As my wife and I sat watching season one of the Biggest Loser, I thought to myself how great this show was going to be for people trying to find motivation to lose weight. I could not have been more wrong, now 14 seasons later I think it is doing more harm than good. It is setting unrealistic expectations and teaching detrimental fitness and nutrition practices. The people on the Biggest Loser are training for around 6 hours a day and are on a calorie restricted diet. Not to mention that they have their own medical staff on site to monitor the participants, due to the likelihood of someone going down. (I get that it makes for good television though.) So I pose a couple questions… How many of the participants have lost weight and have kept it off months or years later? How many participants have suffered from an injury due to the training methods utilized on the Biggest Loser?
According to a study from Oxford, 80% of weight losers will gain all the weight back within 3-5 years. A report from the National Weight Control Registry suggested that this relapse rate could be as high as 95%. And the probability of gaining the weight back goes up if we have approached it as a quick fix and not instilled a lifestyle change. We have also seen time and time again reports of participants needing medical attention due to dehydration, stress fractures, and other effects of serious overtraining. Clearly something is not working for life changing, long-term weight loss that we all seem to think is being presented on a TV show.
Time and time again I have clients come to me and explain how they work out 6-7 days a week for at least an hour and a half each session and still cannot seem to lose any weight. As I dive into what they are doing, I realize there is a lot of long duration, relatively intense cardio going on. On top of that these clients are restricting their calories to miniscule levels in order to reach that “calorie deficit” that every expert is telling them about. I am about to tell you that this is why you are not losing weight, but don’t worry because there is a much better approach to weight loss.
MOVE LESS AND EAT MORE
Yes you read that right, but before everybody stops reading this article because I have clearly gone crazy, let me finish. And lets change the word LESS to SLOWER & MORE. And while we are at it lets add the words QUALITY FOOD to the second part. Lets try again.
MOVE SLOWER & MORE AND EAT MORE QUALITY FOOD
Lets take a moment and look back at our ancestors, yep, we are talking Cavemen (and Cavewomen). A majority of the time they were walking around, moving from place to place following their food (Nomads). They were hunting and gathering. Gathering requires a lot of walking around. Trying to find various berries, seeds and some other edible plants. Every once and awhile the Cavemen and Cavewomen, probably more so the men (they were the ones out hunting), would need to all out sprint in order to evade an approaching predator. And as Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint and www.marksdailyapple.com, puts it, they sometimes need to “lift heavy things”. These heavy things could be rocks, logs, or animals they have hunted and need to transport back to the cave.
My point being, we are not designed to workout for long periods of time, let alone 6 hours a day, at moderate to high intensity. We are designed to move, and a lot, just at a low intensity. Then every once in awhile we need to “all out” sprint and lift heavy things. My recommendation is to shoot for 7 hours of low to moderate intensity movement per week. Notice I said movement, this can mean many things: walking your dog, going on a hike, some gardening activities or playing a game of Frisbee at the park. I specifically did not say exercise, because most people now associate exercise with the gym. Get out of the gym for these 7 hours; enjoy the world and all that nature has to offer. 7 hours may seem high to some people, but it is only one hour every day of the week. And remember, this is the goal time, so it is okay to work your way up to the 7 hours.
Now let’s talk about lifting heavy things, this is where I come in. We are not designed to stand in front of a mirror and do bicep curls until our sleeves rip. Sorry guys, but for the most part, this exercise is a waste of time. Our bodies are designed to handle much more complex movements than that. If you can master a pull-up and a deadlift, I promise that you will see more strength and probably size in your biceps than from the standard bicep curl. A strict deadlift with perfect form can be an amazing full body, powerful movement (but the form is a must). Come see me if you are unsure of your form. Along with other full body movements, your weight training sessions should never last longer than 45 minutes. If you are stuck in your ways and feel that you have to work out for two hours to get the results, I challenge you to come to my studio and I will train you for a half hour, absolutely free. And I will prove to you that duration of a workout is not the definition of a good workout.
And last but not least, “all out” sprint work. Mark Sisson recommends that we do “all out” sprint work once every 7-10 days. These sessions should not last any longer than 20 minutes total. Kick it old school and run up the block to the green mailbox, rest for 30-60 seconds and sprint back to the starting point. And repeat!
Now we will talk diet, dun dun duh!! That dreaded word that everybody is sick of hearing because they have tried every single one out there. Do you know why diets don’t work? Because we are trying to convince the body to eat a way it is not designed to eat. Do you really think people only ate grapefruit and drank coffee? Or only drank a concoction of lemon juice, some syrup and cayenne pepper? Of course not! These same people we talked about above, the cavemen and cavewomen, ate FOOD, food that was available to them at the time. They ate lean meats and fish, fruits and vegetables (when they were in season), and nuts and seeds. They couldn’t go to the grocery store and buy things that were made up of 33 ingredients (Doritos chips, by the way- number may be plus or minus 1 ingredient). They did not have access to this stuff, so they ate whole, mostly raw foods. So my suggestion here is to consume a diet that consists mostly of lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and most of the fruit, vegetable, nuts and seeds should be raw (unsalted and not roasted for the nuts and seeds, uncooked for the fruits and vegetables). And when I say “most” of your diet, I am really only talking 80%. If 80% of your diet consists of lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds (mostly raw when possible), the 20% of your diet that consists of “other” stuff won’t have the same detrimental effects on our body. This is because by giving the body that 80%, you are turning it into an extremely efficient machine, therefore when the other 20% comes in the body knows exactly what to do with it.
So in the conclusion, Don’t do what they do on TV, Do what they did before TV, WAYYY before TV. Happy training!!