Fitness trainer Heidi Powell has energy we’d like to bottle. Co-host of ABC’S Extreme Weight Loss, Powell juggles four kids, an impressive fitness regimen and a multitude of jobs. The key to her success: she keeps to her word.
by Rachel Naud
NO MATTER WHAT TIME…
…of day you channel surf, you’re likely to come across a reality weight loss show. A bunch of toned, gorgeous fitness gurus take overweight couch potatoes through gruelling workouts in an attempt to thin them down and teach them the basics of healthy nutrition. Been there, done that. Right?
Not necessarily. ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss (EWL) may strive to shrink its participants, but it also offers something that you don’t often see in reality TV—reality. Perhaps it’s because its hosts, Heidi and her husband, Chris Powell, aren’t your typical trainers. Their compassion is authentic; their passion is undeniable; their commitment is unwavering. The friendships they make with the show’s participants are real and they run deep.
“We still keep in contact with a good majority of our participants,” says Heidi, who can also add weight loss expert and transformation specialist to her resume. Over the past six years, she and Chris have spent every holiday with at least one of their participants. “Bruce from season four spent Thanksgiving with us and stayed the week,” she says. “[The participants] really do become our best friends and a lot of them actually work with us because nobody understands a journey of transformation like they do.”
When the show started six years ago, Heidi played a supportive role, staying mostly in the background. Over time, she’s come happily to the forefront, winning over viewers and clients alike with her tough-love tactics and soft heart.
No stranger to tough times, Heidi talks openly about her earlier divorce and struggles with an eating disorder. She’s proud of being “imperfectly perfect” and shares everything from her embarrassingly
gnarly feet to her love for a Starbucks Morning Bun on her blog, the show and social media.
While she may have gnarly toes, there’s certainly nothing wrong with Heidi’s perfectly toned physique. Her muscular frame and rock hard abs are a reflection of hard work and a true dedication to health and fitness. As if hours in the gym weren’t gruelling enough, Heidi’s also found time to co-pen a new book with Chris called Extreme Transformation: Lifelong Weight Loss in 21 Days while still working on EWL. Oh, and she’s also a mom to four kids: Matix, 11, and Marley, 9, from her first marriage and Cash, 4, and Ruby, 2, who she has with Chris.
How does she do it all? We chatted with Heidi about how she juggles a hectic schedule with a blended family.
“it we say we’re going to punish our kids, the worst thing we can do is not to follow through,” she says. “your word becomes nothing to them.
THE REALITY OF MARRIAGE
EWL is so appealing on many levels—one of which is the inside look viewers get of Chris and Heidi’s personal relationship. On air, they’re like most couples—they laugh, they cry, they get on each other’s nerves. They have an argument and then they get over it. Unlike most couples, they share not only a life, but a career. Although some couples may cringe over the idea of working with their spouses, Heidi says the fact that she and Chris were best friends before they got married has been a major bonus.
“Chris and my relationship actually started with helping people and working together. I always respected who he was and his compassionate and kind nature. He has always made me want to be a better person. So that’s kind of how love grew between us,” she says. “Working with him is the most natural thing ever. We’re getting to accomplish dreams and do something we’re both passionate about. It brings us much closer
together….not that we don’t occasionally need a couple of days apart. You know what they say; absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
Another thing “they” say? Opposites attract. For the Powells, this is true in both their business and parenting styles.
“We’re so different,” Heidi admits. “He’s such an ideas guy. He’s such a dreamer, such an innovator. If he’s alone, he’s not going to be doing anything because he’s dreaming all the time, and his ideas are incredible. I am the doer. I kind of bring him back to reality and I show him what we can do. So he tells me where he wants to go and I kind of lay out the path for him. We’re really a great team that way.”
THE REALITY OF RAISING KIDS
At home, the Powells echo the sentiment they strive to portray to their participants on the show—keep the promises you make to yourself. When it comes to raising kids—keep the promises you make to them, especially if it’s a punishment.
