I love the TV show "The Biggest Loser". I don't really know why I like watching it so much, but I do. I'm amazed at the contestants losing 3 to 20 lbs on a weekly basis. It's fantastic to see the contestants get smaller and smaller and smaller & then see what they looked like at the beginning of the show. I really couldn't care less about the drama – I TiVo it for that same reason – so that I can skip over the overly dramatic TV crap – that way, I can get through a 60 minute show in less than 40 minutes.
Although I was never as heavy as the folks who are on that show, I can relate to their struggles & am completely jealous that I didn't have a team of doctors, dietitians and personal trainers at my disposal when I went through my weight loss journey. My weight loss wasn't nearly as short in duration from start to finish as the contestants on The Biggest Loser; I was on my own. It was slow because I made a lot of mistakes (cutting calories too low, I didn't know about the body going into starvation mode, only exercising with weights initially, and eating a lot of diet-food/fake food instead of whole foods), but I learned a lot along the way, and corrected my mistakes as I realized that I was making them.
I guess that's one thing that has always amazed me about The Biggest Loser; when those people enter the program, their lives as they knew them cease to exist. They are thrust into a completely different lifestyle than they are used to – nothing like gradual change. They are eating 1200 – 1800 calories, and workout for about 6 hours each day. I know that much of their weight loss is coming from water depletion in their bodies, but still, the numbers they are able to drop each week are amazing to me.
Most of the finalists lose about half of their body weight by the end of the season; and then they live happily ever after.
Or do they?
Last week I was reading these two articles in Time Magazine: The Science of Appetite & Fat Chance. I still can't get over the fact that the winner of The Biggest Loser season 1 has put almost all of his weight back on. When he won, he was so jazzed about health and fitness that he wanted to start a health club to help others. It's so discouraging to think that he fell off his lifestyle and wasn't able to get back on; not to mention that he doesn't have anyone in his support group who could help him out.
What I think might be even more discouraging is that even though the other season 1 finalist has continued to lose weight, she feels like she needs to exercise 1-4 hours daily in order to keep it off. That's not a lifestyle; it seems more like a death sentence.
So what is the secret to weight loss and weight maintenance?
For one, I suppose there is no secret. Although research has shown that those who limit calories and combine cardiovascular exercise and weight training will be most successful with their weight loss, it has also shown that those folks who have lost the weight will maintain their weight loss if they exercise daily. (Articles from Tom Venuto: Listen To Maintainers, Not To Losers; How To Stop Bingeing, End Emotional Eating And Avoid Diet Relapse)
I've come to the conclusion that although exercise is important, ultimately what makes the difference is diet. A healthy diet is the biggest key to losing and maintaining weight. In the role of weight loss, exercise will probably only contribute a maximum of 30 lbs – that's a MAXIMUM. Now although 30 lbs is nothing to sneeze at, those folks who have more than 30 lbs to lose have to clean up their diets.
Your diet is crucial to your weight and your health. I can't stress this point enough. If you want to be smaller, clean up your diet and eat less. It's that simple.