Biggest Loser coach teams up with workers to improve health
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.”
Fitness guru Jessie Pavelka has partnered with a local company to develop a corporate wellness programme.