The Biggest Loser: 10 Things I've Learned

>> Thursday, December 9, 2010


1.) I MUST EXERCISE 5 TO 6 HOURS PER DAY TO BE FIT.

Not true. Most of us have work and don't have that much time on our hands! Of course, the show creators do admit that the environment they have set up is artificial (after all, it is TV). But I don't see how contestants can leave the ranch feeling OK with working out the recommended one hour per day. It's a drop in the bucket to them. No, they have been trained to see massive weight loss as a result of massive training efforts.

TAKEAWAY: You don't need to exercise your life away to stay lean and healthy. But a chunk of time -- and hour, 5 days per week -- is good to shoot for. Better yet, try to schedule one longer workout per week to get your endurance juices flowing. A 2-hour run (or mix it up with one hour of cycling and one hour of a class, etc.), can't hurt. (Image source)


2.) I MUST EXERCISE AT A HIGH INTENSITY TO SEE RESULTS.

We've heard the groans. The moans. The yelling and screaming. The agony, really. But Jillian keeps cranking the treadmill higher and higher. Training at high intensities is important. It allows us to get faster, as in the case of speed work in running. It helps us lose weight by shocking our bodies with extra effort. But high intensity workouts should be only part of our exercise routines. The "no pain, no gain" motto can only go so far. Because after a while, you can and will burn out.

TAKEAWAY: Reserve 2 to 3 days per week for high-intensity training. One day could be a track workout. Another could be a spinning class. Yet another could be a 5K race. But keep your routine balanced. Stretching, strengthening, and good 'ole steady cardio are all you need for a sound heart and the mind. (Image Source)


3.) SPECIFIC, HEALTHY BRANDED FOODS ARE THE KEY TO EATING WELL.

Oh, the shameless product placement. It's my favorite part of the show because it's so scripted and not-at-all seamless. I hate to bash the advertisers, but pre-packaged foods that claim to be "healthy" and lower in sugar, fat, etc. can be good for you. But what's better is whole foods. And you don't need pre-measured bags of frozen fruits to make smoothies. I'm sorry to say it. But there's little time saved -- just mix up your own.

TAKEAWAY: Paying attention to your diet is important. Eating the rights foods can make or break your day. Shop the outside aisles of the grocery store for fresh fruits, veggies, low-fat dairy, lean meats, and frozen items (not dinners -- we're talking peas, strawberries, and other frosty goodness). And if you have to buy packaged, read the label. Know what you're eating. (Image Source)


4.) I MUST LIMIT MY CALORIC INTAKE TO WARD OFF WEIGHT GAIN.

Yes. True -- somewhat. But the portion control is what gets me the most about this show. It seems like these poor people eat so little to fuel their workouts. I get it, the point is that they need to and want to lose weight. But in any "normal" scenario, working out 5 hours a day and eating 1500 calories (I remember hearing that as a total for one of the female contestants) is, well, ridiculous. I hate to go here, but in any "normal" scenario, this method would be considered an eating disorder.

TAKEAWAY: Portion control is important. But more important is focusing on the TYPES of foods you eat, not necessarily the number of calories in that food. Fill up on lots of fruits and veggies. Not so much on the Christmas candy. And if you find it helpful to count, do. But don't get too hung up on it. Especially if you lead a very active lifestyle. (Image Source)


5.) A SUPPORT SYSTEM IS HELPFUL. AND WORKING OUT WITH FRIENDS IS FUN! 

Now here's something good I've gained from watching the show. The times when teammates have worked together to keep each other motivated. The times when contestants have sacrificed their own success to help another person having some trouble. It's all so feel-good, but it's really true. Sometimes you just can't do it alone. Sometimes you just don't WANT to do it alone. And you don't have to.

TAKEAWAY: If you're having trouble staying motivated to eat well or exercise, enlist the help of a friend or family member. It's that simple. Now, if you don't know of anyone who's interested in living a healthy lifestyle, look harder. Or ever look to the web (Healthy Living Blogs) for support. (Image Source)


6.) I MUST LOSE WEIGHT IN LARGE INCREMENTS, CONSISTENTLY TO CLAIM SUCCESS.

I feel so terrible watching the contestants' faces slump to a frown when they haven't met their goals for a certain week. More alarming is the pressure from the coaches. We all see that they're doing work. Yes, some of them more than others. But still! Not losing 10 pounds in a week isn't a failure. In fact, the expectation of that much weight loss is not healthy.

