Friday, October 26, 2012


Last week we talked about the different food groups and why we need them: Protein, Complex Carbs (starches), Fruits (simple sugars), Vegetables (fibrous carbs), and good Fats. We also talked about avoiding all those refined and highly processed junk foods.

Perhaps a simpler way of looking at it is like this—make sure that every meal includes a source of Protein, Starch, and Fruits or Greens. This common sense approach has worked with hundreds of Biggest Losers. Then you just need to make sure your portion control is operating.

Remember, women should never go below 1,200 calories/day and men should never go below 1,800 calories/day. This is the minimum calories you need just to keep your body operating properly. Your activity level will add to the number of calories you need.

Over the years, I’ve observed that most women can comfortably lose weight on between 1,500-1,650 calories/day. This is often quite a bit more than they were eating before. Guys tend to comfortably lose weight if they stick to around 2,200-2,400 calories a day. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that most guys are over-eaters!

Here are some healthy, balanced meal ideas that many of our successful Biggest Losers have used. Each has a serving of Protein, Starch, and Fruits or Greens.

Adjust for the calories that you need. The 400 calorie meal size works out perfectly for women on a 1,650 calorie diet if they’re also having three 150 calorie snacks. If you’re a guy, you’ll need to add a little bit to get up to 500-600 calories/meal. If you have any questions or special concerns, check with your health care professional!

Sample 400 Calorie Breakfasts:

• ½ to ¾ cup whole grain Cereal, 8 oz Skim or Soy Milk, and a Medium Banana.

• 1 piece of whole grain Bread with a little butter and honey, a small low fat Yogurt, and some fresh Fruit.

• 2 eggs, 1 piece of whole wheat Toast with butter, ½ cup fresh fruit.

• 1 serving of Oatmeal, 8 oz Skim or Soy Milk, and some fresh fruit.

Sample 400 Calorie Lunches:

• 1 cup whole wheat Spaghetti & Meatballs and ½ cup Green Beans.

• 6” Chicken Teriyaki Sub loaded with veggies on Honey Oat bread.

• Grilled Chicken and Spinach Salad with fat free dressing.

• ½ broiled Chicken Breast, ½ cup frozen Bean Medley, 1 piece whole wheat Bread with butter.

Sample 400 Calorie Suppers:

• 3 oz baked Chicken, ½ cup Baked Beans, Mixed Salad with fat free dressing.

• 3 oz Meatloaf, ½ baked Sweet Potato, ½ cup fresh Green Beans.

• 1 cup grilled Chicken and whole wheat Pasta, Mixed Salad with fat free dressing.

• 3 oz fresh or frozen Fish, ½ cup long grain wild Rice, frozen garden Bean Medley

• 3 oz smoked Pork Chop, ½ baked Potato w. a little butter, Mixed Salad with fat free dressing.

Sample 150 Calorie Snacks:

• Small low fat Yogurt and ½ cup Red Seedless Grapes, or Banana or other fruit.

• Meal Replacement Shakes

• ½ small box of Raisins and ¼ cup of Cashew Pieces.

• ½ cup low fat Cottage Cheese and ½ cup Fruit.

• Several pieces of real (not processed) Cheese & several whole wheat Crackers .

• Protein Bar

• ½ cup fat free Frozen Yogurt and ½ cup fresh Strawberries.

• Yellow Delicious Apple and 1 tbsp Peanut Butter.

This week’s Biggest Loser was Jeremy Whitaker, who lost 2.6% of his body weight and 6.6 lbs. Second place was a tie between Ashlee Hiatt and Nicole Shaughnessy, both losing 1.9% and 3.4 lbs and 2.9 lbs respectively.

The group also graduated from the weight machines this week, so in next week’s article, I’ll cover their first free weight routine for you. Feel free to contact me through Facebook at if you have any questions or comments.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


So we’re three weeks into Biggest Loser “17” and things seem to be going pretty well for most of the participants. They’ve got their daily food diaries going so it’s time to start taking a closer look at what they should be eating and why. Keep in mind that I’m not a doctor or registered dietitian, so this is a summary of what I’ve seen work best for most people in the past. Check with your health care professional to be sure this will work for you.


The first food we looked at was protein, which is used for building muscle and bone. Quality sources of protein include lean cuts of meat, poultry, and fish; and low fat dairy products like eggs, milk, yogurt and cottage cheese. Other good sources are nuts, peanut butter, and some types of hard beans. Other foods might contain some protein, but typically not enough to be counted as a main source.

Most people don’t eat enough protein in their diet, especially once they start an exercise program. Even if you try to get some in every meal and snack, you still might be too low on protein. If that’s the case, a quality protein shake supplement will help you get what you need.


Next, we looked at the most abused and misunderstood food group—carbohydrates. There are really three things to know about these—outside of the obvious need to knock out most, if not all of the highly refined, processed junk foods.

First, not all carbs are bad. In fact, most of them are fine for you—if you eat them in moderation. We need carbs for fuel, for both quick and long lasting energy, particularly when we’re exercising.

