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Bob Harper

I remember thinking, “I love this dog and I’m going to do everything I can for him.”
Fitness expert, television star and New York Times best-selling author Bob Harper is one of the most recognizable and successful health and lifestyle experts in the world. He’s helped countless people achieve their goals of healthy living; but it’s his relationship with his rescue pup Karl that has fans and dog lovers swooning for the popular personality.

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Bob Harper from NBC’s Biggest Loser with his dog Karl. Photo by Brett Chisholm.
Photo by Brett Chisholm.

Harper was raised on a cattle farm north of Nashville, Tennessee where he learned the value of hard work and developed an early love of and appreciation for animals. After graduating from high school, Harper headed to Nashville, where a chance meeting with a local trainer led him to discover his passion for fitness. He earned a fitness instructor’s certification from the American Fitness Training of Athletics Association and the Aerobic and Fitness Association of America, and before long, he headed to Hollywood—and a life and career he never expected.

Once in Los Angeles, Harper quickly became the go-to trainer for A-list celebrities. Eventually, he would become one in his own right, joining the cast of one of the most popular and motivational weight loss shows in the world, NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” Seen as the heart of the show, Harper began transforming lives both on the Biggest Loser Ranch and homes nationwide when the show launched in 2004. In 13 seasons, more than 236 contestants have lost a combined 29,144 pounds. This season will not only push that number to over 30,000 pounds, it will take on childhood obesity by featuring kid participants for the first time. They will join 15 fiercely determined adults eager to lose weight and change their lives forever.

Childhood obesity is a subject Harper is passionate about. “It’s alarming how many kids sit around, barely moving, and eating packaged and processed foods,” he says. “This sedentary lifestyle is jeopardizing the health of future generations. All of us involved with ‘The Biggest Loser’ are committed to tackling this critical issue by featuring children who can inspire kids all over the country to get healthy.” The young participants will focus on healthy living rather than numbers on a scale, so they will not be eligible for elimination and will not weigh in on camera. They will work at both the ranch and at home, and their progress will be featured in every episode.

Because of the, Harper has become a household name. Due to his reputation as a trusted lifestyle specialist, he has signed on with Quaker Oats as their lifestyle coach and advocate for living a healthier everyday life. From appearances on shows like “The Doctors,” “Larry King Live,” “The Tonight Show,” “Rachael Ray” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” to a regular on the Oprah Winfrey-endorsed “The Dr. Oz Show” as a member of Core Team Oz, Harper’s positive outlook, sensible advice and popularity is in a class of its own.

Between filming “The Biggest Loser” and traveling the country promoting wellness and healthy living, Harper carves out time to create content for his website, www.mytrainerbob.com, which he launched in early 2010. The site offers subscribers realistic resources such as daily workouts, healthy cooking tips, and a forum where members can discuss weight loss and receive coaching. The success of his site led to the release of his first workout DVD series titled “Bob Harper: Inside Out Method,” and he regularly contributes workouts to the website for “Shape Magazine,” as well as many others.

Amidst all of his success, Harper met his best friend and constant canine companion in 2009. “A good friend called and said, ‘You have to see this dog, you will fall in love,’ and my first reaction was, absolutely no way,” he relayed with a grin. “My friend insisted. I said, ‘Okay, I’ll look at him,’ and, of course, there was no turning back.” Harper left Animal Advocates Alliance in Baldwin Park, California with the docile, pint-sized pup, who seemed shut down and withdrawn at first. Already housetrained and 2 years old when he joined the Harper household, he spent his first night in his new home exactly where he belonged, in bed with Harper, and hasn’t left since. When it came to picking a name for the black-and-white mixed breed, Harper opted to honor one of his favorite designers, Karl Lagerfeld, who is instantly recognizable for his own black-and-white look.

Harper says he is especially proud that Karl is from a shelter. “It just kills me when people buy a dog when there are dogs in shelters,” he said. “I still get emotional when I think of Karl sitting in that shelter. I wasn’t looking. I didn’t even think I had time for a dog, and then I met this little one and he needed help. It’s been so amazing to see him transform into a happy and confident companion. He is the best dog in the world. I love him!”

Just ahead of this year’s premiere, we headed to Hollywood to meet with Harper and talk to him about the newest season of “The Biggest Loser,” his outlook on LIFE and the love of his best friend and DOG, Karl. It was such a pleasure to see the pair interact and to witness their bond firsthand. These two were meant to find each other and could not make a better team.

We sat down in a comfy office at Harper’s West Hollywood studio to chat before he hopped on a plane to New York for yet another appearance on “The Dr. Oz Show.” With Karl quietly lying at his feet, we jumped right in:

Below is an abridged version of our interview with Bob and Karl. To view the complete interview and see additional photos, pick up a copy of LIFE+DOG through April 15.

L+D: How long have you been in LA now?
BH: I’ve lived here for 20 years. I moved to LA right when the riots happened. Curfews, the streets were on fire, and I was like, “Why did I move here again?”

L+D: What were those early years like? How long did it take you to feel like you were settled in?
BH: It took me a while. I remember the first Christmas here was the most depressing Christmas ever. I was basically by myself and just trying to figure things out. I knew what my mission was and what my dream was and I was very fortunate. I ended up building a good career here in LA before “Biggest Loser.” I was the “celebrity trainer,” which was amazing, but I always thought there was something more for me to do. I had become really addicted to photography so I was thinking maybe I’d done what I was supposed to do with fitness and I was supposed to be a photographer. I was going to move to NYC to be an apprentice and start all over again. It was right when I started thinking like that, I got a call from NBC saying they were casting a show called “The Biggest Loser.” When I first heard the name, I assumed it was going to be some silly reality show. But when I found out what their mission was, I thought, “This is what I was waiting to do.” I mean, everything started coming together and it all made sense again.

