FIT2FAT2FIT EXPERIENCE PODCAST EPISODE 6
With Mark Assmus
Drew: Aloha everybody and welcome to the Fit2Fat2Fit Experience Podcast. I’m your host, Drew Manning.
Lynn: And I am your co-host, Lynn Manning.
Drew: Thank you guys so much for joining us today. Today we have an awesome episode ahead of us. We are interviewing the Executive Producer of the TV show, Extreme Weight Loss. Now we had Chris and Heidi Powell on a few weeks ago, who are the hosts of the show. We wanted to have the Executive Producer Matt on, to talk about the behind the scenes stuff that no one really sees. The things that go on with the show and how that applies to health and fitness and you, the listener. Let’s go hang out with Matt.
Drew: Alright. Matt Assumus, thank you so much for joining us today on our Podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you.
Matt: You bet.
Drew: Now, really quick, I do have to ask this. Your last name is pronounced, “Aw-sum-us” not “Ass-mus”, right? *laughing*
Matt: Yeah, it’s pronounced, “Aw-sum-us”. *chuckles*
Drew: I’m sure you get that all the time. *laughing*
Lynn: What are we, in high school?
Matt: Yeah, I get that everyday, about 20 jokes or so, but yeah, it’s “Aw-sum-us”. Actually it’s German. In German, there is a different letter, it looks like a upper case ‘B’ with a long stem on it. Which is sort of a long ‘S’ sound, is my understanding. So it was like ‘A’ and then that letter and then ‘nus’ in German. When they came to America, they just translated it to the ‘Assmus’. So anyways, my grandfather, my father and myself have been blessed ever since. I thought about changing it, but my dad always said it builds character.
Drew: Yeah, there you go. I love it, dude. And it’s kind of funny, but I just thought I would throw that out there. But really quick, let me just introduce Matt to you guys. A lot of you are wondering who is Matt Assmus. You know we had Chris and Heidi Powell on the show, some big names. Matt is the guy you don’t really see on camera. He is the guy behind the camera. He’s been the Executive Producer for a lot of TV shows. I’m going to go through this list here Matt, and so feel free to talk about any of them. But obviously, most people know you for your role in Extreme Weight Loss with Chris and Heidi Powell. Before that was the OCD project, Hammertime, The Biggest Loser even, right? On NBC?
Matt: Yeah. I did The Biggest Loser for a couple of seasons.
Drew: Beauty and the Geek, which actually, I don’t remember if I watched it. But I remember what that was about. Wasn’t that setting up like some beautiful models with some kind of nerdy guys, right?
Matt: Yep. There were 8 geeky guys and 8 beautiful girls in a house together and they would team up into pairs of two. Every week the girls would have to do a challenge with computers and the guys would have to like model on a runway. Yeah, it was fun and it was a funny show. Kind of brought two people from very different worlds together.
Lynn: *laughing* Oh wow.
Drew: That’s funny, man. I know, it’s crazy what kind of shows are out there. You also were on Pimp My Ride 2004.
Lynn: Oh my gosh!
Drew: So you were a part of that?
Drew: Then Fear Factor, even. This was like back in the day, 2003, right?
Drew: And then this one I found interesting, Playboy: Who Wants To Be a Playboy Centerfold.
Lynn: Oh my gosh.
Drew: That actually showed up on IMDB, which is like ….
Matt: Oh my gosh. I was on that for like one day. So, that was it. That was it. I was a PA on that. That was an awakening for sure. I was in Hollywood for probably six months and I got the call to go do that. Anyways ….
Lynn: This is like a PG show, people.
Matt: See, that was for Fox. It was a bunch of girls trying out to be a …. to model for Playboy. It was a trip, man.
Drew: I was going to say, when your a production assistant though, you don’t get to pick and choose. They tell you, ‘Hey, you go here and you do this show.’
Matt: Yeah, yeah. I was just …. it sounds really exciting, but what I was really doing was like transporting tapes back and forth. I think it is one of the few shows that actually ended up on my IMDB, because you don’t manage your IMDB account. It’s just like whatever credits other people put on there, go to you.
Lynn: Before we get started, I wanted to preempt this interview. A lot of people may be thinking, why are we having an Executive Producer of reality TV shows on our Podcast. And that is an interesting question. The truth is, Drew and I have talked a lot about these shows. Of course, he’s been on Extreme Weight Loss. We’ve had Chris and Heidi on, like you said. We’ve actually met people from The Biggest Loser. Because we are in the industry, we know so many former contestants that have been on that show. Because we are trainers, we actually get asked about those shows, or the peoples results. Or even, why didn’t I lose this much weight, if somebody did on a TV show, all the time. I personally think that The Biggest Loser and Extreme Weight Loss, these weight loss reality shows have really changed the industry. We wanted to kind of focus on, they have changed it for the good and also maybe changed it for the bad. Of course for the good, they have really inspired people. I specifically like how on Extreme Weight Loss, they really showcase a person’s entire journey. The emotional, the mental, how they got there, the food addiction. They are showing all of it. Which I think really resonates with people, showing a different side to not just, ‘Hey, let’s eat right and exercise,’ but showing the emotional side. On the negative side, I’ve heard people say things like, ‘Well, I watch The Biggest Loser and in a week they lost 20 pounds and I only lost 2.’
Lynn: And so, yeah, it can create unrealistic expectations. That’s why we were really excited to have Matt on the show with us.
