Diet 101: The Biggest Loser Diet

The hit television show helped many contestants lose tons of weight. We’ll tell how to do it at home and how you can get the full experience without going on TV.

With nine seasons under its belt, The Biggest Loser has become a cultural -- and weigh-loss -- phenomenon. We've seen dozens of contestants successfully lose huge amounts of weight (and some continue to struggle after they put it back on). You may not be lucky enough to get on the show, but The Biggest Loser does offer at-home tips and planning tools for a DIY experience.

Overview

Debuting in 2004, The Biggest Loser has become a huge hit reality show. If you caught it back when it premiered or have only seen an episode or two, it may have taken a second to get what the show was really about. At first, you probably just saw a dozen or so morbidly obese people wearing skimpy clothes, working out and maybe fighting with each other (ahh reality TV!). Tune in over time and you'll see everyday people, who weigh upwards of 300 to 400 pounds, busting their butts to lose weight (they track both pounds and total percentage weight loss) with the help of hardcore trainers and vigilant diet planning. Week by week, they keep getting slimmer!

To find out what exactly The Biggest Loser diet was about, I had to read the book (the website wasn't much help with so many ads distracting me). The basic theory is an obvious one: You’ll lose weight by burning more calories (via exercise and daily activities) than you eat every day. To do this, you’ll need to count your calories — this includes weighing and measuring your food precisely. The BL website has good online resources to assist you with the numbers, but it does cost to join.

The diet plan suggests three meals and up to three snacks per day. The amount of calories and portions vary depending on your calorie needs. The meals are based on a 4-3-2-1 Biggest Loser Pyramid, which is comprised (from bottom to top) of at least four servings of fruits and veggies, three servings of protein, two servings of whole grains and 200 calories from the "Extras" category. How quickly you’ll lose weight is different for everyone, but they recommend around two pounds per week. If you’re a coach potato, you’ll need to dust off your walking shoes. Cardio, strength and resistance training are all an integral part of the overall plan.

Don't get oversold by what you see on TV, however! I once sat in on a lecture a past contestant gave; he mentioned that the competitors spent many hours of the day working out. That's nearly impossible to keep up with if you’re working a full-time job or have family obligations. He also mentioned that each contestant was closely monitored by a team of experts, including frequent visits by a medical doctor. Although you probably can’t copy exactly what’s going on in the TV show, cutting calories and getting your behind moving are definite steps in the right directions.

The Costs

If you want to follow The Biggest Loser plan online, be sure to have your credit card ready. Like many diet programs, they have ready-made foods. Home delivery of these meals go for $169.95 per week (this includes meals and snacks). If you want to cook on your own, you can -- you'll probably need their cookbooks and equipment such as blenders, Panini makers and steamers, so that's more cost there.

Interested new members might want to pick up the $25 Online Subscription Card, which is sold at Target and gets you a two-month membership to The Biggest Loser Club online. This membership includes access to the diet and fitness programs used by contestants, interaction with the shows’ experts, message boards, personalized meal plans and recipes, customized fitness program and newsletter updates.

Don’t forget the exercise. You can join a gym and get a trainer, but the BL site also offers DVDs, music, video games and equipment. It just depends on how much you're willing to spend.

For the hardcore fan (with even more money to spend), you can visit The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge in southern Utah. Here’s where you can get the closest experience to being on the TV show. The resort offers many fitness programs, including hiking, kickboxing and outdoor mountain cycling. All meals are developed by registered dietitians and chefs; there are also nutrition education classes. Fees are about $1,995 per week and $7,200 for a month.

The Good

- The diet plan is based on the USDA’s My Pyramid, emphasizing whole grains, fruit, veggies and lean meat.

- Exercise is highly recommended.

- Offers great online resources, including a customized diet plan.

The Not-So Good

- The online options can get very costly.

- You need to count calories (until you get used to portions).

- Sometimes suggested calories can get too low (less than 1,200 calories per day).

The Bottom Line:

Nothing like a hit TV show and seeing other people successfully lose weight to get you motivated! This plan introduces followers to a healthy lifestyle by promoting exercise, portion control and making healthy food choices (though I wish the site would tone down on the ads!). You don’t have to go all out like the TV show, but if you do opt to do this, try gathering a group of friends or co-workers together to follow the diet suggestions and have your own (friendly) Biggest Loser competition.

    Read up on other diets:
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