Friday, February 28, 2014

Big Things to Come...

Big news coming Monday... stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Racing - Gearing Up For 2014

It seems like all the other running blogs I read are already waaaaaay past me on this one, so I thought I better get a hop on it.

Today, I'm going to discuss my 2014 race schedule.

If you're a regular to this blog, you know last year I ran 15 races.  Yes, 15.  There were 4 half marathons, a du relay, a tri relay, a 7K and a slew of 5Ks. 

I know 15 seems like a lot.  And when you add on top of that the fact that Minnesota really only has 6-8 months of "good" race weather, 15 seems like even more.  I honestly couldn't think of many weekends last summer where I felt like I DIDN'T have a race on the schedule.

I know.  I think it got to be a bit much.

That being said, I am going to approach my 2014 racing a bit differently.

Rather than racing just because I have a weekend open, I'm going to be more selective.  I want to pick races that are meaningful... which can "mean" a lot of things.  For example, the first two races I'm set on for 2014, I'm doing for fun with my sister:

Get Lucky Twin Cities, March 15th
A 7K fun run type race, with costumes ... and a free beer at the finish.
You can read my recap from this race last year, or just hold out until I post for 2014.

Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle Chicago, March 30th
An 8K race that's fantastically HUGE!  Case in point:
Yes, that is their banana station post race.
I've never done this one before, but I heard it is awesome, so I'm willing to give it a shot.

I'm sure my approach to racing this year has some people baffled, because last year any time someone asked me if I was running a particular race it was a 90% chance I'd say yes.  But this year, every time people ask me if I'm registered for a particular race, I keep coming back with a:

That's not to say that I'm NOT doing that race.  It's just that I have a master plan for my spring racing (which I'll share more about next week).  And, for 2014 I want to first see how that master plan makes me feel.. and then, when I'm ready for another race, choose it in a more thoughtful manner. 

Last year, I ran with abandon.  This year, I want to avoid that.  I want to make sure I am choosing races because I'm going to enjoy them, or I want to approach them with a particular strategy in mind, or I want to do them with another person.  I want to force myself to learn that sometimes, less is more.

And I think my husband will appreciate that I'm not so booked up every weekend, too!  :-)

Monday, February 24, 2014

No More Buzz

OMG, what have I done?  As of Saturday, I've given up caffeine.

Can you tell?  Do I seem a little...

Well - do I!?!?!

Woah.  I need to calm down.  *Deeeeeeep Breeeeaaaatttthhhhh*

Ok.  Calm.  Back on topic. 

I'm sure you're reading this right now and thinking to yourself...

No, I wasn't dropped on my head.  I'm doing this for my health.  Or something. 

I mean, I've read all sorts of articles about how caffeine is bad for you, how it can give you insomnia, how it can raise your blood pressure and/or be hard on your heart,  etc., etc., etc.  Honestly, I'm not too stirred up about that because I don't have any existing health conditions that can be aggravated by caffeine intake.  Nor do I have any ill effects from the current level of caffeine that I consume.

So, you're likely asking yourself why I'm giving up caffeine.  Maybe I'm just doing it because...


Well, isn't that kind of a given?  Anyone who runs a half marathon dressed as a unicorn or teaches in glitter spandex must have a few screws loose.  No surprise there.

Anyway, all joking aside, part of the reason I decided to give this a try is my husband.  Of all things.  I know!  He's not exactly ... what you would call a health nut.  (Hard to believe with a wife like me, right?  LOL!)

But here's the thing - a few months back he started working from home.  And being home all day with easy access to the coffee machine, he started upping his coffee intake.  Within a few weeks of doing so, suddenly we had decaf coffee in the mix.    I didn't think anything of it at first, since we do keep some decaf in the house for the occasional after dinner treat, but...

Finally, one day, I realized he was actually drinking the decaf.  A lot.  Even though I never even noticed he was bothered by coffee or having any issues, he had made the switch to drinking 100% decaf.

Upon asking him if he was feeling ok, and then asking him why the switch to decaf, he had a very simple answer.  (Those of you who know my husband know that unlike me, he is definitely a man of few words).  Basically, he said he had started feeling too jittery, and after switching to decaf, felt a lot better. 

I asked him if he had any side effects from going off caffeine, and he said that he had a pretty massive headache on one of the first few days, but after that - he was fine.  In fact, after the switch, he stuck to the decaf for quite a few months, until we ran out of it in the house one day and he didn't have another option. 

