Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Biggest Loser Weight Loss Effect and Your Health

It is for no reason that The Biggest Loser is one of the more popular reality tv shows in recent years. It has even taken off internationally - The Biggest Loser Asia is set to broadcast around Asian cities in a few days. There is something inspiring (and hypnotic) about watching a fat person work out hard, change the bad eating habits and lose weight. If they can do it, why not us too? And that is what draws us to watch The Biggest Loser - the possibility that if we worked out hard and changed our eating habits too, we'd lose those extra pounds. Hey, he's 350 pounds and he lost 125 pounds - so why not us too?

I guess those of us who have been following updates with the Biggest Losers winner, today's New York Times article would not come as a shock. Still, there are many who found it shocking to read that first season's winner, Ryan C. Benson, had regained all the weight he had lost at the show. To make it sadder, we also read about what he had to do to lose all that weight. He has publicly admitted that he dropped some of the weight by fasting and dehydrating himself to the point that he was urinating blood. He had done this just before the weigh-in that saw him win the prize money. Kinda of a downer.

Ryan Benson's weight gain after the Biggest Loser only underscores the point that is not simply shedding the pounds that matter. It is about cultivating a lifestyle that you can live with for the rest of your lives. Working out 6 hours a day like the contestants on the Biggest Loser is an unrealistic thing to do, and certainly, unsustainable.

That not all of the Biggest Loser winners have regained their excess pounds is testimony to their determination to keep it off. But for most of us, the key is to develop a realistic goal, undergo a gradual transformation of your unhealthy daily habits into healthy habits, and keep at it forever. That's real life.

November 25, 2009
On ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Health Can Take Back Seat

LOS ANGELES — When more than 40 former contestants from “The Biggest Loser” gather Wednesday for a reunion television special, the winner of the program’s first season, Ryan C. Benson, who lost 122 of his 330-pound starting weight, will be absent. Mr. Benson is now back above 300 pounds but he thinks he has been shunned by the show because he publicly admitted that he dropped some of the weight by fasting and dehydrating himself to the point that he was urinating blood.

Now in its eighth season, “The Biggest Loser” is one of NBC’s most-watched prime-time programs besides football, drawing an estimated 10 million viewers each week, according to Nielsen. It has clearly tapped into the American obsession with losing weight, as more than 200,000 people a year submit audition videotapes or attend open casting calls for the program.

It also has spawned a licensed merchandise business that will generate an estimated $100 million this year.

The series also highlights the difference between the pursuit of engaging television and the sometimes frenzied efforts of contestants to win, perhaps at the risk of their own health. Doctors, nutritionists and physiologists not affiliated with “The Biggest Loser” express doubt about the program’s regimen of severe caloric restriction and up to six hours a day of strenuous exercise, which cause contestants to sometimes lose more than 15 pounds a week.

At least one other contestant has confessed to using dangerous weight-loss techniques, including self-induced dehydration. On the first episode of the current season, two contestants were sent to the hospital, one by airlift after collapsing from heat stroke during a one-mile race.

New contestants are entering the show more out of shape. Each of the last two seasons has broken the record for the heaviest contestant ever, at 454 and 476 pounds.

Medical professionals generally advise against losing more than about two pounds a week. Rapid weight loss can cause many medical problems, including a weakening of the heart muscle, irregular heartbeat and dangerous reductions in potassium and electrolytes.

“I’m waiting for the first person to have a heart attack,” said Dr. Charles Burant, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System director of the Michigan Metabolomics and Obesity Center.

“I have had some patients who want to do the same thing, and I counsel them against it,” Dr. Burant said. “I think the show is so exploitative. They are taking poor people who have severe weight problems whose real focus is trying to win the quarter-million dollars.”

Dr. Rob Huizenga, the medical consultant to “The Biggest Loser” and an associate clinical professor of medicine at U.C.L.A., said that the program was safe. “This is not only a major amount of weight loss, it is a totally different kind of weight loss compared with surgery or starvation diets,” he said.

In interviews, the show’s trainers and producers acknowledge that unsafe practices can occur.

“If we had it to do over, we wouldn’t do it,” Dr. Huizenga said of the recent one-mile race that resulted in hospitalizations. “It was an unexpected complication and we’re going to do better,” he said, adding that “that challenge has changed a lot of the way we do things,” including more closely monitoring contestants’ body temperatures during exercise.

JD Roth, an executive producer of the series who created its current format, said that while the show was extreme, “it needs to be extreme in my opinion.”

“For some of these people this is their last chance,” he said. “And in a country right now that is wrestling with health care issues and the billions of dollars that are spent on obesity issues per year, in a way what a public service to have a show that inspires people to be healthier.”

