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Biggest Losers and Winners

10 Feb
photo courtesy of NBC

photo courtesy of NBC

Last week, NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” crowned the winner of its 15th season, Rachel Frederickson. Congrats, Rachel! Along with your $250,000 payout, you also win: criticism!

Rachel, who is 24 years old, dropped an astounding 155 pounds from her 5-foot-4 frame to weigh in at 105 pounds. When she was announced the winner, Rachel was met with this reaction by the trainers.

*I wouldn’t call her weight-loss disturbing (unless I had other information), but I’ll get to that later

You’d expect those faces from upset competitors, not the people who were helping you along the way.

Had Rachel lost too much weight?

The reactions were semi-justified. When Rachel left the competition, she was 150 pounds. She returned after dropping another 45 pounds, therefore losing 60% of her body weight for the show. To put that in perspective, past winners have dropped an average of 48.6%.

I have my own issues with the format for “The Biggest Loser.” I appreciate any venue that allows people to address health issues. I’d appreciate them even more if they were addressed an a healthy manner. The show isn’t practical, as most reality competitions aren’t. We don’t all lip sync for our lives or design dresses out of garbage to get a leg up in life. “The Biggest Loser” takes people’s health issues and makes a game out of it, which I find unnerving. It is unrealistic for Jane Shmo to expect to drop that amount of weight in such a short period of time without causing serious damage to herself.

The other problem I have with the show is that the feats performed by the contestants aren’t sustainable. No one works out for eight to 10 hours a day and survives on kale smoothies. People have jobs, kids, mortgages and other responsibilities. It is highly unlikely for even the above average person to sustain workouts of that intensity coupled with diets so low-cal that rabbits gawk.

Which brings me back to Rachel. I applaud her efforts. She’s a young woman who wanted to get her life back on track, starting with her weight. She said she’d been stress eating after a bad breakup (I can relate) and joined the show to get a fresh start. Kudos to her.

But Rachel is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. Society has judged her for being overweight. Society has judged her for taking her struggle public on a reality show. Then society has decided to add a little more judgement because now she may have lost too much weight.

If you’re concerned with BMI results, then she’s slightly underweight. But that’s all relative. BMI doesn’t take into account muscle mass, water weight and activity level. It’s just a guideline.

When she appeared on the “Today” show to discuss her results, she was greeted with low-ball questions, none addressing her the criticism she’s received for her drastic weight loss. But is that necessary?

I don’t want to shame her results because that would make me a hypocrite. She was a swimmer in her youth, so she had an athletic background that helped her along the way. I am, however, curious as to what motivated her to go so far. What was it that pushed her to this level? Where did she find the time to do it?

Like many of you, I get a bad case of the I-don’t-wannas and have to find my motivation wherever I can. Rachel found hers within the show, but she took it to a heightened level, and that scares me sometimes. I don’t want to get so focused by my goals—be they weight, career, love life, etc.—that it makes me obsessed.

I hope that if she’s happy with the way she looks, she uses healthy measures to maintain it. Maintenance is the absolute hardest part of this process and it is the true test of will. I trust that you all will find the point that makes you happiest and keep up the good work to stay there.

BTWs: There has also been talk of whether Rachel had a little extra help to reach this point. Anything’s possible, but I don’t think so. She still has a little arm waddle when she waves. I just think she got super-focused on losing even more weight that she might not have seen where she was going.

Don’t Be Scurrd

6 Jan - My workout consists of walking around the office lying to people about going to the gym.

Don’t be this person.

Like I said last week, going to the gym for a newbie can be like being the new kid at school. You don’t know anyone, you don’t know the social structure and what the hell is that machine by the door?

There’s a lot of trepidation about joining a new gym, but that can be overcome. The thing about being the newbie is that you’re free to mess up and blame it on ignorance. Trip over your shoelace? Eh, no biggie. Get behind in the steps at Zumba. You’re in the back, no one’s paying attention.

Newbies, like the rest of us, have freedom to define their workouts according to their needs. A story in the Daily Mail siting a story in Cosmopolitan Body gives the usual reasons people don’t want to go: too lazy or the gym is too busy. The responses that bothered me most were “think the regulars dominate it” ( 12% women, 10% men) and “think they’re not fit enough to join” (15% women, 4% men). Women are struggling with a the great #FOWO (fear of working out)

Women who feel embarrassed when exercising outnumber men by two to one, with other people noticing them and feeling unfit deemed the main reasons for feeling uncomfortable.
Daily Mail article

I understand it. I was there in the beginning. The gym can be a daunting place and new things can be scary. But fear is a flimsy excuse for not doing the things you want, especially if those things are good for you. Who cares if some jacked-up shmoe looks at you sideways because you went for the 20-pound dumbbells when you should be picking of the 3-pounders? Screw that dink. You live and you learn. No one should be paying that much attention to you in the first place unless you know them.

