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Chris Powell’s already working with next ‘Extreme’ contestants

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Updated: October 20, 2013 6:32AM



While fans of “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition” sit back and wait for the next season, the show’s star trainer is doing anything but that.

Chris Powell already is working with the 16 people who will be featured in Season 4 of the show, which won’t air until late next spring. (There will be 13 episodes. Two feature family pairs — one a mother and son; the other, a dad and daughter.)

Powell gets thousands of requests from people who want to be on the ABC series and he says the “hardest part” of his job is whittling the number down to the chosen few. The letters, emails, pleas on Social Media and in person come from “anywhere and everywhere.” As we’re talking, he’s in Colorado, which he describes as having a culture of fitness, as do both coasts. What about other parts of the country? Where people may have to drive to get to things and where the food choices outside the home are largely fast food and chain restaurants? Not so much.

There are many traits shared by the contestants, who spend a year working with Powell and often his trainer wife Heidi to change their weights and lives. These are not simply people who eat too much, but rather food addicts, according to the 35-year-old Powell.

“They have an unhealthy attachment to food,” he says. “They are literally spending the day planning what they are going to eat, how they are going to reward themselves with food.”

Fast food also is a staple. And for those who do cook, the meals often are what Powell describes as “extravagant, calorie-dense.” During what the show calls their transformation, Powell has them eating “real, natural food.”

The women are given somewhere between 1,600 to 1,700 calories a day; the men 2,250 to 2,300 daily calories. They are to eat five meals a day, the first beginning within 30 minutes of waking up and every three hours after that.

“You may be surprised to hear this, but when they switch [their food choices], they have the toughest time getting all their meals in,” Powell says. “It’s tough for them to get their volume in, and that is a huge, eye-opening experience for them.”

Because Powell doesn’t want the new eating style to be viewed as one of simply restriction and elimination, on Sundays contestants are allowed an extra 1,000 calories to satisfy their cravings. But — and this sounds like good advice for all of us — the reward food (often something that’s been their downfall in the past) must be eaten outside the home.

“If it’s in the house, they’re going to break their promise,” to change their eating patterns, says Powell. “And once the dam breaks …”

There’s another reason reward food is off-limits at home. It’s the same reason Powell’s team creates an at-home workout space. “We want them to see home as the environment for success,” he says.

By the time the contestants return home — with Powell in tow — they often are seeking a gym because they’ve discovered, he says, that that’s a place with like-minded people.

Powell tells contestants from the very beginning: what will be their support system very well won’t be coming from where they’re expecting it. “We warn them the support might not be your family, your friends, your loved ones,” he says. “It’s just not their journey.”

And yes, Powell says, it’s important he stay in their homes. “That’s when they can see, when the cameras are off, I’m the same person and then they can open up. They can see they can trust me, and that my intent is just to help.”

Email: sontiveros@suntimes.com

Twitter: @sueontiveros



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