Friday, December 11, 2009

The Biggest Loser: Not Your Typical Weight Loss Reality

Whenever I talk to people about weight loss they always ask me inevitably if I watch the Biggest Loser and whether or not I found inspiration from the show. I never watched the show before, of course I had heard of it, but I'm not a regular tv watcher. That is up until a few weeks ago I finally watched my first episode of the Biggest Loser second chances. (A perfect storm of free time, boredom and nothing else being on tv lead me to actually give the show a chance, not kidding I probably watch less than 30 minutes of tv a week on average.) The episode was down to the final 4 contestants, they were sent home to learn how to live the lessons learned on the ranch in their every day lives and to train for a marathon.

It was interesting, but my feelings on the show are mixed. I've heard a lot of criticism and praise of the show and their methods for weight loss. The contestants were very obese and they lost large amounts of weight very quickly. Roughly 2lbs of weight loss a week is a healthy average. My doctors have told me this and I've read about it over and over on sparkpeople.

I also thought it was unfair that the men were put up against the women. I believe when it comes to weight loss there should be a separation of sexes. Men and women store fat in their bodies differently! (read this article for more info). Similarly you should NEVER compare your weight loss to another person whether they're the same sex or not, everyone will always have different results. The men were much more obese than the women starting out. They had a larger BMI and more fat to burn off, so naturally when you have that much weight to shed it's going to fall off relatively quick and in large numbers. But once it got closer to the finish the poor women were struggling to achieve 8 lbs of loss where as the men (again, larger BMI to start) were still dropping 20lbs or more. And I felt sorry for those ladies because you could tell they were comparing their results to the men and beating themselves up about it and there was no way they could compete.

They also had them train for a marathon in 60 days. 60 days of training to run 26.2 miles. That's seems a bit drastic to me! Hell I had that amount of time to train to run 7.3 miles. I'm sure if I focused ALL my time on running everyday I might have been able to run a marathon, but I do a big variety of work out activities and I like it that way to keep me from getting bored! I kept my regular boot camp schedule, had my weekend soccer games, got sick and injured during training, but in the end I was able to complete my 7.3 miles.

Coincidentally I read two articles on sparkpeople discussing the lessons you should take away from the Biggest Loser and the lessons you should forget! Pretty much everything I was thinking when watching the show is outlined in these articles. Let's take a look shall we!

Lesson to UNlearn: this one covers exactly what I was talking about, healthy weight loss averages about 2lbs a week:

Their results are not typical. "Biggest Loser" contestants weigh in once per week. In the first few weeks of each season, the contestants lose massive amounts of weight. I am not talking about four or five pounds either. I'm talking about 15, 20, or even 25 pounds gone in a single week! Healthy weight loss guidelines, like SparkPeople's, state that up to two pounds lost per week is safe for adults. Occasionally, adults with BMI's higher than 30 can safely lose a little more than that. Losing two pounds per week on "The Biggest Loser" would send you home very quickly! Later in the show, everyone's weight loss slows down, and they're disappointed with four-, six- and even eight-pound losses. In reality, even these "small" amounts are more than what most people can expect. In real life, most dieters can lose up to two pounds per week. Remember the lesson from the tortoise and the hare: Slow and steady wins the race! You're more likely to keep the weight off that way (and not go crazy with exercise or dieting extremes during the process).

Lesson to LEARN:
You won't always see results. It happens every season — some of the participants actually GAIN weight instead of losing. Whenever they'd stand on that scale, only to see the numbers pop up as a “plus” instead of a “negative,” I wanted to cry with them! But just like ups and downs are part of the show, they're a reality for the rest of us, too.

Lesson Losing weight isn't as simple as a mathematical equation. Sure you need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight, but even when you do everything right, sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. Is it frustrating? You bet! But when it happens, all you can do is accept it and continue on. Trust that your efforts will show eventually. Remember, that even when the scale doesn't budge, your efforts are making a difference. Try to focus on other ways to measure your progress — like how you feel, your health improvements, and how your clothes fit. If all else fails, take steps to bust through your plateau!
My next step... reading that busting through your plateau article cause boy do I hit them!!

