Justin Pope of Logan, Utah lost 173 pounds during the last season of the reality series, "The Biggest Loser." The 39-year-old bail bondsman, bounty hunter and gym owner went from 365 pounds to 192. Of all the eliminated contestants, only Deni Hill of Bountiful, Utah lost a higher percentage of weight loss, winning the $100,000 prize.
Pope isn’t a sore loser, though. “If I was going to lose to someone, that was definitely the person I would want to lose it to,” Pope told me in a telephone interview.
“And my ideal would have been if we had tied,” Hill told me.
I recently interviewed Pope for a summer-shape-up story that ran in the Deseret News.
Most people can’t be on a reality series where the focus is on working out all day and your diet is carefully monitored. But Pope gained valuable knowledge to incorporate into his life now that the show has ended.
“It’s changed my life 100 percent,” he said. “The negative side is that it’s a long time away from home and a lot of change you go through without your family.” He noted that he was away from home nearly six months. “You come home and you not only look different, but in every way I am a different person.”
While competing on “The Biggest Loser,” he spent much of the day exercising. He's cut back his personal workout time to two hours a day.
Known on the show for “calling out” any slackers, now teaches “Callout” classes of about 60 people. He was teaching at Rulon’s Elite Training Center, which he owned with partner Rulon Gardner. But two weeks ago, he signed papers selling his share of the gym to Gardner. “So I’m, looking for another place,” Pope said.
Here are some of his fitness tips:
1. Be accountable with your food. “That’s the first thing I do when people come to my class. I say ‘I don’t care how many calories you eat, I just want you to write them down every day.‘ After awhile, you start making decisions such as ‘Oh, I don’t want to eat that because it has so many calories in it, I’d rather have this instead.’ Making a choice based on that accountability is when I made my turnaround.”
2. Vegetables offer lots of nutrition for very few calories. In a frying pan, he will saute lots of fresh vegetables together, such as summer squash, red peppers, zucchini, “any kind of vegetable that looks good,” along with egg whites, adding jalapenos, salt and pepper and srirachi sauce for flavor.
“There are only 13 calories in an egg white, so you can do ten egg whites and you only have 130 calories. With all the vegetables, I have a big fat plate of food and I have only got 300 calories, if you count really hard. Sometimes I’ll put in a whole egg, but I have to decide I’d rather have the taste of an egg, or the fullness of fullness of six egg whites.”
3. Another easy meal: Take 200 calories of whatever your protein of choice -- shrimp or steak or chicken or burger, and fry it with beef stock. Take about 4 cups of beef stock, and add lots of vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots, and flavor it with some sriacha sauce. On the Biggest Loser, we didn’t see very many carrots because they have a little more sugar in them. But at home, I will use them. I love making a big pot of that for supper, it’s warm, soothing and if you eat the whole pot, you are only 400-500 calories into it.”
4. Pope recommends eating 1,500-1,600 calories per day. “Some people don’t eat ENOUGH food,” he said. “They don’t have enough energy and your body doesn’t know what to do, it’s saying ‘Are you feeding me today or starving me?’ ”
5. Simple, easy math. Divide the day’s calories into about 400 for each meal, and the remaining 400 into two 200-calorie snacks, so you’re eating consistently throughout the day.
6. Use “good” fats, such as olive oil and avocado. “What I didn’t realize is that you have to have good fat in order to burn fat,” said Pope, who became a fan of Wholly Guacamole, a “Biggest Loser” sponsor. “Yes, good fats still contain calories, so you have to be careful with that.”
One of his favorite meals is Coconut Chicken — brown some chicken breasts, add a can of coconut milk, and sriracha sauce and fish sauce to taste. “And then load it up with vegetables. It’s my favorite food.”
7. Eat most of your carbohydrate foods before noon, and stick to healthy carbs such as vegetables and whole grains. “When I was on the show, you would get most of your carbs in before noon. Brett (trainer Brett Hoebel) was big on that. It has to do with burning fat.”
8. Do your first workout in the morning on an empty stomach. “Brett was also big on that. He said your body is looking for sugar. If you are not giving it any sugar, it will go to burn your fat reserves.”
9. “I believe in protein shakes, for longer, leaner muscle,” Pope said. “We mix them the right way and drink them at the right time. There is a window of maybe 45 minutes after a workout. You have to put a little sugar in them so that your body grabs it and takes it directly to the muscles. I did it the whole time I was at the ranch. It gets addictive.”
10. Group exercise helps you work harder. “There’s a certain energy level, you are feeding off of everyone’s energy,” Pope said. “And it makes you feel accountable. I am demanding on people if they don’t show up for class.”
11. Use a heart-rate monitor (found in sporting goods stores) to let you know how hard your body is working. “It doesn’t lie to you. You might think you’re really working hard, but you look down and the monitor tells you exactly how hard you’re really working.”