Ali Vincent, the first female Biggest Loser (season five) and now an author, triathlete, and host of Live Big with Ali Vincent for the Live Well network, likes to point out she is not a trainer, nor a nutritionist, but “simply” someone who has figured out what works for her healthy lifestyle. But she is also quick to point out that what works for her might not work for someone else, so she will eagerly work with you to figure out what can work for you. After spending a long few years on a somewhat solitary journey of traveling the country, writing, and speaking to strangers about her own weight loss, she looks forward to working with others on their own. And her new series is the perfect way for her to live out that dream.
LA TV Insider Examiner: How did this show come about? Did it spawn from the book or was this always in your mind first?
Ali Vincent: Actually, it really did grow out of the book. Ever since I was on The Biggest Loser, I wanted to really get out there and reach as many people as I can and let them know ‘Hey, there’s nothing extraordinary about me, you know? I’m just an ordinary girl who had an extraordinary experience, but you can do this at home.’ And so I was traveling the country, and I decided to write a book because I really realized there was so much that didn’t get showcased on a TV show that these people were looking for. More of the how-to. So by sharing my stories in the book, I was able to connect to more people, and then I wanted to do a show just because…I realized the power of the outreach that you have. I mean, I would travel around and speak to groups that were two hundred to a thousand, you know, and it was only that many people in an hour’s time, whereas on TV you can touch thousands to millions in seconds.
How did you end up partnering with Live Well, and ABC-7 here in L.A., considering you had an already existing relationship with NBC from your time on The Biggest Loser?
A.V.: The Live Well network came about around three years ago, and they were looking for some new, original programming, and they wanted to create a show that focused on women trying to balance their lives with their careers, their families, their health, their fitness, new relationships, their body as they aged, and just talking about the real nitty gritty. Someone had come across my book and read it, and they passed it around. It was so funny and so weird because when I went into the first meeting they were quoting all of these things from my book. It was really flattering, but it was like ‘Wow!’ So after meeting, they said ‘We have to do this; we want to put this show together.’ And how the name came around, in my book I talk about although I was so big, I was really living a small life, and I didn’t realize that it would take losing half of me to live the big life that I had always dreamt of.
So far it seems like a lot of your show is going to be dealing with big transformations–
A.V.: It’s not a show about judgments; it’s a show about truths and about ‘Let’s be proactive.’ And when I first started doing the show I said ‘I don’t want to it to be a just about weight loss show.’ But they said, ‘Well, everybody knows you from weight loss, so let’s start there and work into the others.’ So you’ll see some different shows, where some already have started on their journey of weight loss or maybe someone who’s struggling on the opposite end– with anorexia– or just someone who’s always been in shape but have never taken it to that level that they want, like to compete on a triathlon. But there will always be something having to do with the person that we’re showcasing and their body and their relationship to their body, whatever that might be. And honestly, it’s a matter, too, of getting the word out there and having the people who watch the show tell us their stories. The truth is, we’re not alone. If you’re thinking it, there probably are a hundred thousand other people are, too.
How is your approach different for those who do have bigger journeys from someone who has maybe ten or twenty pounds to lose versus someone who has to put on weight? How does your approach differ for the way you interact with each person or inspire each person?
A.V.: Well, it absolutely does differ because it’s a different stage in their journey, and I’m not ever saying ‘Well, I just want those people that are where I was– those people who are morbidly obese that I can get to a healthy weight’– that doesn’t necessarily even correlate or compare to the person who wants to lose the ten to twenty pounds. The ten to twenty pounds is so real! It doesn’t matter if it’s not necessarily putting your health at risk because it’s your mental health that’s taxing, you know what I mean? And we need to do something about it because that’s where beating ourselves up is holding ourselves back in our relationships and careers. That’s really where it all stems from. It’s absolutely different, but most have a long journey [regardless], and I tell them ‘It’s going to feel like it’s forever, but this is for the rest of your life, so get used to it!’ [Laughs]
Right, there really is never a time you can stop. It’s a change to your lifestyle.
A.V.: Yeah, and even those ten pounds, they’re like vanity pounds, and I’m not trying to discredit them because I’ve struggled with them for the last few years. You put back on those five or ten pounds, and you’re like ‘Damn you! I really don’t like the way I fit in this outfit anymore!’ It’s funny because those people are probably the ones I’m harder on because it’s [their] choice. It’s either shit or get off the pot, you know what I mean? If you want to do something about it then stop complaining about it.
I think that’s a really good point because we always think we have all the time to lose those last few pounds, but sometimes that just turns into complacency. Or we’re socializing around food– especially in this business, in Los Angeles– and we don’t really need that ‘thank you’ cupcake, but we eat it anyway.
A.V.: Absolutely, and that’s really what my show is about: we can talk all day about The Biggest Loser experience, and I loved it, but it was not reality. The only part that was reality was the part where I was eliminated in the middle of it, and I was at home. [Laughs] I’m not sequestered in my real world, in my real life, and so we’ll never be picking people out of their lives.
And your show isn’t following a finite number of people for the length of it.
A.V.: I actually just revisited one woman who was on my show– her episode will be a one-hit wonder, if you will. But I revisited her because it had been two weeks, and you know, at first you’re like ‘Oh yeah, Ali was here; we’re all gung ho; we’re ready to go’ and then the second week, you’re not so excited anymore. So I wanted to see what they were doing, and I surprised them!
