By Dorene Internicola
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Trainer Kim Lyons already had a decade of fitness experience behind her but she says the lessons she learned while working on a reality TV show shaped her professional philosophy.
Before joining "The Biggest Loser," a TV show in which obese contestants vie to lose the most weight, Lyons considered herself just a trainer, often of athletes seeking to be bigger, stronger and faster.
But afterwards, she realized she had the power to save lives.
"So many trainers don't get to see the test results," she said about the medical tests given to contestants on the show. "I saw (my clients') blood pressure going down, diabetes disappearing."
California-based Lyons realized that fitness was not all about fitting into smaller jeans or having a six-pack stomach on the beach. She realized how much confusion whirls around obese people when they try to get fit.
"Obese people don't go to trainers. They go to doctors," she said. "Doctors say they need to eat healthy and exercise. But people don't know what that is, so they go home and stop eating."
Among the harsh lessons she learned is just how hard it is for the obese to move, let alone exercise.
"I wanted to burn a lot of calories so we started with squats," she said. "But they really couldn't do it."
So Lyons devolved the squat into sitting down and standing up, then further to partner-assisted sitting down and standing up.
"It was a shock how difficult exercise was for these guys, but at the end of the day, people have to challenge their body at their level," she said. "Whatever that work is doesn't matter. If you can't jog, you don't have to jog. You can take a slow walk."
For Lyons, the biggest success of the show was its power to inspire.
"They think 'If they can do it, I can do it,'" she explained.
Lyons, who left the show in 2007, now focuses on her own fitness philosophy of simplicity, moderation and the importance of finding a workout you enjoy enough to stick to.
"It's about moving your body and eating natural, unprocessed food," she said. "It's not about complex diets and crazy over-the-top workouts."
For Lyons the social network has replaced television.
"I was so used to affecting millions of lives every night. After the show it was hard to let go of that power," she said. "Social media, YouTube are the best ways to reach as many people as possible."
Some of her clients have had great success -- one is teaching spinning and another has run a marathon.
But she's proudest that they all have an understanding about how to eat well and stay fit. If they put the weight back on, at least they have the knowledge to take it off again.
"At the end of the day," she added, "if they lost 200 pounds and gain back 50, it's still a big success."