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Chris and Heidi Powell of “Extreme Weight Loss”: Why you should actually indulge more

An Interview With Dr. William Seeds

I had the pleasure to interview Chris and Heidi Powell. Chris and Heidi are the driving force behind the incredible transformations achieved on the worldwide hit show, “Extreme Weight Loss,” which is now in syndication and airing in 148 countries around the world. Together, the Powells travel the country for speaking engagements and appear regularly on national television shows including “Good Morning America” and “The Dr. Oz Show.” Off screen, they have authored 3 books, 2 of which were New York Times Best Sellers. In 2017 Chris and Heidi expanded their brand with the launch of their debut app, TRANSFORM, which allowed them to bring customized transformation to the masses. With over 40K active users, the Powells just debuted TRANSFORM 2.0, which offers users over 1,000 personalized workouts, over 500 delicious chef-inspired meals, hydration tracking, weekly motivation lessons and a built-in support system. Chris and Heidi’s lifelong goal is transform 1 million lives, and they are well on their way!

Thank you so much for joining us Chris and Heidi! Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?

HP: I was raised in a very fit family and was a gymnast and cheerleader from a very young age. Fitness and wellness have always been a part of me. I remember my parents taking us kids to the gym at a very young age, and always challenging us to eat healthier.

Right out of high school, I moved to Utah and started working the front desk of the local Gold’s Gym. I loved watching people come in daily to work out and change their lives. I eventually started helping new gym members around the gym, showing them how to use equipment properly. It was there I realized I wanted to train, so upon returning to Arizona 6 months later (after my school semester was over), I got certified and worked as a trainer at the local LA Fitness.

I met my first husband in the gym, soon got married and realized to make ends meet, I needed to give up training as my profession ($12 an hour didn’t take me very far), and started to follow my passion in business as a loan officer and entrepreneur, buying homes from auction to remodel (i.e. Transform), and sell to people who never thought they could buy a home. Little did I realize then, with my focused efforts on credit repair, I was transforming lives on a financial and social level. I loved it. While I did this, I was an avid runner, and the neighborhood go-to for moms to get back into pre-baby shape.

It wasn’t until 2008 when I met Chris that I got back into training, actually by way of helping him with his failing business, credit, financial health, and emotional health as he recovered from an addiction and moved out of his car.

Since his businesses were health and fitness-related, naturally I started moving back into the space. I began helping him with his online clients as customer service and helped him work on his online training company. 6 months after we met, Chris encouraged me to get recertified as a trainer!

Soon after that, we created and started our TV show on ABC, where I was the behind the scenes trainer to help keep things afloat while Chris traveled the globe and filmed. Working with 16 super obese individuals at once was no joke…and took a LOT of manpower! Something Chris could not have done on his own. After a few people came to AZ to live with me while Chris was on the road (for one-on-one training and accountability…WHILE I was pregnant! Ha!), we soon opened our “EWL Arizona House” where the castmates would come work with me intermittently throughout the year.

I realized during this process that while I didn’t love one-on-one training in a gym setting…I LOVED LOVED LOVED this kind of training, which was so much for than physical. WE were coaching and guiding people on how to transform their lives on every level…physically, emotionally, financially, you name it…I did it, and LIVED for it. The rest is history!

CP: From age 7 to 14, I was extremely small…always the smallest kid in my class. This led to a fair share of bullying through most of grade school. When I was 14, we moved to another city and I tried out for the football team at my new school. I was the tiniest kid out there by at least 30 pounds, and got my butt kicked. It was the breaking point for my self-esteem. My parents saw how broken I was, and after just two weeks into the new school I came home to find all of our living room furniture removed and a big weight set in the middle of the floor. For a few weeks I just sat on the equipment to watch tv (since they still left it in the living room), but then I started playing around with the different movements I could do: bench press, pec deck, lat pull down, bicep curls, leg extensions, hamstring curls, etc. About a month later I was brushing my teeth in the mirror and noticed that I was actually developing muscles. Although I was still small in stature, for the first time in 7 years I felt powerful. I realized that I COULD take my power back through fitness. From that point on, I read every fitness magazine I could get my hands on. I went to Arizona State University to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science, and the rest is history…

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

HP: I think the most interesting THING about my career is that I somehow ended up with a brand, on camera, and with a decent amount of notoriety that I never anticipated. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be where I am. In fact, I never even wished for this because I simply didn’t think I was worthy of it. Goes to show when you try your best to do what is right, follow your heart, timing is right, and your work your ass off…things happen for you. PERIOD.

CP: The most interesting thing that has happened since starting my career has definitely been the transition into using technology to bring fitness to the masses. Since starting our app, we have gone from doing just 15 transformations a year to currently doing over 30,000 active transformations. Most trainers are driven by the desire to make an impact in others’ lives, and I never imagined we would be able to do this on such a large scale. We feel truly blessed and take this opportunity with great responsibility.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

Technically, we are authorities because we are certified in the field of personal training and nutrition, and we have spent years creating proof that our method works, by way of massive lasting transformation. We’ve helped 76 people on our show alone lose half their bodyweight over the course of a year, and hundreds of thousands beyond that with our books and transformation tools.

In our opinion, our unique contribution is that we’ve taught the world that you can’t SHAME someone into change. You must LOVE them into change. Coming straight from Biggest Loser era, this was quite the flip-flopped way to view weight loss.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

HP: Chris. Easy. I wouldn’t have even realized my passion for changing lives in this way had I not crossed paths with him and jumped in to help clean up his financial mess. Like I said, I kind of stumbled upon this path…and in the stumble, I found something I am more passionate about than anything (other than family).

