Marissa Jaret Winokur

Dancing and weight loss are two popular reality show themes these days, so why not combine them?

That's the idea behind Oxygen's Dance Your Ass Off [Mondays, 10 pm/ET], a competition show in which 12 plus-size players will compete on the dance floor for a $100,000 prize while also shedding pounds. Host (and former Dancing with the Stars contestant) Marissa Jaret Winokur and producer Sally-Ann Salsano spoke to about why dancing peels off the pounds. Is Dance Your Ass Off more about the dance or the weight loss?
Sally Ann Salsano:
It's a complete combination, [which] makes it fun. People that love a straight stage-competition show are going to love it, but then the weight-loss element gives it a total amount of heart. It is literally the perfect mix of both, and I think one inspires the other — the dancing becomes more important to the weight loss and the weight loss becomes more important because of the dancing. What makes this workout regimen so successful?
Marissa Jaret Winokur:
It worked for me because... you're learning how to do a dance, you're using your heart, you're using your soul, you're sweating and you don't care. When you're working out, there's a reason you don't want to work out anymore — it's boring. [With dancing], when you get out of breath, you're like, "Well, I want to learn it again." How important will the diet component be?
It's definitely there. All of these contestants sat down with a nutritionist, kept a journal of what they ate, and genuinely made changes. In the end, these contestants probably cut their caloric intake in half. And there are a lot of takeaway tips for people at home. Tell me about the "cheat pantry."
[It] would've done the contestants a disservice by not having it because these people are leaving here and going back to the real world. The goal was to tell them it's all here, like it's in a 7-Eleven, like it's in your cabinets at home, like it's in your kids' lunchbox. You don't have to make that choice. There was a lot of discussion about the cheat cabinet when people were like, "I just want to have this." Then [they] talked about it and either decided "Yes, I need to eat that" or not.

Winokur: And one of the contestants [said], "This is exactly what my cupboard looks like." You don't realize, [but] there were things in there that I wouldn't think would be in a cheat cupboard. But by seeing it there it's more of a wake-up call. Maybe when you go home you [say], "Wait — that was in the cheat cupboard. Let me look at different iced teas and [compare] the calorie counts. Is this the next Biggest Loser?
Definitely. It's got everything that Biggest Loser has... so much heart.

Salsano: It's also a double accomplishment. "Not only did I come here not knowing how to do the samba, but now I lost six pounds." You have the excitement of the performance, and you have the emotion of the weight loss.