“If we say we’re going to punish our kids, the worst thing we can do is not to follow through,” she says. “Your word becomes nothing to them. They don’t trust what you say and they know what they can get away with. And, although you may feel bad for following through with a grounding or time-out, they crave consistency. We all do as a matter of fact. That’s how we learn and that’s how we grow into strong individuals.”
While Heidi admits she’s more regimented in her parenting styles than Chris, she says the two of them have learned to form a united front when it comes to dealing with conflict with their kids, even when they disagree.
“Chris and I have both learned that if we’re not on the same page, even if we disagree, the kids will sense a weakness,” she says. “When that happens we’ll come to an agreement, and figure it out behind closed doors, and then go forward united.”
For the Powells, being united is extremely important, especially given that the two older children have another parent to turn to.
THE REALITY OF BLENDED FAMILIES
Heidi met her first husband, Derek, when she was just 19. They married young, had Matix and Marley and divorced when the kids were small. Although Heidi admits they went through years of hurt feelings, they were able to rebuild the friendship and now co-parent in a cohesive and even friendly way.
“Every few months we don’t agree on something and we both get a little bit heated,” she says. “But we get over it really fast. We never let the kids see or be in the middle of our little disagreements. Ever. Cash and Ruby both call him Uncle Derek. I think Cash sometimes likes Derek better than me and Chris because Derek is so much fun.”
Powell says when it comes to making a blended family work, letting go of your pride is key.
“Drop your own selfish intentions and your egos and so much beauty can happen,” she says. “Derek has flaws, I have flaws, Chris has flaws. But if we choose to focus on the fact that Derek is an incredible dad and a good person in general, our relationship is just going to be that much better. Derek will feel appreciated and he’s going to work with me and I’ll want to work with him.”
And with the teen years just around the corner, there will be plenty of work to do.
TEENS IN TRAINING
With her oldest on the cusp of teen-hood, Heidi is frank about her concerns over what can be a tumultuous stage of parenting.
“I just hope [Matix] doesn’t follow the crowd,” she says. “I hope he finds the strength and the courage to be a leader because there are so many things going on in junior high and high schools that I’m sure I don’t even know about. That to me is the scariest part for him. He’s so talented and has so much potential. I just hope we’ve given him enough love at home that no matter what he does—good or bad—he knows that we’re always here to love and support him.”
When it comes to her eldest daughter, Marley, Heidi fears what impacted her as a young girl—body image. Heidi remembers being very aware of her body at Marley’s age and she worries about Marley’s potential to fall into an eating disorder like she did.
“I remember being in gymnastics and seeing girls smaller than me. You take note of that kind of stuff,” she says. “When I was about 14, it spiralled into a pretty severe eating disorder that lasted through my early 20s. Those were the darkest years of my life.”
If she sees any of the same signs in Marley, Heidi promises to open up about to her daughter about her own experiences so Marley can learn from her mistakes. For now, Heidi says she’ll continue to build up her self-esteem with the truth—all bodies are different. And that’s perfectly OK.
“Last year [Marley] started going to gymnastics wearing shorts or leggings over her leotards,” Heidi says. “I remember feeling the same way in my leotard and it opened up a conversation. I told her, ‘Just because so-and-so’s legs appear smaller than yours doesn’t mean you’re any less healthy or any less beautiful than she is. It’s about how strong we are.’”
Another way Heidi keeps her kids strong—both physically and mentally—is through team sports. She says sports are a great way to teach discipline, team work and commitment to her kids, but they’re also a great self-esteem booster.
“Matix plays football and I have to say it’s probably made the biggest difference in his outlook,” she says. “He feels valuable, his peers look at him and they see value in each other. It really has improved Matix’s self-esteem. Marley’s gymnastics has as well with her accomplishments hitting her aerials and back handsprings. It just makes her feel so good about herself.”
PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS When it comes to her own accomplishments, Heidi should feel nothing but proud. Not only is she going into the sixth season of EWL, but she’s seen her book become a success.
“This book is like our baby,” she says. “[Chris and I] wrote it together and I have to say it is by far the