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Valerie Phillips, Provided by Deni Hill
Roasted Asparagus is one of Sarah Nitta's favorite dishes.

Summer is here, and it's time to shape up. Denise "Deni" Hill of Bountiful, Justin Pope of Logan and Sarah Nitta of Las Vegas are proof that it's never too late to get fit.

Hill, a 59-year-old mother of eight, won $100,000 on NBC's "The Biggest Loser" reality series last month by losing the highest percentage of weight among the show's previously eliminated contestants.

Hill went from 256 pounds at the beginning of the competition to 131 at the season finale. She lost 125 pounds, or 48.83 percent of her body weight.

And Justin Pope, a 39-year-old bail bondsman, bounty hunter and gym owner, was the runner-up to Hill, losing out by just a couple of pounds. He went from 365 pounds to 192, a total loss of 173 pounds.

Pope isn't a sore loser, though. "If I was going to lose to someone, that was definitely the person I would want to lose it to," Pope said in a telephone interview.

"And my ideal would have been if we had tied," said Hill, who kept up a steady 3-pounds-per-week weight loss after being eliminated from the show.

Hill's daughter and partner on the show, Sarah Nitta, wowed viewers of the show's finale with her 106-pound weight loss. Nitta, a 27-year-old a college admissions counselor, moved from Utah to Las Vegas last year.

Most people can't be on a reality series where the focus is on working out all day and your diet is carefully monitored. But Hill, Pope and Nitta are incorporating what they learned into their regular lives now that the show has ended.

Pope, known on the show for "calling out" any slackers, now teaches "Callout" classes of about 60 people. He was teaching at Rulon's Elite Training Center, which he owned with partner Rulon Gardner. But, Pope said, last week he signed papers selling his share of the gym to Gardner. "So I'm, looking for another place," Pope said.

He's cut back his personal workout time to two hours a day, as he's working full-time as a bail bondsman and bounty hunter, and he is also preparing to coach his 11-year-old son's football team.

"It's changed my life 100 percent," he said. "The negative side is that it's a long time away from home and a lot of change you go through without your family." He noted that he was away from home nearly six months. "You come home and you not only look different, but in every way I am a different person."

Nitta developed a love of hiking.

"I love it! I love backpacking and fun things like that that keep me super active and challenge me without needing to be stuck on the treadmill," she said. "When I do really intense things like backpacking, then I am able to eat with a little more freedom because my body is burning so much more. I make much healthier choices now and am very aware of what I am putting into my body. I know understand that food equals energy now, and that is awesome!"

To maintain her new body, Hill has bumped up her calorie count to 1,600 per day and continues to exercise two hours a day. That's about half of the time she was putting in before the finale.

Deni's tips

1. Fit in some movement at work. "If you have a desk job, see if you can use a large exercise ball to sit on instead of a chair," said Denise "Deni" Hill.

While sitting on a ball, your body has to continually work to balance it, which strengthens your abdominal muscles and improves your balance.

"And climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator!" Hill adds.

2. Run or walk first thing in the morning, before breakfast. "This gets your metabolism going," Hill said.

3. "Interval training really revs up your metabolism," Hill said. "Here's something I learned from our trainer, Brett Hoebel, when you are on a stationery bike: Pedal at a high wattage (high intensity) as fast as you can for 30 seconds, then pedal at a low wattage for 30 seconds. Repeat this 10 times, for a total of 10 minutes. Then bike at a normal pace for five minutes before repeating the 30-second intervals for 10 more minutes."

4. Cross train. "Mix things up!" said Hill. "I like to take different classes at the South Davis Rec Center and Skills Fitness, such as Zumba, spinning, step, Body Jam and Body Pump. If you can't afford a personal trainer, go to classes. They are almost as good as having a personal trainer."

5. Find a walking partner. "It makes your walks so much more fun when you're with someone to talk to!"

6. Don't shy away from the gym because you think you're too heavy. "That's what the fitness center is there for. I was so intimidated going to a gym, but they are for heavy people, not just people who are already in shape. Find one that will show you how to use the machines and give you a program to follow, so you don't get intimidated."

7. Keep healthy foods on hand so you don't succumb to fast food. While she was competing at home, Hill received weekly deliveries of The Biggest Loser Meal Plan by eDietgs, a gift given to all of the contestants.

"I didn't use them all the time, because I like to have a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables," she said. "But it really helped once in awhile when I didn't have time to cook for myself and I was dashing out the door."

