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Chris Powell Reveals Behind-the-Scenes Weight Loss Tips from Extreme Weight Loss

How would you feel if I told you that you had a year to help 17 people—who weigh a combined 5,275 pounds—fit into their skinny jeans?

For Chris Powell, the trainer who has helped hundreds of overweight people lose up to half their body weight on ABC's reality series Extreme Weight Loss, helping people lose weight is an everyday challenge—and one at which he excels. Thanks to his vast arsenal of smart weight loss tricks, Powell helped the 15 participants who completed last season's show shed a total of 2,476 pounds.

Though anyone can tune in to the show and take away some of Powell's slim-down tips, not every aspect of the transformation process is shown on TV. That means some of his best tactics are only known by a select few—until now. We checked in with Powell and asked him to spill some behind-the-scene slim-down secrets that have helped contestants lose hundreds of pounds—and how the rest of us can use them at home. Read on to see how to incorporate some of Powell's tips into your own efforts—and then check out 42 Ways to Lose 5 Inches of Belly Fat!

They guzzle water by the gallon


You've likely heard that you should drink eight cups of water daily, which is a whopping half-gallon. If you thought downing that much fluid would send you running to the bathroom far too often, consider this: Extreme Weight Loss contestants drink more than double that amount every day. "You don't see it on the show, but our contestants drink a lot of water—at least a gallon every day as a baseline. Then, they drink an extra 32 ounces for every hour they exercise," says Powell. "Not only does this slightly increase their metabolism, but it also keeps them full between meals and wards off bouts of overeating. This strategy plays a key role in their extraordinary success," he says. Bored with plain ol' water? Check out these detox water ideas.

They have carb curfews

slices of cinnamon bread with butter
Arlene Grace Evangelista/Shutterstock

Though starchy and sugary carbs—like quinoa, potatoes, and fruit—aren't totally off-limits, participants never consume them after dark. "For dinner, contestants always have a high-protein, high-fat meal with plenty of fibrous veggies," Powell tells us. "If they have a post-dinner snack, they stick to protein-rich, high-fat foods like almonds or 2% milk-fat string cheese," he says. This is because, he adds, axing carbs at night flips the fat-burning switch by increasing the number of fat-burning hormones released while we're asleep. Bedtime can be a critical part of your weight loss journey; don't miss these Things to Do 30 Minutes Before Bed to Lose Weight.

They keep their eyes on the prize—literally

workout class

"When people are in the middle of the grind—working out hard and dieting—they often forget why they're doing it and just focus on the sacrifices they're making. This makes it hard to keep going," says Powell. "To counteract that, we revisit each person's motivation to lose weight throughout their weight loss journey and put a visual to it. We'll pull pictures of their kids, an aspirational body type, even copies of their medical records," says Powell.

To employ this tactic at home, put a visual reminder of your weight loss motivator on the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or car dashboard, or set the image as your cell phone background. Doing so will remind you that you're working toward something that will improve your happiness and quality of life, according to Powell.

Meal prep Is everything

Healthy snack meal prep with cut carrots celery hard boiled eggs apples grape almonds and rice cakes

We asked Chris to tell us his number-one diet tip. His response: Basically, meal prep is everything. "Prep your meals in advance, and always have ready-to-eat healthy snack foods with you," he says. Chris and his Extreme Weight Loss participants bulk-prep their proteins (chicken, turkey, and fish) and starches (potatoes, whole-wheat rice, and noodles) every four days and store them in plastic containers. This prep allows them to grab healthy eats quickly before they leave the house.

"We always carry protein powder with us," he says. "You'll never catch us without almonds in our bags. They're filled with healthy, satiating fats and protein and don't need to be refrigerated, so they're really easy."

They don't watch the clock

woman doing resistance band workout at home

You should complete at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week—that's long been The Department of Health and Human Services' recommendation for total health, at least. Chris, however, tells his clients to stop watching the clock—especially those who are new to exercise.

"When it comes to cardio, maximizing weight loss is not about a set duration or intensity. It's about slowly—but surely—making progress. Every two weeks increase the duration and intensity by just a little bit," Powell says. "Month after month you slowly improve and soon will be insanely fit and see incredible weight loss results."

To maximize results, make time to weight train at least twice a week. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest.

They make special requests

Waiter and customer

"Participants find it challenging to stay on track with their diet when they're eating out—especially when they're with friends who don't share their newly adopted healthy lifestyle," says Powell. There are few different ways Powell helps his clients stay on track when facing this obstacle. For starters, he suggests drinking a big glass of water before the meal starts. This tames hunger, making it easier to order a smart entree. "Steer clear of anything fried, sautéed, crusted, or breaded, and order all dressing and sauces on the side," he says. "When you order, let the waiter know you would like a to-go box when the food arrives. Cut your meal in half immediately and place half in the box to go." Out of sight, out of mind—and don't forget, similar rules apply to takeout food, too.

They clean house

beans grains lentils pasta oats flour pantry containers

"Whether you have 10 pounds to lose or 100, the first thing you should do is create an environment for success," says Powell. That requires removing all temptation from your kitchen. "Collect all of the processed, sugary, and fatty foods from your house, and bring them to a local food bank for donation. Then restock your kitchen with healthy groceries—real, natural, whole foods—like fresh fruits and vegetables, almonds, and lean proteins like turkey, chicken, fish, and eggs."


Dana Leigh Smith
Dana has written for Women's Health, Prevention, Reader's Digest, and countless other publications. Read more about Dana Leigh