Bob Harper, Host of The Biggest Loser, Is Plant-Based and Focused on Wellness
Now he's back, as of today, on the USA Network, with the show's latest iteration. And while he may look like the same lovable Bob, he has transformed himself, as much as his contestants hope to transform themselves over the course of the show. The difference is, he did it from the inside out, and for Harper, it was a matter of life and death. He's living plant-based, eating a whole-foods diet, and he's thriving.
As Harper will tell anyone who listens to his TV ads for heart medicine, he had a devastating heart attack two and a half years ago. And by his own telling, he nearly died. His heart stopped at the gym, and a bystander had to give him CPR until the medics arrived. Harper also changed his diet drastically after getting out of the hospital. Now, he follows a completely plant-based heart-healthy diet.
"When I suffered my heart attack, I realized I needed to relinquish control and be vulnerable and open and honest with myself," Harper recently told an interviewer. "It's been something that has been a process." That process has led him back to health, and to inspire millions of Americans who watch the show tot achieve smaller, more manageable everyday health and fitness goals, rather than just weight loss.
From celebrity trainer to TV show stalwart, Harper evolved on camera.
Harper began his fitness career in LA as a trainer to the stars. His clients included Jennifer Jason Leigh, among others. He appeared as an extra in the music video for the Melissa Etheridge song "Angels Would Fall." Then, he was recruited as a "Biggest Loser" trainer on the show for the first season alongside Michaels. The two of them took different approaches to coach their contestants, but Michaels' "Know your why!" seemed to resonate and help get her team to lose more, faster.
Harper opened up about his sexuality during season 15 when a contestant inspired him to tell his own story on national television. The contestant, who came from a traditional Catholic family, had been struggling to come out, and the episode inspired Harper to share his life more.
"I want to show Bobby that he doesn't have to live in shame," Harper said. Being gay doesn't mean being weak, and being gay doesn't mean you're less than anybody else. Its just who you are."
Harper was once named PETA's Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity.
Bobs plant-based diet not only helps him out in the gym, but it also paid off in 2010 when PETA named him the Sexiest Male Vegetarian Celebrity. Harper went full vegan that same year. (He also tried the paleo diet for a while.)
Once a lover of bacon and burgers, Harper made a drastic shift to his diet years ago, and is now mostly plant-based. "I'm a big fan of eating more plant-based," he told POPSUGAR. "Eating vegetables is a great weight-loss tool." But despite being a fan of a plant-based diet, the lifestyle change was difficult after being Paleo.
"I enjoy living a plant-based diet because it makes me feel clear-headed and strong, not to mention my genetically high cholesterol dropped more than 100 points. That was all the motivation I needed," he said at the time.
The heart attack that almost killed him was the "biggest shock" of his life.
On February 12, 2017, Harper was working out at his CrossFit gym when he suddenly fell to the floor. He woke up in the hospital two days later with no recollection of what happened.
Being told that he had suffered a massive heart attack was "the biggest shock of my life," he said. Like most people, he assumed that, as someone who worked out every day, a heart attack was not likely. He was diagnosed with a genetic condition that causes too much of the protein Lipoprotein(a) to accumulate in his blood. This makes him more prone to heart attacks, regardless of his fitness level.
The near-death experience has also helped him gain a new perspective.
He was initially afraid to work out again. He changed his diet and added more varied workouts to his normal CrossFit training. He also got certified in CPR AED—which he said was one reason he survived his heart attack—someone nearby had jumped in to perform CPR that helped save his life.
"My life is completely different now," Harper recently said. "My life is about appreciation and gratitude. It is about balance. It's about not sweating the small things. I know how short life can be. I know that it could all be taken away in the blink of an eye."
The new Biggest Loser will be more focused on wellness than just weight loss.
Previous seasons have come under fire for forcing contestants to drop a lot of weight quickly. (Many former contestants had ended up gaining back much or all of the weight when they left the show and the cameras were no longer trained on them.) This season will take a more holistic approach to health and follow up care, so viewers will get to see contestants working toward being healthy rather than just thin.
"Strength isn't about being the toughest," Harper told an interviewer. "Strength is about reaching inside to find the courage to make a change to be best you that you can be."