Manhattan Beach resident and The Biggest Loser producer J.D. Roth has a taste for both TV and transformation.
Having worked in the entertainment industry for most of his life, J.D. Roth always had a knack for telling stories. Beginning as a child actor in shows such as Fun House, Charles in Charge, As the World Turns and Star Search, Roth eventually parlayed his storytelling abilities into other successes, such as co-creating and producing the extreme body transformation show The Biggest Loser.
A lifelong proponent of health and exercise, his latest credit comes as author of the new book The Big Fat Truth: Behind-the-Scenes Secrets to Losing Weight and Gaining the Inner Strength to Transform Your Life. Whether on screen or on the page, Roth seeks to share stories of transformation and inspiration with those who need them most.
You’ve had an extensive career that’s included several transformations: actor, producer, author … to name a few. Tell me a bit about your journey through your various career choices and how you’ve arrived where you are today.
It all started with wanting to tell great stories. I used to tell stories at the bus stop in grade school. My parents would joke that when I opened the refrigerator and the light went on, I would tell a five-minute story. So whether you’re telling a story as a kid, a host, an actor, a producer or a writer, it’s the same passion that goes into telling each one.
I always wanted to master the art of good storytelling. Helping people trans-form and diving into those stories has been the most rewarding for me. To watch, right before your eyes, someone regain a life they thought they had lost or overcome something traumatic—and feel like you had a small part in helping—is more rewarding then anything I could dream of. It’s a great feeling to help people forgive themselves and get control back in their lives … feeling like they are ready to take on the challenges we all face everyday.
You’ve created and produced several programs that focus on transformational change (Extreme Weight Loss and The Biggest Loser, to name a few). Where did you draw the inspiration to create these kinds of programs? Did you have a transformational event in your own life?
Transformation is very organic to who I am. I couldn’t produce a show that wasn’t my personality. For example, although the Kardashians is an entertainment-driven show, it’s not a show that I would know how to make. I really like being involved with helping people change their lives. If they’re successful, people will watch the show. This allows us to help more people, and that’s really all that matters to me.
Transformation is a bit addictive for me. Once I saw people—who thought their best years were behind them—come back to life and start enjoying what they were doing again, I couldn’t get enough. So now whenever I see people that are in need, I want to just reach out, grab ahold of them and show them how to get their lives back.
Even my kids can see that look in my eyes when we’re out somewhere and I see someone in need. They say, “Oh, Dad. Come on, not now.” But I can’t help myself.
Talk a bit about your new book, The Big Fat Truth. What are you hoping this book will accomplish, and what drove you to write it?
When I first started out in weight-loss television, every medical expert, nutritionist and exercise physiologist told me the same thing: People can only lose one to two pounds a week.
I knew if that was true, a show based solely on a “before and after” picture would never work. I needed to figure out a way to get more weight off people. I then realized that the only thing scientists were taking into account was science. They were focused on calories in, calories out and calories left over.
I wanted to focus on what was going on inside the person’s head. The body was just the outcome of the chaos going on in their minds. If I could figure out a way to help them organize the thoughts in their brain, then their bodies would follow.
Having said that, every time one of our contestants would have an emotional breakdown, they would end up with a breakthrough on the scale. We proved that by loving somebody and believing in them, we could get double-digit weight loss every week. Ten pounds in a week became commonplace.
Writing this book was a way for me to try and sprinkle that same pixie dust that we put over the contestants onto the reader. The idea of the book was to inspire readers to make the same changes in their lives that our contestants have been making for the last 14 years.
By reading the book, I can effectively make you a contestant on one of my shows. If you follow chapter-by-chapter, you will go through the same exact process as every contestant from every single weight-loss show I’ve produced.
What are the ways that you enjoy staying healthy—from food and diet to emotional health?
I work out seven days a week and have done so since graduating high school 30 years ago. It’s my version of coffee. I don’t feel like I can fully wake up in the morning unless I’ve done some form of moving.
And I really like to change it up almost every day—from running to working out at the gym with weights to yoga, plyometrics and just about anything else I can get my hands on.
And that’s before breakfast!
Typically when my teenage boys get home from school, it’s on! From bike rides to Frisbee to playing basketball—you name it. There’s a joke in my family that one month I only worked out 28 days … it was February.
As important as exercise: 80% of the battle to staying fit and healthy is what you put in your mouth. As the saying goes, “Let food be thy medicine.” My wife and I believe in the whole-food, plant-based diet. It is not guesswork that animal protein is a carcinogen. We believe that the right diet, including whole foods and all the plants you can eat, can help you avoid any genetic predisposition to most diseases.
I fully believe that emotional health is a very important finger on the hand of your overall health. It’s always amazing to me that people take the time to tune their cars and clean their clothes, but no one wants to take the time to look inside themselves and tune their emotional health. I tell every contestant that they need to look both in the mirror and out the window to have a successful life.
What are three health routines you can’t live without?
I believe wholeheartedly in going to yoga, acupuncture and meditation. Meditation takes work, but in this day and age in which we live—always connected to the information highway—we need to de-stress and de-program.
Time for a lake retake.