Also, no one is ever “fit enough” for gym. That’s why we’re all there. Everyone is working on improvement. People are at the gym to get some type of result, be it to maintain, lose or even gain. As I’ve said before on this blog, we’re all works in progress. Think of it this way: the weight loss journey is a crowded highway full of single drivers. We’re all going to the same place, but you’re doing it as an individual. Because of that, most people at the gym are too focused on what they have to do to let your little slip ups get them down.

While on this individual journey, don’t forget to stop and ask for directions. Talk to the trainers. At commercial gyms like an Equinox or Bally’s, trainers can be like Tuesday afternoon salespeople at Macy’s. He’s bored or he’s talking to his co-workers because he has nothing to do. The next paid client doesn’t come in for another hour. That’s plenty of time to ask him about proper form for a lunge or three exercises to do to work on your upper back. Now look at you. You’ve made a new friend!

If all of the trainers are busy, you can ask one of the veteran gym rats. When you’re working out, you’re building endorphins and therefore super excited to help. You can also glance (don’t leer) around the gym at what others are doing. People watch.

The weight-loss process is trial and error. You will hit a couple bumps in the road on your way to your goal, but you’ll get there with dedication and effort. Do what works for you and you’ll be happier.

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

3 Jan
This is only the beginning

This is only the beginning

Like most people, I love comfort. Fuzzy slippers, warm blankets, cushy sofas. There’s nothing like the feeling of satisfaction with your own surroundings.

There are other things that give comfort, but they could have unwanted effects on your health: too much alcohol to dull a pain, smoking to calm nerves, or even too many cookies to kill a craving.

Discomfort isn’t always a bad thing. It’s good to shake things up every once in a while. When you’ve gotten too used to a routine, do something else. When you’re tired of eating the same things over and over, try a new recipe.

Comfort is why my weight has gone up and down so much over the years. Right now, we are dealing with Winter Storm Hercules (thanks Weather Channel). This sucker is expected to drop a couple of feet of snow across the northeast. Adding that I’ve been on vacation since the Friday after Christmas, and you’ve got a recipe for “I ain’t doin’ nuthin’.”

I recognize that’s not the right attitude, but I know me. I don’t run outside in temps below 40 degrees. I’ve been to the gym a couple times this week, but my sofa is just so comfortable that I’m using it as my crutch to keep me from doing anything else.

One of the things I’ve learned on my weight-loss journey is that comfort is the path toward complacency.

Being uncomfortable only means you’re doing something different. Change is not the enemy. How you deal with that change is totally on you. You can either embrace it as part of your life or change the change.

I’m not saying be drastic, if that’s not for you. Sometimes you have to take baby steps into it. For some people, switching from yoga to CrossFit would seem like a nightmare. If that’s too drastic, take a Zumba or barre class.

For me, my struggle is the winter. I hate the cold. But despite the ridiculous amount of white stuff blanketing my neighborhood—which will not be shoveled or salted, Mayor De Blasio—I will get up in the morning and work out. My two options are to 1) lace up my snow boots, double up on pants and trek down to my spin class at 11:15 or 2) pop in an exercise DVD. Seeing as how this is the forecast for the day…


I think I’ll go with the latter option.

How are you keeping up with your work-out plans in this weather? Or, if you’ve got sunshine, can you send me a ticket to where you are :)?

Beware the Resolution Crowd

30 Dec

new_yearsThe new year is only two days away, and we all know what happens at midnight: champagne, kisses and promises likely to be broken.

I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions. It’s just a vow to do something that you should have been doing in the first place. I stopped making them a long time ago. The few resolutions I’ve made in years past haven’t stuck (like to stop swearing, dammit).

Everyone has a list of goals that they want to achieve, and the new year brings about a fresh start. I get it. What better time than at midnight on the first day of new year than to wipe the slate clean?

The problem I have is with a certain sect of revelers who need a new beginning. I’m talking about the resolution fitness crowd. As a person who is supposed to support those going through their fitness journeys, I recognize my own hypocrisy in saying how much I dread the resolution crowd. They can be just…the worst.

Maybe it’s because every day until January 1, many washed down their slices of cake with bottles of beer. Maybe it’s because the first week of the new year offers all kinds of neat gym promotions. Or maybe it’s because they vowed to get out of the house more and why not let the gym be the new meeting ground.

