Big­gest Loser coach teams up with work­ers to im­prove health

The National - News - Arts & Life - - Front Page - Af­shan Ahmed

When Hol­ly­wood fit­ness ex­pert Jessie Pavelka signed up to lead a team of con­tes­tants on The Big­gest Loser in 2014, the re­al­ity-TV show was shrouded in con­tro­versy – the pre­vi­ous sea­sons were crit­i­cised for fat sham­ing and ex­treme di­ets. But the show’s “ex­treme” meth­ods for fast weight loss were against every­thing Pavelka’s well­ness brand had spent years de­vel­op­ing. “Ev­ery trainer had their own ap­proach on the show,” says the 34-year-old en­tre­pre­neur, who was in Dubai re­cently to col­lab­o­rate on an em­ployee-spe­cific pro­gramme tar­geted to­wards greater health and well-be­ing.

“I never asked peo­ple to cut their calo­ries. It’s prob­a­bly why I didn’t win,” he says with a chuckle. “Weight loss used to be all about cut­ting calo­ries, but now science has proven that it isn’t. It is about the qual­ity of food. Be­ing on the show showed me what works and what doesn’t, and re­minded me that suc­cess to­wards healthy liv­ing will be short-lived if mea­sured on a scale.

“I don’t know if I’d ever do the show again. I might go back if they changed how they mea­sure suc­cess.”

The Big­gest Loser isn’t the first re­al­ity-TV show Pavelka has been a part of. He also lent his ex­per­tise to Obese: A Year to Save My Life and Fat: The Fight of My Life in the UK, and as a re­sult, has de­vel­oped a global fol­low­ing.

De­spite the suc­cess, Pavelka says his ap­proach to well-be­ing has al­ways been the same. “The Pavelka Way is based on four el­e­ments – move­ment, food, mind power and fam­ily. And each fo­cuses on small changes that you im­ple­ment into your day. This dif­fers for ev­ery­body.” While the cam­eras have stopped rolling for now, Pavelka has teamed up with Cisco to de­velop an em­ployee well­ness pro­gramme based on those four el­e­ments.

The fit­ness coach be­lieves work­ers, with his help, can make changes to their diet and life­style.

“It will give them an op­por­tu­nity to look at their life and not nec­es­sar­ily me pre­scrib­ing a pro­gramme. They will have to sit and look at their rou­tine and come up with small, prac­ti­cal and sim­ple so­lu­tions to im­prove their health,” he says.

Ac­cord­ing to Pavelka, a lot of peo­ple for­get that chang­ing your mind­set and fo­cus­ing on per­sonal re­la­tion­ships is equally im­por­tant for a well-bal­anced life. “That’s a big one. Peo­ple of­ten get the ex­er­cise and diet part, but fam­ily and mind­ful­ness is the miss­ing link.”

Hail­ing from Texas, Pavelka grew up play­ing Amer­i­can foot­ball, and was a track and field ath­lete him­self un­til a scapu­lar in­jury ended his ca­reer in sports. “I was mar­ried to the sport, so when I quit, I had this mas­sive void and had to fig­ure out what to do. So I got back to the gym and started build­ing my com­mu­nity there.”

He be­came a per­sonal trainer, but after years of “count­ing reps”, quit be­cause he wasn’t en­joy­ing it. “This was be­fore the big boom of train­ers. As a trainer, I was only help­ing peo­ple lose the last 10 pounds [4.5kg]. It was very ex­ter­nal – like the mag­a­zine and tabloid fit­ness. My clien­tele wasn’t chal­leng­ing me and it was just a so­cial hour for them.” So he changed course and spe­cialised in bariatrics, and teamed up with a by­pass physi­cian to work with post-op pa­tients. “I re­mem­ber sit­ting in one of the fo­cus group dis­cus- sions with them and heard about their strug­gle, but also heard how some had found so­lu­tions. That in­spired me to cre­ate the Pavelka Way.”

He says it’s more than just weight loss – “it has evolved into help­ing peo­ple over­come de­pres­sion, di­vorce or any of their other is­sues through ex­er­cise and healthy liv­ing”. He says peo­ple are al­ways look­ing for mea­sur­able re­sults and try­ing to find quick-fixes. “It is easy to un­der­stand the ben­e­fits of ex­er­cise and nu­tri­tion, but that is not all of it,” he sug­gests.

“The other two el­e­ments – med­i­ta­tion and mind­ful­ness – are equally im­por­tant to the equa­tion. It is also about con­nect­ing with your sup­port sys­tem, which is some­times over­looked. We al­ways fo­cus on the stuff we can see and mea­sure. But suc­cess hap­pens in places which you can­not mea­sure on a scale, too.

Pavelka also leads by ex­am­ple. Even with a busy sched­ule of TV com­mit­ments, his pro­gramme and col­lab­o­ra­tions, he takes time to meditate and write mu­sic. “I have my morn­ing and evening rit­u­als that I do not let any­thing get in the way of,” says the trainer, whose fa­ther is a coun­try-mu­sic singer.

“Be­fore I grab any de­vice in the morn­ing, I meditate, do some writ­ing and make my­self a green tea or smoothie. In the evenings, I don’t end with my phone go­ing through so­cial me­dia. I just do some breath­ing and some more writ­ing and re­lax.”

art­slife@then­ational.ae

Satish Ku­mar / The Na­tional

Fit­ness guru Jessie Pavelka has part­nered with a lo­cal com­pany to de­velop a cor­po­rate well­ness pro­gramme.

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