Hollie Self of The Biggest Loser: The Sky Is The Limit

Today I am absolutely thrilled to bring you the interview that Hollie Self, The Biggest Loser Season 4 Second Runner-Up, was nice enough to grant me for the Healthy Loser Gal blog!  Hollie has been one of my very favorite contestants over the years of BL because she has an unstoppable competitive drive and a positive, look foward attitude!  Since The Biggest Loser, her life has changed dramatically from cheerleading coach and teacher to a move that has settled her into California and working behind the scenes at The Biggest Loser Ranch.  Below she shares behind the scene BL finale moments to incredibly valuable tips on starting your own weight loss journey, not beating yourself up over slips, journaling, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and sooo much more! 

The Biggest Loser Finale is May 25th this year... as second runner up of BL4, you must remember the pre-weigh-in nerves that this year's contestants are now feeling. What is your most vivid memory of the actual live finale for BL4?

I absolutely remember the moments before I walked out onto the stage for our live finale! The entire week before, the finalists are sequestered from everyone else, so it was me, my two best gal pals, and a "casting wrangler" in a hotel, just kind of hanging out beforehand. When I got to the studio that day, I was in my own
dressing room as well- and the energy out in the hallways was nerve-wracking! I couldn't wait to get out and see everyone! I had to do my own hair and I remember I could barely get a grip on the flatiron! When it was time for us to make our "reveals" and bust through that paper- there were PAs that held up giant black sheets
inbetween the four finalists so we couldn't see one another! We could see the trainers backstage from across the room as well- and I was frantically waving at them to get their attention- and I must say- the look on Bob Harper's face (who had not been my trainer) was priceless- and I will never forget it!

The next thing I was focusing on was getting across the stage in heels- the director for the finale had actually changed my footwear that day because no one thought I would be able to make it all the way over to Alison without biting the dust!

Busting through the paper was one of the most fun moments I have EVER had- and it was so thrilling to hear everyone cheering for me- even though I couldn't see anybody because the lights were so bright! I had a moment where I thought, "Oh my gosh- I did it. I actually DID it." and it was such an emotional moment for me.

You have stayed incredibly fit since the show finished. What do you attribute your success to when other BL contestants have not been able to maintain their weight loss once back 'in the real world'?

Life in the "real world" is trying- in various ways- but it ABSOLUTELY can be done. One of my favorite things to say to newly inducted Alums is, "Welcome to maintenance- it sucks!" One of the problems that I think most of us- and I am talking about all weight loss winners, not just TBL contestants is this: We know how to gain weight (obviously) and we know how to lose weight...but learning how to maintain is an entirely different animal.

For one, we have a sense of relief that "it" is finally over and that we can go back to real life. However- this is not true...there will never again be life the way it was before BL. It is a new way of life- and you have to learn your way in it. A few weeks ago I was talking with Ali Vincent (BL5 Winner) and Brittany Aberle (BL5) and we were having this exact conversation. We all agreed that the first year after TBL is very hard.  You are basically learning how to live a new life- which means it takes a while. Was I magically going to erase 28 years of bad habits after 8 months of hard work? I think we know the answer to that.

For me, it has been two and a half years now of living "Life after BL"- and I am extremely proud of the fact that I have been able to stay relatively close to my finale weight. I cannot speak to the trials of other BL Alums, but for me, I have found new challenges and outlets for myself to keep me motivated and active. I make the time every single day to take care of myself- and it can be hard sometimes, but I try to remind myself that this is now a lifestyle. I also rely heavily on my support system (Nicole and Julie from BL4, as well as other BL Alums) to keep my head in the right place, and that has been extremely helpful.

I know that you are now a runner. When did you begin to love running (if you DO love it!?) and what motivates you to run 1/2 marathons and marathons?

This is a great question because I will be the first to say that I have never ever been a runner! This time last year (May 2009) I could barely run two miles without stopping- and was hating every second of it. I relied on the many other forms of cardio to keep me going.

Last summer I was given the opportunity to participate in an Olympic Distance Triathlon in San Francisco with other Bl Alumni- and I jumped at the challenge. I started following a training program...and just kept at it. First it was 2 miles..then a few weeks later it became 3, until I ran 6.2 at the end of my triathlon. Shortly after, I was asked to run the NYC marathon for charity, and I thought "why not"? With the help and encouragement of friends, I found a beginner's program and started following it. One day on a weekday run, my iPod died about a half mile into a five mile run. I decided to keep going and see how it felt. To my complete surprise, I enjoyed it. I immediately thought "no, no, no! Not possible! I am NOT a runner!" Then I kind of sat back and thought..."or maybe...I am."

