Tag Archives: Biggest Loser

Cooking Done Right Saves Lives

30 Jan

I just read an article this morning on ABC News about a new Food Network show coming out called “Fat Chef.” Part of me thinks its’ release is damage control over Paula Deen’s diabetes diagnosis, but whatever the reason, this sounds like a good program. An award winning pastry chef, Michael Magnano, started out the show over 500 pounds. It wasn’t even so much from his own sugary concoctions, but rather working late hours at the restaurant and eating fast food meals. On the show, he goes through a 16 week boot camp of sorts to learn how to cook healthy and start exercising.

Although I’m not a huge fan of reality TV, I think this show sends a great message. It doesn’t sound like it has the extremes of Biggest Loser, but encourages healthy weight loss through healthy methods such as changing recipes and portion control. Michael has lost 115 pounds and has run a 5K race. He has also gotten off his diabetes medication.

I think in this day and age of fad diets and pills/juices that promise to lose weight, it’s refreshing to see a show go back to the basics. Healthy cooking, portion control and exercise will not only let you lose weight, but you have a much higher chance of keeping it off. The average person can watch that on TV and think I can do that. The average person cannot watch Biggest Loser and think oh yes, I have 6 hours a day to devote to the gym.

If you’re wanting to lose weight, start slow with a food journal and healthy food substitutions. Gradually cut back your portions and try to get more physically active. It takes small steps to make big changes.

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Is The Biggest Loser, the Biggest User?

6 Jan

I am a huge fan of the TV show, The Biggest Loser. I’ve watched it for years both when I was fat, hoping one day to lose weight and now thin rooting for them to lose weight. The show has been such a success, it’s spawned company weight loss contests and raised awareness for fitness and health in general. The Biggest Loser has meal plans to order, exercise equipment, a game for the Wii, a fitness resort and numerous cookbooks.

Yet, despite the immense success of the show and the contestants on it, there has always been controversy surrounding it. How many people have gained the weight back? Are the methods they use on the show healthy? Can losing that much weight so quickly be good for you?

Over the last few years, it’s begun to creep out that several of the season finale winners have gained all their weight back like season one winner Ryan Benson and season three winner Erik Chopin. Matt and Suzy Hoover have been very public about their struggles to keep the weight off. Despite finishing the Ironman in Kona, Matt is still quite far from his finale weight. It seems like the contestants who go back to normal lives that aren’t associated with the fitness industry struggle greatly with keeping the weight off. Others, who have pursued a career in fitness, tend to fare better.

I always assumed the show and the trainers somehow kept up with the alumni. I thought they at least checked in with them and tried to help as they adjusted back to normal life. But, it turns out they really kind of don’t get any help. The contestants themselves are a huge network with each other and consider themselves a family. I’ve seen via Twitter and Facebook how much they all work to encourage each other and help out. But I find it appalling that the show itself doesn’t do anything.

My heart broke the other day when I saw this blog post from season 8 fan favorite, Shay. She was the heaviest female contestant on the show and had lost over 200 pounds. She was brought back at later finales and signed deals with Subway to get $1000 for every additional pound she lost. She also made a deal with them to run the NY Marathon. She ended up getting injured and falling back to her old habits.

Yet, I was even more upset to read that the show more or less abandoned her. They wear Body Bugg devices on the show to accurately track their calorie intake and burn. The device itself is around $200 plus a monthly subscription fee of $9.99. The show provides it when they are on the show, but takes it away afterward. Seriously? All the money they make and they can’t provide that for their contestants. Would it really hurt them to check in on the contestants or provide them with a year gym membership after they leave to help them adjust?

I am not saying that weight gain is entirely the show’s fault. Not at all. People make their own decisions and struggling with weight is one of the hardest battles there is. Shay wasn’t trying to blame the show either. She knows she made her own mistakes. However, I just feel that with all the money the show makes and how those people at thrust into the spotlight, it is their responsibility to help them out for the first year.

They need to get used to not working out 6 hours a day and maintaining a healthy life on a normal workout schedule of maybe an hour a day while balancing family, a job, social life. They need help in learning how to eat a normal amount of food instead of the extreme dieting rumored to be going on on the show. And I think their trainer from the show needs to check in on them from time to time.

Losing weight is horribly difficult, but it’s so much harder to keep it off. I lost my weight gradually over 14 months. I had time to adjust and slowly change my life so it wasn’t scary or too much too quickly. These contestants literally drop hundreds of pounds in a matter of months. That’s horribly difficult for anyone to adjust to much less without the pressure of TV fame.

So I will continue watching the show for sure. I do think in the long run, it does much more good than harm. But the rose colored glasses have faded a bit and it makes me sad.

The Incredible Power of Running

7 Dec

Before I became a runner, I had become a fairly decent athlete. I had worked out two solid years lifting weights, conquering the dreaded stairmaster, biking and the elliptical. So I had a good fitness base when I started running that made it easier from that side of it, but extremely difficult since I really wasn’t good at it. As I ran, more and more, I began to realize what an incredibly powerful sport it is.

