One of the "hats" I wear now that I'm fully retired from clinical practice as a psychologist for the past couple of years, is Director of Transformational Behavior Coaching for the Premier Fitness Camp,'s top-rated optimal health, weight management and mindful retreat located at the nation's #1 Wellness Spa at Omni La Costa. This is a residential mindshift program for adults from all over the world, who spend a week or more absorbing the latest research-based lifestyle transformation tools we offer in helping to inspire "campers" to live lives of sustained wellbeing.

Each week I offer onsite classes, and both onsite and offsite transformational coaching, for optimal health to PFC campers, grounded in the tripod I've called for many years, "ThEaMo," or Thinking, Eating and Moving. In one of my recent weekly presentations aimed at teaching the skills necessary for sustained optimal health and wellbeing, this one called, “Shape, Sharpen and Energize Your Mindset,” I distinguished between behavioral change and transformation.

Here’s what I said. “Anyone can change—for a few weeks or even a few months. The Premier Fitness Camp program is designed to help you transform—meaning significant and lasting behavior lifestyle change. The kind of change that won’t snap back to the way it was before.”

It appears that Dolvett Quince, Bob Harper and Jennifer Widerstrom, trainers on TV’s “The Biggest Loser,” have been focusing on change, not transformation. In a recent study published in the journal, Obesity, researchers following 14 participants from the show found that all but one gained back most of the weight they lost in front of the cameras.

The research suggests that this is largely due to an unsustainable, extreme exercise program with radical and risky caloric reduction that slowed metabolic rate, and massively reduced the hunger hormone, leptin. While this makes for dramatic reality TV, it does not make for reality living in optimal health.

Sam Poueu was one of the Biggest Loser contestants on season 10 that fell victim to post show weight gain relapse, but found his way to PFC Fitness Camp for a second chance at weight loss.

“I by no means think of the Biggest Loser in a negative light,” states Poueu. “If it wasn’t for the show, my weight, my health and my life would still be out of control. My success from the show was not sustainable, however, because that’s just what it was— a show, a game that eventually ended and we, the contestants went right back to our old habits. What PFC provided me for the 16 weeks I attended camp is the behavioral science behind a lasting transformation. Behavior change, more than nutrition and exercise (although all are necessary to maintain optimal health) is the number one reason I am still eating healthy, exercising and losing weight today, four months after my last day at camp. My life has changed dramatically thanks to my experience with PFC Fitness Camp and guidance I continue to seek today from Dr. Mantell.”

Watch Sam Poueu’s transformation at PFC Fitness Camp

At PFC our “Thinking, Eating, Moving” research-anchored weight management and optimal health mindshift program teaches that inner strength – not extreme exercise or DIEt — is the fuel that makes for an extraordinary life—the mental, physical and emotional reserve that is true wealth. This is firmly grounded in an emphasis on mindful focus, attention and concentration on inner motivation. After all, persistent behavior change is an inside job that starts with the way you think. I don’t end any of my presentations without my long-time favorite inspiring mindshift mantra, “The Link is What You Think.” Unless the mind is completely detoxified, cleansed of negativity, perfectionism and other cognitive distortions, the body will not be healthy.

Without the hands putting food in the mouth, without the legs moving, directed by our thoughts, the extreme metobolic and hormonal changes seen in the Biggest Loser research, are unlikely to happen. To create a healthy mindshift, we focus on planting the right seeds of healthy self-talk that lead to healthy eating and exercise.

Our experience has taught us that normal range metabolism, leptin and other physiological correlates of maintaining healthy weight are best sustained with transformational behavior coaching to insure rational, healthy thinking and lifestyle behaviors that are consistent with the individual health and wellness goals of our campers.

Ours is not an exercise camp, but rather a training camp, focused on achieving specific results that start with a mindshift about eating and moving. Ours is a “basecamp” that provides a positive and safe environment, a period of preparation, in which campers have the opportunity to transform their thinking and emerge with an inspiring vision, clear goals and a practical, realistic set of tools for sustained behavior change. It doesn’t make for great reality TV, but it sure does make for a prescription for optimal health and wellbeing.

Author's Bio: 

Michael R. Mantell earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and his M.S. at Hahnemann Medical College, where he wrote his thesis on the psychological aspects of obesity. He has served as the Senior Fitness Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise. Dr. Mantell is the Director of Transformational Behavior Coaching to PFC Camp at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Council on Active Aging, a best-selling author, an international behavior science fitness presenter and in-demand Keynote speaker, an Advisor to numerous fitness-health organizations, and is featured in many media broadcasts and fitness publications. Dr. Mantell is a nationally sought after behavioral science coach for business leaders, elite amateur and professional athletes, individuals and families. He is listed in the 2013 “The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness.”