‘Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition’ Helps ‘Super Obese’

Chris Powell with Dana, a 45 year-old bachelor who weighs 498 pounds. (ABC)
Chris Powell with Dana, a 45 year-old bachelor who weighs 498 pounds. (ABC)

Chris Powell is on the A list at Southwest Airlines.

He’s been traveling the country for the past ten months, training (and bunking with) eight ordinary folks — each attempting to slim down on the new ABC series “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition.”

The married father of two specializes in clients who are “super obese” – 200 pounds or more overweight.

A former fitness correspondent for “Good Morning Arizona,” Powell rose to fame in 2003 when he helped a man lose over 400 pounds in one year.

He has also been the subject of a TLC documentary and is releasing his first book in October.

Powell told us all about the show – which premieres May 30 – when we sat down in Los Angeles.

See Powell Preview The Season Below:

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How is this show different from “Biggest Loser”?
There is no competition. I wanted to remove that.  A lot of people say “There is no competition–why?”  But I wanted to make way and have people think if they can do it, I can do it.  The people that were selected for this were selected because they really want to lose weight. And even though they mess up, they don’t get voted off the ranch. Nobody does. Whether you gain 10 pounds or lose 300 pounds you write the ending to your show.

Will we see each transformation in one single episode?
Yes! Each one-hour episode encompasses one individual’s weight loss journey over the course of the year — and all the struggles they go through. That’s the other difference.  It’s (over) a year. This is the longest-running production that ABC has because I needed time to do this.

Most people that have obesity issues have tragic back-stories…
That’s the common denominator absolutely. Abandonment, death, divorce, all these different things that have led to where they are. They don’t become 400, 500, 600 pounds because they like food.  It is that they are trying to fill a void and eat their emotions and their drug of choice is food. That’s what makes it relatable. So many people will choose alcohol or sex or whatever the addiction may be.  These people just can’t hide their addiction because they’ve chosen food.

Do you provide them therapy as well?
There is somebody else for that. I am the coach. It extends beyond that and becomes such a personal friendship that for therapy to become truly impactful they have to be removed from the process and the individual needs to be able to work with them and talk openly. Even though I am their friend and the trust is there, all too often I advised that they should talk to the therapist about certain topics. I am brutally honest with them and it’s important that I am.

You are really vested in these people and have a lot of empathy for them. Where does that come from?
It is so personal and not just like a trainer and a client, I am with these people for a year. They are such beautiful people and their stories are so different. But when you get to know them and you realize they were selected because truly want to lose the weight. Casting did a great job of weeding out the people that just wanted to be on TV and got people that really want to change their lives for the better.  When you have that you have genuine people and how can you not become invested in that, in such a beautiful person?

What would viewers be surprised to know about you?
I came from the opposite end of the spectrum. I was the tiniest kid in school growing up. I grew to 5’ 8” and three-quarter inches after high school, but sure enough I was bullied a lot because I was so tiny and it’s easy to pick on the little kid.  But my parents bought me a weight set when I was 14. I came home one day after school and they had stripped out the living room and I found a weight set in the middle of the living room floor and one day after a couple of weeks I started using it and felt empowered. There was no turning back and it has fueled me ever since. I went on to Arizona State and was number two in exercise science and got my degree with concentrations on physiology and biomechanics. I got every certificate you could possibly think of and was really into sports and performance I love working with athletes and athletics.

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