Drew: Yeah, we feel like you can give a different perspective. Someone that’s on the inside, your kind of the creator of the show. You put these stories together and you pick people for the show, things like that. We want to give people an inside scoop of what it looks like behind the scenes. Mostly today, we are going to be talking about Extreme Weight Loss. We are not talking about Fear Factor or Playboy, or those shows. *laughing*
Lynn: I am going to have him talk a little bit about The Biggest Loser too, ok? I feel that is a very different dynamic Extreme Weight Loss versus The Biggest Loser. My personal opinions on that too.
Drew: Yeah and just so people know how we met. Matt, he actually reached out to me after I did my Fit2Fat2Fit journey and invited me on the show during season 3 as a guest trainer. That is where I met him and became friends with Chris and Heidi and saw what happened behind the scenes of the TV show. Matt, the first question is, can you talk to us a little bit about how Extreme Weight Loss came to be? We heard it from Chris’s perspective. I kind of want to hear how you were involved with it and how it came to be as such a successful TV show.
Matt: Ok, well I was lucky enough to work for a company called 3 Ball Productions, who is run by J.D. Roth and Todd Nelson. They created The Biggest Loser and Extreme Weight Loss. I think Extreme Weight Loss kind of came from looking at The Biggest Loser and realizing that the one fault with the show was that you have to wait 13-15 weeks to see the final transformation. I think they had kicked around for a long time the idea of, we’re following 13 people for 6 months or 9 months, or however long a season of The Biggest Loser is. What if we were to take each of those people and make each of those people their own episode? They had started developing that. Meanwhile, Chris’s documentary “The 650 Pound Virgin”, which was on TLC and was at the time the highest rated documentary ever on TLC, had come out. We saw this good looking blond trainer who helped a guy lose, you go from 640 pounds to 240 pounds in a little over a year. I think they approached him and said, do you want to be a part of this? They brought Chris on board. Then when they got me involved, they kind of looked at me and said, from a production standpoint, how can we make this happen? Like, most reality shows are filmed in 3-6 months. This would be from the beginning of pre-production to the end of the edit, a year, plus however many months it took to prep it and however many months it took to edit it. That’s when I sat down with J.D. and we kind of came up with this idea of the four phases. If you watch Extreme Weight Loss, you know everything is kind of divided into four phases. That originally was a construct of the TV show, it wasn’t really a weight loss concept. But Chris was smart enough to find a way to say, alright if I know that we are going to be filming with these people every 90 days, what expectations can we have for these people in 90 days? If they’re truly super obese and they are double their ideal body weight, we can assume that they have 50% of their weight to lose. We consulted with all kinds of doctors and sort of the resounding answer was, the most anyone can really lose in a given week is 2% of their current body weight. As we started to do the math and we looked at if someone loses 2% of their original body weight for “x” amount of time, they can lose about 25% of their body weight in the first 90 days, 15% in the second 90 days and 10% in the third 90 days and be at their goal. If they hit all three of those goals, then in the fourth phase, in the fourth set of three months, they can do the skin surgery, which takes about three months to recover from. In an ideal world, that’s what we wanted, however a year long process. We presented that to ABC and we got cracking on the first season. That’s kind of how Extreme Weight Loss came to be.
Lynn: That’s interesting. I was wondering how they fixed the numbers. Like every time, they are like this is going to be what your goal is, I wondered why. Now I know and it’s actually strategic.
Drew: There is a formula, right?
Matt: Yeah, so 2% of your original body week per week, and that is given that you are super obese. So, if your only 20 pounds overweight, don’t expect that your going to lose 2% of your body weight in a given week.
Matt: It goes back to your unreasonable expectations. I think people do get unreasonable expectations watching the show, because most people aren’t 200 pounds overweight. If you are 200 pounds overweight, you can lose 10-15 pounds in your very first week. As you know Drew, you guys are experts in this, a lot of it is water. That’s why on The Biggest Loser there would always be sort of, they would call it like, the week two curse. Where in week two, every season I did The Biggest Loser, that was always the big story in the second episode. People would have these terrible numbers in the second week and its because they went so hard in the first.
Drew: Yeah, very interesting. One of the things that you were talking about, Extreme Weight Loss verses Biggest Loser, is I really like that Extreme Weight Loss does the skin surgery at the end, right? Because by the end, if your losing 50% of your body weight, people ask me all the time, ‘How do you tighten up loose skin?’ Well for those people that are super obese and they lose half of their body weight, skin surgery is pretty much the only option if they want to get rid of that. I think that’s really cool that you guys do that. Do you know why Biggest Loser does not do that at the end, or do they offer that?
Matt: It’s a fairness issue, because there is a $250,000 prize. Skin surgery affects everyone differently. Everyone on Biggest Loser does their skin surgery after the winner has been announced.
Drew: Ok, that’s interesting. Yeah, because the people at the end of Extreme Weight Loss aren’t winning the cash prize at the end, right?
Matt: No, they just get their lives back and sometimes there will be a bonus gift from WalMart or something like that. But yeah, I mean the idea of Extreme Weight Loss, in addition to following one person every episode, was always that, it would be more of a real world transformation. It would be people in their homes and doing it mostly on their own. Chris, for awhile was moving in for the first 90 days. Then as he got stretched thinner and thinner and we were doing more and more episodes per year. We had ended up doing a three month boot camp, just because it was the only way to get Chris any face time with the real people. But still nine months of their transformation is done at home.