After re-introducing caffeine that day, he decided he didn't feel too bad ... as long as he stuck to one cup.  So now, for the most part, he is OK to have a single cup of regular ... or decaf, no big deal either way.   And any additional cups after his first are decaf.

So how does this tie in to me?  (Since you know I don't drink a ton of coffee and pretty much no caffeinated sodas.)

Well, for the last few months I've been working to eliminate added sweeteners as much as possible from my diet - mostly artificial sweeteners, but also regular sugars as well (including natural ones like honey and so on).  But the one thing I haven't been able to eliminate yet is... some sort of sweetener in my coffee.  So, I thought three things about giving up coffee:

(1) If I could wean down to decaf, I'd get off the caffeine train.

(2) If I can eventually eliminate the AM coffee all together, I'll have most of the additional sweeteners out of my life.

(3) Maybe... just maybe... if I eliminate my morning coffee rituals I'll get better at starting my hydration cycle earlier in the morning?  (A girl can dream, right?)

And, here I am on day three.  I had a slight headache late yesterday, and I felt a little tired/foggy this AM, but so far so good. 

That's about it.  I'll keep you posted in a few weeks as to how it goes.  In the meantime, wish me luck!!

(PS - Yes, I know that decaf isn't really great, either, given the chemicals that go into the processing of the beans.  But since my goal is to quit coffee all together, I'm not too worried about that.)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Numbers Game

 I read an interesting article recently, and thought I would recap a few numbers and their associated fun facts.


Number Fact
58 Grams of fat in the typical restaurant meal, which is 89 percent of what you should eat in an entire day.
1128 Calories contained in a typical restaurant meal, averaged across breakfast, lunch and dinner - 56 percent of the recommended daily calorie intake for women.
95 Percent of the recommended amount of daily sodium allowance found in an average restaurant meal. 
200 Dollars spent annually, per capita—man, woman and child—on prescription drugs to fight diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol. 
333 Calories in the average burger in the late 1980s. Today's popular burgers include Ruby Tuesday (where every burger, including the turkey burger, tops 1,200 calories & the Bacon Cheese Pretzel Burger has 1,759 calories) and and Chili’s Southern Smokehouse Burger (1,600 calories).
70 Percent of Americans’ caloric intake derived from processed foods - that means anything that's not a basic whole fruit, vegetable or grain.
47.2 Percent of increased risk of being overweight associated with drinking more than two cans of soda per day. In fact, the Beverage Guidance Panel suggests that if we all limited our consumption of soda to 250 calories a day, our average weight would go down more than 22 pounds—even without altering a single thing we ate.
100 Acres of pizza served each day in America. 
1 Bread’s ranking among food that contributes the most calories to the American diet (and mostly the white, processed grain variety). The number-two source of calories in our diet? Cakes and cookies.
53 Grams of sugar in one glass of IHOP cranberry juice, which is the equivalent of two whole snickers bars! 
260 Percent increase in the number of obese adults between the 1960s and today. 
19.4 Pounds of pasta the average American man eats in a year. The average Italian man eats about 57.3, or about three times as much. However, the average American man weighs 191 and the average Italian man, 160. Why?  An example: the Cheesecake Factory's pasta Carbonara with Chicken dish has more calories than most of us should eat in a day (2,290), and has the saturated fat equivalent of 1.5 sticks of butter—or half a dozen bratwursts.
22 Grams of sugar per serving in Campbell's Slow Kettle Style Tomato and Sweet Basil Bisque - as much sugar as a Nestle 100 Grand bar, as much saturated fat as 5 servings of Cheetos, and as much sodium as 2 cups of Chex Mix. (If you eat the full bowl, multiply the above by 2).

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Deep Thoughts While Running #6

I realized last week that this blog has gotten way too serious. 

Time for something sarcastic.

Since I've been spending a lot of time indoors running lately, what with the -50 wind chills and the constant blizzards, I've been stewing this post over for awhile.  BTW, -50 wind chills.  Hooray Minnesota!  (I think the people on the plane a couple seats behind me had it right when I was flying home from vacation a few weeks back... upon seeing the snowy ground while coming in to land they said "God, why to we fricking live here?!")


As a result of all my "inside" time, I have had plenty of people watching sessions, and therefore have decided to create a list of 10 things you DEFINATELY should not do at the gym.

Here's the list, in no particular order:

(1) Capris with socks that go any higher than your ankle

This would certainly result in some interesting tan lines.
And I bet that 1" strip of skin feels very cool and sweat free during working out.