Some contestants have claimed that dangerous weight loss techniques were common among contestants. Kai Hibbard, who lost 118 pounds and finished as the runner-up in Season 3, has written on her MySpace blog and elsewhere that she and other contestants would drink as little water as possible in the 24 hours before a weigh-in. When the cameras were off, she said, contestants would work out in as much clothing as possible.

Ms. Hibbard, who weighed 144 pounds at the show’s finale, wrote that she added 31 pounds in two weeks, most of it simply by drinking water. That experience is not isolated. Including Mr. Benson, the winners of the first four seasons of the show each have added at least 20 percent to their weight at the end of the show.

Jillian Michaels, one of the two trainers who supervise contestants’ workouts on the series, said the experience of Ms. Hibbard and Mr. Benson was evidence of “the dark side of the show.”

“Contestants can get a little too crazy and they can get too thin,” she said. She said contestants are medically checked and disqualified if they are dehydrated or are found to be taking drugs or diuretics. “That is the worst part of the show,” she said. “ It’s just part of the nature of reality TV.”

Contestants are required to sign releases that stand out even in the waiver-intensive world of reality television.

One such release, which was provided to The New York Times by a former contestant who did so on the condition of anonymity, says that “no warranty, representation or guarantee has been made as to the qualifications or credentials of the medical professionals who examine me or perform any procedures on me in connection with my participation in the series, or their ability to diagnose medical conditions that may affect my fitness to participate in the series.”

The current season started with five contestants of more than 400 pounds. Yet contestants have been required to sign a document certifying that they believe themselves to be “in excellent physical, emotional, psychological and mental health.”

Mr. Roth said that those “standard release forms” are similar to those used “on any reality show.” He added that the show’s medical professionals had “appropriate qualifications and credentials.”

Getting contestants to talk openly about the environment of the program is difficult. Shortly after a reporter started contacting former contestants to interview them about their experiences, a talent producer on the series sent an e-mail message to many former contestants reminding them that “serious consequences” could ensue if they ever talked to a reporter without the show’s permission.

To do so could subject them to a fine of $100,000 or $1 million, depending on the timing of the interview, according to the e-mail message, which was obtained by The New York Times. The show’s producers did provide an opportunity to interview several former contestants, but the interviews were conducted with an NBC publicist listening in.

Ali Vincent, a fifth-season contestant who became the first female winner of “The Biggest Loser,” said she believed that her involvement in the show was “definitely worth it.”

“I went from a life of nothing to being active every day, six days a week,” said Ms. Vincent, who started the program weighing 234 pounds and finished at 122. She now weighs about 125 pounds, she said, and is a spokeswoman for products and ventures related to “The Biggest Loser.”

Ms. Michaels and Bob Harper, the other trainer, as well as Mr. Roth all say that at least half of the contestants stay close to the weight levels they achieve on the show for several years.

Mr. Roth said he happily accepted a 50 percent success rate — noting that only a handful of former contestants regained all or most of the weight they carried before joining the show. “Getting 100 percent to keep the weight off has never been the goal,” he said. “The goal is can we inspire people in America to make a change in their life. In that, we’re batting 1,000.”

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Exercising and Weight Loss

A recent news article at the New York Times asked this pertinent question that so many of us have had - why is it that exercise does not always lead to weight loss?

According to the doctor who led a fat-burning study that delved into the issue of exercise and weight loss: if one worked out at a relatively easy intensity, a walk or a slow jog, for instance, one would be exercising in the so-called “fat-burning zone.”

That meant that the body would be burning fat, as well as carbohydrates, for fuel. At a higher intensity of exercise, a speedy run, for instance, the body relies almost exclusively on carbohydrates for fuel.

So there is such a thing as “fat-burning” exercise.

However, the myth is that working out in the fat-burning zone means you’ll lose weight.

But most people will not. Why? Simply because slow, easy exercise does not use up very many calories, and it’s calories that matter. If you burn 200 calories during a walk and eat 300 calories afterward, then you’ve replaced every ounce of body fat that you burned, and then some.

The idea is that overweight people do not exercise intensely or long enough to burn many calories, and they often take in extra calories after they exercise, thus nullifying the positive effect of exercise on weight loss.

So eating less coupled with more exercise is the key. For the last 30 years, obesity rates have been skyrocketing, due to more eating and less exercise. Genetics simply cannot account for changes that take place over such a short period, so it remains a personal responsibility to exercise more WHILE eating less, if you are overweight.

Main idea: Exercise alone will not help you lose weight, but without exercise, most people can not keep the weight off!

The NYT article is re-produced in its entirety below for your information.

Phys Ed: Why Doesn’t Exercise Lead to Weight Loss?

November 4, 2009, 12:01 am

For some time, researchers have been finding that people who exercise don’t necessarily lose weight. A study published online in September in The British Journal of Sports Medicine was the latest to report apparently disappointing slimming results. In the study, 58 obese people completed 12 weeks of supervised aerobic training without changing their diets. The group lost an average of a little more than seven pounds, and many lost barely half that.

