By: Michele Sotak
Jen Widerstrom is a force to be reckoned with. The Biggest Loser trainer, author, and transformation expert is passionate about inspiring others to embrace their true selves while pursuing a lifestyle that better suits their wellness goals. She may boast a whopping 284K Instagram followers, but Widerstrom remains true to her roots – and former The Biggest Loser contestant Toma Dobrosavljevic agrees.
We asked Dobrosavljevic, the winner of the show's 16th season – Widerstrom’s inaugural season – to describe the fitness guru as both a trainer and individual. “I believe Jen is an intelligent, funny, determined, and independent woman with a strong will to achieve her goals, and help you achieve your own goals!” he tells Lively of the Vital Proteins ambassador. “She is true to her word, and her character is unbreakable. She knows exactly how to help motivate you and knows how far to take a training session to challenge you, without completely breaking you.”
Dobrosavljevic adds: “I think her Midwestern roots, strong faith, and stronger work ethic have made her very successful. By utilizing all her strengths, she will continue to have a positive impact on the lives of many people, myself included.”
Keep reading for our Q&A with Widerstrom, who candidly opened up about her time on The Biggest Loser, her expert tips on making a physical and mental change, and her go-to Vital Proteins product.
Jen Widerstrom: My team knew I was for real. I went to the ranch every day. I started real relationships. It’s scary for the contestant; they don’t even get a magazine or newspaper. I’m their life line and was willing to be there for them as much as I possibly can. I think my realness and being genuine made me stand apart. We built trust early on because they knew I was genuine.
JW: Watching the stress of the contestants. They were exhausted. There was a lot of competitiveness. It was a really big game and a lot of pressure to win, not just for themselves, but for me, too.
JW: In week 1, it was tough. There were a lot of hours of work and stress. The biggest breakthrough was the camaraderie among the team members. It wasn’t just about a TV show. It’s about human beings trusting each other and having fun and being comfortable enough around each other to put on a prank and share a laugh. My most memorable experience was in week 3 when the entire team surprised me. I walked in and the gym was silent. Nobody made eye contact and I’m silently freaking out and thinking, ‘What happened?’ Jay, a contestant, started crying and framing the situation like somebody had to go home. So I started crying. In reality, we actually won the challenge. That camaraderie and sharing jokes and laughter was the breakthrough moment. Then after that our team was undefeated.
JW: Going into The Biggest Loser I felt the pressure of thinking it was all up to me to experience success on the show, but I quickly learned things that shaped my coaching strategy going forward, simply that the contestants have to invest, too. I would be frustrated if they got kicked off, but what the show taught me is that it was always a team play, not a dictatorship – overall the success was dependent on their own effort. I would frame the relationship around how critical their involvement and belief in themselves was, to be able to sustain throughout the competition.
JW: Transformation does not equal change. You are who you are so embrace it and reveal what’s been in you all along. Simplify things when striving to make changes. Bring it down to easy, attainable small benchmarks for yourself over time before layering another one. Maintaining and improving health is a mental game and a reps game, it requires competency. If you want to make a change, incorporate a slight behavior change during short amounts of time. Change behavior to shape the choices you make. If you want to give up drinking soda every day, let’s first drop to five nights of drinking it and replace the other days with water. Incorporate small integration over time. People get easily discouraged and think something is wrong with them if they can’t stick to a plan right away, and that’s not the case. We have to work on working the muscle in the brain, reshape it, and own it until the single behavior changes and then we can pick something else to master.
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JW: Continue to change. We are going to be presented with thoughts, feelings, and people. We’ll be clear until we’re not clear, which is how it’s supposed to go. Do things on purpose and be intentional. Embrace your qualities – even the bad ones – and be a student of knowing yourself. In my next book, slated to release in 2020, I encourage you to look at all sides of you, including the parts that are uncomfortable. If you are, be okay with accepting it. You are not locked into one thing or forced to do one thing, if it doesn’t work for you. The joy of being human is that you get to change your mind. But really listening and knowing yourself and not having the outside world tell you what the cool thing is to do.
JW: Iron! Nothing makes me feel better than straight bodybuilding circuits.
In addition to her upcoming book, Widerstrom is hosting “Strength in the City,” a tour coming to Chicago, Denver, Nashville, and San Diego. It will incorporate components of each city and highlight music and workouts, in which locals belonging to a community can take pride in their city. “Your health is a part of [important] pillars of the city you live in, and we need to create a higher value of life,” Widerstrom tells Lively.