By Tara Cavanaugh, AAPS News Service
Pete Thomas knows a few things about losing weight.
Thomas won $100,000 after being a contestant in the 2005 season of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” a reality show dedicated to weight loss. He not only lost 185 pounds, but he has kept them off for seven years.
First, Thomas asked the audience if they wanted to lose weight. He patiently waited as most in the crowd raised their hands.
“That’s a stupid goal,” Thomas proclaimed. “It just is. Because we’ve all lost weight before. Your goal should be ‘I want to live healthy at a healthy weight for as long as I possibly can.’”
Before being a “Biggest Loser” contestant,Thomas tried many weight-loss programs, such as Atkins, Weight Watchers and a church program called the Weigh Down Workshop, which he said he got kicked out of for non-compliance. Although some of the programs worked, Thomas said they didn’t work long-term because they only focused on weight loss.
“We all know how to lose weight,” Thomas said. “You cut some calories, you cut back on some foods, you exercise a little bit more, and you will lose the weight. The real challenge is: how do I maintain the weight that I have lost?”
After leaving the show, Thomas knew it would be hard to keep the weight off. He said many people who lose large amounts of weight gain it back within five years. So he set a series of goals: a five-year-goal, a fifteen-year-goal and what he calls a “Jack LaLanne goal,” because the bodybuilder and fitness expert maintained a healthy physique until his death last year at age 97.
“Motivation by definition wanes,” Thomas said. “There’s not one thing that will keep you motivated for the rest of your life,” so people should continually set up new motivators. It can be as simple as wanting to fit back into a certain pair of pants or by meeting a friend at an exercise class every week.
“But just stating (a goal) isn’t enough,” Thomas pointed out. “I had to go about learning about exercise, learning about nutrition.”
Many people gain weight for the same reasons he did, Thomas said. When he was overweight, he didn’t understand proper nutrition and often ate fast food, gaining ten pounds a year as an adult.
When he was an obese adult, Thomas said he was locked into food habits he learned when he was young: to eat cheaply. His mother suffered from mental illness and he went in and out of foster care, even being homeless at times. Food wasn’t a matter of nutrition, but of availability.
The trim and toned Thomas, standing next to a life-size photo of himself at 416 pounds, has come a long way since then. But he admitted he still has to work at it.
One audience member asked Thomas what his favorite workout was. “None!” he sighed into the microphone. The audience laughed as he continued, “My favorite workout is the one that’s over. Here’s the thing: working out serves a purpose. I feel great, I feel wonderful, it keeps me fit, but working out is just what it sounds like: it is work.”
In order to avoid weight-loss plateaus or boredom, Thomas changes his workouts every three weeks, varying the intensity and always keeping his heart rate up.
Thomas also shared a secret. Another audience member asked him if he had had any surgery to tone up loose skin. He looked at the audience slyly and said, “I’d like to say I’m the male model for Spanx.”
Thomas offers a pair of classes through the Rec & Ed department that teaches people how to eat well and exercise properly. Sign-ups are going on right now and can be found at the Rec & Ed website.