And then I just did a triathlon this weekend, and one of the guys who was on our second show, Jorge, he was there! There was an accident on the PCH, and I’m not from here, so I didn’t know where to go, and I was stressed out, thinking I was going to be late for my race. I parked, like, two miles away, so I’m running, and the race was going to start, and this guy says ‘Oh do you need your body marked?’ That’s what they do in triathlons. And I looked up, and it was Jorge! I was like ‘Oh my God, what are you doing here?’ I was so excited! He doesn’t even live anywhere close, but he got up early in the morning to come and volunteer because he wants to live this lifestyle. He lost over a hundred pounds watching me and everybody on The Biggest Loser, but he still has about two hundred more pounds to go. But he wants to be active, and that’s what tells me he’s serious, so I said ‘Next year, let’s do this together.’ And he said ‘Do you think I can?’ Absolutely!
The show so far is based pretty heavily right here in L.A.; was that intentional?
A.V.: Because we’re just starting out, and our budget, we’re shooting the majority of the show in Los Angeles right now. Production is based in L.A., but just from my own traveling around and seeing different parts of the country that I never knew existed, we need real help. We need help, especially in the places where someone says ‘How do I eat healthy when my major option is Walmart?’ I remember I helped do this thing when Yoplait made their red velvet yogurt, and I Tweeted to promote it, and I said ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe they made yogurt taste like this,’ and I got just ripped a new one by someone on Twitter who was just like ‘I can’t believe you after everything you’ve done and you’re going to put those toxins in your mouth!’ But you have to pick your battles. That’s not my battle yet. At least it’s not the cake!
It’s still a step in the right direction for a lot of people!
A.V.: That’s really what it is because it’s a small change, but those small changes add up. And guess what? If you try to change your entire life in one day, you might be successful for a week or maybe even a month or six months, but it’s going to turn around. It’s just not realistic because what you’ve done is you’ve changed your life so drastically like that then you’ve cut out so much of who you are and what you enjoy doing. We have to figure out how to still stay true to you but make healthier choices within what you already love.
Getting back to L.A. for a minute, are there any preconceived notions that either you had or that you think your viewers might have of the people out here– because it’s Hollywood?
A.V.: I think that probably my only thing that I anticipated with being in L.A.– Hollywood is a very small part of L.A. but people think of Hollywood as L.A.
A.V.: But it’s not the realistic part, but what is still very true is that you guys have all the billboards so every time you turn around, you see the .99 percent of your community that is a Hollywood superstar. Up on a huge billboard, with their perfect body…and then you read in the magazine that they’re a hundred pounds, but it’s because they’re a hundred pounds at 5’1”. [Laughs] And one of the women who was just on the show, she works in PR, and we went to this red carpet event together…and I was like ‘Can you imagine being around all of these beautiful people and standing next to these stereotypes of what’s perfect?’ But you just have to get– I think if you live here, you really have to know who you are. And if you don’t, it’s your journey to find who you are because you have to be strong…To me, that’s where the emotional part comes in. You deserve to be seen. You don’t have to hide behind the pounds, but you also don’t have to become so small that you can’t be seen. Who you are is good enough, and we have to figure this out and what is it that you’re really looking for. Well, I want to feel beautiful; I want to feel powerful; I want to feel strong. People who are going through this, too– they don’t see their wins, so I really try to point out the good things that they’re doing and how they are succeeding and how they’re winning. To be healthy is what it’s about, and healthy is not skinny; they’re not necessarily the same thing! Everybody has a different interpretation of that, and I really think my job is going to be helping them find their balance.
Now, the new season of The Biggest Loser is doing things a bit differently from when you were there; they’ve changed some of their trainers; they’ve introduced new twists. Do you still consider yourself a part of The Biggest Loser family; are you still working with them even though you now have your own show?
A.V.: I will always be– I’m like The Biggest Loser mama! The Biggest Loser provided me the opportunity to find myself, and I will always honor that. I’m blogging for it this year still, and I’ll always be a part of it; it will always be special. I think that Live Big with Ali Vincent is just an extension of that. The Biggest Loser took all of these people together and tossed us out onto this pond, and we’re all then going further with our ripples, helping more and more people, and I think it’s amazing.
What is one of the most important tips or tools that maybe you learned initially on The Biggest Loser but which you hope to impart on the people who come on your show?
A.V.: One woman works in a bakery, and that’s her job. She can’t tell them not to bake things, but I said ‘Make sure you eat breakfast before you [go to work].’ Let’s figure out and get creative together, and let’s get everybody on her team and support you…The temptation will always be there, but it’s about learning to control it. When I did this, one of the ladies who was just on, she
There is always a lot of talk around setting weight loss goals or maintaining health goals. What do you see as the goal for your show?
A.V.: I think it will grow into itself because it’s all very creative, but it’s still very new. And I want it to be a show for the people who are watching it. Each episode I talk to people, and I say ‘Email me! Tell me what you’re doing; tell me what you’re thinking; tell me what you may take away from this show, but [also] tell me what’s going on in your life and how are you winning’ so we can highlight unsung heroes but also answer your questions. Tell me what you’re wondering about, and I’ll do it for you. [Laughs] I’ll do the legwork and the research on the stuff you think is going to work for you in case it’s not. Keep the conversation going!
You can check out Vincent on the Live Well Network, but for those of you here in Los Angeles, Live Big with Ali Vincent also airs on Sundays on ABC-7, right after the 11pm news.
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