Interview with TBL's Shannan Ponton

Interview with TBL’s Shannan Ponton

I am very excited about today’s post! I was given the opportunity to interview Shannan Ponton, who has been a trainer on the Australian Biggest Loser for six series. I have always admired Shannan as a trainer and I love the way he tells it like it is! I asked him about how the contestants deal with such rapid weight loss as well as his own personal exercise and diet regime (which are damn impressive!). Check out his responses below.

What does your typical weekly workout schedule look like?
My workout schedule is pretty gruelling, but I’ve learned to listen to my body and adjust the number of sessions and the intensity to suit it. (It’s only taken 35 years to realise this!)
Monday- Weights (total body) am. 6km jog at about 13.5km/h pm
Tuesday-Boxing with my trainer, Paul Anderson, at Glovebox, 1hr, am. 12.15pm Power Living Yoga 1 hr
Wednesday-Weights (total body) am. Boxing technique & fitness with my other trainer, August
Thursday-Boxing at Glovebox, 1 hr, am. Sprints, stair sprints or high intensity circuit. 30 min, pm
Friday-Weights (total body) am. Power Living Yoga, pm.
Saturday-Boxing (sparring) 12-18, 3 min rounds
Sunday- Run or rest

I also surf 5-7 times/week, but you can hardly call that training!!

What do you eat in an average day? Do you ever indulge in off-plan meals? Do you take any supplements?
I eat the same as I prescribe for my clients: plenty of fresh vegies, meat, fish, chicken. Limited processed carbs and starchy grains. I consume around 1800 cal/day. I allow myself 1 cheat meal/week, which is usually Mum’s home-cooked Chinese. I love a beer ( low carb, of course!), but only on the weekends. I live by the mantra, ‘You play, you pay’!

I take Naturesway Whey Protein, Nightime Rest & Restore, Joint Restore Triple Action, Super Krill Oil, CoQ10 and magnesium.

How did you get involved with The Biggest Loser?
We had a massive audition process that went for over three months: psych tests, screen tests, aptitude tests and, of course, fitness tests.

What is your favourite moment from The Biggest Loser so far?
Each time someone from my team takes out the title of The Biggest Loser. When Chris, Sam, Lisa and the Westrens’ won were all outstanding moments for me.

What tactics do you use to constantly motivate people who seem hardwired to give up?
ANYTHING and EVERTHING that will work. It’s a finely attuned skill, knowing how to unlock someone mentally to get the most from them physically. It’s the art of a great Personal Trainer … ‘knowing when to kick and when to cuddle’.

How does the contestants’ intense focus on food and exercise affect their mental well-being (e.g. becoming obsessive), and how do you manage that?
The last thing I worry about is the contestants becoming ‘positively obsessive’. That would be a very good long term outcome. It would mean that they would keep their weight and heath under tight scrutiny. My major concern is that the contestants don’t go BACK to BAD HABITS, formed over a lifetime.

Worldwide, The Biggest Loser has attracted criticism for promoting such rapid weight loss. How do you respond to such criticism?
Most diets fail because they don’t offer fast enough results. People work hard, don’t see result and lose interest. Fast weight loss creates a snowball effect. Our contestants see big losses on the scales, then aim to beat that again next week and the week after that. Success breeds success!

Many people believe the Biggest Loser approach is unsustainable. How do you prepare contestants for the real world?
The weight loss on BL is sustainable long term! There are no tricks, no magic potions, our contestants eat well and train hard. Commit to doing that for the rest of your life and you put yourself in the best place to live a long happy and healthy life! People have to let go of the notion that sometime, sooner or later, you can go back to that place in which you can eat whatever you want! Even in maintenance that place doesn’t exist. You need to eat well and train hard for the rest of your life if you want to maintain your body.

As a trainer myself, I often feel dismissed because I have never been overweight and therefore don’t know what it is truly like. How do you connect with your clients on that level, if you have always kept fairly fit and active?
There is a reason I’ve never been fat and unhealthy! It’s those characteristics that make me a good trainer. I believe there is an idiosyncrasy in someone’s character that allows them to become morbidly obese. It’s that lack of self-respect that needs to be rectified. I don’t believe I need to have walked a day in morbidly obese shoes to have empathy for and an understanding of that situation. I simply need to know what it was that kept me from that path, then pass on that insight.

You have recently introduced a Fast Track Challenge in conjunction with The Biggest Loser Club. Can you tell my readers a little bit more about your program and what it includes?
The Fast Track Challenge is an 8 week program run through The Biggest Loser Club. It’s open to members and non-members alike. It features a fantastic, low-calorie menu plan devised by Courtney Roulston, ex-MasterChef, and a killer exercise plan, exclusive to each Challenge, devised by yours truly. There is a blog from me each Monday to get the Challengers in the groove for the week, and a buzzing online meeting and live chat with me each Wednesday. Plus, there’s the amazing online diary from The Biggest Loser Club that allows you to track your calorie expenditure and features motivating graphs and charts to plot your weight loss. Finally, there’s the inspiring Challenger community on Facebook and the forums. Truly awesome bunch of people. Their determination and commitment makes me so proud!

If a client only has 30 minutes to go to the gym, what exercises would you recommend?
Find an activity that will generate the results you want but that you also enjoy. There is no use going to the gym and walking at a snail’s pace, reading 50 Shades Of Grey on the treadmill and expect to change your world! It’s time to get real! You get out of training what you put in. 30 mins is plenty of time to change your body, but you must crank up the intensity and go hard and fast!

If someone is overweight but has no idea where to start, what would you tell them?
Just start! Too many people procrastinate for way too long about ‘THE BEST’ exercise! It doesn’t exist, just get your backside moving, find something you enjoy, then stick to it!

What is your best piece of advice for someone who is already active but is looking to lose the last little bit of fat?
Make the necessary sacrifices to make your wishes a reality. You may have to sacrifice nearly ALL your INDULGENCES to get your body to the place where you are ‘happy in your skin’. It’s a personal thing, you do it for you! The thing I can’t stand is people bitching about wanting to lose the last 2kg or 3kg and then doing NOTHING about it! If you want it—go get it!! But you may have to sacrifice a fair amount of your living to get there.

Thanks, Shannan! For more information (and to hear Shannan’s brilliant Aussie accent!) check out the links below.

The Biggest Loser Club one of Australia’s best-loved online weight loss programs. It’s the same scientifically proven system used by the Biggest Loser contestants. The diet plan is 100% online so you can lose weight from the convenience of your home, work or even your mobile phone. Check out for more info.

Twitter: @BLClubAU


Did any of Shannan’s answers surprise you? What would you ask him?

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