Monday, September 30, 2013


After a good start a week ago, we met again Monday night for the first weekly weigh-in and workout. Perhaps the biggest issue was quite a few of the participants struggled to hit their basal metabolic rate (BMR). I call this their “hitting their minimum.”

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), ladies should never go below 1,200 calories/day, and guys should never go below 1,800. This is without regard to activity level, meaning it’s what they’d need and burn, even if they were in a coma. If they’re active on top of that, they’d need even more calories.

It’s pretty common for women to eat less than their minimum, but many have a hard time even getting to 1,000 calories/day. Experience proves that 9 out of 10 won’t be hitting their minimum. Guys tend to be overeaters, so it tends to swing the other way, with 9 out of 10 getting more than they need. This is certainly the case with me. It’s easy for me to overeat.

Let’s start with the guys. It’s easy to get in a scenario where you can be 500 calories over for the day due to overeating, inactivity, or both. Since a pound of fat is roughly equivalent to 3,500 calories, it just takes 7 days being 500 calories over and you’re a pound heavier.

If you’re only a little over, it can take longer to accumulate the fat, which is why it tends to creep up on us. We won’t notice it for awhile, but then one day, we’re 10-15 lbs overweight. If we don’t take any action, that will turn to 30-40 lbs, or more over time.

So with the guys, it’s usually just a matter of teaching them how to control their portions, and then getting their butt moving. Hitting it from both directions like that usually brings great results.

For the under-eaters, it’s not quite that simple. If you’re not hitting your minimum, based on your BMR, your body puts you into “starvation” mode, and tries to preserve energy stores (fat). So even if you think you’re going to lose weight by eating less, it becomes almost impossible to burn fat for fuel.

This is the dilemma facing most women. Plenty of them are active, and eating like birds, but they can’t lose the weight. But it’s counter-intuitive for them to believe they need to eat more. They just can’t bring themselves to do it.

So the biggest problem I have isn’t getting them to exercise more. It’s getting them to believe that if they’ll just eat another 200-300 calories a day, it won’t be stored as fat, it will be used as fuel. They’ll just burn it, and they’ll feel a lot better too.

Sometimes it takes weeks before they’ll get on board with this idea, but once they do, they always start losing weight immediately. I’ve had women resist this for 10 weeks, but after seeing the others do it and get results, they finally give in, and that will be the first week they lose two pounds.

Even if they’re not hungry, and often they aren’t, they need to try to get to that minimum by eating breakfast, even if it’s not a full breakfast. Small snacks can also help get them there.

Over the years, we’ve found that the average women will lose weight successfully on three 400 calorie meals, and two to three healthy 150 calorie snacks totaling 1,500-1,650 calories/day. Guys tend to be successful with three 500-600 calorie meals, and two to three 300 calorie snacks totaling 2,100-2,400 calories. The trick is to experiment and see what works best for you. Just remember never to go below your minimum.

As for how little you can eat, I’ve seen some extremely strong willed participants over the years stay with 1,200 or 1,800 calories, but most people find that hard to stick with. It seems to work better for people to stay a few hundred calories above it, especially if you’re active.

Keep in mind, I’m not a nutritionist. These are just basic guidelines that we’ve seen work for lots of other people in the Biggest Loser programs. You should check with your doctor and a real nutritionist for more information, or if you have special concerns that need to be addressed.

Next week, we’ll be talking about the quality of food, and how your body uses different foods. I’ll also give you some sample meals that have worked well for Biggest Losers in the past.

You might be thinking that this is a lot of information about food, and where are the workouts? I understand. As a gym owner and fitness guy, you know I want to talk about exercise and working out, but that’s only part of the puzzle. You have to get the food right too.

For the workout, we ran about a half mile down the street to the park and did three rounds of jumping jacks, windmills, pushups, body squats, mountain climbers, and lunges, 10 reps each. After jogging back to the gym, they added sit-ups, and learned a new crunch routine. This week, they’ve been focusing on the machines. Next week we’ll add some free weights!

The winner for Week One was Shelly Borchers who lost an amazing 9.4 lbs and 4.9% of her body weight. Jeremy Whitaker took second place, losing 9.6 lbs and 4.7% of his body weight. Tracy Whitaker was third, losing 5.0 lbs and 3.3%.
For more information, you can reach me at the gym, email at, or through Facebook at www.facebook/tomdolanfitness!

Saturday, September 21, 2013


Biggest Loser “18” met together for the first time Monday night with 24 participants. It was exciting for me, as we haven’t had a Biggest Loser group since last fall. Over the last few years, we’ve done 17 other groups, so after a nine month break, I was ready to go.

It’s always pretty chaotic on the first night. It takes a little time to teach them how to use the scale and get weighed in. Not that the scale’s difficult, but there are a lot of variables it measures. I’ll have more on that later.

While people were weighing in, we had the rest of them getting their basic measurements: R & L arm, Chest, Stomach, Hips, R & L thigh, and R & L calf. They’ll do this again at the end of each month, so they’ll have four different measurements to compare along the way.

This will be especially important at times when they don’t necessarily see it on the scale. That way they can still have confidence that good things are happening, even if they’re in a weight loss plateau. Over time, the total inches they’ll lose will be amazing.

