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Five Ways to Win at Losing

Five ways to lose weight
The pure mathematics of weight loss is simple—eat less, move more—but if knowing that were all it took, everyone would be in great shape. Los Angeles-based personal trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels of NBC's weight loss reality show, The Biggest Loser, share what they know about diet and fitness success.

1. Experiment to find your own diet. Some foods are obvious no-nos: trans fats, processed food, white sugar and excessive alcohol. Beyond that, though, everyone's body is different. "Some people thrive on a strictly high-protein diet, while others do great with fruits, grains and beans," says Jillian. "Sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error to find the right combination of foods. And, as a trainer, I've learned that you also have to take human frailty into account. If you can't bear the idea of giving up bread, choose whole grain and try to eat it with some protein." The protein, she explains, will slow the breakdown of the bread so its carbs won't cause your blood sugar to spike and then—as so often happens—crash, making you hungry again for something starchy.

2. Don't ever starve yourself. Dieting means cutting calories, but less isn't always more. "One of the biggest misconceptions I've seen—including among the women I'm training on the show—is that the less you eat, the more weight you'll lose," says Jillian. "Maybe at first. But your body will think you're dying from lack of food, and your metabolism will adjust by slowing to a crawl." Most women should never eat less than 1,200 calories a day.

3. Tough it out. Accept that the early days of a fitness program may not be fun. "You've just got to push through," says Jillian. "Your body is an amazing machine. After two weeks, the walk that used to have you sucking wind won't even tire you. It took only that long for the women on The Biggest Loser to discover they could do exercises they initially found impossible. By the end of the first month, you'll see some pretty significant changes. That's when I get calls from my clients: 'Oh my God, I felt my hip bone!'"

4. Just forget about your thighs. Try viewing exercise as helping you increase what you're able to do, rather than fixing a "flawed" body part. "Whenever I start working with women, I hear complaints like 'My thighs are too big' or 'What can I do about my butt?'" says Bob. "Once you get someone moving, however, that can change to, 'Wow, I never knew how weak I was.' Being aware of a flaw can be good for getting you started, but it's more productive to think about being fit and healthy than about how you look." When you become aware of how physically strong you can be, adds Jillian, "it translates into all other areas of your life."

5. Keep your perspective. Don't count on getting the spectacular body of a movie star—unless, that is, you were blessed with a naturally great figure. And certainly don't blame yourself for not measuring up (or down, as the case may be). "Celebrities have private chefs; trainers like me working with them 24 hours a day, 6 days a week; and plastic surgeons to fix whatever problems are left," says Jillian. And then there's good lighting, airbrushing and all sorts of photographic wizardry. "Hollywood," she adds, "is a very small piece of the world. It is not reality."

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20 Ways to Win at Losing Weight
Hollywood trainers from The Biggest Loser share their strategies.
Working out with a trainer
Image: Thinkstock
The pure mathematics of weight loss is simple—eat less, move more—but if knowing that were all it took, everyone would be in great shape. Los Angeles–based personal trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels have been helping to define the bodies of celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Ellen DeGeneres, and Laura Dern, and they've also changed the lives of contestants on NBC's weight loss reality show, The Biggest Loser. Michaels is co-owner of Sky Sport and Spa. Here's what they know about diet and fitness success.

1. There's no one secret to being thin.
Losing weight and keeping it off, says Jillian Michaels, "requires a holistic approach that combines proper diet, good workouts, knowing why you overeat, and understanding how to push yourself toward change." The desire to change, she adds, really has to come from inside. "Sometimes you've got to have hit bottom, like realizing you can't play tag with your kids without getting out of breath," Jillian says. "If you're not ready for something new, no matter what you try, it's not going to work."

2. Don't blame your genes.
Yes, everyone is built differently, and some of us gain weight more easily than others. But "to say, 'I can't make any improvement because I have fat genes' is b.s.," says Jillian. "It's not true, and it's disempowering. No matter what your genes are, you have the ability to make the right choices about eating and exercise."

