Brandi Mallory Was a 'Bright, Shining Light,' Remembers “Extreme Weight Loss ”Trainer“ ”Chris Powell (Exclusive)

“You could feel how free she was,” the trainer tells PEOPLE exclusively after learning of the former reality star’s death

<p>Chris Powell</p> Brandi Mallory and Chris Powell

Chris Powell

Brandi Mallory and Chris Powell

Former Extreme Weight Loss trainer and host Chris Powell is remembering Brandi Mallory after her unexpected death at age 40.

The 45-year-old personal trainer spoke to PEOPLE exclusively about hearing the heartbreaking news and reflected on how he grew close to the former reality star during their time on the show together.

“It's so sad that she's gone because of who she was for so many, including myself,” he tells PEOPLE. “She was just an incredible person.”

Mallory appeared in season 4 of the ABC series, which aired in 2014. She spent a year alongside Powell as she embarked on her weight loss journey. She had an incredible work ethic, Powell says, but it was her personality and charisma that truly shined.

<p>Rick Rowell/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty</p> Brandi Mallory and Chris Powell on "Extreme Weight Loss"

Rick Rowell/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty

Brandi Mallory and Chris Powell on "Extreme Weight Loss"

He explains that during the show, people are often on their “best behavior” during the first couple weeks of filming — only to have their true personality emerge over the year. But Powell praises how authentic Mallory was and why she was “one of my favorites.”

“She was so spunky right off the bat, and she just danced everywhere. She was always just enrolling everyone in her positivity,” he explains. “It's funny because you're like, okay, we'll see where this goes in two weeks… and she was still just that. Then after four weeks, she was still glowing. And then after two months I'm like, alright, she's legitimately just a bright, shining light for everybody around her.”

“And that's why obviously the news of this, it hit everybody really hard,” Powell adds. “She just had that spark of life and love.”

Related: Extreme Weight Loss Star Brandi Mallory Was Found Dead in Chipotle Parking Lot: Police Report

While on Extreme Weight Loss, Mallory revealed that at her heaviest she weighed around 329 lbs. before going on to drop more than 150 lbs.

During that time, she was crowned “Miss Extreme Weight Loss” and competed in the Half Ironman, a fitness challenge that saw her swim, bike and run for a combined 70.3 miles in less than eight hours. Mallory did so alongside Powell, which he says is one of his fondest memories with her.

“So you go through 70.3 miles with someone and throughout that entire process, that process of shared suffering, you bond a lot,” he recalls. “And I just remember crossing the finish line with her at the very end. I mean, we were all exhausted and all of us just broke down and started crying together and just hugging each other because it was just such a monumental moment for all of us in our lives. I'm lucky just to have had the opportunity to share that with her.”

“This whole thing really sucks, the fact that she's gone. But I mean, gosh, spending a year with someone, you go through a lot and we share a lot,” Powell continues. “Countless times of just all hanging out together and just laughing our asses off and having fun and joking around and playing pranks on people. And then of course, you have those big moments like the Half Ironman.”

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Even after her time on the series, Mallory continued her fitness journey through dance, sharing her passion for fitness on social media.

Powell boasts that “you could feel how free she was” and how much she inspired others before her death.

“That girl could dance. And she always brought that energy with everything that we were doing,” he tells PEOPLE. “She really owned the body positivity movement. It was great because she was very open about her struggles with her weight and everything, but the fact that she would just get out there and she would just fully express herself, you could feel how free she was. And that in turn inspired so many other people to jump on board to accept and embrace and appreciate their bodies.”

“I just loved it because she became a symbol for that for so many people,” Powell says. 

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