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What’s Behind the Glory Days Theme of The Biggest Loser?

This season of The Biggest Loser is different in many ways. Jillian Michaels is gone (again!), Bob Harper is ensconced in a second-chance Comeback Canyon for eliminated contestants, and new trainers Jessie Pavelka and Jennifer Widerstrom are joining Dolvett Quince at The Biggest Loser ranch. But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of season 16 is that all the contestants have an athletic background.

Biggest Loser Jennifer Widerstrom Scott Mitchell

Biggest Loser trainer Jennifer Widerstrom tosses the medicine ball with former NFL QB Scott Mitchell. Credit: NBC

“They showed up at warp speed compared with other seasons,” Quince said when we talked with him on a conference call. He said he was impressed. “ ‘Oh, wow, you really are ready,’ ” was his reaction to the contestants, he said. “They just have that mental thing, and I love that so much — when someone is so ready to go and get it done.”

This season is subtitled “Glory Days” for good reason.

“These guys all have their game. Their game ended. And now it’s kind of the game of life. And it’s one that they didn’t know very well,” Pavelka said. “And now they’re learning how to live it in a way that’s healthy, live it in a way that serves them. Because it is a loss. At the end of the day, you know, we all experience loss.

“They lost themselves as athletes, and now they’re trying to find themselves as human beings. And that’s kind of the cool part of this, the theme of this season. And what goes on with these guys is they’re rediscovering who they are or discovering who they are for the first time. They’ve always been known as the athlete.”

Widerstrom agreed. “It’s pretty difficult for any person to feel that they’re in a place in their lives where they feel like they’re successful, they’re happy, and they’re kind of getting it right. And to fall off that horse, it’s tough for anyone,” she said. “To be at that level of competitiveness, athleticism, and to that fitness level, and to come off that? I agree, there is a deeper sense of not just loss of the ability to do that, but there’s a loss of who you are.”

But they were athletes who spent many hours in the gym training when they were at the top of their game. We asked the trainers: Did they learn anything from the former athletes or did they have to undo bad workout habits from years of training?

“It’s so funny you say that. Nike has a slogan I like that says ‘If you have a body, you’re an athlete.’ I like that,” Quince said. “Everyone has the ability to make some movement or improve themselves. They didn’t really show us anything we didn’t know already.”

While contestants like Super Bowl champ Damien Woody didn’t have any bad workout habits, Pavelka said he had to train differently compared with his NFL days.

“He was a lineman, and linemen do things a certain way,” Pavelka said. “They need to be strong, they need to be powerful and that’s what football is. And so it wasn’t that he tried to introduce anything new — it’s his way of training that was the interesting thing.

“He’s a lineman, he’s stubborn, he wants to do things his own way. It makes it really fun, it makes my job interesting. It’s why I do what I do,” Pavelka said.

Woody added that he also ate like a lineman, and that didn’t change once he retired from football.

“When you’re playing a sport, especially football, it burns a tremendous amount of calories,” he said. “I felt like I could eat whatever I wanted because between training, practices and games, I’m burning probably like, you know, 10,000 plus calories easily.

“For me, nutrition wasn’t a big deal because I knew I could just burn it off,” he said.

Until he couldn’t.

“Once you’re out of the game, those habits never change,” he said. “Your eating habits stay the same but you’re sedentary, you’re not as active as you were when you were playing a team sport like football. And then we all know that if you’re not as active but you continue to eat those calories,  that’s what leads to the weight gain, and I think that’s what really caught up with me.”

Which former athlete are you rooting for? —Gail

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