If you’re part of the resolution crowd, let me first say congratulations! You’ve taken the first step toward achieving a goal you’ve set out for yourself. However, don’t become the person we gym rats love to hate.

Gym rats cannot stand the first few weeks of the year. Many in the resolution crowd have gotten gym memberships in their stockings. Many of them haven’t set foot in a gym since this thing was popular.

We’re all working toward the same goal, but there has got to be a way for the rookies and the pros to co-exist. I mean, they do it in the NBA every year, right?

My suggestion is for the vets to help the newbies out. If you see these people at your gym, kindly point out not what they’re doing wrong, but how they can maximize the amount of effort their putting forth (see what I did there?):

The Machine Newbie: This person hasn’t set foot in any type of gym since high school and definitely hasn’t taken two steps on a treadmill before. You will often see him poking at the buttons and wondering why it hasn’t started yet. Instead of giving your go-to exasperated sigh, help him out by hitting Quick Start and reminding him that there’s a 30-minute time limit for machines.

The Fashion Star: This person hasn’t been to the gym since she got right for her trip to Ibiza. The joys of fall food and Christmas cookies have taken their toll, but the real impetus to get back at it is the new workout gear hubby bought her for Christmas. She’s really there to catch up with the trainers and let them ooh and ahh about her new sports bra before hitting the shower. You’re not going to see her until her next beach trip, so you can just bypass her until you need a new vacation buddy.

The Training Groups: Gyms have this little habit of offering discounts for group sessions. That’s fab; I’m all about saving a buck. The problem starts when four or five friends—after three bottles each of New Year’s bubbly—decide it’s time to get back in shape. Never hold people to the promises they made while drunk. The person who thought of this grand idea will only show up to the first class. Two more will drop out and soon there’s there’s just one lonely person left. To my vets, I say go make friends with that person. They’re really trying to help themselves and could use a little extra encouragement. And maybe you can get in on that group discount.

Resolutions can be a good way to keep yourself in check. It’s always good give yourself an annual review (your job does it). For that reason, I can’t hate the resolution crowd too much. Just don’t hog my machine!

Anyway, what are some of the promises you’d like to keep to yourself? And Happy New Year!

photo credit: ViaMoi via photopin cc

I Backslid, and So Will You

16 Dec
You will not defeat me!

You will not defeat me!

I haven’t been able to pinpoint when the problem began, but I know it’s happened. I set a limit for myself: I’d never go past 150 again. Then I hit 151. That’s no problem, I thought. I can lose that easily. Excuse after excuse and here I am pushing 160 and about to go for a run.

I know what has to be done; it’s just hard to stay on track. I’m not a fitness buff nor am I a health nut (as evidenced by my love of goldfish crackers). I don’t believe in being a slave to the number on the scale, either. But I like to look a certain way, and there’s a general weight range that I’m veering away from far too easily.

Here’s the thing: we’re all works in progress. Before, during and after the weight-loss journey is over, you will have to repeat the process.

You know why? Everybody backslides. Everybody.

Look at Oprah. No one is a a better example of the truth about yo-yo dieting. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just reality. People gain and lose weight depending on everything from their moods to the moon. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

At my peak of weight loss, I lost over 60 pounds. But then began the process of lose, gain, repeat.

I’m not alone in this. Many, many moons ago, a woman from Tennessee trotted out on a TV stage with a wagon of fat. Remember this?

(wagon pulls in at about 1:50 mark)

I don’t do this to poke fun at the Mighty O, who even says in the video that she was starving herself at the time and has since come forward that her weight gain is the result of thyroid problems. I do this to say that no one is perfect. You will mess up. Just don’t let that be a deterrent to continuing on your way to your goals.

Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

1. Switch up your routine. Any physical trainer will tell you not to do the same routine over and over again. You don’t think to blink, walk or even flex your fingers. It’s a learned activity that the body does without much provocation. The way your body has learned these activities is similar to the way it will learn the same Zumba video you’ve been doing every day for three months. After the first month, the pounds wont drop anymore because your body knows what to do. You have to shock the system. So instead of Zumba, go swimming. Instead of running, do some resistance. Don’t let your body settle into one routine.

2. Don’t beat yourself up about it. This is just a thing that happens. You’ve done the work before, so you know what to do now. You are one of millions of people in the world who have probably fallen back into old habits. Just remember why you started in the first place and let that be the motivation to get you going again.

3. Remember your body is always changing. Maybe some of those pounds are just life catching up with you. Don’t let the number on the scale rule your life. It is solely there as a guide only. It’s about how you feel in your skin, and you have to adjust to life’s little changes…like Oprah.

What do you do when you feel you’re getting off track?