It was almost two years ago when NBC’s hit reality show “The Biggest Loser” contestants Amy (formerly Hildreth) and Marty Wolff found love and a new identity as normal-weight individuals. Today, the young newlyweds turned ACE-certified Personal Trainers share a home and a fitness consulting business Reality Wellness in Omaha, Neb. But after losing a combined 252 pounds on the reality show, the couple has also learned a painful lesson: Losing out on regular fitness and healthy eating will cost you BIG.
Life After Real TV
“I am living proof that if formerly obese people take their eye of the ball once they get to their weight goal, they will gain weight rapidly,” Amy Wolff confesses. After losing 106 pounds between April and December 2006 from a starting weight of 260 pounds before the show, she now weighs 195 pounds. That is 41 more pounds since the contestants’ final televised weigh-in special on December 13, 2006.
That night, Marty and Amy both looked like they had stepped out of a fitness magazine: Marty, who is six foot tall, dropped 146 pounds of his initial 365-pound frame, weighing in at 219 pounds; Amy, who is five-foot-ten, weighed in at 154 pounds, down 106 pounds from her 260-pound starting weight.
Their final appearance on the Biggest Loser, a reunion show televised in August 2007, will remain unforgettable as Marty surprised Amy, his now wife, with an engagement proposal.
Having left the scrutinizing viewers on national television, and more importantly, their reality show existence on a Los Angeles ranch complete with entourage—nutritionists to monitor contestants’ diets, individual counseling, group counseling as well as four-to-six hour-long daily workouts with celebrity trainers—the Wolff’s real life struggle to control their weight has gotten all too real. Both vow they’ll never be morbidly obese again and want to make it their business to help other overweight and obese Americans achieve their dreams of healthier living.
In this article, the Wolff’s reveal their real-life lessons of what it takes for anyone struggling with weight loss to attain and try to maintain a healthier weight, tricks anyone can use to fight cravings and the role trainers can play to help people struggling with weight to make a difference.
Amy Wolff expresses disappointment in herself for letting her weight spiral upward from 180 pounds to now 195 pounds. She knew early on that her final television weigh-in of 154 pounds would be a “non-livable goal,” but considers 180 pounds her “happy weight.”
Her husband has also packed on 31 pounds since December 2006. Marty Wolff feels he’s gained muscle mass since he started playing Arena football with the Iowa Blackhawks, but also notices some extra layers of fat.
Like most young couples, the Wolff’s enjoy an active social life, including restaurant dinners that don’t always offer the healthiest food choices. They’ve also managed to translate their newly found fame into a business that includes speaking engagements at such events as the Johns Hopkins Healthcare Wellness Week in Baltimore, YMCA and the Iowa Association for Health and Physical Education in Des Moines.
Both agree that during travel, making healthy food choices and maintaining a six-day-a-week, one-to-two hour workout routine can be challenging. At the same time, they know this is what it will take, especially for formerly obese individuals like themselves, to keep the weight off.
That is in addition to counting calories. Both find that keeping a daily food journal and watching the proper intake of carbohydrates, proteins, fat and fiber, which they didn’t know about until they’ve been taught by the show’s nutritionist, play a vital role in their weight loss success. A good source for basic nutrition information is available online at MyPyramid.gov.
However, now that they’ve overshot their weight goals, the Wolff’s say they are determined to apply what they’ve learned on the show and from studying for the ACE-Personal Trainer exam, toward their “second wave” of weight loss.
Real-Life Weight Loss = Six Days of Cardio + Three Days of Strength-Training + Healthy Eating
“Amy and I have a plan to work out one-to-two hours a day, six days a week, sometimes with another personal trainer,” says Marty Wolff.
Amy’s game plan to shed 15 pounds calls for training like she did for the finale: “Two-to-three hours of fat-burning cardio training six days a week, including one hour of boot camp training, and three days of circuit strength-training a week, and a rest day.
Marty also plans to continue his six hourly sessions of cardio training a week, mixing hiking up mountains and playing football with other fat-burning exercises and incorporating interval training. All in addition to lifting weights.
Biggest Everyday Challenges
Amy and Marty feel that not giving into food temptations will be their lifelong challenge.
“It’s not like you lost all this weight and suddenly hate chocolate and pizza,” Amy says.
Before their dramatic weight loss on the show, neither Marty nor Amy felt they had much control over their eating habits. They would surrender to any eating pleasures and cravings, disregarding calories, portion sizes, let alone consider the right amounts of dietary components. Sweets, chocolates, soda pop, pizzas, hamburgers, fast foods, large milk shakes, and ice cream were all part of their regular diets.
