Monday, April 19, 2010


This week marks the start of another 12 week cycle with 27 participants starting Biggest Loser “12”. To kick things off, the group started with our standard fitness test. After a timed one mile walk/run, they counted pushups in a minute, as well as sit-ups in a minute.

The tests have two purposes. First, the tests give us a benchmark to measure against when everyone does the test again at the end of the 12 weeks. Second, the fitness tests give everyone an idea of how out of shape they really are.

For many new participants, the tests feel like an actual workout, even though they’re really not. So, at least for the first day, they serve as their first workout. When they come back next Friday night for their first “real” workout, they’ll realize how easy the tests actually were.

The goal in the first week is always to get everyone moving. While some of them have already been engaged in fitness programs and even looking at their diets, many, if not most of them haven’t. So it’s not important how much they do, just that they do something every day.

To that end, I asked them all to try and start their day with a one mile walk in the morning. For most people, a 3.0 mph pace is pretty comfortable, so it will only take them 20 minutes to cover the mile. Getting moving early is a good way to crank up your metabolism so you’ll burn more calories throughout the day.

Later in the day, they’ll do their “real” workout for the day. This will consist of weight training on the machines three days a week (Mon, Wed, Fri), and cardio workouts on the treadmills, elliptical trainers, bikes, or walking/jogging outside on the other days (Tue, Thur, Sat). Once a week, they can take a day off, unless they want to go for a walk.

Weight training on the machines can be as simple as going through the circuit one time, after a 10 minute cardio warm-up that gets their blood flowing and joints warmed up. A typical circuit will take 20-30 minutes. Their goal is to set the machines on weights light enough to get 12-15 repetitions. If it’s easy, then next time they can try a slightly heavier weight.

On the cardio days, their goal is to get at least 20-30 minutes of exercise. It can be all on one piece of cardio equipment, or divided up between several things. As they get stronger and build up their endurance, they’ll want to stretch it out to 30-45 minutes, or even an hour.

Another thing they’ll want to be thinking about is what their weight loss goal is for the 12 weeks. Guys tend to lose more than gals for several reasons. They usually have more muscle, so they can push harder, burning more calories. They also have a different hormone mix which tends to influence weight loss.

A good way to set a goal is to look at what other people have done. Last time, the top seven guys lost 44.0, 36.4, 34.2, 32.4, 30.1, 29.8, and 27.6 lbs respectively. The top seven gals lost 34.2, 19.4, 18.4, 17.4, 15.0, 13.6, and 13.2 lbs respectively.

In the past, we’ve had guys lose even more, up to 56.0, 57.0, and even 60.0 lbs. The top losing woman over the past couple years has lost 42.0 lbs in 12 weeks. So you need to take a look at the averages, and set your own goal.

Almost everyone falls short of what they want to lose, but that’s O.K. Most are pretty happy with what they did lose, and now they know how to do it again to take the rest of the weight off.

The other main purpose for the first week is to give them a food diary so they can start keeping track of what they should eat. It’s not so much to get them thinking about the quality of their foods, because we’ll cover that next week. It’s to determine how much they’re eating—the quantity of food.

Most women don’t eat enough, and most men are overeaters, so this will help them see where they land. It also gets them in the habit of thinking about what they’re eating. Research shows that people who write it down lose more weight than those who don’t.

When they come back next week, they’ll bring their diaries, and they’ll learn how to figure out their minimum calories needed, and a good calorie target to shoot for each day. We’ll also start talking about the quality of foods and how to make better choices.

It’s going to be a wild 12 weeks—it always is. At least half of them will drop out before it’s over—they always do. Some will have good reasons, but many won’t. It just won’t be their time to lose the weight, I guess.

When life intrudes, and it will, you have to make choices and stick with it to get what you want. Sometimes those choices aren’t easy, but if you’re trying to do the right thing, it will usually work out in the end.

I hope that this new group of 27 Biggest Losers can learn how to make those tough choices and keep focused on the goal. That will serve them well if they can do it. Next week, we’ll have the weight loss results from Week One.

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