BOB HARPER SITS down on a cozy leather couch for an interview in his West Hollywood studio, wearing his business attire: dark gray gym shorts, a snug black T-shirt and knee-high compres- sion socks. In other words, the perfect outfit for the guy who may be America’s most famous personal trainer, thanks to eight years on the hit NBC show The Biggest Loser, a successful series of workout DVDs, a line of supplements, a new interactive online fitness club and the A-list Hollywood stars he has helped whip into shape. Now Harper can add another accessory to his wardrobe: a chef’s coat. He has just written a cookbook, The Skinny Rules: The Simple, Nonnegotiable Principles for Getting to Thin (Ballantine Books). His fans know all about his merciless workout routines—and the occasional soft shoulder offered in strate- gic moments. But for anybody who has won- dered, “What does the guy eat?,” the book explains it all. The Skinny Rules offers recipes that Harper, 46, has found successful in helping Biggest Loser contestants lose weight. Beyond the recipes, the book also offers lots of advice on utrition, stocking a pantry, understanding portion sizes and combating snack attacks—in short, things that most of us hould pay more attention to (see “The Skinny Rules”). The Connection asked Harper, a Costco member, about the book, his influences and his take on how we can all live healthier lives.
The Costco Connection: First off,
how do you define healthy?
Bob Harper: It’s three-tiered for me:
sickness, wellness and then fitness. You
have to figure out where in that barometer you fall, and what you’re striving for.
I’ve seen plenty of people who weigh an
optimal weight—“Oh, I’m healthy”—but
they’re winded when they walk up a flight of
stairs. So it’s being able to get people to put the
pieces all together: I’ve got to make healthier
food choices; I’ve got to find time to exercise
and move around a little more.
CC: Is how you eat today different from when
you were growing up?
BH: Yeah. I grew up on a cattle farm in
Tennessee, and it was a lot of meat and vegetables, but also a lot of butter. I mean it was Paula
Deen! It became a very conditioned way of living for me. I had to reprogram how I ate and
what I ate from how I used to eat.
CC: There’s no shortage of information these
days about weight loss. But are we making
BH: It’s an uphill battle. Are we winning this
war? No. Are we making some progress? Yes,
I have to believe that we are. I’ve had the privilege now to work with the first lady [Michelle
Obama] several times with her Let’s Move!
initiative, and love her drive and passion
reaching people out there wanting to change.
But we do have a long way to go.
CC: What’s the key to taking the first step?
BH: People don’t like change. People get nervous when they have to actually look at themselves. So what I would say is that you’ve got
to find that inner strength that’s in us all that
is looking for something better. Until you
really tap into that, there’s nothing that anyone is going to be able to do for you. You have
to find that little spark that’s in there somewhere. If you know that it’s in there, that’s
what you build from.
CC: What about when you hit that wall?
BH: I think people lose motivation. They
might see the number on the scale not changing and they think, “What’s the point? I’ve
been working so hard. Last week I lost this,
and this week I lost nothing.” When you get
pushed to the edge like that, that’s where your
real strength has to come in. You have to say,
“I’m going to trust the process of this.” It’s that
trust in the process that I really try to get people to focus on, especially in the beginning.
Because if you really trust that what you’re
doing is right, then it’s all going to work out.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 28
CC: Tell us how the book came about and
what your main message is.
BH: That losing weight is hard work, and you
have to have a set of rules to live by. The book
came out of working all these years with the
contestants on The Biggest Loser. I kept asking, “What is it that really worked?” What
WE’VE HEARD the advice: Eat more
fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean
meats. Cut out the junk food. Minimize the
sweets. But easier said than done, right?
That’s because we have a lot of bad
habits that simply have to be broken,
advises Bob Harper in The Skinny Rules.
A set of rules can help you take the first
step. He lists 20 nonnegotiable rules that
lead to success. Here’s an overview:
• Lots of water at each meal; a real
breakfast, such as oatmeal, eggs or plain
Greek yogurt, doctored up with berries
and nuts; apples and berries every day,
along with other fibrous fruits such as
Asian pears, in certain quantities; protein at every meal and lots of fiber; and
unlimited amounts of certain vegetables—though they must be prepared
correctly (favorites are kale and broccoli).
• All the typical culprits: added
sweeteners in drinks and foods; refined
flours and grains; white potatoes loaded
with fats; white rice; fast foods; high-salt foods; and fried foods.
• Learn to read food labels; stop
guessing about portion sizes; have a
meatless day each week; make at least
10 meals a week at home; cut off eating
three hours before bed; sleep right;
and, thankfully, allow yourself a splurge
meal once a week.
• Eat certain foods at certain times,
such as most of your carbs in the morning (little or none after lunch) and protein
and fiber in the afternoon; eat lean and
green at night; plan meals and prepare
portion sizes on a Sunday evening for the
week; and place certain smart snack
foods, such as hard-boiled eggs, blueber-ries and Persian cucumbers, at eye level
in the fridge.—TT