It wasn’t until they received nutritional guidance and studied for the ACE Personal Trainer exam that Marty and Amy realized how damaging their old eating habits and sedentary lifestyles were for their overall health. Obesity is a known risk factor for developing chronic and life-threatening diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.
Control Your Food Intake
Like many obese people, Amy and Marty say they were “emotional eaters” lacking will to resist certain foods.
“Now I control those cravings and rationalize it in my head,” Amy explains. “If I have a bigger than normal lunch, I know I need to eat a smaller dinner to maintain a reasonable calorie intake for the day,” she says. “I eat every three to four hours, which are small meals throughout the day (breakfast, a snack, lunch, snack, dinner).”
Her rule is no bread, potatoes or any other type of carbohydrate food after 5 p.m. That is to break the lifelong habit of snacking after dinner. Dinner means steamed veggies, chicken breast or fish.
Marty says he counts calories and eats healthy meals during the week, but allows himself “cheat meals” on the weekends to satisfy his cravings. He also now limits himself to his favorite treat, ice cream, which also counts toward his allotted 2,200 daily calories to maintain weight loss.
“Before, I would have milk shakes or anything I wanted,” he says.
Move Even if You Don’t Feel Like It
Returning to the gym on Monday mornings after splurging on the weekend isn’t always easy, but Marty has learned that regular workouts are as critical in keeping the weight off as eating healthy.
“Before being on the Biggest Loser show, moving itself was such a daunting task that I planned for ways to be less active,” he says. “Now I get up thinking about how I can move throughout the day.”
Tricks to Satisfy Cravings Without Giving In
When satisfying cravings gets tough, the Wolffs draw on these tricks to get going:
Personal Training Obese Clients
- • Substitute better for worse: Instead of buying a chocolate cake, Amy bakes her own low-calorie brownies
- • Count Restaurant Calories: Before eating out, Amy tries to research healthy choices on the menu first
- • Carry a Reference Book. Amy chooses “The CalorieKing Calorie, Fat & Carbohydrate Counter 2008 Edition” as a food guide. She carries the booklet in her pursue for a quick reference check
- • Eat small meals throughout the day and a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner
- • Educate yourself about proper portion sizes and proper amounts of carbohydrates, protein, fats, fiber and sodium (www.Pyramid.gov).
- • Learn to understand why regular exercise is critical for weight loss and maintenance; what types of exercises are appropriate for overweight and obese individuals as well as safe exercise techniques by visiting www.acefitness.org.
- • If you have a “cheat meal” on the weekend, make sure you planned for it by reducing your calorie intake during the week,
- • Limit treats to one favorite and make that your “cheat treat” once a week
Watching the show’s trainers go to task with their obese clients may raise eyebrows in the exercise science circle, but for Marty and Amy their tactics worked. Amy considers her television trainer, Bob Harper, instrumental for her weight loss success. She praises Harper’s positivism and sincere approach and calls him her inspiration.
Harper didn’t blink an eye when Amy first presented him with a list of “things she couldn’t do.” When she told him she could not run, because she was too big, Harper simply replied: “Yes you can, you have a runner inside of you.” In November 2006, Amy proved him right by finishing her first 10K running race.
“Bob reminds people of their accomplishments continually, even if they’re small,” she recalls. “If you can walk 100 yards, he’ll turn you around and show you how far you’ve come. He reminded us of how well we were doing, even when we weren’t doing that well.”
As an ACE-certified trainer, Amy now mirrors this positive approach to connect with her own clients. Moreover, as a formerly obese person, she connects with her clients on a deeply emotional level. Her biggest pet peeve with trainers: They often don’t understand that listening to overweight clients sometimes is more important than getting in a workout.
“Trainers need to recognize that obesity is more emotional than anything else,” she says. “If clients open up their feelings to trainers and they listen, their clients will respond. If one of my clients is having a tough day, I say let’s go on the spin bike and talk about it.”
Marty likes to work in a small group setting, because it fosters camaraderie. The couple also teaches a boot camp class at their local YMCA to help others and themselves stay fit.
Not feeling the pressure to prove to millions of Americans how far they’ve come in their weight loss success may be a relief. However, for the Wolff’s the stakes remain high.
Weight maintenance for them will be as critical for their personal health as for their fiscal well-being: After all, they are their company’s biggest market drivers.
Knowing that event visitors, corporate employees and those inspired by their TV success will scrutinize Amy and Marty’s waist lines as a measure for personal inspiration and motivation, the husband-and-wife team will need to rely on their own reality to create wellness in all aspects of their lives. We wish them continued success.
Marion Webb is the managing editor for the American Council on Exercise and an ACE-certified Personal Trainer. For specific fitness-related story ideas or comments, please e-mail her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.