Archive | June, 2010

NBC’s The Biggest Loser: Biggest Motivator or Biggest Myth?

20 Jun

NBC’s hit TV show “The Biggest Loser ” has helped overweight and obese people from all over the country lose hundreds of pounds in a matter of months. These contestants apparently, shed the weight through grueling workouts and low-calorie diets. Their dynamic and tough trainers, Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper, along with registered dietitians, push them to succeed and the contestants who meet their ideal weight win the ultimate prize: healthy, skinny bodies, beautiful confidence and role model statuses for the rest of America. The fairytale gets even better -for NBC. In its ninth season, the mega-hit reality show has raked in over 100 million dollars from advertisements, books, workout videos and other endorsement deals. This star-studded phenomenon has just one problem: the show’s techniques are not as glamorous or as safe as you may think.

“The Biggest Loser” season three finalist Kai Hibbard spoke with the CBS early show this week to break the show’s weight-loss myths. While she is grateful for her weight-loss, she says the show “misled the public by claiming a week was not always a week” when it came to how much weight she lost. For example, when she lost 12 pounds in one week, that time-frame may have been longer than advertised.

Hibbard admits she was “dehydrated to manipulate the scales.” This method is quite unsafe as dehydration can cause fatigue, food cravings, constipation, dizziness and lightheadedness, dry skin and in severe cases, death. Another drastic diet tactic? Hibbard ate “only sugar-free jello and asparagus” for days leading up to the finals and claims these low-calorie methods led to an eating disorder and a poor body image. Her husband adds that after the show, she thought coffee was a meal. She has reportedly gained back 70 pounds since she left the show 118-pounds lighter. The National Institutes of Health recommends a weight-loss of one- to two- pounds per week. This average normally indicates a loss of true fat as opposed to lean body stores and water. Yet, for “The Biggest Loser,” one- to two- pounds a week is not good television. But 10 to 12 pounds? Now, those are some good ratings.

In an effort to reach viewers, the contestants are set up to fail from the start. Their food calories do not support their four- to eight-hour daily workouts, which leads to problems such as starvation, a lowered metabolism, energy depletion and emotional disturbances; yet, they are losing weight. The show’s dietitians and trainers ensure that calories ingested are less than their calories expended – the true marker of weight-loss. Coincidentally, the contestants’ fat-loss is never measured. Why? Because most of the weight lost was NOT fat-loss but water, muscle and tissue. The calories eaten are not enough to support their daily activity levels, let alone the grueling exercise they are performing.

In addition, this high-intensity cardio is not even fat-burning cardio. Every person has a certain heart rate range where they efficiently burn fat. Go above this level – where you feel breathless for an extended period of time – and you are no longer burning fat but sugar. Interval training – alternating high heart rate ranges for up to a minute or two with lower heart rate recovery ranges – is great for power, but staying at this level is not appropriate for fat-loss, only muscle-wasting. The contestants’ heart rate ranges for fat-burning are assumed  to be much lower than the heart rates they were forced to maintain during those millions of sprints, jumping jacks and squat thrusts. So the harder the contestants worked, the more calories they burned and the more weight they lost. But most likely, these poor souls were outside of their fat-burning ranges and lost muscle and tissue instead of the coveted fat-loss they so desired.

But not all is bad in “The Biggest Loser” camp. I admit after watching some of the show, I pulled myself out of bed and went for a run, assuming Jillian would think I’m lazy if I just lied around in my sweatpants all evening. And some contestants have maintained a lot of their weight-loss and will continue to praise the show for their successes. First season runner-up Kelly Minner went from 242 lbs. to 163 lbs. by the finale. She has continued to lose weight and is now 140 pounds.

But the truth remains; most of these contestants do not have a happy ending. Season one winner Ryan Benson’s story is another example of the negative consequences of not losing weight slowly and healthily. Benson admits, “I wanted to win so bad that the last ten days before the final weigh-in, I didn’t eat one piece of solid food!…The rules of the show said I couldn’t use drugs to lose weight so I starved myself.” He says he used “The Master Cleanse” diet, a concoction of water mixed with fresh squeezed lemon juice, pure maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Then, 24 hours before the final weigh-in, he admits, “I wore a rubber suit while jogging on the treadmill then spent a lot of time in the steam room.” By the final weigh-in, he indulges, “I was peeing blood.”

