Who “The Biggest Loser” Should Hire

Celebrity status is more important than skills for "The Biggest Loser" casting call

So the call went out recently for a new female trainer for "The Biggest Loser."  In case you don't know, Cara Castronuova and Brett Hoebel joined the cast at the start of the most recent season.  Current trainer Bob Harper will be staying while Jillian Michaels is leaving at the end of this season. A casting call for a new trainer doesn't mean they're getting rid of Cara.  In fact they hold casting calls regularly, I think just to see what kind of talent is out there. My twitter buddy Carla wrote about it on her blog this week.  Here are the qualifications from NBC ... The following types of trainers are encouraged to apply:
  • Ex-professional athletes / ex-Olympians with training certifications
  • Trainers with well-known clientele
  • Trainers who have been featured on local news affiliates
  • Trainers featured in fitness magazines
  • Trainers sponsored by athletic companies (Nike, Addidas, lululemon, etc.)
  • Trainers who are local celebrities
For the record, I would qualify on four of the bullet points, and no, I have zero intention of sending in a video.  Nor do I think they'd look twice at me.  Plus if I stepped on set, I'm pretty sure Cara would deck me.  (I'm not really kidding ...)  :-) What I am dismayed about is the qualifications have a LOT more to do with being famous than with being highly skilled.  If I were casting for the show, here's what I'd write for qualifications:
  • Must have a high-level personal training certification or college degree in an area such as kinesiology, physiology, athletic training, or physical therapy
  • Must have five years minimum experience training clients
  • Must have experience working with the morbidly obese, particularly the ability to adapt exercise to work with joint issues
  • Must be photogenic, good on camera, and articulate
  • Must be able to break down complex fitness theory into something the average Joe or Jane can understand
  • Experience speaking in front of an audience and experience with community outreach a major plus
  • If you've struggled with a weight problem yourself, that's also a plus
Wouldn't that be nice?  I realize I'm just a blogger and I get that my voice doesn't reach as far and wide as NBC's (not even close!).  But after lots and lots of people have questioned the credentials of various trainers on the show, wouldn't it be nice to see the producers up the qualifications just a little bit? They didn't even try. In other posts I've done on "The Biggest Loser," people have commented that I'm naive.  That it's not about quality training, it's about addictive, popcorn TV.  The delivery vehicle is a bunch of people on a fat farm, but the real end goal isn't pounds lost, but ratings gained.  JUST ratings. Sigh. So what do you think of my list of qualifications versus theirs?  Do you think NBC could find someone with my wish list or am I being completely unrealistic?  I would love to know your thoughts on this. Cheers, Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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16 Responses to Who “The Biggest Loser” Should Hire

  1. Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun March 10, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    I think your qualifications are way more in line with what they should look for. Unfortunately, the “wow factor” wins out and so they want someone more well-known. A lot of the show seems to be turning away from the actual changing of lives. I still watch though because I do like to see people hoping to improve their health.

    And slightly off topic but I do hope they find another trainer. I’m not that fond of either of the new ones. All they do is box!

  2. Lisa Johnson March 10, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    Tina, boxing is certainly a great way to get fit, but I’d like to see a little diversity too. The weird thing about wanting someone with “celeb cred” is Cara had pretty much none when they hired her. No one knew who she was until they announced it, the show “made” her a star. Why couldn’t they do the same thing with someone else … who is also very qualified …


  3. Joe Cascio March 10, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    So here’s what you should do. To hell with network TV. That’s looking in the rear-view mirror. Create your own webcast/videoblog “Biggest Loser” competition where people can actually TALK to the participants or the trainer (ie, you).

  4. Lisa Johnson March 10, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    Joe, I’d be much more open to doing something like that. It would be fun actually and definitely follows my passion!

  5. Tracy @ Commit To Fit March 10, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    I absolutely agree with your list, Lisa. You certainly have to be photogenic and have personality, but who is to say that you can’t be educated, qualified and camera friendly? I am sure there are many trainers out there who fit the bill and are genuinely interested in helping people improve their health.

  6. Lisa Johnson March 10, 2011 at 7:27 pm #

    Thanks Tracy, I appreciate the vote of confidence. :-)

  7. Jessica March 12, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    I don’t think that your wish list is unreasonable and in fact, the producers have already cast a trainer with all of those qualifications (except he’s not female): Brett. I don’t know the criteria they were looking for when the show cast Brett, but I sincerely hope that they aren’t looking for pretty faces in women and smart, accomplished guys for the male trainers. Casting Brett shows that there are smart, accomplished, telegenic, responsible, well qualified and well studied trainers out there. If Brett was cast, there must surely be a female trainer out there with similar attributes. The very last thing I wanted to do was make this discussion political, but I wonder if there is some sexism in the casting process…

  8. Lisa Johnson March 13, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    Hi Jessica, the thing is I don’t know what Brett’s certifications actually are. He lists a bunch of them on his website but they are vaguely worded, he’s a certified personal trainer, some kind of nutritional thing (can’t remember) but he doesn’t say what organizations he earned the certs in so there’s no way to verify if his training was good or not. I also interviewed him and asked him directly and he skirted the answer and referred me to his website …

    That said, I have watched him cue several videos that are online and his cueing is excellent. He does nice progressions, includes breath work (close to my heart as a Pilates instructor) and watches and corrects form when he needs to. He’s also got a nice touch with his “client” (they were all celebrities of some sort). He did readily admit that he had minimal prior experience working with the morbidly obese and said, “who does?”