Lesson to UNlearn:

They are often overtraining. Behind the scenes, participants are closely monitored by physicians and trainers to make sure they can hold up to the rigors of training. All, if not most, of the participants go from zero fitness activity to training every day for hours. In the controlled environment of the campus, they can rest optimally, eat optimally, and recover optimally. But this isn't a good training philosophy for the everyday person. In essence, they go from inactive to athlete, but that can be dangerous for many people, inviting injuries, pain, and health risks. The best bet is to start slowly increase the intensity, duration and frequency over time. Even then, no one person needs to exercise for hours a day. Allow your body the time it needs to adjust to workloads and remember that there is more to life than fitness.
As I stated above going from not running to running a marathon in 60 days is over the top extreme, I'm surprised there weren't injuries!

Lesson to LEARN:

You have to work hard. Sometimes when I'd watch the Teams work out I'd think, "Their trainers are heartless!" In reality, those trainers know that weight loss takes hard work. You see them exercise when they have nothing left, choose the healthy foods even though they'd rather have their favorite comfort foods, and even leave their families for weeks at a time — these things are not for the faint of heart.

Lesson: It won't always be easy. Lots of people want to lose weight, but most aren't willing to pay the price or make sacrifices to get there. You will not be successful with a half-hearted effort or by looking for shortcuts or the easy way out.
Weight loss is going to take a lot of time and hard work and dedication. Even if the biggest loser contestants overtrain don't use that as an excuse to play it safe and to not train at all! I've had lots of little injuries, muscle pains and bumps along the way that might have temporarily slowed me down, but I don't regret any of them because over all I'm healthier than I was before!! I'd rather be able to claim that I hurt my foot playing a sport than saying I twisted it on my way to the fridge to get more ice cream because I got up too quickly and my head was spinning from staring at the computer screen!

Lesson to UNlearn:

They compare themselves to others. Each week at the weigh-in, the person who loses the most weight gets "immunity" and the people who lose the least are likely to be eliminated. No one wants to be the one who loses the fewest pounds. Inevitably, someone gets discouraged because they compare their weight loss to the losses of others. This is part of the TV game, but in real life, comparing yourself to others is a losing game. The only person you should be concerned with is yourself. Everyone loses weight in different places and at different rates. Don’t let someone else’s victory or defeat determine whether you view yourself as a winner or a loser. Keep your eyes straight ahead as you eat right, exercise hard, remain consistent. If you do this, everything else will eventually fall into place.

Like I said above, I felt so bad for those girls who got down on themselves for their 8lb loss! Take this one to unlearn to heart and read the lesson below!

Lesson to LEARN:

Your attitude matters. The wrong group can drain your motivation and energy. Did you notice the Black Team in season five? Granted, they were fighting an uphill battle and constantly facing the elimination room, but they were so down in the dumps that they often reminded me of a group of Eeyores. That negative energy could have contributed, on some level, to their constant struggles.

Lesson: Surround yourself with positive people. A fitness buddy with a negative attitude isn't fun to hang around, and that can be detrimental to your workouts and your consistency. And if you find that the negative attitude is coming from you, chances are you won’t stick with it. Change your perspective and stay positive for good results!
Lesson to UNlearn:

They rely on trainers. At nearly every workout, Bob or Jillian tells the "losers" what to do, when to do it, how often to do it, and how long to do it. It sure would be easy to reach your goals if you had a trainer standing over you, motivating you, and forcing you to work harder than you would on your own, right? I believe in personal training (heck, I am a trainer!) but you don’t need a personal trainer to be successful. For my clients, I teach them how to exercise and then to let them go. A dependent relationship between client and trainer is not a good idea. SparkPeople has all the tools and resources you need to work out, get motivated, and lose weight on your own!