Once we got the group weighed in, we talked a little bit about how to interpret the results from the scale. First of all, no one should be totally devastated by their numbers.

Many people avoid the scale when they’re overweight, and this can be a rude awakening. That’s good, actually, because sometimes we have to reach a level of disgust with the current situation before we’re willing to do what’s necessary to make some changes.

Even so, it’s just a starting point. You need to know where you are, so you can see if you’re making progress. Besides, I never trust any one or two weigh-ins anyway. It’s the trend over time that matters.

We’ll have the following measures each week: weight, body fat %, body water %, muscle mass, their BMR (basal metabolic rate), metabolic age, bone mass, and visceral (belly) fat.

Body fat % is important for a couple of reasons. Weight loss without a corresponding drop in body fat, means you’re losing muscle mass. That’s not how we want to do this. For every pound you lose, you should see a .25 to .5 reduction in body fat. The body fat % is also very accurate in predicting the risk of things like diabetes and high blood pressure due to obesity.

Knowing the body water % is also important to see if they are fully hydrated. This is critical, because hydration has a big effect on measured body fat % and muscle mass, so you’ll know whether you can trust the numbers. It also has a lot to do with how you feel, and how well your body is working.

I love the fact that they can get their personal BMR (basal metabolic rate) directly from the scale. This will tell them exactly how many calories they need each day as a minimum. We’ll set a daily target goal a little above that, so they feel full, but still will be well set up for weight loss.

Metabolic age and visceral fat readings are also pretty big wake up calls. No one wants to have a body that’s older than they are! As for the belly fat, that’s directly correlated with their risk of heart disease.

We did several fitness tests: 1 minute of push-ups, 1 minute of sit-ups, 1 minute of body squats, 1 minute of burpees, and 1 minute of mountain-climbers. As homework assignments, they also have to complete a 1 mile walk/run and post their scores to Facebook.

They got their calorie log to start recording their daily calories, and have to turn in several days worth next Monday night. This will let them know if they’re hitting their minimum, and also get us set up to start talking about the quality of what they’re eating.

Finally, they got their workout assignments for the week: Walk 20 minutes every morning, and get a more intense, longer workout in later in the day. Three days a week, they’ll focus on weights, and three days a week, they’ll focus on cardio oriented workouts.

I’ll be posting their suggested workouts on Facebook each day. Next week, I’ll give you more information, in case you want to follow along on your own. We’ll also have the results from Week One, which are always pretty exciting!

There’s still time to get involved in this community-wide program! For more information, you can reach me at the gym, email at, or through Facebook at www.facebook/tomdolanfitness!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


This week I thought I’d tell you a little bit about what to expect in Biggest Loser “18” which starts a week from Monday on Sept. 16th. For those of you that won’t be able to participate, I’m going to use this column to give you the full rundown each week, so you can follow along on your own if you like!

The first thing we’re going to do is weigh-in. Most people know they need to lose weight, but it’s often a wake up call. For sure, some of them will have been avoiding the scale, which I understand, but that’s really the wrong approach.

That’s like knowing you’re overdrawn at the bank, so you just don’t open your statements. Or knowing you can’t pay all your bills, so you just let them pile up unopened. How can you fix something if you don’t know how badly it’s broken? You need the truth, so it can set you free.

It gives you a starting point, so you know where you need to go. It also lets you know how bad things are from a risk standpoint. Being overweight can cause some problems, but being obese can kill you.

So we’ll weigh-in, and then also do their body fat percentage, along with several other measurements, including using an actual tape measure. I’m also going to encourage them to take a “before” picture from both the front, and the side, in skimpy clothing (sports bra & shorts, or just shorts for the guys). That will give them something to compare to in a month, two months, and at the end of the 12 weeks.

Then we’re going to do several fitness assessments, including a sit & reach test, a minute of push-ups, a minute of sit-ups, a minute of body squats, a minute of burpees, and finally, a 1 mile walk/run! Then, at the end of the 12 weeks, we’ll do them again, and they’ll be amazed at how much they’ve improved in most of the categories.

We’ll go over the basic game plan, which is always to get moving, and keep moving. They more they move, they more they’ll lose. It’s that simple. They’ll also get some examples of simple meal plans that have worked well for people in the past, and learn what workouts to do during the first week.

Then every week after the weigh-in, we’ll talk about something different about food, and then I’ll kick their butts with a new workout for the week. The goal there, will be to keep increasing the level of intensity each week, so they can burn more calories each time.

I’ll also encourage them to do a separate, second workout, usually first thing in the morning. This can be as simple as walking for 20 minutes (a mile), or riding the exercise bike. It doesn’t have to be hard. It just gets them moving, and will be the difference in losing more weight.

The most we’ve seen in twelve weeks was 60 lbs, on two different occasions, and several others have lost in the 40’s and 50’s. They were killing it though. The vast majority of people tend to fall somewhere between 15 and 25 lbs, which is still pretty good, don’t you think?

In the end, it’s always up to you, how well you do. But if this sounds like something that might be good for you, I’d love to see you this time in Biggest Loser “18.”

For more information about getting involved in this community-wide program, you can reach me at the gym, email at, or through Facebook at www.facebook/tomdolanfitness!