Tag Archives: nutrition

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.


5 Changes to Make This Week

3 Jan

Three days into the new year, thousands are off and running with their new years resolutions to lose weight and get fit. Right about now, they are flocking into gyms across the country with brand new workout clothes, a huge cup of coffee and a breakfast of oat bran and other foreign foods inside them. Today’s goal is probably something extremely unrealistic like run 10 miles in 30 minutes. That seems to be the trend with resolutions involving weight loss and fitness: extreme and unrealistic.

Instead, I suggest we do some small changes this week. In my previous post I offered ideas on how to change your life slowly and make realistic goals in order to keep that resolution and make it a success. So let’s take 5 steps this week to change your life. It may not be dramatic, but it will add up over the upcoming weeks. More importantly, at the end of January, you’ll still be practicing these small changes while the other people’s new gym clothes stay wadded up at the bottom of their closets.

1. Add Greek yogurt and one piece of fruit to your diet every day. Whether you incorporate yogurt with blueberries for a breakfast treat or a snack, or have an apple when the afternoon lull hits, try adding these two things to your day. Apples have a lot of fiber that will help keep you full and the sugar will give you a boost when you get tired. Greek yogurt is full of protein and healthy bacteria to keep you full longer and keep your tummy happy.

2. Add some extra steps to your day. Everyday you go somewhere this week, park in the furthest spot in the parking lot. At the office, grocery store or out running errands, you can add some extra steps to your day by parking further. It gets you in the habit of walking more. Try and incorporate a 20 minute walk three times this week. Use your lunch hour or duck out after dinner to get it in.

3. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. They aren’t lying. If you eat breakfast within 30 minutes of getting up, it jumps starts your metabolism for the day. Eat something in the morning. If you’re not used to eating in the morning, it will be hard to start this habit. I used to never eat breakfast and the thought of food made me sick in the morning. Start with something small like a piece of toast with some peanut butter or the cup of yogurt with fruit I previously mentioned. Those things are healthy, gentle on your stomach and will keep you full.

4. Make one healthy substitution with your food. Switch out one thing that you eat that is unhealthy for a healthy item. Just one thing, you don’t have to clean out the whole pantry, start small. A recipe calls for sour cream, try Greek yogurt instead. You chow down on potato chips, try using almonds or low sodium peanuts instead. These small substitutions don’t affect the flavors of your food, but save a lot in calories and fat.

5. Cut one junk food portion by one fourth. If you eat ice cream every night or eat a bag of chips every day, try cutting the portion by one fourth. Measure it out ahead of time so you’re not tempted. One fourth won’t freak you out into thinking you’re deprived, but it gets you in the habit of starting to cut back on portions. It’s gradual so you won’t feel it, but it can really add up over the course of a week.

Try these 5 small steps. I guarantee you’re not going to be in any “pain” this week from food deprivation, but it really will start to make a difference. If you want to change your life, start with small changes.

Resolve to Ignore the Calendar

31 Dec

A new year is upon us and thousands of people are making their new year’s resolutions. A vast majority of those resolutions focus on losing weight and getting healthy. TV and radio are flooded with ads for fitness equipment and diet programs. The local gyms are going to be insanely crowded for the next three weeks or so. Then, like clockwork, they will empty out dramatically and resume their normal flow. Most people have abandoned their resolutions and life goes on.

I think there’s a lot of pressure put on new years, especially with losing weight and improving fitness. People try to take on too much in too short of time and they are doomed to fail. You see everyone in the gym in their brand new clothes attempting to run at 8 mph and conking out after a few minutes. Discouraged they leave and many don’t come back. You see grocery carts full of foods so healthy that even many of us health freaks haven’t seen them before. The following week you see the same people stocking up on Cheetohs and ice cream.

So I propose this new years, you ignore the calendar. Don’t make a resolution. Don’t go out and buy a whole new workout wardrobe and a grocery cart full of tofu and kale. Don’t mark the calendar and plot out an unrealistic gym schedule. Instead, starting today, put on an old tee shirt, some comfy jeans and a pair of sneakers and head out for a walk. Don’t worry about your pace or timing yourself. Just go for a walk and enjoy it. Try to do it again every other day this week.

When you go to the grocery store, buy what you normally buy, but add a few things that are healthy. Do you normally snack on chips all day at the office? Buy your chips, but instead of snacking on them all day, throw in a few apple breaks instead. Or buy some low-sodium almonds or peanuts to enjoy. Instead of buying the regular ground beef you get, get the 93% lean. Buy chicken breasts instead of thighs. Small changes and still buy the things you love.

Try jotting down what you eat everyday. Don’t worry about recording calories and fat yet. Just take a plain, old notebook and keep track of what you consume. Get in this habit and if you can stick to it for a few weeks, then try moving to an online source like sparkpeople.com, livestrong.com or my-calorie-counter.com and really start to record your calories.