Drew: That’s what I like about the formula of Extreme Weight Loss, it is more realistic in my opinion. They are not on this camp where their meals are being cooked for them. They are working out ….
Lynn: They are not working out 7 hours a day.
Drew: Right, they still have to go to work, they have to get their kids to school. They have their normal lives, right? And that’s what I like about Extreme Weight Loss, it seems to be more realistic in that sense. I think that’s why people can relate to it better is because they are like, ‘Hey, these people are at home. They have the same schedule as I have, and they are able to do it.’
Lynn: Do you guys give them any sort of guidance, like you need to work out like ‘x’ amount of hours a day? Or do you guys give them a specific guidance for Extreme Weight Loss?
Matt: I don’t, I mean I am a TV producer. But Chris and Heidi are very involved and have a very, very strict plan and a very individualized plan for each person. They really are, you know, the real deal. They don’t just show up for camera. They are on the phone with these people all hours of the night, when they had a bad weigh in. Or Trying to dissect if they have eaten too many carbs or not drank enough water. It’s troubleshooting.
Drew: I was working with Bruce Pitcher, just very briefly, right after his first 90 days and seeing how involved Chris and Heidi were, like Heidi was talking with him every day. We were training for a little bit and then he had a concussion issue. So she was checking in like every single day. I was like, wow. She has so much going on in her life, but she is still so invested in each of the people’s success. So yeah, I think that’s really …. like you said, they have a great track record because of that. The next question is, Matt, people ask me this all the time, ‘How do I get on the show? Can you help me?’ I’m like, I have no connections, but …. *laughing*
Lynn: Or they are like, ‘Can you guys hook me up with that?’
Drew: Or they say, ‘Can you reach out to Chris and have them pick me?’ I’m like, I don’t think that’s how it works.
Lynn: I don’t even know if Chris and Heidi even necessarily pick the people, do they?
Drew: Yeah, can you kind of touch on the process that these clients have to go through to actually be picked for the TV show?
Matt: Yeah. Chris and Heidi do have a very big role in picking the people. You know, I wish we could pick everyone that applies. A lot of people, I find, think they need the show and they don’t. Again, it’s the people who are 20-50 pounds overweight. We are really looking for the people who are sort of at their last resort. I think the best advice I’ve given people in the past, who have sent in an audition tape or gone to an open casting call is, you have to sort of brand yourself. You have to set yourself apart. Are you the gay firefighter, or are you the woman who just lost her child? There’s unfortunately, we are making a TV show and every TV show right now is 2 hours long and you have to sort of be able to hold 2 hours with your story. Beyond that, we do quite a casting process, as compared to Biggest Loser. That was a couple of days of in person interviews for the finalists. We do almost a 2 week long casting process for the finalists on Extreme Weight Loss. Because once they are on the show, they are with us for a year. It’s not like if a person becomes difficult or they decide they don’t want to lose weight any more, they just get eliminated. They are in it. We have to make sure …. I talk to the cast, I compare it the NFL combine. It’s like you’re about to give someone a million dollar contract and you’re expecting them to perform for your team. So, you’re not just going to spend one day interviewing them and then make your decisions. We have people out and we actually watch them in work outs and watch to see what they are eating as they are going in and out of the hotel. We have them do a psych test and behavioral profiles and things like that. As the series went on, I feel like we got better and better at really picking the people who were ready to do it and who were ready to do it, whether they got picked for the show or not. That was always kind of a key. Of course Chris and Heidi have to want the person too, so it usually comes down to the people they want in the end.
Drew: Interesting. That’s what I was going to ask, how are they involved in the process? Like they are given 50 profiles like on a document or with pictures or do they get to meet them in person? And say, yes this person and no that person? Or what is the process for them?
Matt: Yeah, they’ll actually meet the people and get to know them and see who they have connections with. They will definitely weigh in after they have met the people.
Lynn: One of my favorite things you guys did on the show, was bringing on Heidi as a trainer. I wanted to ask you, what made you guys decide to bring her on and become part of the show?
Matt: It was hard not to, I mean she was so involved. Like Drew said, she often was the one making the calls to the people who weren’t on camera. Chris was so busy filming the show, that he’d get home and he would be on the phone until 1 or 2 in the morning, trying to handle phone calls. Heidi, I think half way through the first season, started handling a lot of the troubleshooting phone calls. It got to the point that she was just too involved not to acknowledge her on camera. She had such a relationship with these people, that we wanted her to be on camera with these people. She knew stuff that maybe Chris didn’t even know, or she had a relationship that Chris didn’t even have. Definitely from a production standpoint, it started to make things easier as well. I could be sending one crew to Milwaukee and one crew to Hawaii and having two trainers helped to sort of split the burden of shooting.
Lynn: And yeah, it’s completely true that, at least for me, even watching this show, men and women are different. Men and women trainers are different and the type of connection or the dynamic is going to be different. You know, Heidi verses Chris and it’s great to kind of see that. One may really connect with a client and the other trainer might not, and then vice versa. I see Heidi with these women, especially on the show where she kind of opened up about her eating disorder, and they really bonded over that. It just made me think, this woman is going to make more improvements and do better, because she has Heidi there that’s been through the same situation. She can really connect with her on that level.
