OGDEN -- Joyce Plastrow came to Weber State University for Chris Powell's talk about weight-loss motivation.
"I've lost almost 100 pounds, but I wanted to get recharged," said Plastrow, of Layton, who looks too vibrant to be what she describes as "grandma aged."
"I'm here to get a kick in my rear end," she said.
Marissa Young, trim at 19, and a Layton resident, came to meet her career role model.
"He is my inspiration to be a personal trainer," Young said. "I saw his show and I knew this was what I wanted to do. He's so positive, and he never gives up on people. And he's hot, too."
James Fernando, 30, from Woods Cross, came seeking motivation and help.
"I came to be inspired," said Fernando, who weighs 641 pounds. "I'm tired of being the funny fat person. I want my health. I want my dignity."
Powell is a personal trainer and weight-loss motivator known for his 2011 ABC series "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition," which grew out of his two 2009 documentaries, "The 650-Pound Virgin" and "The 650-Pound Virgin: The Weight is Over." The documentaries were about how Powell's training, diet rules and compassionate motivation helped David E. Smith lose 401 pounds in 26 months, transforming Smith's health and life.
"We can all accomplish something great, like losing half our body weight in a year," Powell told an enthusiastic crowd, gathered in WSU's Shepherd Union ballroom.
"My job is to help people get out of their own way. Ultimately, your mind has to change first, then everything else follows."
Powell's series, for which he has taped a second season and will be casting for a third, focuses on people with a hundred or more pounds to lose. He is known for moving in with his clients for a month to enforce a strict, goal-oriented diet and exercise regime, then stepping back so clients can learn to motivate themselves.
On the show and in real life, failure is almost always part of the process, and small failures are why most people give up on their major, life-transforming goals, Powell said.
"Transformation is about integrity," he said. "Integrity is the value of your word to the world and to yourself. It's easy to break a promise to yourself, because you are the only one you're accountable to. But breaking a promise to yourself hurts your dignity, lessens your value to yourself."
Powell said most clients he has worked with have had their self-esteem eroded by failures. Powell asked one overweight man featured on his ABC series to describe himself. The man said he was a husband, a father and "a 550-pound disappointment." Powell said the man's self-image shaped his behavior, which perpetuated his problem. The man's food choices, for example, were those one would expect from a 550-pound failure.
Powell said many of his health teachings and practices are similar to coaches who came before him. He supports a diet of five, small, healthful meals a day, alternating higher carbohydrate days with lower carb days. Powell supports increasing exercise over time to build tolerance and stamina.
One thing Powell feels differently about is the best response to small diet failures, such as the slice of your child's birthday cake that turns into a weekend of fatty-food indulgence.
"If you fall on your face, it's the ultimate opportunity to get back up on your feet," Powell told his audience. "If you stop believing you can do it, you go back to where you were. Get back on your feet. That's what is supposed to happen."
When Powell works with clients, the routine includes weekly confessions, during which the clients confess diet and exercise failings to Powell or other trusted friends. No judgments are made, and the clients can experience an emotional release of guilt that might otherwise lead to quitting the program. Unburdened, clients can move forward.
After speaking for about an hour about weight-loss strategies and self-motivating tips, Powell stayed to answer questions for more than a dozen audience members who remained, many of whom asked the transformational coach to pose with them for photos.
"He was so good,," said Young, the future personal trainer. "You can have setbacks without feeling you are a failure. That's what got to me the most."
Fernando told Powell he had sent in an audition video for "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition," and Powell said he hoped he would be seeing Fernando again.
"He was amazing," Fernando said. "He really made me think about where I have been and where I am now. I'm ready to move forward."