The main thing that keeps me going is the challenge- I love a challenge! I am a very competitive person- and the thing I love about running now- is that I am competing against myself! And it is a challenge that will always keep me going- because I can always try to better my own time- and I love that. I don't know that I'll ever love marathon running- but my goal is to complete my second this winter and shave 40 minutes off of my time (as I ran/walked the first one, and suffered a foot injury towards the end).  (photo is of Hollie in AZ this year competiting in a triathlon.)

I love your optimism and that motivational quotes are featured on your Facebook page. Do you have a quote that you consider a favorite or one phrase that is your mantra?

I started my daily weekday quote on my facebook page mainly to help myself get through whatever I was facing for the day- and I am thrilled that the members of my age enjoy them, too! I have always loved quotes- and they definitely can help me change my attitude when I'm feeling a little "less than." I have multiple quotes that I love, but I would say that I have more of a theme song than a Mantra- the lyrics to Suzie McNeil's "Believe."   It got me through many a workout on the BL Ranch, and I listen to it at the end of every race that I do.

It is absolutely the theme song of my life.

I love every word, but my favorite part of the song is this:

"No one says it's easy
And no one says you have to be perfect
But as long as you try
You're always gonna find
It was worth it
If you just believe."

Do you follow a strict diet? Do you eat low fat or all raw foods or lots of protein? What does a normal day of "Hollie food" look like and about how many calories do you think you eat on an average day?

I don't follow an extremely strict diet, no, but there are some guidelines that I follow. I stay away from fast food for the most part now- the fat and sodium content is just not worth it to me. Anything that has a "drive in" is usually a no go for me! I definitely still eat meat- and don't go with any particular "fad" eating plan. The main thing that I do is count calories- I find that when I do things go well, and when I don't- the scale moves! (I also have a list of what is in my kitchen on my Facebook page that anyone can access if they would like to see specifics).

When I am in training, I eat about 1600 calories a day- and of course some are little lower, and one day is usually much higher. Breakfast and AM snack are a protein and a carb usually consisting of 250-300 calories. They are planned around my workouts- if I do not workout then I only eat once. Lunch is my biggest meal of the day consisting of 500-600 cals and is more often than not out with coworkers, and then I try to balance that meal out with a light dinner of lean protein with some type of greens about 300-400 cals.

Do I mess up sometimes and eat a brownie? Of course! But I remember again, that this is a lifestyle- and know that I am making good choices the majority of the time and try not to beat myself up over it too badly:) It truly is about finding balance- in all areas of life.

Is journaling a part of your routine? Do you keep either a food or fitness/workout journal or both?

I don't keep a workout journal, but I do workout with a personal trainer and a triathlon coach- so my workouts are predetermined. Before I had a coach, I would map out my workouts in my laptop calendar- planning my classes and cardio ahead of time. I schedule my workouts the way I would any other appointment- to be sure that I keep them. Like most of you- and most of the population- I have a job that requires me to work long hours, so I need to be organized when it comes to getting my training in.

I do keep a food journal- most of the time. Again, when calories get written down- things are much better, and when they don't get logged- that' s when the scale moves (in the wrong direction!). There are so many free websites out there that allow you to log your food- so people should take advantage. Also, after awhile you know the calorie content of our frequent foods, so it becomes easier to tally as you go. My favorite is the LoseIt App for the iPhone, who allows you to log both your exercise and your food.

We all give in to temptation now and then... a slice of pizza, a bowl of ice cream, a candy that we crave. What advice can you give us on not beating ourselves up when we do slip up on occasion?

Oh my gosh- do NOT beat yourself up, whatever you do! Unfortunately I think for most of us the mentality is, "Oh I screwed up, the day is lost." That's not true! Move on from that moment- do NOT wait until the next day. And remember- it is not realistic to say you will never have pizza or ice cream again- hello! That stuff is tasty! Problems arise if you have them every day- but you are ok to have them every once in while- work it into your calories! Every choice is adding up to something, so try to remember what it is that you are working towards- and that no person is perfect. Then shake it off and move ahead.

Kind of on that same topic... do you plan for certain foods you love when you're going out with friends or to an event? How do you maintain that balance of eating foods you love and keeping your weight in check?

It is all about balance, truly. Most of my meals are healthy- but if I am going out with friends, I'll be darned if I am not going to enjoy a glass or two of wine and a piece of bread from the basket! But to balance it out, I'll have a salad for dinner or some lean protein. Because I do make healthy choices most of the time, I can afford to indulge every once in a while. However- I try to plan activities that are not just centered around food. My friends and I will go to a concert, the beach, for a run- and food is not the focal point of our socializing, whereas it always was pre-BL. I also try to remember that food is NOT a reward and that I don't need to indulge every day. And oftentimes, a taste of something is just as satisfying as an entire helping.

