The Biggest Loser

The Biggest Loser did not disappoint last night with its ridiculous product placements masked as “recommendations” to the players. I hate to dwell on Trainer Bob, but, he definitely seems to be the shill for the more questionable foods/supplements, while Jillian seems to be able to choose her endorsements more wisely (and less blatantly).

Last night after watching his team’s video food journal, Bob recommended to his team that they need to get “more protein.” While that may or may not be true, Bob didn’t perform any scientific calculations to assess if they actually did need more protein, therefore his suggestion to them that they use a supplement such as “Designer Whey Protein” is ridiculous.

Overkill for the Biggest Losers

Overkill for the Biggest Losers

Why else is it ridiculous? Well, for one thing, it’s my understanding that the show is supposed to be teaching the players how to eat better. I’m confident that taking protein supplements does not fall under the category “making better choices.”

If you are wondering what whey protein is, it’s a clear liquid leftover from the cheese-making process. Though whey used to be a waste product, it now is dried and used as an ingredient in other foods and supplements. Whey is a source of lactose, which can be an irritant to some people.

So many people already think they are not getting enough protein, but the truth is that most people get more than enough protein from their diets. If you are losing weight while working out, your best bet is to increase your protein by actually eating protein in food, not a supplement.

By obtaining your protein from food, you will also benefit from all of the other vitamins and minerals present in the food, as well as save money on buying unnecessary supplements.

If we give the players the benefit of the doubt and call them athletes, the recommendations for protein based on the American College of Sports Medicine range anywhere from .6-.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

The high end of the range would apply to a growing teenage athlete (Mike) or athletes restricting calories (technically the rest of the players). The catch here is that the players are not at normal body weights and thus protein recommendations cannot be based on their actual body weight, but rather should be based on what we would clinically describe as their adjusted body weight. The adjusted body weight is based on a calculation using one’s ideal body weight, which is based on height.

Since I am not privy to the contestants’ heights, I’m unable to figure out what their adjusted body weights are. For argument’s sake, we could look at Helen, who is now 161 lbs, and perhaps getting close to a healthy BMI. If we use her actual weight, her needs would be anywhere from 97 – 144 g protein per day. This is on the high side for protein, but could easily be met by diet, for example:

4 ounces of chicken breast has 35 g of protein

6 ounces of tuna has 40 g of protein

6 egg whites has 20 g of protein

This alone would meet the lower end of the above mentioned protein recommendations, not to mention other food items like dairy, peanuts, peanut butter and beans which are also very good sources of protein AND to a lesser extent there is protein in several grains and vegetables.

Designer Whey protein has 6 grams of protein and 50 calories per scoop, which really is not that much. I know of several protein supplements used in the acute care setting that would offer more protein per serving. To meet the amount postulated here (97 grams) you would have to use roughly 16 scoops.

Bottom Line:

We as a population and the Biggest Loser contestants are more than likely already meeting protein needs by diet.

If for some reason that was not the case, it is very easy to consume adequate amounts of protein both from animal and plant based sources.

Protein supplements are expensive and unnecessary, especially in the case of the Biggest Losers.

And once again, Bob gave a recommendation and it ended up that one of his players not only gained a pound, but was also sent home. Coincidence?


Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook,


On Tuesday’s Biggest Loser the contestants got a chance to go home to see their families. I always find this a very compelling episode. Seeing the players’ real lives in context, it really drives home how much of a challenge they are up against. Several of the contestants have other family members who are overweight as well, and when the contestants return home for good, the question will be: will these relatives make some changes or will they impact the behavior of the contestants?

It reminded me of a study from a book I am now “listening” to called Mindless Eating by Brain Wansink. The study basically showed that when people eat alone, they fall into two groups: Lighter eaters and heavier eaters. When the people in the studies ate in groups of 4 or more people, lighter eaters tended to eat more and heavier eaters tended to eat less. When eating in groups, there appears to be a norm that emerges, so the average amount that others eat can influence how much you will eat.