If you’ve kept up these small habits over a month, then try joining a gym. Set a small, but realistic goal for yourself like entering a 5K race, even if you just walk the whole thing. Try to cut your dinner portion by a fourth and then half. Go gradual.

The key to changing your life is to make small changes with easily attainable goals. When reaching these goals, you’ll be happy and motivated to keep going. Change your life because you are ready and want to, not because the calendar says you have to.

Ninja Niblets: December 14

14 Dec

I apologize for the sporadic postings, but work and my freelance business have been absolutely INSANE. I hope to post regularly again after the new year once these projects die down. In the meantime, here are some ninja niblets to get you through the week.

Current Workout Songs

Good Feeling by Flo Rida

Super Bass by Nicki Minaj

Good Life by OneRepublic

Shape Magazine: Top Diet Trends of 2011

An interesting post of the top 10 diet fads and trends for 2011. The majority of them are ridiculous, some are dangerous (hello HCB diet) and almost none of them seem successful. If you want to lose weight, start exercising regularly and keep a food journal. Cut calories gradually with your journal and you will see results that will last more the than the lifetime of these fads.

Fitness Magazine: 7 Soup Recipes

It’s freezing cold outside and you long for comfort food to warm you up. Soups are a great way to get warm and the majority of them are healthy or with a few substitutions can be made healthy. Try these from Fitness Magazine and eat them with a warm roll or half of a grilled cheese sandwich and you can have a fairly healthy, but very filling meal.

Self Magazine: 100 Calorie Snacks

T’is the season for tons of goodies showing up in work break rooms, mom over baking and cookies on every corner. Try some of these goodies from Self Magazine’s 100 Calorie Snacks and save your waistline during the holidays.

How to Avoid the Dreaded Holiday Weight Gain

4 Dec

The holidays—one of my absolute favorite times of year. I love everything about the time period of Thanksgiving through Christmas. I fully embrace the Clark Griswold style of decorations—more is better. I love the parties, the radio station that plays nothing but Christmas music 24/7, the awesome movies and I even love the horribly, ugly holiday sweaters. But, one of the things I most love about the holidays is the food.

This is the time of year when everyone lets their diets and healthy habits (if they had them to begin with) go to hell and load up on homemade cookies, fruit cakes, prime rib, turkey and egg nog. Then the rush begins January 1 to undo all the damage of the past two months.

The key is not go insane over the holidays to begin with. It’s a lot easier to enjoy a few select treats and not gain any weight than it is to take off a two month binge. For every pound you put on, you can expect it’s going to take you 1 – 2 weeks to lose it depending on your metabolic rate. So if you put on 5 pounds, you  may need 5 – 10 weeks to take it off. Is it really worth it?

So I propose a few simple steps to enjoying the holidays and not feeling deprived, but also start and end the holiday season in the same jean size.

1. Be choosy and know that less is more. By all means enjoy the goodies that are flowing during December. Whether it’s mom’s homemade cookies or baskets of yumminess in your company’s break room, enjoy it. However, be selective. What are your absolute favorite treats of the holidays? Narrow it down to your top 3. Avoid everything else that isn’t in your top 3 so you’re not wasting precious “splurge calories” on stuff that’s not worth it. Then look at your top 3 and decide how much you typically eat of it. Cut it down to half or a third if you can. For example, my top 3 are egg nog ice cream, my mom’s red velvet cake and my mom’s cookies. If I really want to, I can eat a dozen of her cookies in one sitting. No problem. Instead last night I picked 4 cookies and munched on them slowly during a movie. Granted I still probably put away 300 – 400 calories, but it’s better than 1500. It’s a start.

2. Exercise. This is a great time of year to hit the gym. For one thing, they are typically not crowded. Most people are so busy during the holidays, they tend to skip their workouts. You can get a head start  on a great exercise program before the gym gets to over flowing capacity with the New Year’s Resolution crowd that hits on January 1. Try to get 3 solid workouts in a week. If you can do more, definitely go for it. Also, on the days of the “big meals,” i.e. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, at the very least go for a walk. Get 30 minutes of cardio in on those days. It will help a lot. Many towns have 5Ks and/or family walks on Christmas morning. They typically benefit the hungry or other charities. It’s a great cause, it helps avoid excess weight and best of all, you’re done in less than an hour.

3. Avoid the process. Processed food that is. The holidays are full of processed foods from cheese logs, overly preserved sausages, dips, candies, etc. When you’re cooking for yourself, still make your family favorites, but try some substitutions in the ingredient list that will help cut down on the processed foods. They are loaded with tons of extra sodium and chemicals that don’t help your waistline. Don’t use the Cheez Whiz, instead use real cheese. Yes, it’s still high in fat and calories, but it is a natural product without a lot of harmful extras. Buy products that are labeled lower in sodium. Check labels though when it’s label lower fat as a lot of times that means extra salt and sugar.