(2) Beauty queen jewelry

Double no to the matched set - necklace & earrings.

(3) Beauty queen jewelry, paired with a low cut tank top & push up bra, possibly while "running" backwards on an elliptical

Apparently many people wear inappropriate things on the elliptical?
I didn't see this Christmas lady, but I did see the beauty queen - true story!!

(4) Excessive grunting while weight lifting

By the way, I think they heard you in China.  So you can stop now.

(5) LEAN on your machine

If you are supporting any of your body weight with your arms, you're doin' it wrong.

(6) Wear patterned underwear under sheer/worn out stretch pants

An extra no if you bend over right in front of people (me) while wearing this.

(7) Take the machine right next to me when the entire gym is open

I hope you enjoy my sweat stink, jerk.

(8) Bitch about how "hard" something was

Dude, I have been on this treadmill for an hour, and you did 20 minutes.

(9) Velvet track pants/suits

No one can get a good workout in wearing those.  No one.
There's a reason why Santa is fat, btw.  Who can wear velvet and get in a good run?

(10) Sweatpants tucked into socks.

I don't care if Justin Bieber is doing it.  That grandpa is too.
Neither one looks cool.

And that about does it for now.  With no end in site for this crappy weather, who knows... maybe I'll do this again?!  Until then...

Monday, February 17, 2014

That's Hot

At the end of 2013, I found an article that highlighted the best and worst fitness trends of the year.  In reading it, I stumbled across this:


As you may know, I am a partaker in the hot yoga.  In particular, I used to do Bikram style at least a few times a month... up until about Thanksgiving, where I ended up having a little shake up in my schedule, and had to temporarily eliminate it from my routine.  (I'm filling in for another aerobics instructor out on maternity leave, and am also working on a few other fitness related things, so I had to let something drop ... or risk serious injury / burnout ... hopefully I'll get back at it soon).

Side note before I continue - yes, I know Bikram is an giant ass hat.  I mean, just look at these photos (rape accusations and a multitude of lost copyright lawsuits aside).  Who does he think he is, Jesus Christ Superstar?  And what is up with the stupid man panties?!


Please know that I didn't seek out Bikram, but rather hot yoga in general.  It just happened that a Bikram style studio was the most reasonably priced local option I found when I first started looking for hot yoga a couple years back, and this studio offered great pricing on a package that locked me in.  So I've hung with it... for now.  I have to say, though, after taking lots of classes - I don't really dig Bikram.  It's too limiting.  Part of why I liked yoga when I first started it was that it helped me treat what was ailing me, and that meant asking the teacher to incorporate stretches to hit those areas during each new class.  In Bikram, there's no changing the flow of each class, so it's the same every time.  Personally, I don't think that's really the point of yoga (consistency).  I thought yoga was supposed to be more like flow/change?  Anyway, enough said.  Back on point.

Upon reading the above snippet, I felt a little something drop in the pit of my stomach.  Not gonna lie.

Honestly, I've always wondered if hot yoga was really "good" for you.  I get the theory behind hot muscles being looser, and thus being able to achieve a deeper stretch.  But I never really knew if there was additional benefit to adding so much heat (versus just doing yoga in "normal" conditions).

And, I have to admit, doing Bikram in a 100+ degree studio with 30-40% humidity didn't always seem "right" to me.  I mean, when I can roll up my towel afterwards and it weighs 3 pounds sopping wet... and I can still be down a few pounds when I weigh myself the next morning, even after hydrating... well, it makes you wonder what you're doing.

Not to say that there were no benefits.  After all, if it didn't make me feel good, I would have kept going back.  Hot yoga did wonders in helping me build strength, flexibility and concentration.  I also 100% believe that learning to endure an extremely sweaty 90 minute class helped me transition into half marathoning with greater ease.  I truly see it as mental conditioning and preparation for extended physical endurance.

Plus, now that I've been skipping out, I notice that I feel much tighter in my muscles than I have in years past.  That can't be a coincidence.

No to mention, I do kind of miss it.

So, what to do?

Well, here's the thing.  The above article says heating doesn't do anything to make you work harder or burn more calories.  And personally, beyond yoga, I think heated environments are flat out dangerous.  Why in the world would you want to risk passing out with dumbells in your hands, or while on a bike mid-cycle? 

But when it comes to yoga, I'm torn.

