After 11 seasons of The Biggest Loser, you know Bob and Jillian just by the sound of their screaming, we mean, “voices.” And now it’s time for one of the show’s new trainers, Brett Hoebel, to make his mark.
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Hoebel had his sights set on medical school before he discovered his calling as a fitness instructor. “I had just moved to New York. I was premed, working as a lab tech, and I couldn’t afford a gym membership,” he says. “By the 10th time I showed up at New York Sports Club they were like, ‘Really, dude?’” Eventually the gym suggested Hoebel use his extensive martial arts background to teach. “Teaching kickboxing classes was my foot in the door to the fitness industry,” says Hoebel. “I worked in the lab during the day and moonlighted as an instructor.”
It wasn’t long before Hoebel realized that he wanted to make fitness his full-time gig. “My dad gave me the best piece of advice. He told me to find something that I love to do because it will never feel like work. Financial gain, he said, will come to you, or it won’t matter,” says Hoebel. “And I told him the one thing that I like to do, that gets me out of bed in the morning, is teaching my classes. I went from becoming a doctor to channeling Richard Simmons.”
But don’t expect Hoebel to start sporting sequins or sweating to the oldies. His background in Afro-Brazilian capoeira and muay Thai kickboxing make for innovative workouts that leave Loser contestants breathless—and slimmer. After teaching a particularly grueling 1 1/2-hour workout in New York City, Hoebel had a few minutes to dish on season 11, staying motivated, and what it takes to win.
It can be really difficult for people to stay motivated without a personal trainer or access to a gym. Do you have any tips for staying on track if you’re on your own?
Brett Hoebel: You have to set “smart” goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Rather than saying, “I want to lose some weight,” resolve to lose 4 pounds in 1 month—not 30 pounds in general. You have to have little goals. Maybe you want to fit into your gown by your wedding day, but you have to set benchmarks along the way that have specific time limits. Seeing yourself meet these smaller goals will motivate you to keep moving forward. You should also grab a buddy. Think of the energy you feel [in a group fitness class] versus what you feel like at the gym by yourself. And choose something you enjoy doing. If going to the gym sucks for you, you’re probably not going to do it. You could start walking with your girlfriend, hiking with your boyfriend, or cycling—it doesn’t have to be in the gym. But you need to find something you like.
Part of the excitement of watching The Biggest Loser is trying to guess who’s going to make it. Maybe a contestant has a better attitude or more fitness experience before coming on the show. Are there any personality traits that set a contestant up for success?
BH: It’s the beauty of it. You can’t judge a book by its cover. Look at season 11 contestant and Olympic gold medalist Rulon. You think to yourself, this guy’s got it made—he was a top athlete—but he ends up freaking out and leaving the show. And then you have some one like Denise Hill, a 60-year-old mommy who could not lift a weight for the life of her, but comes out on top as an at-home winner. Who would have put money on her? Nobody. But she did it.
For overweight and obese people like the contestants on The Biggest Loser, what do you think is the biggest obstacle to achieving weight loss that lasts?
BH: Believing in themselves. I tell them from day one, losing weight is going to be the easy part. Losing the emotional baggage and believing in yourself, that’s the hardest thing. I can’t do that. I can make you run. I can make you do pushups. But I cannot make you believe in yourself. I’m going to make you follow the program. You’re going to sweat and you’re going to change your diet. But belief in yourself, that’s what’s going to carry you on to the final four. That’s what’s going to keep you on this journey when you’re off the show. But with Kaylee, with Austin, and other people, they went home and gained all the weight back. Why? Because they didn’t change how they felt about themselves. That’s the hardest thing. When you’ve never believed in yourself, were always picked last for sports, and think No one believes in me. I tell contestants that you have to use those small moments when you push past your limit and when you make it through a workout. When you go to fatigue and stop, that’s not failure. Not giving me 100%, that’s failure. Those small moments are the ones you have to use to build the roots of self-worth. Kaylee didn’t believe in herself but she finished right behind Rulon in a 5-K. She beat all the other girls. I told her, if you can’t use the fact that you finished behind an Olympic gold medalist to affirm your place here, I can’t help you.
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What words do you live by?
BH: Walk your talk. Energy is contagious. If you walk your talk, you will inspire others. It’s just the bottom line. If you walk your talk and lead by example, the rest will follow. End of story.