Certainly, a lot of Knoxvillian Sherry Johnston's time at the Season 9 Biggest Loser ranch was taken up with bizarre challenges, like pulling a semi truck down a runway as a team—as well as with gossip about who was pairing up (Stephanie and Sam!), and making friends with fellow contestant Cheryl George (who she called "the sister I never had"). But Johnston still had plenty of time to take in these important weight-loss lessons:
• Take care of yourself first. "That to me is the vital piece, taking the time and the energy to lose weight and improve your health, just for you. People think it's selfish. Particularly if you're a parent, you're supposed to be thinking of your children, not you, right? But what I realized on the ranch is, you're not going to be there for anyone if you don't take care of yourself first."
• Use Truvia sweetener and Galeos miso salad dressings. Two of the products introduced at the ranch are still staples for Johnston. Truvia is a zero-calorie natural sweetener derived from the stevia plant, and Johnston uses it in beverages and to sweeten plain yogurt. Galeos miso salad dressings are just 19 calories per tablespoon and contain no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or MSG, while they're low in fat, sugar, salt and carbohydrates. "I love it so much!" says Johnston. "I use it as a dressing, marinade, and dip. And no matter where I am—even when I went to the Today show—I carry my own dressing."
• Eat a little before the craving overwhelms you. "If there's a day I want chocolate, rather than continuing to focus on it and ending up buying a whole bag, I just have one bite of someone else's."
• Work out hard early. "One of the things the trainers said that really works is to do your intense workouts in the a.m., and work intentionally." Then, in the afternoon, Johnston does something that's active, but enjoyable—something to look forward to while she's at work, not something to dread. "That's the time of day when you're tired and it's harder to get out there, so that's when to do something you really like, like getting outside and walking the greenway."
• Still take small steps. Even though she's working out three or four mornings a week in intense 2-3 hour bouts, Johnston still takes every chance for bursts of activity throughout the day. "Everything you do, it all adds up. Parking your car a little farther away from the building where you work. Or walking around on your break at work instead of talking on the phone. I sit at work all day, and I've gotta get up and move when I can—walk a lap around the office building."
• Speak up at restaurants. Ask how your food is being prepared, and don't be afraid to ask a restaurant to prepare food differently than they normally do, says Johnston. "Since I started doing this, I haven't found any restaurant that has not been accommodating, and they don't know I was on The Biggest Loser. They're used to preparing food for people on restricted diets, if you'll just speak up, ask kindly. They can prepare dishes without sodium, oil or butter, for example."
• Ask for help. "I've done a grief class for about 10 years, through my church, and I've learned it's the strong people who reach out. So get yourself to the doctor, find a workout buddy, start eating healthy with a friend. One of the ladies meets me at the office at 6 a.m. and we do kind of a walk/run for an hour before we start sitting; that support is so wonderful. It's not a sign of weakness to ask for help."