Fruits are made mostly of water, fiber and fructose, a simple sugar, which can be broken down very rapidly and used to get you going. There are lots to choose from, but most people don’t eat nearly enough fruits like apples, oranges, bananas, grapefruits, grapes, pears, kiwi and so on. As a result, they’re also missing out on a great source of critical vitamins and minerals.

Because they’re very low in calories and high in water and fiber, most people can eat as much fruit as they want, unless they’re diabetic. If you have that medical condition, you’ll need to be more careful with fruits and other carbs because of the effect they have on your insulin level, so consult your physician.

The second kind of good carbs are called complex carbohydrates because they have a more complicated chemical structure which takes longer to be broken down by the body. That makes them an ideal source of long lasting energy.

Good sources of complex carbs include whole grain breads and cereals; oats and oatmeal; long grain wild rice, barley, and whole grain pastas. Other sources include potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and some hard beans.

If you’re diabetic, you’ll need to be extremely careful with complex carbs because of the huge effect they have on insulin levels. Most everyone else will do well by getting one serving at each meal. That will give you the long lasting fuel you need, and also some good vitamins and minerals.

For most people, half a potato or sweet potato will be more than enough to meet your needs. You can also limit your bread to sandwiches made from just one slice of quality whole grain bread, instead of two. Go with thin crust pizza’s (without the cheese filling), and thin flat wraps when available.

Vegetables are the third type of good carbs. Extremely high in vitamins and minerals, vegetables are fibrous carbs (extremely high in fiber) and so are more difficult to digest. Since much of the food is passed through as roughage, not all the food is absorbed by the body, which makes vegetables extremely low in calories. It’s very hard to over eat vegetables but most people tend to skip this critical part of a healthy food regimen.


The best way to deal with fats is to construct a food plan that takes them into account naturally. In fact, we’ve probably run into them in other areas, like eating low fat dairy products, nuts, and fish. We can avoid foods higher in fat by eating more poultry, and eating only lean cuts of meat and even then, smaller portions.

If we’re doing all those things, we’re probably getting all the fats we need, but experts recommend we take a supplement to be sure. In the past few years, most people have become aware of the need to take Omega 3 (fish oil), but recently more attention has been paid to the need to include Omega 6 and 9. So that’s what I look for: a supplement that contains all three: Omega 3, 6, and 9.

So there you have it. It’s pretty simple really. We just need to take the basics and run with them. If you do that and also eliminate most of the junk, it’s hard to go wrong. Next week I’ll show you some of the sample meals that I’ve seen people use to get great results.


This week’s Biggest Loser was Carla Duke, who lost 2.5% of her body weight and 3.8 lbs. This brought her total weight loss for the three weeks up to 9.8 lbs. Second place went to Jeremy Whitaker, who lost 2.0% and another 5.2 lbs, bringing his total weight loss up to an amazing 20.0 lbs! Vince Porter was third, losing 1.7% and 4.4 lbs, and 10.8 lbs for the three weeks.

Feel free to contact me through Facebook at if you have any questions or comments.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


By now the group has had another week to get used to tracking their food consumption with their daily food diaries or on their smart phones. Most people have no idea how much they are eating so they either eat too much or too little.

Food diaries help you get just enough food to keep the fires burning and fuel part of your activity during the day. Then, if you exercise enough, you’ll create a calorie deficit that lets you start burning fat for fuel. That’s how you take the weight off.

It’s also important to spread your calories out during the day. Some experts call it grazing. The main thing is to avoid eating too much at any one time, because anything you can’t use is stored as fat in the body.

By spreading it out into 3 smaller meals and 2-3 healthy snacks, you’ll tend to always use or burn everything you eat, which is a huge advantage. It also keeps you from getting hungry and maybe overeating later in the day.

For most people, this means you need to eat a little more in the morning, and a little less at night. Some need to eat a lot less in the evenings! If you miss breakfast, a morning snack, and maybe even lunch, you’re setting things up for a disaster later in the day.

Every time we talk about this I remind people never go to below 1,200 calories (women) or 1,800 calories (men). This is your baseline which I call your “minimum.” If you routinely come in under your minimum, several things start to happen.

You’ll start to feel run-down, and just have an overall lack of energy. Often, your body won’t recover as well from little things. What’s worse, your body thinks you’re “starving” and causes you to hold on to that fat in case you might need it.

But as soon as you start hitting your minimum, your body will have what it needs to operate correctly, and then starts letting you burn fat for fuel. I’ve seen this hundreds of times. It’s counter-intuitive, but it works. You’ve got to hit your minimum.

Most women need around 1,650 calories to lose weight and feel good doing it. Most guys need around 2400 calories. This breaks down to three 400 calorie meals and three 150 calorie snacks for the gals. The guys need to shoot for three 600 calorie meals and three 200 calorie snacks.

In the gym, their goals were to continue to hit their cardio workouts and push ahead with the interval training I talked about last week (run a minute, walk two minutes, etc…). As it gets easier, they should start increasing their speed. They can also run a little further, or take shorter rest breaks.