If you are a light eater when you eat alone, you may eat more when eating in a group. If you are a heavier eating when eating alone, you may actually eat less when eating with a group.

Wansink goes on to say that if you know what type of eater you are, you can plan accordingly. If you will eat more by yourself, then eat with a group (preferably a group of healthy eaters). If you are a light eater usually, then its best to eat alone rather than be influenced by a group excited to go and get a big meal.

He also says that dining with slower eaters can help you pace yourself, while dining with fast eaters can cause you to speed up your own pace. If you are trying to lose weight, its best to stick with the slower eaters.

As the Biggest Loser showed, it took Mike and Ron probably every last drop of their willpower to not eat pizza! Unfortunately, willpower does not always cut it when it comes to losing weight. There are plenty of “tricks” you can play with yourself to avoid having to use white-knuckled willpower to attain your goals.

The Bottom Line:

If you are trying to lose weight, pay attention to your individual eating style. If you can avoid social situations where you know temptation will be great, it’s probably best to do that (at least until you reach your goals). If you know that a particular group of people will influence you to eat healthfully, seek them out.

There are more of Wansink’s tips for making eating a mindful process in this Newseek article. There is also a great site which touches on lots his research at the Cornell University Food & Brand Lab, especially the Tip Sheet.

Let me know if you have any tricks you use to avoid dieting pitfalls. I personally subscribe to the “out of sight, out of mind” regimen of putting foods that could be potential triggers, like my daughter’s school snacks, out of my line of sight.

Ingredients NOT found in a Fiber One bar

Ingredients NOT found in an Oats & Chocolate Fiber One bar

Tuesday night on The Biggest Loser, Bob recommended to Mandi and Aubrey that they can increase their fiber intake by eating a Fiber One bar. While I am not usually bothered by these product placements, the subject of fiber is one I am very passionate about (see “Cracker to Satisfy Carb Cravings” and “Brantastic Crackers“), so I felt compelled to look into the high fiber claim.

Since I have never tried the bar and it sounded so impressive, I checked out the nutrition information available on the website.  So, here’s the info:

1 Fiber One “Oats and Chocolate” bar is 40 g

140 calories, 4 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 80 mg sodium, 29 g carbohydrate, 9 g fiber, 10 g sugar (a little over 2 teaspoons), 2 g protein

So, it does seem to have  a good bit of fiber. But, where is the fiber coming from? The first ingredient is chicory root extract. Since, ingredients are required to be listed in the order of their predominance in a product, this means that there is more chicory root extract by weight, than anything else in the product. (more…)

While making bets with your buddies on who can lose the most weight has been around forever, putting some cash at stake is definitely a new twist. Yesterday, the New York Times Health section ran an article on this latest diet trend, friends and coworkers setting wagers on who can lose the most weight.

Though money is a powerful motivator, I wonder how motivated a person stays once they win the money? If we look at the Biggest Loser as a larger than life example (excuse the pun), the maintenance of the weight loss has not been sustained by all of the Biggest Loser past winners.

Healthy competition and money are both powerful motivators, and I am all for anything that can help someone improve their health, so with that in mind, here’s a diet tip for those of you Competitively Dieting:

When you feel a hunger pang (or boredom) and you are tempted to grab that candy bar in the drawer that you hid from yourself, don’t just give in right away! Instead, put on a tooth whitening strip. You might be wondering, how is a tooth whitening strip going to make me less hungry? Well, the truth is it isn’t going to make you less hungry, but, it is going to force you to hit the pause button on your hunger. Once you apply a whitestrip, you can’t eat or drink anything for 30 minutes. In 30 minutes, if you are still hungry, you truly were hungry and can choose a healthy snack. If the hungry feeling passed, that’s fine too. Either way, you will have even whiter teeth to go with your slim new figure. And, hopefully, well on your way to winning the office weight loss competition.