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!

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