“Everyone Knows Someone Who Needs This Information”(TM)
The cat is out of the bag about The Biggest Loser, backstage. Trainer Bob Harper answered many of the 65 questions posed to him about the show, at the New York Times. TBL is one reality show which many overweight and obese people use as inspiration and to try to glean knowledge from, when they do not have money for a personal trainer. With the nation’s obesity rate rising to even new, extreme levels, and when many other countries, worldwide, rich and poor alike, are facing severe overweight, anything we can learn about this flagship, high-profile show is important. Is it realistic; is it setting reasonable goals? Is it detrimental, in the long run?
As The Biggest Loser is in its 7th season (I’ve missed only one season — maybe #4, so I speak from my own opinion and experience with it too), they are taking on older and more massive, sick, people. So, I was especially interested when they showed just about all the contestants in physical rehab after daily sessions of 4 -6 hours of exercise in nearly 400 pound bodies. Bob says they do 1 -2 hours of it as intense cardio exercise per day. This is the first time they have ever shown the physical daily toll.
Massive physical therapy is needed apparently, and when injured, Bob says they still do low-impact water aerobics and chair weight work until well enough for more varied exercise.
It appears that as they lose weight, then exercise time will increase, but with this biggest group, ever, that’s where they are starting.
Interestingly, Bob says that at TBL, just as much time as exercise is spent re-educating the people about food and healthy food preparation! We KNOW that food is key, if you are a regular reader of this blog. Wrong foods undo right exercise (tm).
Many participants do not cook or don’t know how to cook! And, in that sense, they are all too representative of current America. In 1965, the family chef (usually a woman, still) spent an average of 13 hours a week preparing food for the family. Now, we are lucky if ANYONE spends even 30 minutes a day!
We just can’t be healthy with those priorities (or rather lack of priorities!).
A current researcher even goes as far as to say:
“Even if home cooking is of the fried-chicken-and-mashed-potatoes variety, it rarely produces extreme obesity, said Barry Popkin, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Almost any kind of cooking you can produce in a kitchen is healthier than fast food.” The decline of home cooking worldwide, he said, is an underlying cause of obesity.
In that same time period, from 1965 to now, the percentage of women who are overweight has risen to about 65 percent from about 30 percent in the 1960s.
The chef of The Biggest Loser cookbooks also says that 20 minutes of proper healthy food preparation in your home kitchen will save you 3 hours on a Stairmaster. So, make better choices about your food, period!
Cooking at home and eating well is being perceived as much harder than just eating less. But, cooking at home really can be very time and health effective, and it holds the key to being able to truly satisfy hunger. Because the food is healthier, you can have reasonable portions, and you can stage your eating into the “every four hours” scenario Bob suggests, while awake (as does Dr. Barry Sears, PhD of The Zone Diet system) to retune your metabolism and have your insulin and glucagon balance be better controlled.
Bob Harper says that many of TBL participants arrive diabetic, and in the course of their physical training, losing weight, food re-education, they manage to get off medications for diabetes and often for other medical issues, too. We highlighted that for 400+ pound Dan, at 19 years old, last week. See link below.
This also happened a few weeks ago for the Dad on the father-son team. When the Biggest Loser’s physician announced that, he stated, that even for a guy in his late 40’s or so, not only was he healthier, but at today’s costs, he’d save $176,000 just by no longer needing these drugs — and it would all be saved from his own pocket, for as we know, too many morbidly obese and diabetic people can’t get health coverage.
What a difference to not have to pay $176,000 and know that you were now HEALTHIER than you ever were on the drugs. Lifestyle changes get to the root cause of these dis-eases, and have the only chance to cure them. Drugs never do. But, if you aren’t willing to make the exercise and eating changes, then you have only 2 choices: take the meds or die. Please choose life.
Bob says the calorie amounts daily are personalized to each participant’s height, weight, age and gender. Bob stocks his team’s kitchen cupboards, and they spend a lot of time learning in the kitchen every day, even though this is NOT seen on television (what a pity!).
They have to make all their own meals, when they are beat, injured, whatever. I think the team concept would help here; hopefully it does, anyway. Everyone spends a great deal of time rehabbing old favorite re ipes to become healthier, learning new recipes and altogether new ways to shop, cook and eat. Guest chefs appear once in a while to really show more of what can be done; that’s an inspiration and an eye-opener, as many don’t even know what fresh vegetables are or what to do with them!
