your name. You just grab a spoon and can eat it right out of the pint. It happens to everyone, and before you know it, the whole pint of ice cream is gone. So, better not to have that temptation because nobody is that superhuman and that good at not eating it.
The title of your book is THE BIG FAT TRUTH. What is "the big fat truth" and what is the biggest lie that people tell themselves?
The big fat truth is that there's no quick fix. There is no diet that is going to work, there's no piece of exercise equipment, there's no pill you can take. And the big fat truth is that commerce and business don't want you thin because everyone wins when you're not thin. You buy more food that's not good for you and guess who wins? You're on more medications and guess who wins? There's more money being spent on the healthcare side and guess who wins? So all the choices that you make provide a lot of business for a lot of other people. And isn't it time to take the business of your own life and make that a priority? For me, the big fat truth is you're capable of doing it, and all you need to do is get to step #3 and go do it.
Nothing in my book is prescriptive. It's not like I'm telling you, "Here's what you should eat, and here's how many times you should work out." There's nothing in there about that at all. You know what the problem is. You know what you need to do to fix it. Now go do it.
I think the biggest lie is that you're an overweight person and go to the doctor and they give you a pill for everything. And I don't believe that any of those pills really work. I think they all have side effects that create other problems in their life. The biggest lie to me is on the back of food packaging when they say, "Oh, this isn't sugar. It's 'pure cane sugar'..." Oh, that's gotta be good? This isn't 100% fruit juice, it's 10% fruit juice. This is 100 calories. Yeah, but that's only for one serving, and it's really four servings that I just ate. So it's the confusion and the professional confusion that everybody wants you to have so that you'll continue to consume as many bad things for you as possible.
People don't realize that the consumer has the loudest voice on the planet. Just like the TV watcher; and the way the TV watcher expresses their voice is they change the channel. And the the way the consumer can express their voice is to not buy those products. So the consumer is not really saying, "Hey McDonalds, we're not coming anymore." They just keep going because they want the salty fries and they want the hamburger that's stacked that way. But as soon as the consumer realizes they can actually have a loud voice that creates change in these environments, then things will change.
Well, it's been great talking with you. Do you have anything else about the book that you'd like to share?
I think you hit the nail on the head before I could even say it, which is it's not really a weight loss book. It's a motivational book. And whether you're in an unhappy place in any aspect of your life, I think you can kind of cherry pick little moments out of the book to inspire you to make a change. It's not just for someone who wants to lose 20 pounds.
One last question. What is the future of 'Extreme Weight Loss' and 'The Biggest Loser'?
I think we have to start evaluating if the audience still feels it's fresh to see an overweight person with a trainer in a gym. As a producer, I'm always trying to come up with creative ways to express the same message and in the genre of weight loss, which is now been around since I started in 2004 with THE BIGGEST LOSER. We need to freshen up a little bit. I think we've heard a lot of great stories about amazing people changing their lives that's it's almost become normal to watch someone lose over 200 pounds over the course of a season. So I think we need to figure out a way to change it up a little bit.
Yeah, you know we tried that a couple times and thought considerably about it, but it's tricky with kids to teach them that in order to be the best "you" you have to be a certain weight. Being on the Kids Biggest Loser, kids are going to get eliminated each week based on their size. It's a very tricky thing. It's different than a kids' cooking show where you get eliminated. It's very personal. We did do a teenage version called 'I Used to Be Fat' on TV and ran 25 episodes where we took high school seniors the day they graduate high school and they have 90 days before their first day of college to lose weight. We took 100 pounds off of each one of them in the 90 days before they went off to college so that they could introduce themselves to people they never knew or who knew them as someone with a label as being a big kid. That show was really good. So, maybe the right version that's real supportive and has the right group of kids would work. It just has to be the right format.
Well, again, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure talking with you and I wish you much success with your new book and other endeavors.
You're so welcome!
The Big Fat Truth: Behind-the-Scenes Secrets to Losing Weight and Gaining the Inner Strength to Transform Your Life goes on sale April 12 wherever books are sold as well as online at bigfattruthjdroth.com. For more on JD Roth, visit www.jdthebigfattruth.com, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
By: BWWFitnessWorld.com Editor-in-Chief, Christina Mancuso
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