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Not only has The Biggest Loser made a difference in the lives of numerous contestants over the course of its 14 seasons, but it’s also had a big impact on Alison Sweeney.
Sweeney, who is marking her 11th season as host of the NBC weight-loss series, was so inspired by the contestants’ running a marathon each season that she completed both the L.A. Marathon and the Nautica Malibu Triathlon last year.
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“I never thought I would do that in my entire life,” says the Days of Our Lives actress, who also wrote a book about nutrition and fitness titled The Mommy Diet that was released in 2011.
This season, The Biggest Loser features a twist: For the first time, three kid participants will take part as NBC’s reality show tackles the childhood obesity epidemic. Three teens (ages 13-17) will work with the trainers and contribute to their respective teams from both the ranch and their home, but they will not be eligible for elimination.
Ahead of the show’s two-night premiere — it debuts at 9-11 p.m. Sunday and 8-10 p.m. Monday, the latter of which will be its regular time slot going forward — Sweeney talked to The Hollywood Reporter about this season’s twist, the return of trainer Jillian Michaels and how the series also has made an impact on viewers.
The Hollywood Reporter: What can you reveal about the upcoming season of The Biggest Loser?
Alison Sweeney: Jillian Michaels is back, which is fantastic, and I think we have such great chemistry with her and Bob [Harper] and Dolvett [Quince]. They are all amazing trainers and have unique ways of handling everything, but they are all there to help everyone get healthy. And the contestants are fantastic. Jackson [Carter] is the first openly gay contestant on the show. He’s a wonderful person and an amazing addition to the Biggest Loser family. He openly talks about his struggles, and there are a lot of kids out there who can relate to that.
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THR: What’s it like having Jillian Michaels back as a trainer after two seasons away?
Sweeney: She’s awesome. It’s been so great to have her back.
THR: How did the idea of including kid participants come about?
Sweeney: That was part of the producers’ discussions, but I know that involving kids has long been something we wanted to include in one way or another. Obviously, we get young adults and adults who come to Biggest Loser and talk about how they have been overweight since kids. [We’ve had] people who were healthy at one point in their lives and want to get it back. … But we [wanted to include] more contestants who have never been healthy in their lives. More stories like Jeff Nichols and Jackson who talk about being obese since they were children and have never known what it is to be fit and athletic and healthy. It’s such a good example of why [we should include] contestants who are young and getting parents involved — and not only parents but also asking kids, especially in their teenage years, to start taking responsibility and find ways to make healthy choices for themselves.
THR: What impact do you think the show has had on viewers?
Sweeney: The biggest picture is one of the reasons I am so proud to be part of the show. People I meet show me on their phones that they’ve lost 100 pounds and have had an amazing transformation or tell me they have eaten a healthy dinner or work out the next day [after the show airs]. I will take anything and everything in between. I am proud we are part of the solution. It’s a big problem the country is facing. I was recently asked about the business side of Biggest Loser, but as long as we entertain people, we can keep coming back and making a difference. It’s a delicate balance, but one feeds off the other. I feel so good about the show — it’s uplifting and inspiring and entertaining at the same time.
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THR: It’s also inspired you to complete a marathon and triathlon?
Sweeney: I never in my entire life considered running a marathon. It never crossed my mind. But the more I saw the Biggest Loser contestants do it — Tara [Costa] from season seven ran an Ironman, which is remarkable — I realized from the contestants you can do anything you set to mind to. I found that competitive spirit in myself and wanted to do it to.
THR: Do you keep in touch with any former Loser contestants?
Sweeney: I’m still friends with a lot of them, and we keep in touch on social media and support each other. When I ran the marathon, I invited all the contestants to do it with me. Five or six came out to participate, and a bunch who couldn’t come posted on Facebook or sent notes. And the marathon has a runners board to motivate you as you run by and a bunch of people did that. I feel lucky to be part of Biggest Loser family.
Watch a promo for the The Biggest Loser: Challenge America below.
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