Matt: Yep, and as a team, it’s like they both play different roles too. Chris can be the nice guy often and Heidi can sort of be the tough love. They are great together and it’s not like we suddenly put them together. They were always working together, you just never got to truly see it on camera during the first few seasons.
Drew: I kind of wanted to bring that up, because I did talk to Chris a lot about how it was for him. I was surprised at how similar we were, where he is more of the nice guy. He is not your Jillian Michaels type of trainer. Do you feel like you’ve had to push him in some situations to be like, ‘Hey Chris, you’ve go to toughen up or you have got to cuss a little.’ Or something like that? *laughing*
Drew: Because it’s like, dude, you are just too nice! Do you ever feel like you’ve had to do that with him? I could kind of see that!
Matt: I would be lying if I said I didn’t have to pull him aside once in awhile and say, ‘Chris, are you really buying this?’ You know, Heidi will be the first to tell you that Chris will buy everybody’s story. Like he wants so badly to believe in everybody. So, in the days before Heidi was a part of the show, yeah, I would say I would have to step in more and say, ‘Chris, do you really believe this guy put on 10 pounds because he was not eating enough calories? That’s just not possible.’ You know, Chris wants to try to argue in his head the science of how that could possibly happen, when the odds of that actually happening are just so miniscule.
Lynn: And then I love it, Heidi probably stepped in and was like, ‘Ok, look here ….’
Matt: *laughing* Yeah, once Heidi was on board, I really didn’t have to step in that much. She didn’t buy those stories.
Lynn: I love it. *laughing*
Drew: That’s funny. No, that’s cool. Everyone loves Chris. That’s what people like about him, because what you see on camera is how he kind of is in life. He’s really down to earth, really easy going guy. He’ll talk to you for hours. I remember him telling me, ‘Hey, you know sometimes Heidi or Matt have to pull me away from people, because I will talk to them for hours.’ Where you guys are trying to keep him on schedule.
Matt: *chuckles* Yeah. As the show got more and more popular, it was harder and harder to shoot in like really public places, because he would get pulled away. He would never say no to a picture. He would never say no to an autograph and you know, we would be an hour behind and be having to pull him away from people.
Drew: Gotcha. That’s awesome. Another question I want to ask you, Matt, is …. and this is kind of tough because you are making a TV show and you do want ratings. You want the TV show to be successful and a part of that is getting these clients to meet their goals. Do you feel like …. who is the one who has to put the pressure on the clients to be like, ‘Hey, you have to meet this goal, or else there is a consequence, or else this is going to happen.’ How much pressure is put on the clients to meet their goal?
Matt: Well, I think that they have a lot of pressure just naturally. A lot of people ask me, why are these people so successful? In the real world, weight loss programs have like a 10-20% success rate. Whereas in doing 55 episodes now of the show, we have really only had two episodes where people have either quit or just been a complete disaster. We have had a few people come to their final weigh in and you know, maybe been 30 pounds away from where they wanted to get to. But they still lost 180. So, what is it that makes people able to lose that amount of weight? I think it’s accountability, and on The Biggest Loser, it’s the accountability of elimination every week. On our show, it’s just flat out the accountability of having to stand on that final weigh in stage and show your weigh in. Those cameras on you, the camera is really the greatest …. I don’t want to call it a weapon, but it’s the greatest form of accountability. We have producers who are assigned to each person and my producers will occasionally get on peoples case for being far off their goals. But honestly, as a producer, I’m fine with people missing their goals, because there is a story behind that. And what is the story behind that? Not hitting your goals, that’s a part of life. That’s something that people at home are going to be able to relate to. The challenge is always to get people to admit really what they did. Because people always want to say they didn’t do anything wrong or they were doing everything too right, that’s what we will get more often than not. We will get, ‘Oh, I was just working out too hard and so I think I am swelling.’
Lynn: *laughing* I am swelling? *laughing*
Matt: Yeah, ‘I wasn’t eating enough calories and that’s why my body is holding on to this weight.’ Well, scientifically maybe you can gain a little weight from swelling, or you can not lose weight because you are starving yourself. But in a 90 day period, you’re not going to gain weight. That was always the challenge. We always wanted the best for these people. We wanted these people, every episode, we wanted them to look like heroes. Because, they are heroes that inspire people at home to be heroes themselves.
Drew: Yeah. I want to touch on that, the accountability. Because this is one thing that I preach to people, is to be accountable. They think, ‘Well, if I had cameras on me all the time and if I was on TV, then I would lose the weight.’ But then they feel like, I don’t have that, so I’m never going to lose the weight. But the truth is opposite of that, you can be accountable to other people. You don’t need to be on a TV show to lose the weight. One person that comes to mind is Josh Steele. He wasn’t picked for the show, but ended up losing a ton of weight, even though he didn’t get picked for the show. It’s one thing we preach to people, is you have to be accountable to someone else, no matter who you are. You are going to lose motivation along the way, and it’s going to be a struggle. But if you can find someone to be accountable to and have a support system, that’s what is going to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle over time. And we are going to talk about this in a little bit, talking about after the show. But really quickly, I want to ask you, on the show, the clients …. obviously Chris isn’t there every single day to work them out, they are assigned a local trainer, right?