We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion, what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

  1. Perceived difficulty. When something appears to be too difficult, and the pain of change is greater than the pain of remaining the same, nothing will change. One of the best things you can do when starting a plan, is UNDERSTAND the big picture/goal…but don’t focus on it too often. Put your head down and put one foot in front of the other, plain and simple. Baby steps add up to massive change.
  2. Fear of failure…again. 9 out of 10 diets fail within the first two weeks. Usually because people attempt to take on too much at once, forgetting that if a plan is not sustainable, your goal is actually not attainable. Because they’ve tried and failed and tried and failed and tried and failed more times than they can remember, they totally betrayed their trust in themselves, and don’t believe they can ACTUALLY do what it takes to lose the weight.
  3. Confusion. There are SO many plans, SO many ways, SO much information…oftentimes conflicting with one another. Which way do you go?? That is the questions that stops most people.

Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)

  1. Eat More Carbs! We have been programmed by “fad diets” over the years to see carbs as BAD. “They are the enemy,” we are taught…and all the while, our physiques suffer, and we move further away from reaching and maintaining our goals. In the exercise physiology world, there is a saying that “fats burn in a carbohydrate fire.” Contrary to what most people think, adequate carb intake will support thyroid function and help boost your metabolism.
  2. Embrace a Weight Loss Plateau. Shift your way of thinking about plateau and realize that when you plateau, that’s just your body’s way of telling you that you’re fitter and stronger than ever…time to play a new card! A plateau does NOT mean you pull out all the tricks and need to starve yourself. Nope. Just means it’s time to tweak ONE thing, and your body will be on its way.
  3. Less is More. We get an exercise and nutrition plan, we gather all the things we need for it, plan our entire week ahead…dead set on doing it ALL right: drinking a gallon of water a day, exercising for 60 minutes a day, eat 5 small meals, cut out carbs, add in a little extra cardio, sleep 8 hours a night…you know the drill. Only problem is that after a week, we are EXHAUSTED and realize there is NO balance. We’ve taken on WAY too much, and the idea of doing this for the REST of your life is daunting. So, we quit. What if I told you that weight loss is easier than that? And that the secret to success is actually started teeny tiny small. Less is more! Take on one commitment at a time, prove your ability to keep commitments to yourself, then slowly add on more. Layer them on slowly and make them a lifestyle!
  4. Indulge More!! When I tell you that you cannot have something…say a brownie…what is it that you want? If you don’t want it now, you are at least thinking about that brownie, and the more you think about anything, the more you want it over time! We’ve learned over the years that the best way to stay on plan is the add the foods into your plan that you love the most…so you NEVER feel like you’re cheating, and you never HAVE to cheat. You are winning and doing it with the foods you spent your days craving before. Think of the 80/20 rule. Eat 80% real, whole, natural foods, and 20% foods you love and crave.
  5. Drink Less Water. Instead of worrying about drinking a full gallon of water a day, start small with just an extra cup or quart of water a day. The more likely you are to be ABLE to reach the goals you set, the more likely you are to be successful, even if it means a fraction of what your friends are doing, or what your plan tells you to do.

Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?

  1. Confidence. When you’re consistently doing what you say you’re going to do
  2. Increase in endorphins and overall sense of well-being
  3. Reduction in Anxiety and Depression.

For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?

  1. Couch or Air Squats
  2. Push Up/Baby Up
  3. Walking

Many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long-term injury?

Drink adequate water — half your body weight in ounces a day + 8 additional ounces for every 15 minutes of activity you do.

Active recovery — don’t just sit there. Keep moving lightly to help flush fluid out of the muscles for faster recovery. Stretch, walk, massage, etc.

Proper nutrition — what we eat can either propel us toward our goals or move us further away. Ensuring you are getting adequate nutrition is imperative. Load your diet with a good balance of macronutrients AND micronutrients to aid in overall recovery.

There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?

Chris and I both follow a pretty balanced diet. I am slightly higher in carbs and lower in fats to assist in muscular development, and he is a little lower in carb and higher in fats to help him feel leaner. We BOTH carb cycle with our own custom plans…as do most of our clients. The great thing about carb cycling is that you can customize the cycle to whatever is best for your body and overall sense of well-being. You do well with fewer carbs? You can carb cycle with FEWER high carb days. Your body thrives on carbs like mine? You can build in MORE high carb days to ensure you always feel good!

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Larger Than Life by Bruce Pitcher. He’s one of our clients-turned-best-friends from the show Extreme Weight Loss. His story is a heart-wrenching one, bursting at the seams with hope and inspiration. He’s unlike anyone you’ve ever met, and you will NOT read his book without wanting to go out and make the most of your life while changing the world.

You are people of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I think it’s safe to say that we both have already done this. Our goal is to help EVERYONE feel like they can do ANYTHING they set their minds to. We want each and every person to know that they deserve happiness and are worthy of love. I feel this is a movement that is already in motion, and I couldn’t be any prouder.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is pretty self-explanatory. Our work is no good if we cannot convey by our actions just HOW MUCH we care about the people we work with.

Also, “stay in your own damn lane.” Comparison is the thief of joy. When you’re too busy focusing on what everyone else around you is doing, you will be too busy to appreciate the beautiful things you have in your life.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

CP: Jordan Peterson. He’s one of the greatest debaters in the world. He’s a true genius and a great thinker of our time. He’s helped me created a healthier perspective on my own life.

HP: Oprah. Because she is the ultimate. A true powerhouse. A female force for good in this world. So powerful and influential, all built from NOTHING. I would hope for a little of her greatness to rub off on me!!

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Dr. William Seeds

Board-certified orthopedic surgeon and physician, with over 22 years of experience, specializing in all aspects of sports medicine and total joint treatments