3. Cut yourself some slack.
The main thing is to make peace with your body before you try to change it, says Bob Harper. "Okay, you're overweight. But how great that you've decided to do something about it! Accepting where you are at the moment takes away the white-knuckle feeling that can sabotage you fast: 'I've got to lose weight! I've got to! Damn, I didn't lose any weight today. I've failed! Forget it, I won't even try anymore.'"

4. Study up.
Before you lift a toe, do some legwork. "You can learn about nutrition and diets on Web sites like howstuffworks.com or through books like Nutrition for Dummies," says Bob. Preparation helps you train wisely, too. "You can't just jump into an exercise program without knowing what you're doing," says Jillian. "At best you'll waste your time; at worst you could get injured." Find a beginner class or trainer to teach you the nuts and bolts. Or use books, fitness magazines, and videos. "Crunch Fitness puts out some awesome books that show all the basics," she says, "including Beginner's Luck, by Brad Hamler, and Perfect Posture, by Scott G. Duke."

5. Keep an honest food journal.
"It's essential," Jillian insists. "You need to track what you eat in detail. Not 'peanuts,' but how many peanuts. What time of day? And why are you eating just then? Writing it down makes you accountable and aware, and it helps you identify the mistakes you're making. Maybe your blood sugar is fluctuating through the day. Maybe you're skipping meals. Maybe you feel like you're not eating that much but, when you add it up, it comes to 2,500 calories a day."

Tip #6: Experiment to find your own diet
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Q&A with Dr. Michael Dansinger
Dr. Michael Dansinger
Confused about artificial sweeteners and after-dinner snacking? Dr. Michael Dansinger, the weight loss and nutrition adviser for the hit television series The Biggest Loser, answers your questions about serving sizes and diet plans.

Q: How much of each food group should you try to have while dieting?

A: The Biggest Loser Food Pyramid makes it easy to remember how much of each food group to eat daily: just think 4-3-2-1. That's at least four servings (cups) of vegetables and fruits, three servings of healthy protein (fish/shellfish/poultry breast/egg whites/lean red meat/soy/low-fat dairy), up to two servings (cups) of whole grains, and no more than one sweet treat (for example, diet pudding) per day.

Q: How many servings of protein are acceptable?

A: Three 8-ounce servings of protein is a good rule for everyone. This is much more protein than most people eat, however we want to eat more healthy protein to help keep hunger away and because our muscles and tissues need protein to maintain optimal health. In general, people aiming to lose weight need to focus much more on eating more healthy protein and much less starch. Since 8 ounces of dairy or egg contain fewer calories than meat, those choices are especially favorable for people aiming to maintain a lower weight.

Q: As a general rule, how much fat should be in your diet?

A: We recommend about 25 percent of calories come from fat. To accomplish this, aim to minimize unhealthy fat from meat and dairy. Chose the breast meat from poultry, and avoid red meat unless it is 95 percent lean or leaner. Dairy foods should be 1 percent fat or fat-free. Minimize butter and margarine. Use olive oil or canola oil for most cooking needs, and keep it to a minimum. Olives, nuts, seeds, and avocados have healthy fats, but limit these foods to 1/4 cup per day when weight loss is the goal. When eating eggs, try to eat mainly the whites, although a few yolks per week seems reasonable. Fish has the healthiest fat and is a great food for weight loss and good health.

Q: Is there anything you should cut out entirely?

A: Trans fats, which are an unhealthy artificial fat used at some restaurant chains and found in certain processed foods, should be eliminated whenever possible. These unnatural fats are clearly harmful and promote heart disease.

Q: Is it okay to have some sugar? If so, how much?

A: Sugar is okay when it is part of a natural food. The problem comes from sugar added to processed foods or when it is concentrated as in fruit juice. Eating two or more portions of fruit per day is a great way to satisfy that sweet tooth. In addition, almost everybody wants to find the right balance between eating some sweet treats and maintaining good health. Eating a low-calorie sweet treat no more than once daily seems reasonable for those who want something besides fruit.

PAGE 1 of 2
FROM: Weight Loss Secrets of the "Biggest Losers"
Published on October 30, 2008

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Q&A with The Biggest Loser Trainers
1 of 16

Want to know more about how you can start losing weight and change your life? Get the answers from the Biggest Loser trainers and life coaches, Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper.

Q: If you are all or nothing person, what do you do to change your thinking?

Jillian Michaels: You have to get real with yourself and acknowledge that life is not black or white, but shades of gray. As far as the pendulum swings in one direction, it swings equally as far in the other. The key to success in life and health is balance. A healthy lifestyle that is built to last sits firmly on the middle ground.

Bob Harper: You have to remember that life has its ebbs and flows, and you must learn to roll with the punches sometimes. I find that the best way to live a well-rounded life is to learn to relinquish control because you can find true clarity in the free fall of life.
FROM: Weight Loss Secrets of the "Biggest Losers"
Published on October 30, 2008

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Biggest Loser Health Tips
1 of 19
The Biggest Loser weigh-in
Imagine standing in front of 11 million people wearing only a sports bra and spandex shorts...while standing on a scale. It may sound like a nightmare, but since 2004, people have been clamoring for this opportunity. This life-changing scenario is all part of NBC's hit reality show The Biggest Loser.

The Biggest Loser challenges extremely overweight contestants to drop pounds and transform their lives. Every week, a weigh-in determines who stays and who goes home. Throughout the season, contestants live on a secluded ranch and abide by strict rules. All communication with their families and the outside world is cut off. With no access to television, radio or the Internet, the men and women focus on the fight of their lives.

For as many as seven hours a day, contestants hit the gym with television's toughest personal trainers, Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels. The women eat about 1,200 calories a day but burn up to 4,000 calories. The men limit themselves to 1,800 calories a day and work off an astounding 6,000.

As they're pushed to their physical and emotional limits, contestants begin to see dramatic results. At the end of the program, one person walks away with $250,000, the title of "The Biggest Loser" and a new outlook on life.
FROM: Weight Loss Secrets of the "Biggest Losers"
Published on October 30, 2008

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Best Life Week Follow-Ups
1 of 12
Erik Chopin and Oprah
After welcoming a new class of 7th graders to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, Oprah's back for another round of life-changing Best Life Week shows and webcasts! Take control of your weight, health, spirit, money and sex life in a week of interactive webcasts lead by Oprah and her experts. Watch the webcasts now.

Oprah's weight loss confession—it was the conversation that inspired Best Life Week. "I shared how I just didn't fall off the wagon last year—I let the wagon fall on me," Oprah says. "I can't believe after all these years I'm still talking about weight, but by the response on our message boards, a lot of you can relate."

Oprah's conversation especially resonated with Erik Chopin, the winner of NBC's third season of The Biggest Loser. When the New York deli owner got the call to appear on the show in 2006, his weight was a dangerous 407 pounds. At 36, Erik had diabetes, sleep apnea and sky-high cholesterol. "I've got two little girls at home. When they get a little older, I want to be able to walk them down the aisle," he said at the time. In eight months, Erik lost 214 pounds—and became the biggest loser to date!

Now, this fan favorite is ready to admit that he's been lying to his friends, family and his fans. In the three years since his victory, Erik has gained back half the weight he lost and says he now weighs 315 pounds. As he gained, he continued to use older photos on his MySpace and Facebook pages and even turned down an offer to appear on The Oprah Show with past Biggest Loser contestants. "People, they don't see me. I can hide," he says. "I inspired so many people; so many people reach out to me. I feel like I let them down."
FROM: Falling Off the Wagon Follow-Up
Published on January 12, 2009

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