Matt: Yep. Yeah, they usually have a local trainer that Chris has handpicked or Heidi has handpicked. One thing you also don’t see on the show, is the group of people who make up a season of the show. They all get to be friends, because they all come out for boot camp together. They all come out for the weigh in’s and their skin surgeries together. They develop a really tough bond. As much as each person wants to perform and hit their goals for Chris and Heidi, they also want to hit their goals for the other cast members in the group. They don’t want to be the only person that doesn’t hit their 90 day goal. I think this past season we had two out of 15 people that we were following that didn’t hit their 90 day goal. That really stuck with those two people. They saw 13 other people hit their 90 day goal and they didn’t. To the people out there who are on their own, I would say find some form of accountability. Get into a weight loss group, do a diet bet. Tell somebody close to you what your weight loss goal is and set a specific date that your going to be at that goal. Tell them you want them to weigh you in. It is very important to have accountability, because without it, it’s just you. And as Chris talked about, one of his big things he preaches is, the easiest person to let down is yourself. Most people are in the habit of doing. You’ll do everything you promised to do for everyone else, your wife and your kids and your co-workers and your boss. But, at the end of the day, if you let yourself down, well your only letting yourself down. That’s fine with most people, but that’s the reason most people don’t hit their goals.
Lynn: I love that. Like Drew is saying, I know for my clients, we definitely preach about accountability. We also talk about how they should be your best friend and talking about that integrity. You wouldn’t tell your best friend that they are too fat or they aren’t worth it or that they should skip a workout or they can’t eat healthy. Yet people often do all that to themselves. So, I do agree, having a support system, having accountability, those ideas that you gave about a diet bet or getting a group together at work or having a friend weigh you in, those are all really great tips. My question is, these people have this accountability to the extreme. They have this group of friends and they have the cameras on them, and a lot of times people wonder what happens to them when they get off the show. Do you have statistics? Do you guys follow the stats of how many people, after the show, end up gaining the weight back?
Matt: I don’t have statistics in front of me, some do. I mean that’s the unfortunate truth. If I had to guess, I would say maybe a quarter of the people will gain some of the weight back. I would say 50% keep it off and then there is a small percentage that will put a lot of weight back on, unfortunately. Our hope always was with Extreme Weight Loss, that these people would develop new habits. Being that it’s on a year long timeline, you should be able to change your behavior in that amount of time. After a year, if you still were in your bad habits, then it was going to take more help than we could really get.
Lynn: Have you noticed, kind of going along with that though, have you specifically noticed any trend from keeping up with any of the clients posts of what they’ve done? The ones that stick it out, or maintain, or maybe even improved? What difference do you see in those people, versus the ones that seem to be gaining the weight back?
Matt: The biggest thing we see is that people who are successful at keeping it off, put themselves out in the public, wherever it is. If they are from a small town, it’s their small town. If it’s in a big city, it’s at their gym, or at their office. They put themselves out as the guy or the girl from Extreme Weight Loss. They take speaking engagements and they mentor people at their local gym and they work at destination boot camp, like Bruce and Bob are doing. They do this intentionally, whether it becomes a new career for them or not. We had one of the couples from this past season who got married, they actually opened their own gym. Now they are gym owners and they’ve got a bunch of people who come to their gym everyday. They have accountability to those people at their gym to keep that weight off. Because if they start putting weight on and people who are going to the gym see, it ends up losing them business. Same for Bob and Bruce, they get paid to do speaking engagements and get paid to help at Destination Boot Camp. Even people who don’t get paid will be mentoring someone at their local gym and they don’t want to let that person down by putting their weight back on. I would say that’s the kind of number one key in the people who kept the weight off, is they paid it forward. We think of paying it forward as kind of helping someone else but in actuality it’s helping the person who is helping just as much.
Drew: Yeah. I’ve kind of noticed that observing people both from Extreme Weight Loss and The Biggest Loser, I start following them on Social Media. The ones I’ve known to keep the weight off and maintain the weight off, are the ones that keep posting about being at the gym working out or here is my lunch today. They are out there in the public eye, staying accountable to their followers. Because after being seen on TV, they get a flood of people that reach out to them and say, ‘Your my inspiration.’ They relate to them and they look to them as their Chris Powell, like ‘Hey, what do we do?’ So, they are looking at them for direction. The ones that keep posting to their followers and maintain that social media brand that they’ve created, I’ve noticed that those are the ones that keep the weight off. Versus the ones that after awhile go into hiding and stop posting as much, those are the ones that tend to end up gaining the weight back. That’s just from my own observation from following people on both Extreme Weight Loss and The Biggest Loser, after they have their episode.
Matt: If you’re from say, Lovell Wyoming. It’s a town of 200 people and you go into the restaurant and you are the girl from Extreme Weight Loss, it’s hard to be invisible. Everybody is going to come by and see what you are ordering and see how much ketchup you’re putting on it. That is a form of accountability. So continuing to be the person they were when they were on the show, I think is the biggest key.
Drew: What is the process after the show is complete? Are you guys like, ‘Hey, thanks. See you later.” Or is there some kind of transition program where, I don’t know, if there is some kind of process they follow after the show to kind of push them in the right direction?