TAKEAWAY: Know your body and its limits. If you're looking to lose weight, aim for the healthy range. A max of 2 pounds per week is what I've seen advised. And if you stay put one week, put it in perspective. If you're doing the work, you're still reaping the benefits health-wise. Those jeans will fit again in no time at all! (Image Source)


7.) WATER WEIGHT VERSUS MUSCLE WEIGHT? NAH! ONLY THE NUMBER COUNTS.

The contestants run. They lift weights. The work all day to get buff. Yes, they have some spare pounds they need to shed, but does anyone ever take a look at the TYPE of weight they're losing? No. Furthermore, do you ever notice it's harder for women to lost competitive percentages of weight? There are way more factors involved than a simple calories in/calories out formula. Yet, the show never brings up this important topic.

TAKEAWAY: Men and women different. More important: Every body is different. Depending on the type of exercise you choose, you may gain muscle weight. Or not. You may have a high metabolism you can thank your grandmother for. Or perhaps a slow one from your father's side of the family. The key is finding what works for you. And if you are trying to lose weight and genuinely feel you're putting in the work with no payoff, you may want to visit your doctor. More may be in play than you know about (several conditions, like thyroid problems, can impact weight loss). (Image Source)


8.) I NEED NOT TRAIN MUCH TO RUN A MARATHON.

Uh. Hello? They ran a MARATHON on the last episode. I realize this has been done every season. But at what point during the show did we hear about training for said marathon? Talk about 0 to 26.2 in three months. As a well-trained runner dealing with injury right now, I admit watching Ada cross the finish line in nearly 4:30 had me both proud for her and somewhat irked. Yeah, I can see how their 5 or so hours of working our per day would allow them to complete such a feat. But how are they not injured like me? I just don't get it.

TAKEAWAY: Alright. My rant is over. I promise. But marathons are serious business. What I worry after watching this particular episode is that people are going to want instant gratification. I didn't run a marathon my first year of running. Nor did I run it in my second year. It took me several more until I laced up at the start of Philly. Accomplishing goals is one thing, but you don't always need to pick the largest goal to be a success. (Image Source)


9.) I NEED A PERSONAL TRAINER AND NUTRITIONIST TO BE HEALTHY.

Not true. Though, a few sessions may not hurt. If you are new to working out or eating well, a visit to these professionals can be beneficial. You can learn how to properly use machines at the gym, understand why you'd want to do certain exercises, and become enlightened to a whole host of other related things. Plus, you get the opportunity to ask an expert questions. Same goes with the nutrition. If your insurance covers it, a trip in to see where you're at and where you want to go can only help. And before making drastic changes to your lifestyle, it's always a good idea to let your general practitioner know.

TAKEAWAY: Even if you're a pro athlete, a little advice every now and again can be good. It can get you thinking about new ways to do things. Or even give you the opportunity to get out of a rut. As a personal example, I'm planning to take a few swim lessons this winter because I know nothing of proper swimming technique. Yet in all the years I've been working out, this will be the first time I've sought out the advice of a fitness professional. It's never too late! (Image Source)


10. IF I LOSE SIGHT OF MY GOALS. I'LL FAIL. FOCUS? SUCCEED!

I agree with this one. Despite how high the contestants must reach to attain the goals they've set for themselves . . . if they get distracted, it doesn't work out for them. Focus is so incredibly important for, say, heading out for a run on a cold, blustery day versus staying indoors and sipping hot cocoa. Set healthy goals for yourself and find ways to stick to them. (These goals don't always need to be related to food and exercise -- just check out our Spotlight on Personal Goals post.) Easier said than done sometimes, but working toward something is far more rewarding than not.

TAKEAWAY: Overall, the core of the show (having a goal to lead a healthier, happier life) is -- at least I think -- good. But don't get caught up in the TV drama and methods the contestants use to reach those goals. It isn't real life . . . and we all need to find what works best for us individually. Not Jillian. Not Bob. Not Ada. Not Frado. (Image Source)

What do YOU think about the Biggest Loser? The good AND the bad. Do you find yourself glued to it week after week like we do? It certainly does amaze me every season to watch the transformations -- both physically and emotionally -- each person goes through. Though I definitely have some issues with the show, it's at least a positive in that it has me thinking about the issues I listed above. I'd love to know your thoughts!

Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

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