Archive for August, 2010

I, as many as millions of others, look forward to  “The Biggest Loser” every season.  Maybe its because I get to watch lives being transformed and new behaviors are being shaped and these changes are  results of improvements in nutrition and exercise, rather than the promise of a fad diet, magic pills or surgery as a solution. But I was always curious about what goes on behind the scenes.

First off, dieticians and nutritionists admitted that one of the reasons the contestants lose so much weight consistently is because of their new environment. All the barriers that usually exist to behavior change such as job/life stresses, family and friends, lack of time, lack of knowledge about what to do have been removed. Their new job is to exercise, learn about good nutrition habits, and practice them every day. This is one of the keys to their success. They get enough time in the new environment that once they leave they have enough knowledge and motivation to keep it going.

The Biggest Loser Diet

  • Very modified and low carbohydrate diet 45% of calories from carbohydrates (mostly fruits, vegetables and some whole grains), 30% of calories from protein, and 25% of calories from healthy fats or oils (seeds, nuts, avocado, olive oil)
  • no “white stuff”, basically 10% whole wheat grains only
  • 4-3-2-1 daily: 4 cups minimum of fruits and vegetables, 3 servings of healthy proteins (e.g. fish, skinless chicken breast, 93% lean ground turkey), 2 servings of whole grains, and 1 serving of healthy fat.
  • Aim for everyone to have 1 serving of fish daily.
  • There is room for 1 optional treat per day.
  • Cereals must have minimum 5 grams of fiber per serving and less than 5 grams of sugar per serving. This limits the cereals to certain oatmeals, bran cereals, or other high fiber cereals on the market.
  • Goal of 7 calories per pound of body weight for daily caloric intake. This is recalculated after significant weight loss.

Contestants are provided with calorie counting resources and a food and exercise diary which they must maintain daily. This helps to raise awareness of past behaviors and develops an understanding for calorie balance through diet and exercise. Their diets are analyzed daily by the show’s registered dietitian / nutritionist. The nutritionist reported a 70% adherence to the diet. The nutritionist also reported as a result of the diet, they experienced decreased risk for diabetes because the measure that is used to diagnose diabetes decreases from “at risk” to a healthy range.

Biggest Loser Exercise

  • Goal of 7 hours per week of exercise
  • Incorporate weight training, coaching, teamwork, and competition

Typical Week at the Ranch

  • Before getting started, participants undergo extensive medical tests, including a physical, stress test, DEXA (to measure accurately percent body fat and lean mass), and “Bod Pod” (to measure resting metabolic rate)
  • Participants also undergo psychological evaluation and the support network at home is briefed on the program so they know what to expect when the person returns home.
  • All participants get a full nutrition consult, including a week of food journals review. They discuss any GI symptoms they are having, eating schedules, cooking and shopping strategies.

What Everyone Has in Common?

In 3 seasons, they found the contestants shared many characteristics such as:

  • no idea of the number of calories they need or what they actually consume
  • most skip breakfast and snacks and let a long time go between meals
  • most consume very little to no fruits and vegetables
  • most are not getting enough protein, and what they do get is high in saturated fat
  • most get very little whole grains
  • most have too much “white stuff” (sugar, refined flour)
  • little planning of meals, mostly on-the-go eating and dining out
  • most are meeting their daily caloric needs through beverages alone (e.g. caloric sodas, juices and fruit punch)
  • many consume very little water
  • nearly all reported limited to no exercise
  • nearly all prioritize everything and everyone else in their life ahead of their own health

I found what they have in common very insightful. It is easy to see why they are struggling with their weight when you look at behaviors they have in common. The goal of the Biggest Loser is to restructure that lifestyle and get them on the path to better health and wellness. For someone who wants to get started and know more of the tips, I recommend buying “The Biggest Loser” book as well as joining their club at http://www.biggestloserclub.com



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What does it mean for someone to be obese or overweight? What is it when someone eats over their limit? How do you know what your limit is? The health problems that stem from being overweight go way beyond than the ones we usually hear about like diabetes and heart disease. Being overweight can also affect a person’s joints, breathing, sleep, mood, and energy levels. So being overweight can impact a person’s entire quality of life.

When people eat more calories than they burn off, their bodies store the extra calories as fat. A couple of pounds of extra body fat are not a health risk for most people. But when it becomes a habit to eat more calories than being burn, more and more fat builds up in the body. Eventually, the body gets to a point where the amount of body fat can have a negative effect on a person’s health. We use the terms “overweight” or “obese” to describe when someone is at greatest risk of developing weight-related health problems after calculating one’s BMI. As you’ve probably heard, more people are overweight today than ever before. This health problem is affecting young people as well as adults: 1/3 of all kids between the ages of 2 and 19 are overweight or obese. So younger people are now developing health problems that used to affect only adults, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. Obesity affects both the body and mind. Not only can it make a person feel tired and uncomfortable, carrying the extra weight puts added stress on the body, especially the bones and joints.

Studies are showing that the health problems that affect overweight teens include:

Blount’s disease. Excess weight on growing bones can lead to bone deformity of  the lower legs.

Arthritis. Wear and tear on the joints from carrying extra weight can cause this painful  joint problem at a young age.