Matt: Yeah. There is not an official process of any kind. Often we are stretched thin as producers and Chris and Heidi definitely keep in touch with the people. But they have got a whole new group of 13 people to work with. Every year, when we are shooting the final weigh in, we have usually just cast or are about to pick a whole new group of 13 or 15 people, however many it ends up being in a given season. Again, I go back to the fact that they have now been doing this healthy lifestyle for a year, and the hope is that they can continue it. And that they don’t need an official program because they should know the program at that point and be able to do it on their own. Again, because they have been doing it on their own for 9 months. The Biggest Loser had more programs in place for people when they went home because they were on a ranch for the whole time they were losing weight. So, there was more need for a transitional program in that scenario.
Drew: Yeah. I was just curious to see if there was. But, it sounds like there is a lot of opportunities for people, if they are willing to seize those opportunities. Like, ‘Hey, I want to get certified as a trainer. I want to open up my gym. I want to start doing speaking engagements. I want to work with Extreme Weight Loss as their destination boot camp.’
Matt: I have hired several of our former success stories because, if you’ve lost 200 pounds, that’s a huge, huge accomplishment. Like all I do is produce a TV show. I bow down to you if you’ve lost 200 pounds. That’s impressive. People are going to be impressed by it and they are going to want to know how you did it. Even if your not speaking to a group of people looking to lose weight, you could be an inspirational speaker to a football team or to a group of co-workers. Bob and Bruce do speaking engagements all the time. Everything from fitness expeditions or the National Dairy Council, or the local High School, things like that. People want to hear a success story.
Drew: Ok, one last question that I had, kind of a personal one. It’s just interesting to me to see the people behind the show, the production crew. They see these people go through these amazing transformations, which I am sure is inspiring to so many people. Do you ever feel like you become numb to it? Like, ‘Oh, this is just another person and they are going to lose the weight.’ Do you feel like you’ve become numb to it or every once in a while do you still get inspired by it? Or say, ‘Hey, I need to eat healthier. I need to work out more.’ Like, on a personal level, how is that for you seeing these amazing transformations behind the scenes? Is it inspirational or do you become numb to it sometimes? *chuckles*
Matt: *laughing* I am just lucky to be a part of it. I went to a viewing party of someone who was on this season of the show recently. They live in my hometown, so it’s one of the first times I’ve ever gone to a viewing party. Just looking around, there are hundreds of people in this room watching the show and they are all crying. They all come up to her afterwards and tell her, ‘You’ve inspired me to reach back out to my mom, reach back out to my family. You’ve inspired me to try to fix my marriage.’ That’s what gets me excited. Sometimes, even when I may not be thrilled with this person’s particular story, because it doesn’t really speak to me as an individual, I know that there are going to be people out there who are watching, and it’s going to inspire them to do something better with their lives. That never gets old. Does it inspire us to eat better? I wish. *laughing*
Lynn and Drew: *laughing*
Matt: Our whole production crew, I think it’s …. you know, one of the dark secrets of weight loss shows is that a lot of people will sit at home and watch the show and think, ‘Well, at least I am not that fat.’ So, they will sit and eat a pint of ice cream while they are watching Extreme Weight Loss. If I was to count up all the tweets and all the Facebook posts we get, 3 out of 4 of the Facebook posts will be, ‘Sitting here eating my Ben and Jerry’s while I am watching Extreme Weight Loss.’ That sadly is one of the, you talked about Lynn, one of the negative effects of weight loss shows. I think they almost serve to keep people out of the gym because they think, ‘Well at least I am better than that guy.’ And unfortunately for our production crew, sometimes that same thing applies. It’s like, ‘At least we are not overweight like they are.’ And we get tired of seeing healthy food all day long. And we work 12 hour days and with a lot of emotional stuff, when we are producing. So we are excited to get out for a nice dinner at the end of the night.
Lynn: I don’t blame you. We’re not judging you.
Drew: Yeah, we’re not judging you. It’s all good, man.
Lynn: But no, I’m glad your opening up and being honest about that. Kind of my last …. before we do our fun lightening round that you don’t know about! My last question before that, it’s kind wrapping it up in the same way we started. My biggest thing is, I feel like these shows have done a lot of good. They really have. They have really inspired people. They’ve brought out about food addiction. They’ve brought out about bad emotional situations that have really caused people to turn to food. They’ve really inspired people. So, for me, at least as a trainer, when I talk to people and often these shows come up. This is what I usually say …. and my question is more, would you add to this? I usually say, ‘Yes, you can glean a lot of inspiring information from these shows. Connect to it and realize it is very emotional. Maybe write down emotionally what is stopping you or the problems or troubles you need to overcome so that you can really move on from your addiction.’ Then the other thing I tell them is, ‘Hey, it’s really unrealistic for the most part.’ Usually I do tell them Extreme Weight Loss is a much better gauge because it is over a longer period of time and because the clients at one point do go home. Yeah, they do have trainers, but so could anyone else at home. They are still living at home. They still have their jobs and they still have their family. But it’s unrealistic to think that without all that extra help or without all the cameras, you are going to maybe lose as much weight. For shows like The Biggest Loser, I know I probably shouldn’t say this on live Podcast, *chuckles* but, I’ve heard sometimes numbers were fudged. They would say this is the week one weigh in and really it’s like day 14 or 18 and they are saying it’s their one week weigh in. So, what you see on television is not always as it appears. So, that’s what I tell my clients as far as these shows go. Is there anything that you would add to that?
