New 'Biggest Loser' Coach Erica Lugo Shares How the Show's Attitude on Weight Loss and Fitness Has Changed (Exclusive)

Losing 160 lbs. only to be diagnosed not long after with thyroid cancer, Biggest Loser coach Erica Lugo had to develop a whole new relationship with her body — one she hopes she can pass on to the 12 contestants looking to make a major lifestyle change on the USA Network series' revival season. Ahead of the new Biggest Loser premiere on Tuesday, Jan. 28, Lugo opened up to PopCulture.com about her own health journey as well as what she thinks might shock her Erica Fit Love followers about her coaching style.

Learning to take care of her body and be kind to it during her weight loss journey from 322 lbs. six years ago, Lugo admits her thyroid cancer diagnosis "kind of slapped me in the face."

"It was a really humbling experience," she told PopCulture of her thyroid and lymph node removal surgery, which was followed by radiation treatment. "I had to relearn my body."

Struggling to find herself in the reflection in the mirror that looked back at her with a "terrible scar" across her neck, puffy features due to the medication she was on and bags under her eyes from the strain, Lugo had to learn now to love her body for what it could do. "What my body did saved my life," she explained. "I should have been appreciative of what my body did for me."

It's that kind of appreciation Lugo wanted to instill in The Biggest Loser contestants.

"There was many times where these people would get on the scale and they would have great numbers … and they would shake their head and say, 'That's not good enough. I'm still fat.'" It was then that Lugo made sure to stop them in their tracks and remind them that what they had been doing on the show — eating well, exercising and attending group therapy sessions — "is such a greater win than the number on the scale."

"For me, it's always been you have to change the way you think and you feel about yourself," she continued, adding that no matter how much weight a person loses, "You better be strong enough to carry [negative self thoughts], because if not they're going to bury you."

While The Biggest Loser's original iteration faced a fair amount of controversy over the weight loss practices and attitude towards fitness, Lugo was happy to join the holistic look at health promoted by the revival nearly half a decade later.

"I think fitness has really changed in general," she noted. "It's no longer 'Grind now, grind harder,' it's really about mind, body and soul. ...We really took that approach."

Ahead of the premiere, Lugo admitted she's looking forward to people getting a different side of her, one that, while empathetic to the struggle of the contestants, is a bit more no nonsense than her online life.

"I have lived that journey; I know every excuse in the book," she said. "So a lot of people will be shocked at how hard on them I am, but it comes from a place of concern."

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The brand new season of The Biggest Loser premieres Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 9 p.m. ET on USA Network.

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