L+D: What sets you and your philosophy apart from other fitness and weight loss experts?
BH: What I’ve been hearing for the past several years from other trainers is that Jillian and I became the groundbreakers. People started looking at trainers in a completely different way. When we were first doing it, there weren’t a whole lot of people in the fitness world. People in LA kind of had their own little niches but no one was really doing what we did. Jillian and I turned weight loss into a whole other arena. People saw the weight loss I was getting off of people and they were like, “This has never been done.” Doctors were freaking out, thinking it couldn’t be healthy. I really feel like we changed the mindset of doctors and other trainers who started to realize you can go into accelerated weight loss healthfully.

L+D: What do you think is the biggest obstacle facing modern Americans when it comes to their health?
BH: You’ve got to decide you want this because you’re worth it. There’s nothing I can do or say until you find that inner resolve. It’s getting people to tap into that and to realize that it’s a lifestyle change. I hear that word, “lifestyle,” a lot in daytime television and it annoys me because people don’t realize what a big statement that is. If you want to change your life, you have to divorce yourself from your past and find a whole new way of living.

L+D: How would you motivate someone to get past apathy or fear?
BH: It’s about setting up small goals and a routine. If I’m working with someone who’s never worked out before and I get them walking for 10-15 minutes a few times a week before they go to work, that starts a pattern. If I get a guy who’s going, “You know what? I just like to eat junk food,” I tell him his first step is to cut his portions in half. And that starts the routine.

L+D: Are you surprised by the success of the “Biggest Loser”?
BH: Absolutely not. I knew it was going to be a huge success but it took a while. It was a slow burn because of the name. They thought we were going to make fun of fat people, and it was going to be a flash in the pan. I really do believe with all my heart that it was the passion Jillian and I brought to the show that made it what it is today. She and I are so different but alike, and we were not going to put those people in harm’s way. We weren’t going to make fun of anyone, and we were going to take this job seriously. And suddenly, it was like people realized this show was really doing something.

L+D: So how would you say the show changed your life?
BH: It taught me what my purpose was and that anything is possible. I really do think that. Working in health and nutrition, you try to tell people that all of our bodies want to be healthy; once you start doing what your body wants, it’s going to start giving you what you need. When I sit there with a 500-pound guy who feels his life is over at 35 years old, suffering from sleep apnea, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes—I get to see the results of the work we do together. All of a sudden, after a couple of months, he’s off medication. The body is saying, “Keep fighting for me and I’ll keep fighting for you.” I love that. I’m a firm believer in “believe and it will come,” as long as you put forth an effort. It’s like you can say, “I want a million dollars.” Okay, if that’s what you want, get out there and work your ass off.

L+D: Who do you think is the best role model for the average person out there?
BH: The contestants. We have a guy this season—24 year old Jeff—he’s such a smart, good-looking guy who’s been holed up in his basement his whole life because he’s been scared to get out there. I know people are watching and saying, “If he can do it, what’s stopping me?”

L+D: We’ve loved spending the day with you and your dog. What is your dog history before Karl?
BH: Oh, that dog. I love him so much I can’t even stand it! Growing up, my first dog was named Waldo. He was such a great dog! My first dog on my own was a Rottweiler named Lois. She was a good dog, but she was traumatized. This was a long time ago, before I knew anything about puppy mills, and I got her at a pet store. We all make mistakes, and I’ve definitely learned a lot about the plight facing animals from irresponsible breeders and pet stores. I also had a Basset Hound named Henry and a Chihuahua named Frank. Then Karl came around.

L+D: What was it like meeting Karl for the first time?
BH: I could tear up when I talk about this. It breaks my heart. He was just this poor, sweet dog who didn’t have a home. The first day I met him, he was a comatose little mess. I remember thinking, “I love this dog and I’m going to do everything I can for him.” Great, I’m crying about my dog (wipes away a tear).

L+D: What are some of your favorite things about having Karl in your life?
BH: I’ve always loved animals, but there is something about this dog. He’s in the gym with me when I’m dropping 100-pound weights. He’s so calm, chill, doesn’t get skittish at all. As long as he can just be with me, he’s fine. When we’re in the house and he knows I’m getting ready to go out for the day, he always looks at me like, “Are you going to say it?” And when I say, “Are you ready to go?,” he gets all excited and starts doing back flips. He’s just as happy as can be. At the end of the day, I get on the sofa and he climbs up and falls asleep on top of me. He doesn’t do anything to annoy me. Even when he growls, it makes me laugh. For example, he’s a little dog but he likes to turn sideways and take up the whole bed, which is so annoying. He’ll push his butt up against me but if I move over or put any kind of weight on him for some reason, he growls. It just makes me laugh.

L+D: What was it like when he came to live with you?
BH: At first I thought his tail was broken because it never wagged. The first time I saw his tail wag, I thought it was the best thing I’d ever seen. His little spirit was coming back to life.

L+D: Do you think you’ll get another dog?
BH: Yes, I’ve been thinking about it a lot about it lately. Of course, I’ll get a rescue. It will just be one of those moments where I’ll see them and it will just happen.

L+D: Do you have a favorite animal welfare organization?
BH: It would be Farm Sanctuary. Those guys have always been so good to me and I have always done my part for them. I love what they’re doing.

Make Bob a part of your daily life by visiting www.mytrainerbob.com and make sure to tune in to season 14 of “The Biggest Loser,” which airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. You can also follow all of Harper’s happenings at fb.com/mytrainerbob, on Twitter @mytrainerbob and on Instagram @trainerbob.


RyanThis article was written by LIFE+DOG editor Ryan Rice.

To read more from Ryan, visit his blog on our site.

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