She developed a Black Bean and Quinoa Salad that is hearty, satisfying and packed with nutrition. Quinoa (pronounced kin-wa) is a grain-like seed which has a high protein content.

Hill also learned to make flatbread wraps filled with either the salad, or a lean protein. She adds guacamole ("avocado is a good fat") and a yogurt dip, and packs it with lots of veggies.

To satisfy that sweet tooth, Hill devised a treat using a low-fat bran cracker spread with fat-free cream cheese and spreadable fruit. "This is as good as cheesecake to me!" Hill contends.

The Utah raspberry grower, Cornaby's, makes stevia-sweetened fruit spreads that are 10 calories per tablespoon. "It's the best spreadable fruit I've ever tasted," said Hill. "You can buy it at Macey's." You can also find it at www.cornabys.com.

Sarah's tips

1. "Keep moving! Walk even between workouts. When in doubt, walk!"

2. "No injury should ever stop you from exercising. There are always modifications that can be made."

3. "Every excuse is a choice to fail! That's the famous Sarah Nitta quote! You have to be honest with yourself and realize the excuses that you are making. Then cut them out and get to work."

4. "Don't be afraid of the weights, ladies! The more muscle you have the better your fat-burning engine!"

5. "Drink LOTS of water! Water is necessary to break down fat, so drink up!"

6. "Carbs are your friend! But better in the morning and early afternoon."

7. "Always couple a carbohydrate with a protein when you eat. If you are going to eat an apple, eat a string cheese with it."

8. "You have to eat to lose weight. Don't skip a meal."

9. "The greener the better! Eat lots if fruits and veggies."

10. "Become an intuitive eater. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. But you must listen to your body!"

Justin's tips

1. Be accountable with your food. "That's the first thing I do when people come to my class. I say 'I don't care how many calories you eat, I just want you to write them down every day.' After a while, you start making decisions such as, 'Oh, I don't want to eat that because it has so many calories in it, I'd rather have this instead.' Making a choice based on that accountability is when I made my turnaround."

2. Vegetables offer lots of nutrition for very few calories. In a frying pan, Pope will saute lots of fresh vegetables together, such as summer squash, red peppers, zucchini, "any kind of vegetable that looks good," along with egg whites, adding jalapeños, salt and pepper and srirachi sauce for flavor.

"There are only 13 calories in an egg white, so you can do 10 egg whites and you only have 130 calories. With all the vegetables, I have a big fat plate of food and I have only got 300 calories, if you count really hard. Sometimes I'll put in a whole egg, but I have to decide I'd rather have the taste of an egg, or the fullness of fullness of six egg whites."

3. Another easy meal: Take 200 calories of whatever your protein of choice — shrimp or steak or chicken or burger, and fry it with beef stock. Take about 4 cups of beef stock, and add lots of vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and carrots and flavor it with some sriacha sauce. "On 'The Biggest Loser,' we didn't see very many carrots because they have a little more sugar in them. But at home, I will use them. I love making a big pot of that for supper, it's warm, soothing and even if you eat the whole pot, you are only 400 or 500 calories into it."

4. Pope recommends eating 1,500-1,600 calories per day. "Some people don't eat enough food," he said. "They don't have enough energy and your body doesn't know what to do, it's saying 'Are you feeding me today or starving me?' "

5. Simple, easy math. Divide the day's calories into about 400 for each meal, and the remaining 400 into two 200-calorie snacks, so you're eating consistently throughout the day.

6. Use "good" fats, such as olive oil and avocado. "What I didn't realize is that you have to have good fat in order to burn fat," said Pope, who became a fan of Wholly Guacamole, a "Biggest Loser" sponsor. "Yes, good fats still contain calories, so you have to be careful with that."

7. Eat most of your carbohydrate foods before noon, and stick to healthy carbs, such as vegetables and whole grains. "When I was on the show, you would get most of your carbs in before noon. Brett (trainer Brett Hoebel) was big on that. It has to do with burning fat."

8. Do your first workout in the morning on an empty stomach. "Brett was also big on that. He said your body is looking for sugar. If you are not giving it any sugar, it will go to burn your fat reserves."

9. Group exercise helps you work harder. "There's a certain energy level, you are feeding off of everyone's energy," Pope said. "And it makes you feel accountable. I am demanding on people if they don't show up for class."

10. Use a heart-rate monitor (found in sporting goods stores) to let you know how hard your body is working. "It doesn't lie to you. You might think you're really working hard, but you look down and the monitor tells you exactly how hard you're really working."