I definitely see the benefits of loosening up the muscles.  And I've felt the rush of feeling a full body release/decompression post-class.  Not to mention, I don't do heated yoga for the increased calorie burn - that's what running and high intensity aerobics do for me.

In the end, I think I will continue to do hot yoga.  It has never, and will never, be the core of my workout.  Nor will it be a workout where I expect to have a huge calorie burn or an opportunity for big physical gains.  It will simply be a way to help with flexibility and mental focus. 


And for that reason, I think it's problably OK... as long as my body tells me so.

What do you think?  Do you hot yoga, or do anything else heated? 

Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentines Day - Fast Food is Bad, Sit Down Dinners are Worse!

Happy Valentines Day!

Do you have hot plans for tonight?  Hubba-hubba!

Do your plans include eating a dinner out?  If so - what great timing!


A friend of mine posted the following on Facebook the other day, which I found quite amusing:

And yes, we all get it, fast food is bad for you.  (True confessions, I do have a sweet spot for Taco Bell that I often have to squash.)

Aside from fast food - have you ever thought about the meals that you eat out, and what they do to your body?  Here's the sad truth:

My point today?  There are a lot of options out there for eating out, when you choose to, but don't be fooled by what menus claim.  Look up nutrition info (with the MyFitness Pal app, it's super easy to do), educate yourself on what you're selecting, and consider sharing that mega portion with someone else at your table or request a half portion.

Or better yet, try these, this or that, and just have your meal at home!!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What's Wrong With "Biggest Loser", 3 of 3

This is part 3 in a series of three articles discussing the TV show "Biggest Loser".

If you wish to read them in order, you may start here.


As I said in my previous posts, by now I'm sure you've all heard the media hype surrounding "Biggest Loser" and their most recent winner. 

Rather than discuss Rachel Frederickson's win, I have created this 3 part series to talk about "Biggest Loser" as a whole.  Or, more specifically, I want to spend some time talking about what's wrong with the show.  I know I've ranted about the show here and here, but this time I want to take a more logical approach.

There are a variety of things I could talk about regarding this topic, but to keep the discussion from getting too long, and to help keep myself on point, I am going to focus on three topics:

(1) "Healthy" Weight Loss - or, more specifically, what amount of weight is too much for a person to lose over a set period of time

(2) Why people watch this show - IE entertainment versus inspiration

(3) The mental impact of one's weight on their life

Since these are all rather weighty topics, I am going to roll them out one day at a time on this blog.  And I'm going to keep the discussion rather serious (sorry to those of you who enjoy my snarky or offbeat humor).

Today, I will conclude with point #3 above.  You can see the other two discussions by clicking on the link referenced at the top of this post.


What is the Mental Impact of One's Weight on their Life?

If you've made it this far in my series of discussions about "Biggest Loser", you may have noticed one thing in particular about how I've structured the discussion.

Although she was the tipping point for getting me to write this series, I've never once discussed Rachel Frederickson's change (aside from the actual number itself), and I've always brought the discussion back to my weight loss, using it as an example of how "Biggest Loser" works.

You might wonder why I've structured my discussions in such a way, and today's title hints at why.  If you, like me, struggle/struggled with your weight - you know exactly where I'm going.  For those of you who have never known the TRUE challenge of having a healthy relationship with food, today's topic may be an eye opener for you.

Today I'm want to touch on my self identity, and how it has been shaped due to my weight, past and future.

Before I get too deep into this subject, I'm going to flat out tell you there is an entire spectrum of eating issues and disorders.  And I am nowhere near any dangerous end of any spectrum, nor am I an expert on any of them.

In fact, if you want a real eye opener, try reading TRexRunner's "Life with ED" series.  She is a beautiful young woman who struggles a very scary battle with her own brain in regards to how much food she can (or can't) eat, as well as body dysmorphia and other issues - which she fights like a champ.

Anyway, what I want to talk about is me and how being overweight has impacted me mentally over the course of my life.

As I sit here trying to determine how to structure this topic, in fact, I'm already feeling overwhelmed emotionally.  I don't know where to start, or how to even separate out my past sadness from what I want to tell you now. 

It's so hard to explain to someone else why you became overweight to begin with, and how it's shaped your life to current day.

Yes, it's true.  I can't blame my weight in years past on anyone but myself.  I got fat from eating junk and not controlling portions, and I'm not trying to pass the buck and say "I was sad, and I got even more fat".  But there's so much more than the physical part of "being" fat.  There's the emotional impact it has on you, and that stays with you for the rest of your life, regardless of how much weight you lose (or gain).