How can that be? Exercise, it seems, should make you thin. Activity burns calories. No one doubts that.

“Walking, even at a very easy pace, you’ll probably burn three or four calories a minute,” beyond what you would use quietly sitting in a chair, said Dan Carey, Ph.D., an assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, who studies exercise and metabolism.

But few people, an overwhelming body of research shows, achieve significant weight loss with exercise alone, not without changing their eating habits. A new study from scientists at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver offers some reasons why. For the study, the researchers recruited several groups of people. Some were lean endurance athletes; some sedentary and lean; some sedentary and obese. Each of the subjects agreed to spend, over the course of the experiment, several 24-hour periods in a special laboratory room (a walk-in calorimeter) that measures the number of calories a person burns. Using various calculations, the researchers could also tell whether the calories expended were in the form of fat or carbohydrates, the body’s two main fuel sources. Burning more fat than carbohydrates is obviously desirable for weight loss, since the fat being burned comes primarily from body fat stores, and we all, even the leanest among us, have plenty of those.

The Denver researchers were especially interested in how the athletes’ bodies would apportion and use calories. It has been well documented that regular endurance training increases the ability of the body to use fat as a fuel during exercise. They wondered, though, if the athletes — or any of the other subjects — would burn extra fat calories after exercising, a phenomenon that some exercisers (and even more diet and fitness books) call “afterburn.”

“Many people believe that you rev up” your metabolism after an exercise session “so that you burn additional body fat throughout the day,” said Edward Melanson, Ph.D., an associate professor in the division of endocrinology at the School of Medicine and the lead author of the study. If afterburn were found to exist, it would suggest that even if you replaced the calories you used during an exercise session, you should lose weight, without gaining weight — the proverbial free lunch.

Each of Melanson’s subjects spent 24 quiet hours in the calorimeter, followed later by another 24 hours that included an hourlong bout of stationary bicycling. The cycling was deliberately performed at a relatively easy intensity (about 55 percent of each person’s predetermined aerobic capacity). It is well known physiologically that, while high-intensity exercise demands mostly carbohydrate calories (since carbohydrates can quickly reach the bloodstream and, from there, laboring muscles), low-intensity exercise prompts the body to burn at least some stored fat. All of the subjects ate three meals a day.

To their surprise, the researchers found that none of the groups, including the athletes, experienced “afterburn.” They did not use additional body fat on the day when they exercised. In fact, most of the subjects burned slightly less fat over the 24-hour study period when they exercised than when they did not.

“The message of our work is really simple,” although not agreeable to hear, Melanson said. “It all comes down to energy balance,” or, as you might have guessed, calories in and calories out. People “are only burning 200 or 300 calories” in a typical 30-minute exercise session, Melanson points out. “You replace that with one bottle of Gatorade.”

This does not mean that exercise has no impact on body weight, or that you can’t calibrate your workouts to maximize the amount of body fat that you burn, if that’s your goal.

“If you work out at an easy intensity, you will burn a higher percentage of fat calories” than if you work out a higher intensity, Carey says, so you should draw down some of the padding you’ve accumulated on the hips or elsewhere — if you don’t replace all of the calories afterward. To help those hoping to reduce their body fat, he published formulas in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research last month that detailed the heart rates at which a person could maximize fat burning. “Heart rates of between 105 and 134” beats per minute, Carey said, represent the fat-burning zone. “It’s probably best to work out near the top of that zone,” he says, “so that you burn more calories over all” than at the extremely leisurely lower end.

Perhaps just as important, bear in mind that exercise has benefits beyond weight reduction. In the study of obese people who took up exercise, most became notably healthier, increasing their aerobic capacity, decreasing their blood pressure and resting heart rates, and, the authors write, achieving “an acute exercise-induced increase in positive mood,” leading the authors to conclude that, “significant and meaningful health benefits can be achieved even in the presence of lower than expected exercise-induced weight loss.”

Finally and thankfully, exercise seems to aid, physiologically, in the battle to keep off body fat once it has been, through resolute calorie reduction, chiseled away. In other work by Melanson’s group, published in September, laboratory rats that had been overfed and then slimmed through calorie reduction were able to “defend” their lower weight more effectively if they ran on a treadmill and ate at will than if they had no access to a treadmill. The exercise seemed to reset certain metabolic pathways within the rats, Melanson says, that blunted their body’s drive to replace the lost fat. Similar mechanisms, he adds, probably operate within the bodies of humans, providing scientific justification for signing up for that Thanksgiving Day 5K.

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2. The fastest way to lose 5 pounds
2. Negative calorie food--what are they and why they are a bride's best friends
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4. The balanced approach
5. Yes, you can get slim without the gym

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