Learn how to lose weight—and keep it off— with tricks from The Biggest Loser. —by Rachel Grumman
Envy the dramatic results you see on The Biggest Loser? Don’t. Anyone can successfully use the strategies that help contestants drop pounds and get in shape. All You spoke with the show’s nutrition and fitness experts, plus one of the winners, for straight talk on what really works when you’re trying to slim down. Try their get-fit secrets and you’ll be on your way to realizing your own biggest-loser moment.
Ali Vincent, 34, the first female winner of The Biggest Loser, found that following a regular eating schedule while on the show helped keep her weight trending down. She had breakfast within 30 minutes of waking and ate every three to four hours afterward in order to jump-start her metabolism and make sure her body never felt deprived.
Consume three meals and two snacks per day, just as the contestants do. Every meal and snack should include protein (such as egg whites or low-fat turkey), carbohydrates (whole-grain bread is a good source) and a little healthy fat (like that found in avocado). Carbohydrates boost blood sugar initially; adding protein and fat helps sustain those levels for a longer period of time so you have more energy and feel fuller longer.
Vincent downs plenty of water each day to keep her metabolism working efficiently. Not a fan of plain water? Drop in slices of lemon, orange or lime. Or sip flavored decaffeinated iced tea (try blackberry or passion fruit) or hot green tea. Hydration also replaces water loss from exercise. Try to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses per day.
“I was used to my flavor coming from fried foods,” Vincent says. “At first I chose to eat vegetables because they were healthy for me, even though I didn’t like them. But then I realized they have so much flavor, and I started to crave them. I learned that I needed vegetables to fuel my body and sustain me for the exercise I was doing.” For dinner, Vincent typically eats 3 ounces of lean turkey, chicken or fish, and she loads her plate with a medley of vegetables, such as different types of tomatoes and sprouts as well as broccoli or asparagus. “With vegetables, I know I can have a lot and feel full, and they’re still low in calories,” she says.
The key time to stay away from sugary foods is in the morning. If sugar is your weakness and you have your first taste when the day is just getting started, you’re setting yourself up to want more later. Got a hankering you can’t seem to shake? Grab a guilt-free treat such as a naturally sweet piece of fruit.
Quench your thirst and take in some appetite-curbing protein by adding flavored protein powder to your water. Look in health food stores for portable packets with at least 6 grams of protein and 40 or fewer calories. Leave some packets in your purse or at the office to help tackle hunger pangs.
Chicken and turkey aren’t always healthier than beef. Some poultry-based products, such as turkey meatballs and sausages, are loaded with fat, and some restaurants add fat to their turkey burgers to make them taste better. A sirloin burger might be a better choice. Read the nutrition information on the package or, if you’re eating out, on the menu. Many chains now list those figures on their Web sites. Take a look before you go so you can choose wisely.
Find delicious substitutes. For a decadent treat, take a pretty martini glass, fill it with low-fat vanilla yogurt and low-fat granola, add berries and drizzle with low-calorie chocolate syrup. Try topping a whole-grain waffle with sliced bananas and low-calorie chocolate syrup. Or freeze low-sugar hot chocolate in molds to make an ice pop.
You probably have heard this advice before― that’s because it works. Vincent eats off salad plates rather than dinner plates, and she fills them mostly with vegetables to make them look loaded with food. Don’t forget to use small bowls for rice and cereal, too. A typical bowl holds 2½ cups; if you fill it three-quarters full, you’re eating nearly double what you should. Using smaller bowls is a good way to control serving size without a food scale or measuring cup.
You might watch The Biggest Loser, see dramatic results and feel disappointed about not achieving similar success at home. Remember, however, that the contestants’ full-time job is to lose weight, and they have trainers and a medical staff supporting them. Chances are, you’ll overindulge now and then, whether it’s because of a friend’s birthday or a stressful day at work. But don’t beat yourself up. Start fresh the next day by eating better, exercising or both.