I don't even know how else to put it.  Because...

How do you explain having grown up being called an ... "elephant"?

How do you put into words the anxiety you feel when someone says they mailed you something in a size medium and you've convinced yourself it won't fit because in you're head you're still an extra large?

How can you make someone else understand how easy it is to drown your own self hatred and disgust in another bowl of junk food?

All of this, and more, is true - even from an early age, I have struggled with my weight, which for years and years filtered into my own self perception of worth. 

Even as recent as last summer, I actually broke down in tears because I achieved something I thought I could never do.

But that's just it - I've realized something in the last two years.  I can do it.  I HAVE done it.  And I'm stronger for it. 

And yet, all it takes is one "you need to lose weight" comment from a doctor, or the old man in front of me at Subway stating that my foot long sandwich is too big for a girl like me (yes, this happened, just last fall!!) to bring all my insecurities flooding back.  Fortunately, I'm at a point in my life where I know I'm better than that, and with a deep breath, I let those insecurities go and move on.  But it took me 30 years to get to that point.  Others are not that lucky.

All of this is why I do not wish to write an entire blog focused on Rachel's win.  I know exactly how a person's weight can impact their every day life - be they thin OR fat.  It's important to recognize that  Rachel's journey is her own.  And we don't know what is going on in her head that brought her to where she is, or where she might be going.  We can only send her positive hopes that wherever she lands, it is in a healthy place - FOR HER.

And it's for this reason that we need to take the focus off of her, and anyone else on "Biggest Loser" for that matter.  "Biggest Loser" only emphasizes the basics of weight loss.  What average people don't realize is, most overweight people aren't overweight for the simple reason of caloric intake. 

Yes, it is quite simple to control your caloric intake and exercise.  And it seems like anyone who is overweight should be able to figure that math out.  But that's all surface level stuff.  What you're not addressing is all the stuff that's simmering down below.

You're not seeing the Natalie that's spent years being judged for being overweight, being called an "elephant" at age 10 and 110 pounds, who as an adult turns to eating as a way to drown sorrows and stress.

You're also not understanding that your helpful tips or snarky comments to overweight Natalie about weight loss and working out only cause her to further spiral into a pit of self pity.

And by throwing overweight Natalie into a program like "Biggest Loser", and not addressing the mental health that accompanies the physical health, you are always going to end up with an end result the same.

A person's journey into a healthier them should be taken slowly.  Executed in such a way that they can start to tie their eating and exercise habits in with healthy mental habits.  And it should be done in a positive and uplifting way.  This will allow them to maintain it for the rest of their life - not the fast fix that is "Biggest Loser".

Monday, February 10, 2014

What's Wrong With "Biggest Loser", 2 of 3

This is part 2 in a series of three articles discussing the TV show "Biggest Loser".

If you wish to read them in order, you may start here.


As I said in my previous post, by now I'm sure you've all heard the media hype surrounding "Biggest Loser" and their most recent winner. 

Rather than discuss Rachel Frederickson's win, I have created this 3 part series to talk about "Biggest Loser" as a whole.  Or, more specifically, I want to spend some time talking about what's wrong with the show.  I know I've ranted about the show here and here, but this time I want to take a more logical approach.

There are a variety of things I could talk about regarding this topic, but to keep the discussion from getting too long, and to help keep myself on point, I am going to focus on three topics:

(1) "Healthy" Weight Loss - or, more specifically, what amount of weight is too much for a person to lose over a set period of time

(2) Why people watch this show - IE entertainment versus inspiration

(3) The mental impact of one's weight on their life

Since these are all rather weighty topics, I am going to roll them out one day at a time on this blog.  And I'm going to keep the discussion rather serious (sorry to those of you who enjoy my snarky or offbeat humor).

Today, I will continue with point #2 above.  You can read the other discussions by clicking on the link referenced at the top of this post.


Why Do People Watch "Biggest Loser"?

It never ceases to amaze me, whenever I get on a "Biggest Loser" rant, people look at me in wonder. Aside from my fellow fitness instructors at the gym, many of the people I know actually LIKE watching "Biggest Loser".

At first, to me it seemed mind boggling. Why would anyone want to watch this spectacle?!

But then... that's just it, isn't it?  The fact that you CAN watch the spectacle?

Think about it. 

Viewers get to see someone who has a terribly pitiful life.  They're fat, they're undesirable, and they usually have some sort of personal problems as well.  And to drive the point home, the producers prove how fat and undesirable these people are by parading them around in clothing that is pretty much underwear... and not just for the first episode.  Every week!