Slipped capital femoral epiphyses (SCFE). Obese children and teens are at greater risk for this painful hip problem. It requires immediate attention and surgery to prevent further damage       

Asthma. Obesity is associated with breathing problems that can make it harder to keep  up with friends, play sports, or just walk from class to class.

Sleep apnea. A serious problem where a person temporarily stops breathing during sleep. It interrupts sleep, it can also leave people feeling tired and affect their ability to concentrate.

High blood pressure. When blood pressure is high, the heart must pump harder and the arteries must carry blood that’s moving under greater pressure. If the problem continues for a long time,

the heart and arteries may no longer work as well as they   should.

High cholesterol. Long before getting sick, obese teens may have abnormal blood lipid levels, including high cholesterol, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels.      

Gallstones. An accumulation of bile that hardens in the gallbladder forms gallstones.

Pseudotumor cerebri. This is a rare cause of severe headaches in obese teens and adults. There is no tumor, but pressure builds in the brain. In addition to headaches, symptoms may

include vomiting, an unsteady way of walking, and vision problems that may become permanent if not treated.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Girls who are overweight may miss periods — or not get their periods at all — and may have elevated testosterone (the male hormone) levels in the blood.

Although it is normal for girls to have some testosterone in their blood, too much can interfere with normal ovulation and may cause excess hair growth, worsening acne, and male-type baldness.

Insulin resistance and diabetes. When there is excess body fat, insulin is less effective at getting glucose, the body’s main source of energy, into cells. More insulin becomes needed to maintain a normal blood sugar. For some overweight teens, insulin resistance may progress to diabetes (high blood sugar).

Depression. People who are obese are more likely to be depressed and have lower self-esteem.

It is never too late to make changes that can effectively control weight and the health problems it causes. That can be started by making a plan to cut back on carbonated beverages, pass up on seconds, and get more exercise, even if it’s just 5-10 minutes a day. Build your way up to big changes by making a series of small ones. Overcoming any obstacle in life involves self-empowerment, and that starts with expression. So don’t be shy. Let’s make this fun, informative and engaging!

How about you? Think about what factors have conspired in your life to lead you to poor diet habits. What do you hope to find in a good nutritional blog? 

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Living in the suburbs, I grew up playing outside:  jumping rope, swinging a hula hoop, biking, swimming; jumping in leaf piles in the fall; building snowmen and sledding in the winter.  We played “Simon Says” and “Follow the Leader” indoors and outdoors all year long.  Computers and video games did not exist in my house, and if the television was on, you would likely find me dancing in front of it.  I moved along with bellydancers on tv starting at age three, and continued on with dance and movement throughout college.  All of this movement was never considered a chore, but rather entertaining and enjoyable.  Having an active hobby or participating in some form of sport was common among all of my friends, and when I think about it, I can’t recall many kids who were overweight back then.  Sure, as computers and video games became more popular, I spent my fair share at the keyboard and joystick, but never for hours on end.  

This is not the case today in our country, as children ages 8 to 18 spend about 45 hours per week gazing at some type screen, whether it’s television, computer, or video game.   A number of studies have shown that this increased viewing correlates with the increased rates of obesity.  The prevalence of overweight in children between the ages of 6 and 11 years increased from 4.0 percent in 1971–-1974 to 17.5 percent in 2001–-2004. The prevalence of overweight in adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 increased from 6.1 percent to 17.0 percent in 2001-2004 (American Heart Association).

Half of school-aged children today do not even have access to physical education.  This, along with the statistics above, is contributing to the young onset of obesity, diabetes, increased risk of heart disease, and decreased bone density. 

I hope this is making you check your list and think twice before buying another boring DVD or video game.  We want the young generation to not spend even more hours on the couch on in a desk chair.  There are so many other fun, active presents available today.  Let’s start with the “what’s old is new again” category.  Items as simple and affordable as a Frisbee, basketball, football, baseball and mitt, tennis racquet and balls, a badminton or paddle ball set could provide hours of energetic playtime.  Rollerblades, ice skates, a jump rope, hula hoop or even a game of Twister may pique new interests.  This is especially true if children are encouraged or joined by their role models. 

If it’s video or games that remain a must, you may be assured there are a few active choices to trust.  Let your older kids be the leader as they teach you to two-step to the beats of the video game “Dance Dance Revolution”.  Work up a sweat as you bowl, golf, box, play tennis or basketball in your own living room with the new Nintendo Wii.  Holding the Wii Remote, you and the kids can roll, swing, jab, or dribble and shoot your way to staying fit and trim. 

What are some of the ways you like to keep fit?

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Hello Everyone!

Hello! I’m Jessy Hamawi and this is my blog. Nowadays, diet and health information can be found almost everywhere and can be overwhelming. Despite the amount of information there is out there, we are not getting any healthier. For many people, including my friends and family, dieting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be frustrating. I am starting this blog for them to make it a place to discuss the latest foods, nutrition and exercise information, to learn new strategies for reaching a healthy goal, and maintaining that healthy lifestyle. I hope you enjoy this blog.

If you have suggestions on how it can be improved or if you would like to reach me for any other reason, feel free to e-mail me at jesshamawi@gmail.com

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