For their group workout, I had them do 10 pushups, 10 body squats, and 10 sit-ups (5x). Then we went to the weight room where they learned a new way to use the machines. We took the first two machines (Chest Press and Seated Row) and did them back-to-back, three times, without a break. In this case, they had a partner on the other machine, so they switched back-and-forth.

Then they would take the next pair of machines (Pec Deck and Lat Pulldown) and do those back-to-back, without a break, a total of three times, and so on. These supersets continue until you get through each pair of machines. If you try it, you’ll see this will greatly increase the intensity of your workouts, burning lots more calories.

This week’s Biggest Loser was Jeremy Whitaker, who lost 1.8% of his body weight and 4.6 lbs. Jeremy’s lost 14.8 lbs in the first two weeks! Second place went to Johna Todd, who lost 1.6% of her body weight and 3.4 lbs. Third place went to Sheryl Bennett, who lost 1.5% and 3.4 lbs.

Next week we’ll take a look at the quality of foods we eat. Feel free to contact me through Facebook at if you have any questions or comments.

Thursday, October 04, 2012


After taking the summer off, it’s nice to get another Biggest Loser group started, so here we go with Biggest Loser “17.” It’s a pretty small group, just fourteen people, especially compared to some of the bigger groups we’ve had, but I figure there are still lots of people wanting to do this on their own.

So for the next 12 weeks, I’m going to take you through everything we do with the group. I’ll tell you about the workouts and how they progress in intensity over the course of the program. We’ll also cover how they’re learning to watch what they’re eating.

There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel—if someone has success, we should be able to copy it and have some success of our own. So if you want to do this on your own, you should be able to mirror what they do with similar results. Here’s what we’ve done so far.

A week ago, we met for the initial weigh-in and measurement sessions so they could get an accurate read on where they were. We took weight, body fat, water, bone density, and other variables, as well as several tape measurements: Right & Left Arm, Chest, Stomach, Hips, Right & Left Thigh, and Right & Left Calves. They’ll weigh-in weekly, and do measurements once a month. This will give them a way of tracking their progress, both on the scale, and around their body.

They also did a fitness test consisting of 1 min pushups, 1 min sit-ups, 1 min body squats, 1 min burpees, and 1 min mountain climbers. Part of their homework assignment was to do a 1 mile walk/run for time.

We had two goals here. The first was just to show them what kind of shape they were in. The other was to have something to compare to when they do the tests again in 12 weeks. I’m betting they’ll all be pretty amazed at how much easier each of these tests will be.

Another part of their homework was to start filling out a Daily Calorie Log. Most people have no idea how much they’re eating—they either guess high or low—but few people guess right. This will lock that in for them and show them exactly where they are each day.

We’ll also use the logs to look at the quality of their foods, but for the first week, it’s all about getting the quantity right. Women need to stay above 1,200 calories; men above 1,800. Targets that seem to work pretty well are 1,650 calories for women and 2,400 calories for men. If you don’t get enough food, your metabolism will slow, making it hard to burn fat for fuel.

Obviously, if you get too much, you store whatever you don’t need as fat. Either way, it’s a problem, so the trick is figuring out what your body needs and not go much over that. Then, by adding exercise and more activity, you put your body in a calorie deficit that lets you start burning fat for fuel.

If you can burn 500 calories a day through a combination of exercise and watching what you eat, you’ll net 3,500 calories a week, which is a pound of fat. If you can double that and burn 1,000 calories a day, you can lose two pounds of fat, and so on. In the end, it comes down to how much activity you have, and how closely you stick to your calorie targets.

Highly motivated people can even triple those numbers, especially early in the weight loss cycle, often losing three pounds a week or even more. Of the 14 people involved, eight of them lost at least 2.6 pounds, and six of them lost over 3.4 lbs, so you see what I’m talking about.

That means we’re off to a good start. All 14 people weighed in, with 12 of them losing weight. We had a two-way tie for first place between Carla Duke and Jeremy Whitaker, both losing 3.8% of their body weight and a whopping 6.0 lbs and 10.2 lbs respectively. Second place went to Nicole Shaughnessy, who lost 3.1% and 5.0 lbs.

Their workout goals are to walk at least a mile every morning, and then get their regular workouts each afternoon or evening. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, they’re supposed to hit the weight machine circuit after a cardio warm-up. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, they’ll get a good cardio workout on the treadmill, elliptical, bike, rower, stepper, or even running and walking outside.

They’re also supposed to start pushing a little bit during their cardio workouts. One of the best ways to get this going is by first warming up, and then trying to jog a minute at a low running speed (4.0 to 5.0 mph). After a minute pushing, they can rest a little by walking two minutes. Then they do another interval jogging, rest, and so on. This will help them prepare for an upcoming 5 K (3.1 mile) walk/run they’ll do in November.

Next week we’ll take a look at food diaries and how they start ramping things up in the gym. Feel free to contact me through Facebook at if you have any questions or comments.