Thursday, December 12, 2013

All Hopped Up

Something interesting has popped up over the last couple of days in the fitness industry, notably over a controversy regarding the television show "The Biggest Loser". I thought I might give my two cents since this is currently trending and has been generating a fair amount of steam with the media.

Allow me to first give a slight recap: Jillian Michaels, who is arguably the most recognizable personal trainer in the nation right now was exploited for giving her team caffeine pills before a weigh-in. The host of the show uncovered this and penalized Jillian's team for being administered a non-authorized supplement per the rules and guidelines of the program.

Jillian stood by her decision that administering caffeine pills was a better alternative than letting her team get loaded up with coffee before a weigh-in. Her only apology came that she was sorry her team had to suffer over her "professional decision".

So, it becomes a matter of principle.

And to be fair, you almost have to penalize both parties.

Let's consider the show first:

Since it began, The Biggest Loser has been one of the most monumental and inspiring shows when it comes to weight loss and how the public perceives it. They should be applauded for showing people how difficult losing substantial weight can be. In addition, the viewers can see how former contestants have managed to either keep the weight off or (in some cases) regain much of it back. Another added plus, is the huge shift it has caused for corporations to start their own Biggest Loser contests in efforts to get their employees more mindful of their individual health and wellness.

Where I feel the show has betrayed the public is in how unrealistic the entire program is. The amount of work the participants have to endure is borderline insane. Instead of approaching weight loss with more mindfulness and balance, it's constantly about more, more, harder, faster, more.

Having run a business which specializes in weight loss, I can assure you: most people in a similar situation have no business pushing THAT hard.

And the show lets you see the grim side of that as well: when the injuries occur, or someone has to leave the show due to contraindicated exercise or program design.

Is it a bad show? Not necessarily. For the right person, it can be just the right amount of motivation to say "I need to start taking better care of myself. If "they" can do it, so can I".

Ultimately, if it gets someone off their butt...mission accomplished.

On to Jillian.

As fitness professionals, we have a lot of tools at our disposal for helping people lose weight. Nutritional counseling, high intensity training, supplement advice, etc.

Is caffeine a terrible thing to administer? Absolutely not. Many people do quite well with caffeine combined with exercise.

However, she does have guidelines to follow and her team paid the price for her executive decision.

One has to consider, Jillian committed a minor infraction on a show with already vastly unrealistic expectations.

But chock up a big win for the show. As soon as controversy rears its head, the show gets more attention, hence more views and don't you think that makes those commercial sponsors really happy?

Sadly, I find so many people who can regurgitate every detail about this show and in the same breath say, I wish I had time to exercise...

I'll let you marinate on that statement for a moment.

In my opinion, if the Biggest Loser wanted to offer a great service to it's viewers it would spend more time showing how the average person can make enough lifestyle changes to see the results they want. Instead, they'd rather show you what you can accomplish when you are forced to adhere to their competition, on their terms.

We can help you establish the guidelines without sacrificing your entire day to get there!

Monday, December 9, 2013

You Just Haven't Earned It Yet...

Sometimes, it's okay to be a cheater.

Alright hear me out on this one.

When it comes to diet plans and weight loss, you may hear the terms "cheat meal" or "cheat day" used with a fair amount of frequency. So, what do they accomplish?

If you've been living in caloric deficit, meaning: you're eating less than a maintenance level of calories to cause weight loss, your hormones are postively and negatively affected. In many ways, you get the response you're looking for by losing weight. However, when you spend too much time in deficit, your body might stall with progress.

Many diet plans add in a cheat meal or a cheat day to accomplish one of a couple scenarios

1) Allowing you to have the food you've been depriving yourself of so you can justify the restrictions of your "proper eating"
2) "Reset" your hormonal balance so you can return to weight loss again

I've found something else interesting can happen as well...

Let's say you've been eating really well from Monday through Friday. Calories are in line and you're not bingeing on foods you might normally.

Then on Saturday evening, you have something you normally wouldn't like: cheeseburger and fries, or pizza, or a slice of cake. Typically, your body recognizes that you're eating junk and a thermogenic effect can happen internally. In other words, signals go off in your body saying "This shouldn't be here!!!" and your body works overtime to help flush the system of the food.

This is where the cheat meal can be really beneficial for those who are trying to lose weight.

That being said, you HAVE to have dietary consistency for this to work and it does NOT work for everyone.

Taking our typical week as an example, let's say you eat really well on Monday and Tuesday but you go out with your friends for chicken wings and beer on Wednesday. You most likely won't get the option of having a cheat on the weekend as well. Your body needs/craves/wants consistency in many ways. When you can establish several days in a row of clean eating, you stand a better chance of the cheat meal having positive effects.

I'll add this as well: the thermogenic effects tend to be more pronounced if you have a "greasy" meal.

But here's the other thing: if you have a significant amount of weight to lose (let's say over 30lbs), you would be better served to stack up several weeks of consistent eating to lock down the habits before you can even consider a cheat meal.

The downside to adding the cheat in prematurely is, from a behavioral standpoint, you may not know when to stop eating the "unhealthy" food choices. It can trigger more poor eating and turn a cheat "meal" into a cheat "weekend".

So, while there can be some really positive outcomes to an unhealthy food choice, you have to EARN that luxury first.