This in itself is totally unnecessary and degrading.  Don't tell me you can't see the weight difference in this clothing scenario (which is totally more uplifting and flattering for the contestant might I add).

Then, as if the underwear parade wasn't enough, there's more. 

Each week, these people are subjected to "training".  (Read - hours upon hours of exercise that anyone carrying so much excess weight should NOT do for fear of causing permanent damage on their joints and body overall).  All the while, as they suffer through to the point of exhaustion, they are yelled at and ridiculed if they can't keep up.

And, when these people finally do reach their exercise goals for the day, and get into an ice bath to rest their aching muscles (for example), they are further ridiculed for their physical appearance.  True story!  Just last season, Jillian spent a significant amount of time harassing Ruben Studdard for his back hair.  Because, you know, back hair is a fair reflection of your physical fitness and bodily health.

You'd think at this point, that would be enough fun at the fat person's expense.  But it's not.  After working out for hours every week, and being forced into the underwear parade, these folks are weighed in each week and compared against their fellow "Losers".  And it's not enough to lose a healthy 1-2 pounds.  Or even four.  We can only get excited if they loose 10, or 15, or more - more - more!!

And this is where I wait for someone to refute me about the "spectacle" and say:

"Huh?? They promote healthy life styles and fitness. Yea getting the results that these people do is not realistic nor as its not glamorous in the real world like it is "on the ranch" having trainers at your beckon call, cooks that make all your healthy food and no work to do to distract you from your goal....but it inspires people to want to lose weight which is never a bad thing."

So, wait?  This show isn't entertainment?  It's inspiration for those who need to lose weight?  (Yes, that was a true quote on a Facebook discussion I was a part of a few days back.)

Ok, let's test this "inspiration" theory.  Think about applying it to YOUR life.

                  (A) How many people do you know that watch "Biggest Loser"? 

Ok - for anyone who does watch, let's do a few more spot checks to see how this "inspiration" is working:

                  (B) Are the people who watch "Biggest Loser" overweight? 
                  (C) If they ARE overweight, has "Biggest Loser" inspired them to get active/lose weight?

And one last question for good measure:

                  (D) For the people who watch, what do they do while they watch the show for an hour? 

I'm willing to bet that 90%+ of the people you put through the above questionnaire have failed the "Biggest Loser inspires people to want to lose weight" test. 

In fact, everyone I know that watches the show basically admits with a grin that they often watch it while they eat dessert or snack.  Which is the exact OPPOSITE of what the show is "inspiring" you to do.

I personally have yet to meet someone who has truly been motivated by the show to get off the couch and go work out.  And you want to know why? 

"The depictions of exercise on shows like The Biggest Loser are really negative," said Tanya Berry, the lead author of a study on perceptions of exercise due to the reality program, in a statement. The physical-activity promotion expert at the University of Alberta added: "People are screaming and crying and throwing up, and if you're not a regular exerciser you might think this is what exercise is -- that it's this horrible experience where you have to push yourself to the extremes and the limits, which is completely wrong."

Don't try to argue with me at this point that there are people out there who HAVE been inspired by the show.  If they have, that's great.  I'm not trying to marginalize them.  But I AM trying to make a point here.  By looking at your life, I'm asking you to think about the average, every day impact of this show.  Those two or three people you've "heard about" being "inspired" by the show are the exception, not the general rule.

Furthermore, there's the impact that this show HAS had on the general populace that concerns me. 

Why?  "Biggest Loser" has been shown to skew the general public's perception of overweight people in a very bad way.  Here's why:

A study conducted in 2012 amongst college students progressed as follows. 

A group was divided into two segments, those who would watch "Biggest Loser" and those who would watch "Meerkat Manor".

"Before the college students tuned in, researchers tested their attitudes about obesity and obese people by having them answer several computer-based questionnaires.  They were asked, for example, how strongly they agreed with statements like, 'Fat people can lose weight if they really want to.'  They were also asked about traits they associated with being obese. Choices included positive things like being honest, sociable, and intelligent. Negative choices included lazy, undisciplined, and unattractive.  A week after taking those initial tests, people were asked to watch their assigned shows. Researchers tested them again after they finished the episodes.