Running affected me in a way far different from any other athletic activity I had ever tried. It was a powerful drive inside me that fueled me to take on new challenges. It gave me the most joyous feeling when a high would set in. It joined me together with people that I may have never otherwise talked to. The same could not be said for the stairmaster or the elliptical.

I’m a graphic designer and as part of my job, I work with different printers and their reps. Just a few weeks ago, I found out one of my reps is an avid runner. We immediately began bonding over our love for the road. It didn’t matter that he was a far better, faster runner than I was, we were joined together by this sport. We talked for nearly a half an hour about our training, races we’d tried and goals for the future. Today I was speaking with a freelance client, who is in the running industry, but it was still an amazing conversation about the power of this sport and how it changes lives.

We both knew that completing a marathon dramatically changed our lives. We knew what it was like to work hard and cross that finish line. We knew that no matter how bad a day was going, running could fix it, even if it was just a 30 minute jog. It is seriously amazing how this one sport that anyone with a pair of sneakers can do, can changes so many lives and join so many different people together.

Tonight I watched last night’s episode of the Biggest Loser. At the end of each season, contestants compete in a marathon. Completing a marathon is a monumental achievement no matter who does it, but seeing people who were 300 and 400 pounds do it just 5 months later is even more inspiring. I remember when I was overweight and couldn’t walk after my foot surgery, I watched the Biggest Loser marathons. I used to cry at the end when they finished as I longed to do the same. I was sad that I couldn’t run and sad about the state I was in with my weight.

After I initially lost weight and watched the episodes, I still cried because although I was thin, I couldn’t do what they did. The funny thing is that I had never had the desire to run a marathon until someone told me I couldn’t. Then one day I began to run. And today, I watched the episode as a marathon finisher. I still cried at the end, not because I was sad, but because I knew what immense joy those people were feeling and that no one would ever quite get it unless they’ve done a marathon too.

To share that bond with people I have never met shows the power of this fantastic sport. No matter what your body type or where you’re at in life, nearly everyone can run at least a little. So, lace up your shoes and hit the pavement. Feel the power of running and use it to change your life.

A Milestone

20 Mar

After my foot surgery on November 16, 2007, my doctor told me I’d never run again. He had to reconstruct the arch of my right foot after a car accident caused it to collapse. I was 205 lbs and in excruciating pain, so I believed him at that moment. A year later, though still in pain, I was trying to get my life back together. I decided to start exercising and trying to lose weight. I kept at it for months and finally my pain went away in January 2008 so I was able to do more.

I tried and tried, but couldn’t even walk on a treadmill much less run. I stuck to low impact activities like the elliptical and stair stepper plus weight lifting. I was inspired by The Biggest Loser and how the final contestants run a full marathon at the end of each season. I was determined that one day I would be able to run again.

On August 2, 2010, I became a runner. I did 0.8 miles in 10 minutes, a tragically slow pace and pathetic amount. But I decided that on that day I was going to run a 5K on September 12. I ran the race (3.10 miles) in 40:06. I was a runner.

Today, I reached three milestones. The first two were that I ran the furthest and the fastest I’ve ever run. I ran 8 miles in 1:38:40, which is an average pace of 12:20. An average pace of 13:30 is required to finish a full marathon in the time limit of 6 hours. I beat that pace by 1:10. My third milestone is that I broke 200 total miles run today. I’ve run 206.15 miles since August 2.

Not bad for a former crippled fat girl. Not bad at all!

The Obesity Battle

30 Nov

I am an avid fan of The Biggest Loser. I love watching the show and even own the Nintendo Wii Biggest Loser game. I only started watching it during season 5 as I previously was too depressed to watch it due to the fact I was overweight and doing nothing about it unlike those on the show.

For the past several years on the day before Thanksgiving, they have aired a “Where Are They Now?” special about former contestants. I just watched the episode from this year this past weekend. It was so sad that the season one winner, Ryan Benson, who lost 122 lbs had gained all but 10 lbs back.

At first you’re reaction is “how could you do that?” Probably the second reaction is “what a lazy person! I can’t believe he blew it.” Granted I had the same reactions, but then I stopped myself. It isn’t always a question of laziness or willpower, especially for the majority of the contestants on the show. Obesity is a disease. Over eating is as real of a disease as alcoholism or drug addiction. Yet there is a huge stigma and shame attached to it that has been shed for the most part from alcohol and drugs.

Ryan’s experience goes to show what an awful, life-long battle weight is. If someone could lose 122 pounds and win a weight loss TV show and $250,000 and yet gain it all back, then this isn’t about willpower. This is about a truly awful disease that so many Americans struggle with and lose the battle.

People who are overweight are ridiculed, teased and bullied daily for their size. Not to mention the self loathing they inflict on themselves. Yet, this is still allowed and obesity /over eating still isn’t completely acknowledged by the general public as a real disease.

Trust me, people who are overweight want to be thin more than anything. And trust me, they try. But just like an alcoholic who tries not to drink, they lose this battle daily.

Next time you see an overweight person and are tempted to judge or make fun, ask yourself if you’d make fun of an alcoholic or drug addict. Remember it can be the same battle and that they are probably trying very hard to beat this demon. Give some encouragement to a friend or family member you know who is trying to lose weight. Words can go a long way in getting someone to that next pound lost.