The Surprisingly Body-Positive Reason That Mama June Went From a Size 18 to Size 4

Devon Kelley
Mama June’s personal trainer reveals the secrets behind her weight loss. (Photo: Getty)
Mama June’s personal trainer reveals the secrets behind her weight loss. (Photo: Getty)

Everybody is talking about Mama June’s new show, Mama June: From Not to Hot, and since before its premiere, the show was under fire. The new reality series stars June Shannon, 37, of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, who promises to undergo a complete physical and emotional transformation over the course of the series.

Starting at 350 pounds and a size 18, Shannon vows to look “completely different” after her transformation, promising to shrink to a size 4 in time for the wedding of her ex, Sugar Bear, all in the name of revenge for infidelity.

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The inherent body shame in the show’s title, as well as the unhealthy mindset surrounding the concept of a “revenge body” has sent critics into a frenzy over the potentially harmful approaches to weight loss that the show presents for Shannon, her children, and viewers alike.

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The series debuted on Feb. 24 with Shannon’s gastric bypass surgery, but after finding that she had hit a weight-loss plateau post-surgery, the personal trainer Kenya Crooks was called in to help. Crooks, the self-proclaimed “world’s greatest weight-loss expert,” started his process with Shannon by raiding her kitchen, then berating her for the amount of ice cream she had in her freezer. Crooks’s intense approach elicited further criticism.

And while the show started on a note that many called negative and harmful, a new clip from an unreleased episode reveals a shift in mindset.

Crooks speaks to Shannon about her motivation for weight loss. “The reason why I’m pushing you so hard is I know you can do better,” Crooks says. “Question: Why are you doing this?” Shannon says: “I’m trying to lose weight for Sugar Bear’s wedding, because my ex is getting married. I’m trying to rebrand myself as, like, the skinnier Mama June.” Crooks expresses concern that Shannon’s reasons don’t have to do with her. “At some point, you have to make a conscientious decision to start putting yourself first,” he says.

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Shannon insists that she wants to be “the hottest thing at this wedding,” and maintains that she wants to shrink to a size 4, which Crooks believes is attainable.

Despite the extreme weight-loss goals, Crooks says that this shift in mindset has been his goal all along. “Everybody is kind of inspired by something. A lot of times it’s that person who, really, you shouldn’t even be worried about anymore,” Crooks tells Yahoo Beauty of Shannon’s weight loss motivation. “I told her, ‘I need for you to understand that this is about you. This isn’t about somebody who’s moved on, this is about you.’ So I really tried to shift the thinking from, ‘I want to look good for Sugar Bear’s wedding,’ to, ‘OK, let’s really focus on June.’”

Crooks claims that one of his “gifts” is the ability to shift his clients’ mindsets. “When I see a person, I don’t see who they are, I see who they could be. So my job is to bridge the gap between who they are currently and what they could be,” Crooks says of the emotional weight-loss process. “Once they start losing 5 pounds at a time, they start becoming believers, and they start beating you to the park and having a great attitude.”

He continues, “It was a struggle in the very beginning. But once I got her to buy into what her body could look like if we keep working, and she kept losing in increments at a time, then she started buying it a little bit. Each time we got together, she got excited. It changed her whole attitude and outlook, because she realized, ‘I can get this done.’”

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Crooks says that people who don’t focus on themselves throughout a weight-loss journey are more likely to gain the weight back, and that shame is one of the worst motivation tools. “Even if you are satisfied with who you are, understand that there is a better version. So go after your better [version], continue to improve, because if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse,” he says.

Crooks recommends celebrating milestones, particularly when losing large amounts of weight. “It could be the 5 pounds, it could be a dress that you’re trying to get into, it could be a particular size that you want to pop back into,” he says, “but you have to make sure you celebrate them, because it keeps the momentum going.”

Of the kitchen-raiding scene, Crooks thinks of it as tough love. “Once I commit to you, I’m involved in just about every part of your life. So I was involved in everything from how she ate to how she worked out, to family stuff,” he says. “You have to understand the person that you’re dealing with. That’s where the psychology comes in, because you have to understand how to get the best out of that person that you’re trying to help. So if I need to be hard, I’ll be hard. If I need to be that person who sits down and just listens to you and helps you solve problems, I’m that guy, too. But I just base it off of the person’s personality.”

“I love to win, and this is a win,” Crooks says of Mama June’s transformation, which has not yet been revealed on the show. “This is an awesome win, and I’m so happy to be a part of the show and just so happy just to be able to help her become who I know she can be.”

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