1 cup quinoa

1 1/2 cups cold water

1 teaspoon salt

1 jalapeo pepper, seeded and minced (or 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise, sliced thin diagonally (optional)

1 cup chopped fresh yellow or green beans (optional)

1 tablespoon cooking oil

1 red pepper, sliced thin

1 green pepper, sliced thin

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1 large ripe tomato, chopped

1/2 cup sliced olives, optional

2 cups cooked black beans (drain and well-rinsed)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or basil

1/2 cup chopped scallions

Dressing (see recipe below)

Place quinoa, water and salt in a 2-quart pot. Bring to a boil, simmer 15 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork and set aside. Saute jalapeno and next four ingredients in oil, until garlic is golden brown and pepper and celery and softened. Add green and red peppers and briefly saute. Add cumin and coriander and remove from heat. Gently combine sauteed veggies, tomato, olives, black beans, quinoa and dressing in a large bowl. Stir in cilantro and scallions. Serve warm or cover and chill.


2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Fresh ground pepper

Pinch cayenne or chili powder

Blend ingredients with a whisk. Adjust seasonings to taste. — Deni Hill


"Best ever. While on the ranch, we named it the Sarahbear after me."

3/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 cup almond milk (vanilla sweetened)

Sweeten to taste with Truvia (my favorite sweetener)

Mix in the blender.

— Sarah Nitta


3/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon almond butter

1 tablespoon sugar-free maple syrup

Truvia to taste

Mix and enjoy.

— Sarah Nitta


Asparagus spears, washed

Cooking spray

Garlic powder, to taste

Dried onion flakes, to taste

Mrs. Dash Onion and Herb Seasoning Blend, to taste

Lemon juice, to taste

Parmesan cheese, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and lay asparagus on it. Sprinkle with garlic, chopped dried onion, Mrs. Dash, lemon juice and parmesan cheese. Cook to desired crispiness. I like them crisp!

— Sarah Nitta


1 flatbread

1-2 tablespoons Jalapeño Greek Yogurt Dip (available at Costco)

1 tablespoon Wholly Guacamole

3 ounces grilled chicken, 1/2 cup Quinoa Salad or 3 ounces of your favorite low-fat meat

Spring mix lettuce

Veggies of your choice

A drizzle of low-fat salad dressing (Galeos Wasabi Ginger or Newman's Lighten Up Ginger Sesame)

Top the flatbread with ingredients. Roll up and enjoy. Delicious!!

— Deni Hill


1 low fat cracker, such as Wasa (35 or 45 calories) or 2 GG Bran Crispbreads (I buy it online at www.brancrispbread.com — 12 calories, 5 grams fiber)

2 tablespoons fat-free cream cheese

1-2 tablespoons spreadable fruit (I recommend Cornaby's 10 calories-per-tablespoon product. It is sweetened with stevia and is the best I've ever tasted! You can buy it at Macey's.)

Spread 2 tablespoons fat-free cream cheese on the Wasa cracker or the 2 GG Crispbreads. Top with the Cornaby's 10-calories spreadable fruit. This is as good as cheesecake to me!

Options: You can also use nonfat or low-fat cottage cheese instead of fat-free cream cheese.

— Deni Hill


4 small whole grain tortillas

2 cups egg whites

1/2 cup non fat cottage cheese

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup red or green sweet pepper chopped

1/2 cup sweet onion chopped

1/2 cup black beans rinsed and drained and coarsly mashed with a fork

Salt and pepper

Lite cooking spray

Spray large skillet with cooking spray. Add eggs, cottage cheese, vegfies and beans. Stir together. Once fully cooked, place mixture in tortillas. Salt and pepper to taste. Makes 4 servings.

— Deni Hill


1 pound extra lean ground turkey

1/2 cup oat bran

2 tablespoons flaxseed

2 egg whites

1/4 cup low-fat chicken stock

1 clove pressed garlic

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Whole wheat buns

Mix ground turkey with rest of ingredients. Make three or four patties. Cook 5 minutes on each side. Serve on whole wheat bun. Serves 3-4.

— Deni Hill


For each sandwich you need:

Whole wheat or Ezekiel bread

Smart Balance mayo (10 calories per teaspoon)

3 slices turkey bacon, cooked



Spread bread slices lightly with Smart Balance mayo. Place lettuce, tomato and turkey on the bread.

— Deni Hill

Valerie Phillips is the former Deseret News food editor. She blogs at www.chewandchat.blogspot.com.

Email: vphillips@desnews.com