Yet, Benson lost 10-13 pounds in days and was 122-pounds lighter. Crowned the show’s first fairy-tale success story, he returned home gaining “32 pounds in five days (through) water weight.” He has since gained much of his weight back since winning the season. Sounds like a successful fairytale, doesn’t it?

Hidden Ingredient Dangers

15 Jun

Fat-free. Sugar-free. Reduced calories. Labels of health or labels of confusion? That fit and healthy slogan plastered on that box or package may be more misleading than beneficial. Here are some key words to watch out for when deciding which foods should earn their shelf life at the store.

1. Aspartame – Although not significantly investigated, some researchers have found some potentially harmful side-effects from consuming these artificial sweeteners. A 1994 double-blind study investigating the affects of aspartame on people with mood disorders was halted by the Institutional Review Board. The reason? Eight patients with acute depression exhibited an exacerbation of their symptoms after consuming the sweetener.  Another study performed by the Canadian Diabetes Association found that aspartame can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance and obesity by spiking our insulin levels. However, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has not found an increase in blood glucose levels after consuming aspartame.  With the conflict of evidence on aspartame, he jury is still out. However, when in doubt, keep it out – or at least limit it.

2. Fructose, corn syrup, glucose, and high-fructose corn syrup AKA sugar – When too much of these sugars enters the liver, our organ cannot process it all fast enough for the body to utilize, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Instead, it starts making fats from these sugars and sends them into the bloodstream as triglycerides. Translation: the body stores these tasty delectables as fat. Excess fat can lead to a host of symptoms like cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and even death.

3. Partially hydrogenated oil AKA trans fat – This non-essential fat may taste great in some of your baked goods but can be deadly to your heart. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine says the consumption of trans fats increases the risk of coronary heart disease by raising levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and lowering levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.

4. Sodium Chloride AKA salt -We need about 500 milligrams of salt a day for our bodies to function, according to Dr. Stibich of About. com. However, many people eat hundreds of milligrams more – leading to hypertension (high blood pressure), water retention (bloating) and dehydration. Stibich suggests avoiding a lot of condiments, pickles, ham, bacon, salsa, cheese, cold cuts, olives, broths, anything canned, and anything processed. These sneaky salt indulgences can raise your chance of a heart attack. If you’re trying to cut your salt, limit these foods or cut them out entirely.

When Willpower Isn’t Enough…

15 Jun

6AM. You wake up Monday morning after an unproductive, yet fun, weekend filled with food and activity AKA another weekend of high-calorie excesses and nights out on the town.

“Today, I will get back on track with my eating and working out!” You energetically declare, as you chomp down on your PAM-sprayed egg whites, fruit and unbuttered whole-wheat toast.

With a bottle of water in hand, unlike your usual Coke, you merrily drive to work or to school or attend to your kids – or maybe all three. Either way, you know today is going to be different. Today you will eat right, workout and be stress-free. Today will be better than all the other days, weeks and months of failed attempts. Today, you will succeed.

Around 12PM, you grab your grilled chicken-breast salad bursting with dark-green lettuce and just a dash of non-fat balsamic, along with another bottle of that “flavorful,” plain water. With each optimistic bite, you think, “mmm…this isn’t as good as my usual bacon, egg and cheese sandwich but at least I’m having a good day!”

4PM rolls around and the usual dreaded afternoon slump has manifested. “But today is different,” you privately announce. “Today, I will not feel tired and reach for that chocolate twinkie. I will not choke down umpteenth cups of coffee, which I know will leave me up until 3AM. No, not today!”

4:15PM. Dazed from low blood sugar, you dizzily stare into your cooler or refrigerator at your fresh, and oh-so delicious apples and envision a healthy organic peanut butter and apple combo. As you reach toward your friendly apples, your eyes shoot back toward your desk drawer or home counter. Soft-batch cookies lounging in a container, just yearning for you to open them and enjoy. Your eyes shift back to your ruby red apples, “I should really eat this.” You glance back adoringly at those yummy cookies. “But maybe if I just have one, I’ll be fine.” As you inhale, you slam the cooler or fridge shut and race over to those chocolate chip delights. Upon a decadent exhale, you open the container and take a bite. “Mmm…this is A LOT better than that boring chicken salad I had earlier.” Suddenly, one cookie becomes two, and two become five! “Ugh…what have a done?!” You angrily shut the container and push it away. “Well, I messed up AGAIN.”