4. Have a splurge day. Not a week or a month. It’s what you do everyday that matters, not what you do once in a while. If Christmas dinner is your family’s big meal, then splurge that day and don’t feel guilty. Get a walk or other exercise in and chow down. If you’ve been “good” all month long and have avoided weight gain, chances are you’re going to be okay if you overdo it one day. You may be up a pound or two, but typically that’s salt that goes away. But even if it is permanent, one pound is easy to get rid of, not 5 or 6. Enjoy that one day. Eat the second helping of prime rib and have an extra cookie. But if you’ve been splurging all month long, it’s not good to add to the pile. Consider Christmas Day your big reward for being cautious during the whole month.

I honestly haven’t gained weight over the holidays since I started losing weight and changed my lifestyle. I follow my own advice and pick my favorites to indulge all the while maintaining my exercise program. I splurge on the big day but keep it healthy otherwise aside from an occasional cookie here and there. So when I show up at the gym on January 1, it’s because that’s a normal workout day for me, not a start to undo damage.

Enjoy this wonderful time of year, but practice a little restraint. Your favorite jeans will thank you for it!

Recover From Holiday Food: Cardio Weight Circuit

1 Dec

Disclaimer: This is a circuit I developed for myself and my fitness level. If you are not in shape or have not be evaluated by a physician, do not attempt it. Clear all exercise routines with your doctor or licensed trainer. If you feel dizzy, stop exercising and rest.

So it’s that time of year. The time when eggnog and peppermint flavored drinks and ice cream are readily available. Cookies are abundant and work break rooms are filled with baked goods and gift baskets of food. It’s also the time people tend to pile on weight before they start crowding the gyms January 1. Stay ahead of the holiday weight gain with this cardio weight circuit. It burns calories and builds muscle. It’s very tough, so really accurately assess your fitness level before attempting. Each exercise is linked to a demonstration video so you can learn the accurate, safe form.

Run: .25 mile at high speed (I normally run around 4.6mph, but I ran at 5.7mph)

1 set x 5 reps Barbell Squat

1 set x 5 reps Bicep Curl

1 set x 5 reps Chest Press

Run: 30 seconds at higher speed (here I did 5.8mph. I ended up running 40 secs because it took about 10 secs to get the treadmill to the speed).

Repeat weight sets.

Rest 1 min 30 sec

Run: .25 mile at high speed

1 set x 5 reps Barbell Squat

1 set x 5 reps Shoulder Press

1 set x 5 reps Tricep Dip

Run: 30 seconds at higher speed

Repeat weight sets.

Rest 1 min 30 sec

Run: .25 mile at high speed

1 set x 6 reps Scissor Jumps   (I do 6 reps so it’s even at 3 on each leg)

1 set x 6 reps Front and Lateral Raises (I lift both dumbbells at the same time, not alternating. Do 3 fronts and 3 laterals)

1 x 5 reps Push-Ups

Run: 30 seconds at higher speed

Repeat weight set

Rest: 1 min 30 sec

Run: .25 mile at high speed

1 x 6 reps Box Jumps (Start low and see how you do. If you pick too high of a box, you’ll hit your shins which is not fun!)

1 x 5 reps Seated Row

1 x 5 reps Lat Pull

Run: 30 sec

Repeat weight sets

Rest 1 min 30 secs

Done! Good luck and don’t hurt yourself. Even if you just do one set on the weights and don’t repeat, it’s still a great workout. Remember to get evaluated by a doctor and/or a licensed trainer before starting any exercise program.

Does Size Matter?

30 Nov

ABC News: Plates Size & Color Determine Your Portions

For years diet and nutrition experts have been saying if you want to lose weight, use a smaller plate as a way to control portions. It makes sense. Your plate holds less, therefore you eat less, but you think you’re eating more because the plate looks fuller. However, now a new study is showing that the color of the plate and the table matters too. The more contrast there is between your food and your plate, the fuller you think it is.

If you’re eating spaghetti with red sauce on a red plate, your dinner tends to blend in and you may in fact eat more. My plates are white, so everything contrasts vividly against that. Does it make me eat any more or less? Not really, but I tend to measure my food out before hand anyhow.

According to another article I read, American dinner plates are 11″ in diameter and European plates are 9.” It has also been shown that our dinner plates now are much larger than the dinner plates in the 1950s. For Thanksgiving we ate on my grandmother’s china. It’s not super old, but her dinner plates are definitely smaller than mine by quite a large margin. As I made my way down the serving counter, I did run out of room about 3/4 of the way through. I finished my first round of food and went back for seconds, but really ended up getting firsts on the things I couldn’t fit on the first round. So instead of eating two of everything, I ate two of a few things, but mostly one of everything else. So did the plate size really make a difference?

Maybe I should experiment and eat my dinner all week on a salad plate and see if it makes a difference. Like I said, I’m not sure I’m the best test subject since I tend to pre-portion out my food anyway, but it would be interesting to see if it made a difference.