The Biggest Loser Diet stresses nutrition and exercise. In 6 weeks, dieters can lose weight, make progress against diabetes, and improve heart health.
What is the biggest loser diet?
You, too, can be The Biggest Loser by following a diet and fitness programer similar to that used by contestants on the television show.. There are no televised temptations of cheesy pasta or gooey chocolate cake for home dieters, no diet pills or personal trainers — just a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.
This is a low-calorie diet based on The Biggest Loser pyramid of 4-3-2-1 (four servings of fruits and veggies; three of lean protein; two of whole grains; and one “extra”), along with good old-fashioned exercise. Eat a diet based largely on fruits, vegetables and lean protein, add a heavy dose of physical activity and you will lose weight, maintain healthier cholesterol and blood pressure, and become stronger and more energized.
Obesity clinician and researcher Dr Michael Dansinger, developed the weight loss programme accompanied by dietitian and chef Cheryl Forberg and trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels, working with writer Dr Maggie Greenwood-Robinson.
Over the course of the 12-week programme, you can expect to eat small, frequent meals containing plenty of fibre and protein for fullness without too many calories.
“We emphasise the quality of the calories so you can meet your nutritional needs [and] enjoy more natural, healthy whole foods and lean proteins that will help you deal with hunger before it happens,” says Forberg.
You also won’t be eating any “appetite stimulating” white foods like bread, pasta or potatoes. Keeping daily food logs, watching portion sizes and drinking one-and-a-half to two litres of water each day round off the basic plan.
You can also count on daily workouts, starting at 30 minutes and increasing to an hour. The book contains a detailed cardio and strength-training programme that increases in intensity for a “fat-busting boost.” You’ll also find plenty of tips and inspiration from former contestants throughout the book.
Sounds simple enough, but when you don’t have a personal trainer pushing you, as the TV contestants have, how do you stay motivated? You can join The Biggest Loser club for online support, meal plans, recipes, customised fitness information, a journal, and more from £2.50 a week. Biggest Loser cookbooks and fitness books are also available for purchase.
What you can eat on The Biggest Loser diet
The book includes one-week sample meal plans for 1,200-, 1,500- and 1,800-calorie diets, along with some recipes. 45% of the total calories come from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 25% from fat.
The 4-3-2-1 Biggest Loser Pyramid sets the stage for the number of servings from each of the food groups:
- 4 servings of fruit and vegetables
- 3 servings of protein — lean, vegetarian, or low-fat dairy
- 2 servings of whole grains
- 1 extra of fats, oils, sweets, alcohol or your choice, equivalent to 200 calories
What you can eat on The Biggest Loser diet continued…
Here’s a sample meal daily plan:
Breakfast: 1/2 serving protein, 1 serving whole grain, 1 serving fruit
Snack: 1/2 protein, 1 fruit
Lunch: 1 protein, 1/2 whole grain, 1 vegetable
Snack: 1/2 protein, 1 fruit
Dinner: 1/2 protein, 1/2 whole grain, 2 vegetables
Dieters are urged to choose foods that are not processed and contain no added fats, sugar or salt. “Read food labels, and if you can’t pronounce some of the ingredients on the list, don’t buy it,” suggests Forberg.
Whole fruits and vegetables are preferred over juices or dried fruits. Foods should be eaten raw or prepared simply without extra fats. Whenever fats are used, they should be healthy fats — not saturated or trans fats.
Dieters should choose whole grains that are less refined and have at least two grams of fibre per serving of bread or five grams of fibre per serving of cereal, with no more than five grams of sugar. Protein choices include lean meat or fish, vegetarian protein, or low-fat dairy. Your calorie level determines portion sizes and your protein options.
Still hungry? You can eat more than four servings a day of fruit and vegetables.
How The Biggest Loser diet works
The Biggest Loser diet works because you burn more calories than you eat, and if you follow the prescription for eating healthy, whole foods every few hours, you shouldn’t have to deal with hunger.
“When you eliminate refined starches and sugars or the appetite stimulating foods, hunger and appetite go way down because blood glucose and insulin spikes are minimised,” says Dansinger.
Meals are scheduled frequently to help dieters avoid hunger. In addition, portion sizes are monitored and detailed records kept of food intake.
Your starting calorie level is determined by multiplying your current weight by seven (on the television show, they use a factor of six for quicker results). The recommendations range from a low of 1,050 calories for a 70 kg (154-pound) person to a high of 2,100 calories for a 140 kg (308-pound) person.
“Most people eat more than they think, so in essence the low end is probably closer to a 1,200-calorie diet,” says Dansinger.
As you start losing weight, the plan says you’ll recalculate your calorie level and take in fewer calories or get more exercise. “If you want to maintain a fairly aggressive weight loss, you may need to adjust your caloric intake to your lower weight,” says Dansinger.
The book also includes tips for weight maintenance once you’ve reached your goal. “We base our recommendation on 10 to 12 calories per pound and an hour per day of exercise for maintenance,” says Dansinger.
You can avoid the ups and downs of yo-yo dieting if you follow these five nuggets of advice from contestants who have lost weight on The Biggest Loser and kept it off:
- Eat a healthy breakfast every day
- Enjoy fruit and/or vegetables with every meal
- Have protein with all meals and snacks
- Stay active
- Plan your meals, snacks, and exercise
What the experts say about the Biggest Loser Diet
Nutritionist Susan Bowerman gives the plan a thumbs-up.
“It is very similar to the plan we use at our clinics, using very low-fat and lean protein, lots of fruits and vegetables (with an emphasis on vegetables), and avoiding refined grains — which has proved to be successful because the diet is very satiating,” she says. She also recommends that dieters get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, either in a supplement or by eating low-mercury types of fish twice weekly.
Bowerman says the carbohydrate level in The Biggest Loser diet may not be enough for someone who is very active. “If you are functioning well and feel like you have enough energy for your workouts, then the level is fine,” she says. “Otherwise, you might want to increase the carbs to meet your activity needs.”
Multivitamins are not suggested in the book, but Bowerman recommends that anyone on a lower-calorie diet take a multivitamin for nutritional “insurance.”
“Theoretically, you should be able to get everything you need from the plan,” she says. “However, there is no reason not to include a multivitamin for your age and sex, because often both men and women lack certain nutrients, like calcium, because of dietary preferences or intolerance.”
Food for thought
If you’re motivated by the television programme, you can be your own “biggest loser” at home with this sensible and straightforward approach.
“It is doable, easy to adopt, and offers a wide variety of choices of exercises and food, so people really can stick with it and let it become a lifestyle plan instead of a short-fix diet,” says Forberg.
Everyone in the family — even vegetarians — can follow this plan as long as you modify portion sizes to meet individual nutritional needs.
“We don’t use the word diet,” Forsberg says. “It is a plan that can work for everybody because there is so much variety, it is based on science and everyone can benefit from a nutrient-rich eating plan that will foster weight loss and promote optimal health.”