As expected, 'Meerkat Manor' didn’t seem to change how students felt about obesity one way or the other.  But researchers say they saw small, but significant shifts in some attitudes after students watched The Biggest Loser.
'We saw an increase in dislike and an increase in perceptions of controllability,' says Carels.  'The dislike seemed to be a little bit stronger in people that were thin and not trying to lose weight'"
That's a direct quote from the study.  And that was with one season of viewing.  Imagine the damage that has been done with almost 15 seasons!

I could go on about this, but I think I would likely be wasting my breath.  At the end of the day, my point remains the same. 

"Biggest Loser" is not "inspiration.  It is entertainment. Entertainment that idealizes a scary and overly aggressive weight loss program for anyone who is overweight, all the while encouraging everyone to view overweight people as undesirable. 

That is not a positive and supportive way to get someone to make a healthy life change.  And therefore I cannot speak to it positively either.

Friday, February 7, 2014

What's Wrong With "Biggest Loser", 1 of 3

By now I'm sure you've all heard the media hype surrounding "Biggest Loser" and their most recent winner.  (By the way, in case you didn't know, Rachel Frederickson is from Stillwater, MN - an interesting tidbit in the storm surrounding this event.  Somehow that makes me feel more connected to her, though it shouldn't.  Just because I live within a 50 mile radius of her shouldn't change things... but whatever.)

Rather than discuss Rachel Frederickson's win, I want to talk about "Biggest Loser" as a whole.  Or, more specifically, I want to spend some time talking about what's wrong with the show.  I know I've ranted about the show here and here, but this time I want to take a more logical approach.

There are a variety of things I could talk about regarding this topic, but to keep the discussion from getting too long, and to help keep myself on point, I am going to focus on three topics:

(1) "Healthy" Weight Loss - or, more specifically, what amount of weight is too much for a person to lose over a set period of time

(2) Why people watch this show - IE entertainment versus inspiration

(3) The mental impact of one's weight on their life

Since these are all rather weighty topics, I am going to roll them out one day at a time on this blog.  And I'm going to keep the discussion rather serious (sorry to those of you who enjoy my snarky or offbeat humor).

Today, I will start with point #1 above.  You can see the other two points in the upcoming days.


"Healthy" Weight Loss

In regards to "Biggest Loser", the fundamental issue I have with the show is the volume of weight that is lost.  I don't think what they portray is healthy or maintainable, and here's why.

Taking Rachel as an example, let's look at the science behind her weight loss:

Starting Weight
Ending Weight
Net Loss
% Body Weight Lost

Initially, this seems like quite an impressive number.  Wow, she lost 155 pounds!  So inspirational, so impressive!  People should want to have success in weight loss just like her... right? 

Well, wait - how fast did she do it again?  Five MONTHS?!?!  So that ends up being...

Net Loss
Time Period
LBS / Month
LBS / Week
5 months (est. 22 wks)

Woah!  Seven pounds a week? 

Well, ok, at this point you might be thinking "I think I can do that for ... maybe a week or two.  Maybe.  But I don't know that I could maintain it..." (FYI - Doctors recommend 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week for a reason, folks).

Regardless, let's not worry about if you can do it for right now.  Let's just look at what you have to do to lose seven pounds a week.

First, let's take into consideration the 3500 calories per pound of fat rule that I talked about in this post

Time for a little math to figure out our weekly goal.

Goal Reduction

Ok, so we need to create a calorie deficit of 24,500 calories each week.  (More on this in a minute.) 

Hmm... does that seem like a lot to anyone? 

If you answered yes, good job.  Because if you think about that in terms of how many calories the average person should eat in a week, here's what you get:

Total Weekly Intake

Yeah.  So, to lose what Rachel did, most people would have a caloric reduction goal that is over double what they should even eat in a week.  That's insane!  (Yes, 1500 calories is an average and doesn't take into consideration highly active folks, but let's be honest - these people aren't on Biggest Loser because they're training for a marathon).

Ok.  Data overload.  Let's refocus.  In case I lost you - our goal is to reduce ourselves by 24,500 calories a week.

Regardless of how much sense that goal makes - let's just see if we can do it.

To take the focus off of Rachel, and to bring this a little more into perspective, I'm going to use "Fat Natalie" as an example (that's me).  I think this will bring reality into the goal of reducing yourself by 24,500 calories a week. 

Don't roll your eyes!  You know I used to weigh 240 pounds, and if you didn't, you can read about how I lost weight here.  And yes, I realize "Fat Natalie" isn't nice, but it wasn't nice being "Fat Natalie", either, so I'm going to keep that name.