Matt: I think the thing about these weight loss shows …. and I will steal a story from my boss and mentor, J.D. Roth, who created the shows. It’s brought weight issues to the forefront. Ten years ago, people weren’t talking about obesity, even though stats weren’t that much worse than they were today. I mean, people were …. 1 out of 2 people were obese. When they first started trying to produce The Biggest Loser, he tells the story of reaching out to a restaurant and they wanted to shoot a scene in a restaurant. They couldn’t find a single restaurant in the whole city of LA to shoot at. Nobody wanted anything to do with a show about fat people. In season five of The Biggest Loser, they are sitting down at the White House with Michelle Obama’s personal chef. And that’s what a show like The Biggest Loser did for the conversation. It brought obesity to the forefront. People started to realize that these are real people. These are real people who are hurting. I think the other big thing that we as TV producers realized, is that there are emotional issues behind this. When we first partnered with the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, we had the best doctors in the whole country at obesity research and weight loss issues. They even said, ‘We didn’t realize until you guys brought these people into us, how much of weight loss is tied into the emotional and psychological.’ It’s really confronting those issues and how food is a tool to push down those feelings, those painful moments from people’s past. I think to that end, these weight loss shows are great. Are there unrealistic expectations? Yes, because I don’t think most people can give up their entire life to lose weight for even one week. You’ve got the best trainers in the world. The best nutrition and health facility in the world. Can you have that? No, and are you 250 pounds overweight? Probably not. Your probably more like 20-30 pounds overweight. So, losing 20 pounds in a week just isn’t going to happen. But, should that keep you from trying? I hope not.
Drew: Yeah. That’s really powerful. That’s one thing, just to close up, I learned from my Fit2Fat2Fit journey was when I purposely gained 75 pounds in 6 months, I thought it was just going to be a physical transformation. Like, I would get fat, I would get man boobs and a big gut. But the biggest thing I took away is, this is so much more mental and emotional than I ever imagined. That’s why I couldn’t connect with my clients, is because I didn’t understand that mental and emotional side, until I did what I did. It definitely taught me a lot more of what people go through. I don’t pretend to know exactly what it’s like, but I can honestly say I have a better understanding versus before. That’s why I have no regrets in doing what I did, because I can finally connect with people a lot better on that mental and emotional level, having done what I did. There was just a recent article published in the LA Times talking about how the biggest thing that people who are obese struggle with isn’t the physical side, it’s the mental and emotional side. Unfortunately there is no one size fits all diet, or program for those people. Each persons case is different. It’s different for each person. It’s not like, ‘Hey, cut back on calories and exercise more.’ I think everybody knows that. *laughing* It’s more so, how do I make this a lifestyle? It’s like you said, it’s unrealistic to expect everybody to drop everything they are doing and focus just on weight loss. There is so much more to life, other than being skinny or having a six pack. There is so much more purpose in life, other than fitness. That’s why everyone doesn’t make it a priority, like you see people in magazines and on social media. But making it somewhat of a priority, my hope is that people will understand this is about my health. This isn’t just about getting that number on the scale to go down. It’s about my kids, my grandkids and living a healthy lifestyle.
Matt: That was always our goal is to show not just the weight loss, but the effects of the weight loss. What are these other things you’ve improved in your life by losing the weight? The weight loss is kind of the cherry on top, but it’s the relationships you’ve fixed and the job you got back. Whatever else came from it that you wanted to focus on with Extreme Weight Loss.
Lynn: Yeah, man, and I love it. I am so glad you went through all this. I really think that people can glean a lot from this conversation. Obviously, we also just like to hear it because we love the show and we love to watch it. But really I wanted this focus to be on what this means for people that are trying to lose weight, some tips and things that they can learn and understand too. But now we are going into my favorite part of the show, and that is because it’s the least important part of the show.
Lynn: It’s called the Lightning Round. I am going to ask you just a few random questions that have no rhyme or reason and you have to answer them as quickly as possible as fast as possible.
Matt: Alright. *laughing* Let’s do it.
Lynn: Alright, are we ready?
Matt: Alright, I am ready.
Lynn: Hold on tight. Ok, funniest moment you’ve had, either working or producing a show.
Matt: Funniest moment I had? Probably something with Xzibit from Pimp My Ride, which is always fun. He was always on. It was either that or on Beauty and the Geek. When we did the first date, we took all the geeks on their first dates. It was awkward, and stuff.
Lynn and Drew: *laughing*
Lynn: Was it awkward like, ‘I like to watch Star Trek.’
Matt: Yeah, yeah. There was a lot of those kind of moments. There was also a moment where we actually did a dating scene for Extreme Weight Loss, that is now coming to my mind. A guy, he wanted to lose the weight so he could find a girlfriend. He went on his first speed dating, and he just failed miserably. He was the nicest guy and he eventually got a girlfriend.
Lynn: I can only tease about that because I actually secretly love Star Trek. Live long and prosper, not kidding. Next question. What is the weirdest show you’ve ever pitched to a network?
Drew: Or heard of being pitched?
Matt: The weirdest show I ever wanted to pitch was called, ‘Small Claims Court’ and I thought it would be funny to have a little person as a judge. He would rule on cases that were worth $20 or less.
Lynn: You really pitched that?
Drew: That is hilarious, Matt. Why didn’t that get picked up?
Matt: I can’t imagine.
Lynn: I mean now that people are hearing this they are like, ‘Hey, let’s go pitch this.’ It’s like gold.
Matt: I think I called it “Really Small Claims Court”.