5PM. Tired from chocolate overload, you leave work or school and/or pick up the kids from their school activities. Time to head to the gym. Driving with a slight resolve to reclaim your good day, you follow your usual route toward BURN CALORIE CENTRAL AKA THE GYM, passing five fast-food signs along the way. $2 Combo Mega-Deluxe Bacon Cheeseburger and Large Fries. Try our new Double Chocolate Milkshake!For a limited time, All You Can Eat $10. Every sign menacingly shouting, “Food! Eat me now!”

“That food would be so good right now.” You soothingly tell yourself, visualizing each savoring bite of that bacon cheeseburger and french fry. Red light. Gym 500 feet ahead. McDonald’s 20 feet ahead. “What should I do?!” You anxiously divulge, “Well, I already messed up my diet, my workout will probably be crap, and that burger would be amazing…And that chicken salad really didn’t fill me up anyway…Hmm, I CAN just start again tomorrow.”

Green light. You speed up – not toward the gym – but toward that McDonald’s sign. You pull into the drive-through and order with half-disgust, have desire, that menacing $2 Combo Mega-Deluxe Bacon Cheeseburger and Large Fries. You shamefully pay the cashier, grab your food and head home, already gobbling down the fries before you even pull out of the parking lot. As you inch toward the street, your eyes shift toward the gym, where this morning, you were certain you would “kill those glutes and abs and run those five miles to shed those extra pounds before summer.” Turning away from The Guilt (The Gym), you mindlessly inhale your entire calorie-laden meal before you even get home.

So, what happened? The same thing that happens to over two-thirds, or 65% of Americans. A fresh, will-power-fueled attitude, followed by: LIFE. Yes, life will get in the way. It’s just a fact. And to put that much pressure on yourself to have a “perfect” day when the truth is, life is NEVER perfect, is asking to be defeated.

So how can we live feeling fit and happy – and normal?

Here are five easy, quick tips to help you to LIVE HEALTHY and still live life:

1. Quit Trying to Be Perfect.

Realize that life has dramas, chaos, amazing times and horrible instances and sometimes you just want a burger and don’t want to go to the gym. Realize this is NORMAL. Find a balance between healthy eating and non-healthy eating, workout days and non-workout days and then feel content about your decisions.

2. Resiliency is Key.

When you indulge at a meal, or have a less-than-stellar workout, don’t waste the rest of a potentially healthy day. Just get back on track and focus on the NOW and the rest of your day, not what just occurred. It’s over. Move onward and upward.

3. Plan your Day with Healthy Calories and Moderate Workouts.

Life can be chaotic, so having planned-out, fulfilling and effective meals and workouts will help to simmer the already overbooked schedule and stress. If you plan what you will eat and what you will focus on during your workout times, you can spend less time thinking about it and just do it. Include enough calories in your meals paired with balanced exercise to tame those rabid blood sugar levels and potential exhaustion. And for goodness sakes, keep those cookies out of your line of sight – unless you have planned to have one or two. Again, referring back to #1 – balancing healthy food with extra treats.

4. Drink Plenty of Water.

Everyone has access to it. You can flavor it to make it taste good. It’s quick and convenient. Now, there are no excuses. Why water? Our bodies are comprised of 60% of this fluid. Filling ourselves up can fight fatigue, give our skin a glow, fight fat and promote weight loss. Again, life is unpredictable so you want to have as much healthy arsenal in your favor.

5. Breathe.

So simple, yet so difficult? Yes, breathing is tough when you have 6449973 things running through your mind. But the clarity and calm that bursts through each deep inhale and exhale is worth it. When life becomes too busy to handle, take time to breathe. It will save you a lot of anxiety, stress and poor decisions.

MelanieAvalon.com

Paleo and Intermittent Fasting For Health And Weight Loss

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