We will start with the basics - "Fat Natalie's" diet.  What does she currently eat, and what will she have to switch to?

"Fat Natalie"
"Diet Natalie"
Jimmy Dean Breakfast Pizza
Oatmeal & Banana, Coffee w/cream
Take-Out Meal
Salad, Fruit, Whole Wheat Roll
Oversized Home Cooked Meal
Portioned Home Cooked Meal
3100 - 1500
Reduction in Caloric Intake - Daily
1600 * 7
Reduction in Caloric Intake - Weekly

Yes, it's true.  I used to eat stuff like that.

I'm not too proud to admit I used to love those Jimmy Dean Breakfast pizzas.  Biscuits and Gravy was my favorite pizza at the time.  Because what is better than fat?  Fat topped with fat and microwaved.  For breakfast.

And yes, foods like that, plus out of control portion sizes and booze is what helped me balloon to 240 pounds.  But back on topic.

By following the above TOTAL DEPRIVATION DIET (red flag), I am able to reduce approximately 11,200 calories from my diet.

So, 24,500 goal - 11,200 already out = 13,300 calories to go. 

Oof - we hardly made a dent in our goal.  Better get working out.

Uh-oh.  I think "Fat Natalie" is already sweating just at the mention of a gym.  (True story.)

Realistically speaking, "Fat Natalie's" body can't take the high intensity activities one would really need in order to burn this many calories quickly and effectively.  Not only would doing those moves be severely damaging at her high weight for her joints and bones, she simply can't do them due to years of living a sedentary lifestyle.

Most likely, activity would be limited to things such as low impact aerobic classes, speed walking at an incline and swimming. 

Average calories burned for these activities at 240 pounds?

Calories Burned (Approximate)
Low Impact Aerobics
540 per hour
Walking - 3.5mph, uphill
650 per hour
650 per hour
All three completed daily
Completed 7 days/wk

Ugh!!  I didn't hit my 13,300 goal by working out 3 hours per day, 7 days per week (red flag)?!  And even GOD rested on the 7th day (red flag).

Not to mention, as the weight comes off, I will need to start increasing my time or intensity of my workouts, because that caloric burn will start to drop:

Calories Burned (Approximate)
Low Impact Aerobics
240 lbs
540 per hour
500 per hour
200 lbs
450 per hour
Walking - 3.5mph, uphill
240 lbs
650 per hour
600 per hour
200 lbs
540 per hour
240 lbs
650 per hour
600 per hour
200 lbs
540 per hour

Man, this is some serious work.  "Fat Natalie" will go on a total deprivation diet, work out 3 hours a day for 7 days a week, have to continually increase her workout time or intensity... and maintain her normal life at work and home (red flag)?

Before I continue... did you just make this face?

Ok, good.  Because I did, too.

One other thing... Did you notice all my red flag comments?  Let's count them up.

First - Deprivation diet
Second - Working out 3 hours a day / 7 days a week
Third - No rest days allowed
Fourth - Trying to maintain current professional and personal commitments

And we didn't even touch on a fifth flag - the fact that we would have to do this for an average of 22 weeks - 22!!

Yes, at this point you all can argue with me about how I chose to structure this entire discussion.  It's true that not everyone will want to lose 155 pounds, not everyone will work out at lower levels of  intensity or have to do a total deprivation diet, that you can invest in a trainer and/or diet coach to assist in your goals, etc., etc., etc. 

There are other points you can make, too, but I'm not going to list them all here, or refute them.

I have made the above "average" generalizations to make a basic point - trying to lose a high volume of weight quickly is NOT healthy or maintainable. 

If you try to incorporate any kind of program like the above into your lifestyle, you MIGHT be able to do it for a week or two... or maybe even a month.  But at some point you're going to have some serious fall out.  It may be a sports injury, it may be a malnourishment issue, it may be that you eventually just gain everything back because you can't stick with the program (like most people on "Biggest Loser" do), or it may be something even more severe.  Let's not forget death happens, friends.

And this is my primary issue with "Biggest Loser".  By promoting such extreme weigh changes in minimal time frames, I just don't see how it can be healthy - regardless of what kind of coaching or export support is offered.  And yet, that is how it is portrayed as on the show, or even glorified as being.

In reality, losing weight and working towards a healthy lifestyle is a gradual process.  People need to realize that it took years to get their body to where it is now, and it will take time to bring it back into a "healthy" zone again.  And that's not only OK - that should be what we encourage.  NOT this fast track approach to weight loss.