Are you ready to train and eat like people on the NBC TV show The Biggest Loser, but without cameras following you around 24-7?
You can do a similar plan at home to lose weight, get stronger, feel better, and help lower your cholestérol and blood pressure. It could transform your life -- if you're ready for the intense commitment.
Does It Work?
Choosing healthy foods and getting lots of exercise is a winning combo. You can build strength, lose pounds, and be healthier. But be prepared to work hard and change your long-term eating and exercise habits.
You see the TV cast members' success on the show. If you read the Biggest Loser books, you’ll see how they fared after the show (expect to see lots of success stories).
Keep in mind, though, that contestants tend to be bigger than average and the show’s regimen is intense, so their results may differ from yours. A recent study suggests that the extreme diet and exercise regimen on the show can't be sustained in a real-life setting.
What You Can Eat and What You Can't
You’ll eat small, frequent meals. Most of your food is lean protein, low-fat dairy or soy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts.
It’s based on The Biggest Loser's 4-3-2-1 Pyramid: four servings of fruits and vegetables, three servings of lean protein, two servings of whole grains, and 200 calories of “extras.”
Most foods are low in calories but high in fiber, to help you feel fuller longer. By eating five to six small meals and snacks, you’ll keep your blood sugar and hunger in check.
The diet recommends drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day and avoiding caffeine.
Level of Effort: Medium
This plan requires a lot of dedication. You'll exercise a lot, and you'll also get good at reading food labels.
Limitations: You can eat from all food groups. Some of the meal plans may go below 1,200 calories per day, making it hard to meet nutritional needs without a supplement.
Cooking and shopping: The foods you'll be eating are widely available in any grocery store. There are Biggest Loser cookbooks you can follow. One former contestant, Amy Wolff, said she researches healthy menu choices before eating out and carries a calorie-counting reference book in her bag. She also advises keeping a food journal, watching that you don’t eat too much carbs, protein, fat, and fiber, and not giving in to food cravings.
Packaged foods or meals: None required.
In-person meetings: No.
Exercise: Required. It's a big time commitment that pays off.
Is It Good for Health Conditions?
By helping you lose weight, the diet may help lower your odds of getting type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and certain cancers. The exercise is also good for you.
The program includes whole foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fat and salt. The diet is in line with what most major health organizations recommend, including the American Heart Association
Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?
Vegetarians and vegans: You'll find plenty of plant-based sources of protein to eat on this diet.
Gluten-free: Foods that include gluten aren't off-limits on this plan. But you should be able to make it work if you're avoiding gluten. In The Biggest Loser Club, meal plans can be adapted for specific food preferences. You'll still need to read food labels to completely avoid gluten.
What Else You Should Know
Costs: If you join The Biggest Loser Club ($39.99, first three months), you’ll follow an express, 6-week weight loss plan. You get meal plans and recipes, workouts featuring the show's trainers, a food and exercise tracker, and online support. You’ll chart your progress online and get weigh-in reminders.
Support: You can follow the diet by reading one of the Biggest Loser books. There are extra tools available at the Biggest Loser web site, including cookbooks, DVDs, equipment, Nintendo Wii and Xbox games, and workout music. You can even go to The Biggest Loser Resort, a destination weight loss program in Utah, California, New York, and Chicago.