As a vegetarian, Bob found that eventhough he had been in great shape, when he became vegetarian 3 years ago, he got even stronger and has better endurance now. Unless he’s Blood Type O, then vegetarianism is productive, if it is not the fake-soy, heavy cheese and crunchy cereal version.
If the foundation of any diet is pure spring water, then fresh vegetables (especially the leafy ones), then whole grains (cooked only as grains — not made from flours), then healthy oils, a bit of fruit and a moderate amount of protein a day, that sets the stage for health.
Remember, you must have carbohydrates for Health, but they are the food group you must be most careful about with your choices. Bob says that Atkins, low-carb diets will never be sustainable, and certainly not while doing heavy exercise. (I would say that may be possible to a great degree for Blood Type O, but even so, fresh vegetables should still form the foundation of everyone’s diet).
In his report, Bob says that these massively clinically obese people arrive addicted to junk-foods and to fast-foods. Part of his strategy is to break that cycle, because otherwise, the recetivism will be tremendous. As it is, several of the prior years’ participants have been chefs. They have sold their businesses. You do what you need to do to get your life turned around. For one, it worked; for the other, it didn’t.
Looking at TBL site, digging deeply, I found out that many of the contestants (even the doctor, two seasons ago) re-gain about 40 – 50 pounds. I think this is too much of a bounce-back, and I would encourage anyone this large to never let themselves go beyond a 20 – 25 pound buffer zone. I don’t think it is reasonable to think that you can keep working out 4 – 6 hours a day, so knowledgeable food choice becomes even more imperative.
I think we all need to realize that we must exercise and eat decently if we expect to regain and keep our Health. There are NO short-cuts; Bob emphasizes that. The past participants who stay in their target zone, varying no more than 10 pounds from what they achieved on the show, do so because they stay focused and committed. There are quite a few of them, and that shows that life-long change is possible, with determination and then acceptance of a new, healthier way to guide your life — respecting your body, mind and spirit — dealing with stress in more constructive ways.
As far as artifically sweetened foods which are touted on the show, Bob gets no money from advertisers (but, I’m sure the show does). His rationale is that he is gradually changing their palates and reducing their cravings, but he says he would NEVER use artificially sweetened anything, himself, and neither do I.
Over time, their body starts to get rid of the massive, toxic load they are harboring, mostly by sweating it out. Then, as they eat more fresh, healthy food, that and the metabolism kicking-in to burn up toxins, too, starts progress toward some better Health, not just weight-loss. And, Health should be the goal.
To jump-start yourself, Bob suggests getting rid of all artificially-sweetened food, using no sodas of any kind, getting further and further away from eating fast foods (except for salads) and then MOVING – walk, walk, walk everywhere. Try to get your 10,000 steps a day built up (over time, maybe a month or more if you are very heavy). Get a pedometer and use it to keep the step tally.
Make sure to check your blood sugars if you change your activity level.
Many people expressed the same frustration that I have with the show, and wanted to know if the rejected teams get any help after they are sent home. Many also said they did not feel this should have people being sent home. This and more concerns me too. There were a few bright spots.
All participants still have access to the show’s physicians and their trainer — online or by phone — after they head home, before their season ends. The sponsor 24 Hour Fitness gives them a year’s free membership (but acknowledges that only works if a facility is nearby). As many of these people come from tiny communities, they end up being dependent on the goodness of their neighbors. Bob says many local trainers have stepped in to help them for free, once they have been eliminated from The Ranch.
In one case, last season, the Physical Education coaches at the University of Michigan stepped in to help one of the moms, who was local for them, and she succeeded very well.
The show also fails to offer psychological support (other than the layman type provided by Jillian and Bob), but for binge eaters, this would be essential, I think. However, I also opine that far too many people think that obese people cannot control their food intake, and I think that is very inaccurate. Study after study shows that often obese people eat way less food than regular weight people, but their biochenistry is SO out of whack, that even that bit can make them balloon.
Plus, many overweight people have a very efficient Thrifty Gene, which would have helped THEM to be the humans who survive. The skinny people sure won’t in times of famine.
So, all in all its a delicate dance of genetics, metabolism, exercise, food choice and amount. We know that. The show should help people learn what they are showing participants better, but as TBL has published cookbooks and the trainers have written their books, maybe that’s the better way to go to learn, if you have massive weight to lose. They also have exercise DVDs.
For me, the show is there for inspiration and for warning. NEVER let yourself get into the terrible health bind these people did, because you see how HARD they have to work to undo it all.
Best to all — Em
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BOB’S RESPONSES: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/04/how-losers-lose/
(c) 2009 Em http://diabetesdietdialogue.wordpress.com
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