Admit it. When you see super-fit folks like The Biggest Loser's Bob Harper, you wonder: How can they possibly eat healthy all the time? Surely there's a weakness somewhere, right?
Well, at least for Harper, there is! "I'm a sucker for when you got into a Mexican restaurant and they keep giving you chips and salsa," he tells TVGuide.com. "I could eat my weight in chips and salsa." Trainers - they're just like us!
Celebrity schadenfreude aside, it's comforting to know that Harper has his own Kryptonite too, since, this season, The Biggest Loser: Temptation Nation is, well, all about temptation. This go-round, look for more challenges that force people to pick a side, with the tough choices appearing right away. In the first few minutes, contestants, still in their street clothes, are put on treadmills. As the machines ramp up in intensity, they're offered $5,000 to quit. One contestant starts crying; another almost collapses from exhaustion. The machines and the ante get upped: $10,000 and then $25,000 to any team that wants to quit and go home. "I want to make sure you really want to be here," Harper says.
Yes, the added stakes make for good TV, but Harper says the emphasis on temptation came from real-world learning. "We looked at seasons past, successes and people that did not succeed," he says. "We thought, 'Ok it's what happens when they go home that their life starts getting on that slippery slope of getting back to their old ways.'" Contestants spend more time off campus this season too, learning to navigate real-world challenges.
So, what else is new? Harper, promoted from trainer to host, is more of an emotional support system than in seasons prior, helping contestants get to the root of what led them to lose control of their weight."It's a rehab center," Harper says of Season 17, which also includes a new gym, and new double scales that put competitors side-by-side at weigh-in. "I thought it would be a good idea to have these group talk forums where they could come in and talk about why they got here...whatever is on their mind. Many contestants don't know their voice. They don't know they're worthy of whatever emotions. I guided them through it, and it became another layer."
It's moving stuff: Tonsheia Grandison breaks down as she accepts that guilt from her son's accidental drowning caused her to begin overeating. Also new this season: a team comprised of two strangers, which puts Season 1 Survivor winner Richard Hatch and Erin Willett, a semi-finalist from Season 2 of The Voice, together. Hatch says past trauma triggered a period of self-neglect, while Willett's health took a backseat when her dad got cancer. Talking through those issues, Harper says, means "a whole new dynamic that's brought to the show. It's just a completely different feel."
In this way, Season 17 may be one of the most relatable since, whether you want to lose five, 15 or 50 pounds, everyone can point to something that makes getting and staying fit hard. Many of us are thinking about our weight at this time of year. Since you're probably not competing on The Biggest Loser, here's the next best thing: Harper's special (free!) tips to help you stay on track for 2016 and beyond.
1. Pick one thing and focus on that: "In the new year, a lot of people are thinking, 'I need to change everything.' You never ever want to change too many things at once — you'll set yourself up for failure," Harper says. "Do one thing that's manageable and you'll be successful." For example, he says, January is a good time to try getting off sugar, or all artificial sweeteners.
2 Strength in numbers: "If you're really hesitant about exercise, try finding a group class," Harper says. "Because you're in a room with like-minded people, that's more likely to keep you on track."
3 So long, empty (fun) calories: Now's a good time to detox, Harper says. "Let January be the month the month you cut off all booze." Hey, you're just now getting over a New Year's Eve hangover anyway, right? You got this.
The Biggest Loser: Temptation Nation premieres Monday Jan. 4 at 9/8c on NBC.