    While I agree the morbidly obese do not regularly seek out personal trainers, there are some university programs out there, with personal trainers on staff who have experience with the population. Of course, you can always hire them to consult on the show.

    So there’s my long winded answer … lol … thanks for leaving a comment.


  9. Jeff March 16, 2011 at 1:35 am #

    I am not a real big fan of cara. She gets this crazy look on her face all the time. Eyes get bigger and open mouth like she us saying ohhhhhh. Also, seems like she has no real ability to relate to people. Sometimes I don’t like Jillian, but I love watching her all the time.

  10. Lisa Johnson March 16, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    Jeff, interesting points … it does seem like she’s screaming all the time and I can’t tell if the producers painting her in that light (which I suspect is what they’re doing) or if she really is like that. I don’t see how this works long term for Cara or the show.

  11. Sonia Simone March 24, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    Cara & Brett really don’t have the star power that Bob & Jillian do. Jeff’s right, even if you don’t like Jillian at all, you almost have to watch her. She’s not as traditionally pretty as Cara, but she’s much more charismatic and watchable.

    I often wonder how many highly trained but not as photogenic people they have behind the scenes to make sure they don’t kill somebody.

  12. Lisa Johnson March 24, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    I know, Sonia, I wonder that a lot too. I do know there are other trainers on the set and one contestant I interviewed said Bob & Jillian weren’t there a lot, or if they were there, frequently they were filming instead of being with the contestants. Don’t know how true that is …

  13. Holly March 25, 2011 at 4:58 am #

    I really do not care for Cara at all. The “guy” seems to really know his stuff but I do not think I will watch after this season. I was getting tired of all the game play anyway. My fav season was when Ally won. They had the football players and the two brothers from Boston. That was inspirational! I kinda hoped they would bring back past contestants, like Ally, who have been there and are now devoting their life to helping others be fit.

  14. Lisa Johnson March 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    I’m not sure if it’s actually Cara, or if it’s the way the producers are portraying her. She always looks pained on camera and her voice can come across harshly … it seems like she’s always yelling and I know that can’t be true in real life. I wouldn’t mind seeing a former contestant come back as a trainer but I still want them to have proper credentials. And not crappy, online ones, but a real, learn in a gym, certification … I think the show owes it’s viewers at least that much.


  15. Gina March 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    Hi Lisa

    I love your blog. Okay I want to know when you say online ones (certification) I hope you not saying ACE I have been studying for that test and actually its not full of fluff at all. In fact if anyone can give me some advice on the math that would be great. I think the qualifications you addressed were excellent for the biggest loser I agree.

    The reason I’m becoming a fitness trainer is because I love helping people and seeing them reach their goals. I think that is the most rewarding part of the business. I want to make sure that I am getting the best education to be successful in this business.

    What advice can you give a newbie in the fitness business? i.e Where should I start its a lot of gyms but some gyms are about pushing the products and personal training for commission than really great training. I heard go into business for myself. Thx.

  16. Lisa Johnson March 27, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Hi Gina,

    Two thoughts … yes, unfortunately I am including ACE in that pile. ACE is a decent, basic certification that covers a good amount of material, but to me it’s a beginner cert. You’ll want to do more training and education after that to continue up the career path. Think about it this way, would you want a hair dresser to watch a lot of videos, read extensively about technique but then have you be the first person she actually cuts hair on? So use your friends as guinea pigs, practice, practice, practice and keep reading about technique. Don’t look at this only as your first certification and move up from there. By the way, the better your cert the better you’ll be able to control my next point, where to work.

    There are “head shops” and there are health clubs. Head shops are generally low monthly fee health clubs. They don’t really want the members to come in, they just want them to pay the monthly dues and have it be small enough that people keep not bothering to cancel their membership. If you work as a trainer in one of these facilities they frequently expect you to wander the floor and search for clients to entice. Stay far, far away from these places.

    It is better to start off as a junior person at a good club and work your way up. My first job I was floor staff for $8 an hour and I did the once per hour 15 minute ab workouts that were open to anyone in the gym. I made sure I absolutely crushed those 15 minutes and I picked up paying clients that way. So in a way I was doing sales but it was through a service that the gym offered.

    When you get a real bonafide client in front of you treat them like gold. Try this, 1. Listen to what they have to say. Give them what they need, not what you think they need. 2. Make sure your customer service skills are stellar, be there before they arrive, help them with the layout of the gym if they need it, 3. Help them with any booking needs they might have, etc. 4. Make sure they really feel it once or twice during the session. I always make sure I nail ’em on their abs and butt that’s what most people want to change. (One caveat here, an athlete you can merrily crush, an injured person you need to work carefully.)

    Hope that helps :-)


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