Lynn: Oh my god. *laughing* Wow, this is a really poor idea. Ok, last and final question, what is either the funniest or most embarrassing moment you’ve had with either Chris and/or Heidi.
Matt: Well, first season we had a guy who was 550 pounds. At his 90 day weight in, where he had weighed in still at about 450 pounds, he missed his goal by one pound. He decided that if he weighed in naked, it would help out. Sure enough, his gym shorts were a pound. They must have been like 8XL gym shorts. He took them off and he weighed in at 450 pounds fully naked. And everyone was like, I couldn’t begrudge him hitting his goal, so they let him do it. And when you see it in the show, we sort of just fix the shot so you can’t see it. We had him weigh back in and sort of fix the scale off so you didn’t have to see it. And then after that, they would do their own weigh ins each week, to give us weigh in updates. We would make them video tape their weigh ins and he started sending us all his weigh ins naked.
Lynn: Oh my gosh. Everybody on production crew, they are like, ‘Awesome, we got another one!’
Drew: What the heck is this? *laughing* Ok, seriously last question. This has to do with my episode when I was on with Chris, season three. Who’s idea was it for him to eat Alyssa’s diet for 24 hours? Was that his idea or was it your guys idea? Did he hate you afterwards for about a day or two?
Matt: Well, Drew, that was my idea.
Lynn and Drew: *laughing*
Matt: That was the show that you and I were going to do and I still hope someday we can do. If you can stomach it! No pun intended.
Drew: Yeah. Hey, we know I can stomach it. Chris didn’t last 24 hours.
Matt: Chris lasted about 8 hours. He is pretty sensitive. Because Chris’s diet is so strict, he’s now gotten to the point to where there are so many things he can’t eat. But, one secret about Chris is that he loves cheeseburgers. I’ve seen him taking on some of the biggest cheeseburgers that you’ve ever seen. But only on his cheat day.
Drew: And that’s ok, because Heidi already threw him under the bus. She says he has a sweet tooth so, he’s used to that. Anyways, Matt, I just want to say thank you for being a part of our Podcast and for being on the show. We really appreciate having you on. I hope you guys enjoy this Podcast. So, where can we send people to learn more about you and more about the show? Is 3 Ball Productions a good place to send them?
Matt: Yep. Yep. 3 Balls Productions and the Extreme Weight Loss page has updates of what’s going on.
Lynn: Awesome. We will make sure to put that in the show notes.
Drew: Yeah, we will put that in the show notes and we will keep you guys posted if “Really Small Claims Courts” ever becomes a TV show.
Drew: Alright, thanks so much Matt. We will be in touch.
Lynn: Thanks Matt. Alright, we will talk to you later.
Matt: Thank you.
Drew: Thanks so much for listening to todays Episode. We really, really hope you guys enjoyed it. Please let us know if you guys like us having people like Executive Producers on the Podcast from time to time, instead of just Health and Fitness experts. Let us know your thoughts.
Lynn: Yeah, leave a comment. You guys, we read all of those comments. If there are specific people or topics you want us to discuss, make sure you leave us a review. Let us know, because we review all of those. We determine based on that, what we should do moving forward.
Drew: And don’t forget to subscribe to the Fit2Fat2Fit Experience Podcast on ITunes and stay in the know following us on our websites and Social Media. My handle is @Fit2Fat2Fit.
Lynn: And mine is @2fitathome.
Drew: Yep and my website is Fit2Fat2Fit.com. And Lynn’s is 2fitathome.com. Sign up for the newsletter so you guys know what is happening and to stay in touch with us. But we really, really appreciate you guys listening to today’s episode. We hope to have you back on and listening next time. Have a good day.
3 Ball Productions
Extreme Weight Loss TV Show
Extreme Weight Loss
3 Ball Productions
650 Pound Virgin
The Biggest Loser
On today’s Podcast Episode, Matt Assmus, the Executive Producer of Extreme Weight Loss, shares with us what goes on behind the scenes of a reality weight loss show. From picking the contestants, to what happens after the show ends. He shares all the daily ins and outs, as well as just how emotional weight loss can be at times. You won’t want to miss as he also shares some of his funniest and most embarrassing moments as a TV producer.
“What We Learned”
The process for picking the clients for the show is very in depth, because once they are on the show, they are with them for a year.
Chris and Heidi have a very big role in picking people for the show. They will meet them and get to know them and see who they have connections with.
Bringing Heidi on the show was an easy decision, because she was already such a big part of the contestants lives. It got to the point where she was just too involved to not acknowledge her on camera.
It is important for anyone trying to lose weight to have some form of accountability. Matt believes that what makes people able to lose such a large amount of weight on the TV show is accountability. The camera is one of the biggest forms of accountability there is.
The people from the show who have kept the weight off are the ones paying it forward. They are mentoring people, doing speaking engagements and putting themselves out into their community.
One of the most positive things the weight loss shows have done is to bring weight issues and obesity to the forefront today. They have also shown just how much people are hurting and how much weight loss is an emotional and psychological issue as well.
“How To Take Action”
Find some form of accountability, if you are trying to lose weight.
Join a weight loss group.
Make a diet bet with friends or family.
Set a specific weight loss goal and set a specific date which you plan on meeting your goal by.
Find someone you can be accountable to and ask them to weigh you in, to help keep you on track.
If trying out for a Weight Loss TV show, be sure you do something to set yourself apart from everyone else.