I love that you're part of the Biggest Loser family and that now you work behind the scenes on the show! Tell us what you do and what fun pranks you may have played on Bob and/or Jillian during this past season! : )

I have worked on several season of BL now- and it truly is a big family. There are literally hundreds of people that make it all work- from production assistants all the way up to the Executive producers. I work in the story department, and produce individual episodes as part of a team. We help move the creative process of the show along, interview the contestants, and create a discernible "story" for you all to follow along with at home. I actually have very limited contact with Bob and Jillian, though sometimes I do see them as they come and go from work. Even though it is so rewarding- It IS a job for me- and there isn't much goofing around when we are on set(the Ranch)- we have a lot to do to make sure we can bring you the best episodes possible. :) 

I actually only spend about 7 days on the actual ranch (a week, or episode) and then spend up to 2 months in post production in an office, sifting through the footage that was filmed and making it into the show that comes to you a few months later!

What is the one piece of advice you can give to those who are struggling with morbid obesity and don't know what to do to get started on their own journey to being healthy?

My main piece of advice to those who don't know where to start is this: YOU have to decide that you want to do this. Once you have truly made the decision that you are worth it, you have set something in motion. If you truly want to make a change, you can make it happen. And you do not need the Ranch in order to do it. There are so many outlets now for people to help them get started. Start by keeping a food journal, taking a walk, eliminating the soda, and take time to take care of YOURSELF. You are capable- and you CAN do it. Will it happen at breakneck speed like you see on TV? No- but at the end of the day, that doesn't matter. What matters is that you are taking the steps forward in order to live a healthier life.

What is the biggest dream or goal in your life right now?

That's a great question- and I wish I had a specific answer for you:)  I have realized that the sky is the limit. Athletically, I want to get stronger and faster. Personally, I want to learn to love myself a little more and wait for the things I deserve. Professionally, I want to continue to love my job and progress. Overall, I want to get to a place where I feel like I can pay it forward- and really share with people that they too can live the life they've always dreamed of. I am doing it every day- and have never been happier.

Thank you so much, Hollie, for sharing yourself and your knowledge with us!!  You inspire me to dream big and go for my goals with gusto, as you have!! : )

The previous information is copyrighted and not to be distributed without express consent of Hollie Self or Healthy Loser Gal blog.  Photos are the property of Hollie Self and not to be used elsewhere.


Emmie May 24, 2010 at 9:38 AM  

Great interview! Hollie is a great example of those who have made it through the BL process and learned to live with the new choices and lifestyle that it creates. Her advice is spot-on for anyone struggling to lose a big chunk of weight and then maintain it over a long period of time. It's a continuous journey, and she's evidence of the payoff :)

Kat May 24, 2010 at 1:37 PM  

Awesome post! Hollie is one of my favorite BL Alums. Thank you for this awesome interview Jan! Looking forward to checking out Hollie's FB page.

Anonymous May 24, 2010 at 2:11 PM  

Thanks Hollie and Healthy Loser Gal for this amazing post. I can't wait for tomorrow night's finale - I know it's going to be amazing. Hollie, thank you for all of the awesome advice. You are such an inspiration, thank you!! And Healthy Loser Gal - keep rocking it! You have no idea how many people you are inspiring! Great to see two awesome ladies team up for an inspirational post. You guys rock!

Unknown May 24, 2010 at 9:16 PM  

That was great! So nice to read a follow up story filled with positivity and not a lot of pit falls. You rock, HLG!

Melissa May 24, 2010 at 9:31 PM  

What a great interview, Jan! You did a great job with the questions, and I loved reading all of Hollie's responses. Thanks for sharing a bit of your life with us, Hollie! :)

Bring Pretty Back May 26, 2010 at 12:02 AM  

Thank you so much for putting the time into doing this interview then posting it! You asked GREAT questions, and her answers were honest and motivating. Thank you!

Tkins June 8, 2010 at 9:32 AM  

That was really great. Thanks for sharing it with us all.

Charles Rinehart February 14, 2011 at 7:52 AM  

Great interview. Fantastic achievement for you. Congrats for sure. You're beautiful. Love you in the NordicTrack commercial. Excellent. Wishing you all the best.

Self Improvement Quotes May 25, 2012 at 3:22 AM  

I enjoyed reading your post and I like your take on the issue. Thanks.