Lesson to LEARN:

You shouldn't go it alone. Do you think that the contestants would be as successful if they went at it alone? In season five, for example, the Blue Team was a serious force to be reckoned with. Roger, Mark, Jay, and Dan seemed to never lose a challenge or a weigh-in. Did you notice how they supported and encouraged each other to push harder, work out longer, and stick to their diets? The support and camaraderie they exhibited definitely helped them succeed as often as they did.

Lesson: There is strength in numbers. Doing everything by yourself can be lonely and discouraging. But having a buddy — or a team of supporters — can help you to stick to it when the going gets tough. Instead of just going solo on the treadmill or bike, consider taking a group fitness class or joining a team sports league.
I use a personal trainer, however I get his expertise in a group setting at bootcamp along with a group of women who are all working hard and supporting each other during our work outs. It's very important to stay positive. These women have become my support group. They always tell me they see a huge difference and that I've slimmed down so much. It's hard for me to accept their praise but it's so nice for them to offer it!

Sometimes the people closest to you might be the ones that are most skeptical, your families etc. I had this problem. My family was used to me being the fat one, my mom still tells me I shouldn't lose too much weight! A reader told me that her husband pretty much had no faith in her when she said she wanted to lose weight, jerkface! All I had to say to her was DON'T LISTEN TO HIM! Listen to yourself and do what you need to do. I can't listen to my mom because I KNOW I've still got a lot of work left to do. Even if your closest loved ones can't step up and be supportive, don't let it discourage you. Like the article said, take a group exercise class, join a sports team. One of my biggest supporters that always tells me i'm looking great and to never give up all my hard work is my spinning/yoga instructor, and also my soccer team mates have been very encouraging and tell me I've improved my game so much! Trust me before you know it you'll have new friends that will support you 100%, and eventually those that haven't been supportive will figure out you're serious and step up to the plate as well.

Lesson to UNlearn:

2. They put their lives on hold. Probably the single biggest factor that makes these folks so successful is that they spend weeks on the "campus" with NO outside distractions. They have no jobs, school, family responsibilities, last-minute meetings, errands to run, bills to pay, cell phones to answer or obligations to attend to. Their only focus is exercising and losing weight. When contestants finally go home, you can see the fear on their faces. They know how hard it will be to continue their diet and exercise plans when LIFE resumes. In the perfect environment—with trainers and dietitians and doctors overseeing every step, we could all be big losers. But weight loss doesn't require putting your life on hold. Sure it'd be easier, but it's pretty unrealistic and it doesn't teach you how to really deal with life and weight loss. Those of us who learn to lose weight and live in the real world are far better off—because we can build habits that really work and create lasting change.
This is something I never did. I never put my job or the things I enjoy in life on hold, I re-prioritized and worked around my existing schedule. Like I've posted about before, I still have my dorky online habits, however....

Lesson to LEARN:

You have to change your lifestyle. The participants on the show understand that this is a complete lifestyle overhaul— a total transformation for life, not a diet for a little while. No matter how hard they work or how much weight they lose while on campus, it will come back if they revert back to their old habits at home.

Lesson: There are no quick fixes. Getting healthy and managing your weight it is not a temporary thing. It's a series of day-to-day, meal-by-meal choices that you have to stick with for the long haul.

I would have never seen any results if I didn't get away from the computer into the gym and out on the soccer field!

Here's a realistic summary of what to take away from the Biggest Loser:

Although it isn’t realistic for everyone to follow everything they see on "The Biggest Loser," the basic principles hold true: Making healthy food (and portion) choices, surrounding yourself with supportive people, and exercising regularly will lead to weight loss. Changing your habits into a lasting lifestyle will ensure that the weight stays off.

Click the links to read the full articles of 6 Lessons to Unlearn and 8 Lessons to Learn.

Hopefully this article might help you take a more realistic approach to weight loss, just remember the lessons learned as well and start changing your life style today.

No comments: