Biggest Loser Health Tips
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.
On the first day of Season 1, Bob says he had to rethink his entire approach after meeting the contestants. "I thought it was going to be, 'I know exactly how to eat. I know exactly how to work out. I know all this, and I'm going to teach you how to do it,'" he says. "When I realized it was a much more emotional connection I had to make with these people, I had to throw everything else out. It couldn't be about eating chicken and broccoli and doing 5 miles on a run. It was so much more than that."
Unlike Bob, Jillian says she knew exactly what to expect thanks to her personal weight loss journey. When Jillian was a teenager, she says she was 5'1" and weighed 170 pounds. "I've lived it to a certain extent. I never got morbidly obese," she says. "I got into martial arts, and I had somebody come in and change my life, so I understood. I'm never sympathetic, but I'm empathetic."
Though their jobs aren't easy, Bob says he's excited at the start of every season. "We get to see them from the very beginning, and Jillian and I are much more about what's going on with them in the bigger picture, as opposed to it just being about the push-ups and the screaming, puking," he says. "I think that it becomes more about just a way of life. The moment we get them, that's what we try to teach them."
"Bob has said that he now understands this is why he was put on the planet," Jillian says. "I feel similarly."
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When she began her weight loss journey, Ali weighed in at 234 pounds. "The hardest thing I ever did was stand in line to be on The Biggest Loser. I finally told the truth, and I realized that I had a problem," she says. "I just decided, 'This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I want to do this for me.'"
Ali says she began gaining weight when she was in her early 20s. At first, it was just 5 pounds here, 10 pounds there. Then, Ali says she started filling a subconscious void with food. "I dug myself into this big, deep, dark hole, and I didn't know how to get out," she says. "It was 5 pounds—that was somewhat controllable. But then it was 50, and then it was 100. I was like, 'How do I get out of here?'"
When The Biggest Loser came into her life, she says she took a long look at how she was living. "[I thought,] 'How come I felt like I needed to hide behind 112 extra pounds?'" she says.
Six months after the big finale, Ali is still fighting to stay on track. "It's a journey. It really is," she says. "I choose every day. Every day it's hard."
Ali says she never really knew the woman she once was, and she's vowed to never lose herself again. "I just promised myself never again will I forget who I am and what I deserve to have...and that's health and that's happiness," she says. "That's feeling worthy."
Five days a week, Ali says she hits the gym. She starts her workout routine with 20 to 30 minutes on the stair-climber. "This just raises my heart rate, gets it going right from the get-go to start my workout," she says.
Next, she works her upper body on the rowing machine. She does 10 minutes in both directions, which keeps her arms toned. "I have to look at my body as a true example of how I feel on the inside. This 234 pounds felt weird. It felt uncomfortable. It felt foreign. It felt like it wasn't me," she says. "This feels like it's me. I feel like this is who I was supposed to be."
She may not abide by every one of Bob and Jillian's rules, but Ali does stick to a low-calorie, high-protein diet. For breakfast, she eats two protein waffles with sugar-free syrup, which is about 180 calories.
Get recipes from the Biggest Loser Family Cookbook!
At lunchtime, Ali makes a sandwich loaded with cucumbers, tomatoes and alfalfa sprouts. "I measure and weigh everything. Portion size is crucial," she says. "I think that's where people make mistakes."
Ali says she didn't go on The Biggest Loser just to lose weight. "It was about living the life that I knew I was meant to live," she says. " It was about showing the world who I knew I was inside."
At 53 years old, Bette Sue says there aren't many diets that she hasn't tried, but she still had a lot to learn from Bob and Jillian. "I know all about, intellectually, all this stuff. ... I thought I knew everything," she says. "But the truth is, I have to let go of what I thought I knew and let Jillian and Bob in. That was very hard."
Like many past contestants, Ali says she and her mom have to take it one day at a time. "I have to choose to go to the gym. Some days I wake up, and I'm ready to roar," she says. "Some days, I wake up, and it's everything I can do to get in the car and go to the gym and talk myself out of the locker room. But it is important because it does feel good, and finally, I feel beautiful."
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At the time, Curtis weighed 381 pounds and Mallory weighed 217 pounds. With three daughters at home, the ranch was the wake-up call the couple needed to get healthy. "We are literally killing ourselves," Curtis said at the ranch. "We can't do this anymore."
Eliminated after only two weeks, Curtis and Mallory were determined to keep losing after they got home. "When you see us again, we're gonna be thinner," Mallory said at elimination.
Before the show, Curtis had scheduled a gastric bypass surgery but decided against it at the last minute. "I 'no-showed it.' I didn't feel good about it, and my family believed in me more than I believed in myself at the time, and I just decided to really put forth a good effort and do it," he says.
His effort has paid off—and Curtis credits The Biggest Loser with saving his life. "Jillian changed what I thought of myself physically, what my physical capabilities were," he says. "Bob helped me to deal with my emotional blocks that I had. Gave me the emotional confidence that I needed. ... I needed both, the physical and emotional confidence in order to pull through."
The Biggest Loser hasn't only changed Mallory's waistline...it's also changed her career. "I work at the gym now; I'm a trainer," she says. "I changed my life because exercise is every day. I used to make excuses for it."
Curtis and Mallory say they use the lessons they learned from Jillian and Bob every day. "Portion control with the food, being aware of what you're bringing into the house and measuring and thinking about it and making sure you're getting your veggies," Mallory says.
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As a former athlete, Roger says he never tried to lose weight, but he always knew he could. "I trained," he says. "Bob tapped into my former athlete side and just started churning and burning."
To maintain his weight, Roger says he uses the lessons from the ranch in his everyday life. "I think it takes 21 days to change a habit, and you live it so much on the ranch," he says. "When I go into a convenience store, I'm not picking up that candy bar or those chips. I'm just walking in and looking for an apple."
To wash down breakfast, Roger drank milk—and lots of soda. "I'd always say, 'Bring me the biggest glass. I want the adult portion,'" he says.
A family-size candy bar tided Roger over until lunch, when he would hit a buffet. "I played football. So there's four quarters in a game, right? First quarter. Second quarter. Third quarter. Fourth quarter," he says. "That's how I would eat, and that's how I did it. ... They'd say, 'No, you can't come in here [any] more.'"
For dinner, he would eat an entire box of hamburger casserole. "They'd ask for milk when you make it, and I would use cream because I wanted it thicker," he says. "Believe it or not, my cholesterol and my heart and my blood pressure were good. The diabetes wasn't very good."
After dinner, Roger says he used to eat an entire sleeve of cookies with some milk—while watching The Biggest Loser!
Roger's also added a cup of coffee to his morning routine. "I didn't drink any coffee before I went on the show, and then Bob enlightened me," he says. "It's got caffeine. It's antioxidants. So now I'm addicted to it."
The candy bar has been replaced with chips and hummus or salsa, and his buffet lunch game plan has been sidelined for a piece of lean meat and green vegetables. "I still drink a little bit of Diet Coke, but not as much," he says.
Another of Roger's snacks is Ezekiel bread, which is organic and made with sprouted whole grain. "I get the cinnamon raisin, and then I put some peanut butter on that," he says. "This peanut butter is fortified with flaxseed oil."
Can't control yourself around peanut butter? Try having just an apple and a piece of cheese. "I love the combination," he says.
For dinner, Roger sometimes keeps it simple with a protein shake, but he also likes to make a healthier version of spaghetti, replacing noodles with spaghetti squash. It's a meal Bob fully approves of. "You get more bang for your buck," Bob says. "You get to have a lot more food, and I always like to think about how I can give you mass quantities of food for lower amounts of calories."
Comparing his old diet with his new one, Roger says he can't believe he used to eat so much. "What's funny is I would eat that, and I still wouldn't be satisfied," he says.
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With his younger brother Jay as his partner, Mark dominated the weekly weigh-ins. But as the weight came off, the fierce competitor's emotions came out. With Bob's help, Mark worked through his emotional pain and tears. "You can handle anything," Bob said to Mark on the show.
With two small children and a wife at home, Mark says he used to put everyone before himself. "I spent so much time worrying about and taking care of everybody else, I never left time to take care of myself," he says. "What I learned from Bob is that real strength is being able to show your emotions, showing the person you are. Weakness is holding it in, and that's kind of how I look at it now."
Once Mark uncovered his true feelings, he says it was easier to take the weight off. "Growing up, I was basically taught you hide your emotions," he says. "So when I was feeling down ... I really didn't have any way to comfort myself, because I would be afraid to go to somebody and say, 'Hey, I'm having a bad day. I need help. I need to talk this out.'"
Now, instead of eating his feelings, Mark discusses them with his loved ones—especially his wife. "I'll sit down and tell her my day's events," he says. "My bond with my wife has become that much more stronger because now I share everything with her."
Jay started the competition weighing 293 pounds. Now, he tips the scales 87 pounds lighter! Jay credits the show for strengthening his emotional bond with Mark. After the show ended, Jay says their brotherly competition motivated him to continue his journey. "Even today, I know he's in the gym working out, and it makes me want to work out just as hard and stay healthy," Jay says.
In The Biggest Loser's inaugural season, champion Ryan Benson lost 122 pounds. In the four years since the show ended, Ryan has gained almost 100 pounds back.
During the third season, Erik Chopin started the competition weighing in at 407 pounds. Erik became the winner after losing a jaw-dropping 214 pounds in eight weeks. Two years after he was crowned the winner, Erik has gained back 72 pounds.
Are you struggling with weight loss? Get advice from The Biggest Loser's nutrition adviser, Dr. Michael Dansinger.
After the show ended, Matt got married and now has two children. When he thinks about his children's future, Matt says he does not want them to struggle with their weight. "That means stepping up as a father and being the right role model," he says.
In 2008, Suzy and Matt had their second son...just one year after their first. Like Matt, Suzy has struggled with the mental aspect of the weight loss. "Your body can change, but if you don't change the way you think about yourself, your body will go back," she says. "I think getting pregnant was the best thing for me because I had to start gaining weight back. I had to change the way I saw myself and realize it's not all about the number on the scale. It's how you feel about yourself—how you see yourself."
Julie's playground workout routine consists of running up the slide 20 times, 20 body dips using the ladder on the jungle gym, 15 pull-ups, 20 crunches using the monkey bars and 20 push-ups.
While she was competing on the show, Julie says her family helped her husband take care of their children. Julie says it was difficult being away, but it was worth it. "When I came home, and I saw my 6-year-old for the first time, he ran up to me," she says. "For the first time in his life, his arms wrapped all the way around me, and it was worth every drop of sweat."
Follow up with more of your favorite contestants!
Jillian says you should begin by creating a life list. "Write down all of the things that you want for yourself. You want to pick up your grandchildren when you're 80 years old or do you just want to look hot at spring break? There's no reason too shallow or too profound. Whatever you want for yourself, you should have it. Write those things down, and this is your constant source of motivation," she says. "I mean, it's not easy, but it is simple."
Bob believes it's important for you to start your journey today. "When you realize that today is the first day of the rest of your life and there's nothing that you can't do, you find that self-worth inside of you that God has given all of us," he says.
When Bob turned 43, he says he realized he wanted to age gracefully and is doing so by being as healthy and happy as he can. "I think it's the fountain of youth, and I want to be able to pass that along to all the people I come in contact with and work with," he says. "To me, it's about awakening that spirit that is in all of us."
Get more diet and exercise advice from Jillian and Bob.