I finally found out what the contestants eat on the "Biggest Loser". It isn't too much, but it is adequate. They are required to cook all of their own food. The kitchen has no white flour, sugar, or butter. Well that would about kill me right there.
The article says what I have always told my kids and clients, do not eat out! You can make any meal you can eat out soooo much healthier and with about half the fat. When my oldest son got married to his wife they were both working and quickly fell into the fast food habit. He weighed about 175 when they got married and got up to about 250!
Once he cuts out the fast food and starts cooking it makes an awfully big difference. He is now under 200 for the first time in about 8 years. My hubby and I have never been big eating out people, that is our only saving grace I am sure.
Not to brag but no one cooks as good or better than I do. That is the thinking with the biggest loser, if they learn to cook their own food they will not eat out. It just tastes sooo much better homecooked. The article is here in case you are interested.
By JULIA MOSKIN
Published: February 3, 2009
NOTHING is off-limits on “The Biggest Loser,” the reality show that pits morbidly obese people against one another to see who can lose weight the fastest and win the $250,000 prize.
Contestants endure tearful, grueling workouts and submit to public weigh-ins wearing only bike shorts (and for the women, sports bras). They cry. They vomit. They backstab.
The one thing they almost never do on camera is eat.
“The food that you’re used to, you can’t have, and the food you can have, you do not want,” said Vicky Vilcan, a 5-foot-6-inch finalist from Houma, La., who weighed 246 pounds at the beginning of the last season. Now at 145 pounds, she eats broccoli and spinach but says she was “repulsed” by most vegetables when she was on the show. “I wouldn’t eat a string bean that wasn’t smothered in bacon and onions.”
Watch an episode of “The Biggest Loser,” now in its seventh season on NBC, and see the pitfalls of the American diet written extra-large: cheap, high-calorie snacks everywhere, days spent in cars and cubicles and a near disappearance of home cooking.
The contestants are avatars for every slothful viewer on the sofa, waging the epic battle between willpower and waffle fries. While exercising 6 to 10 hours a day and fighting off the doughnuts and pizza that diabolical producers put in their paths may be difficult, the biggest challenge, and the one that will determine whether they remain thinner, is to permanently change their relationship with food.
First, they literally redevelop the sense of taste. “The food that got them to this point is salty, sweet, fatty, crunchy,” said Bob Harper, a trainer on the show since the first season in 2004, describing the fast food and snacks that are the steady diet of most contestants. “They lose their taste buds, they lose their hunger cues and they want what they want when they want it.”
Second, they learn fundamental cooking skills that they — like many Americans — have lost, or never had.
“Most of them do not have the basic ability to cook a meal at home and very little understanding of how much fat and salt is in restaurant food,” said Cheryl Forberg, the show’s nutritionist, “even on the supposedly healthy part of the menu.” While the show has been criticized as presenting a dangerous and unsustainable level of weight loss, recipes from it are sensible enough and have been collected in two cookbooks. Given the program’s popularity, it’s not surprising that both are in the top 10 on the Amazon best-seller list for cookbooks. Together, “The Biggest Loser Cookbook” and “The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook” have sold more than two million copies.
Contestants climb a steep and brutal learning curve in the kitchen, since they have to do all their own cooking.
“There’s no chef whipping up spa cuisine,” Ed Brantley, a contestant from last season, said glumly.
While on their “ranch” — a luxurious house outside Malibu, Calif., — in the four months of taping, contestants are given a calorie budget, recipes and a list of forbidden foods: no white flour, white sugar, butter, or anything that contains them. From there, they have to learn to feed themselves.
“It wasn’t pretty,” said Mr. Brantley’s wife, Heba Salama, who began the show as the heaviest woman ever to compete, at 294 pounds. “The kitchen was full of weird ingredients like quinoa and kale. It was the blind leading the blind.”
On a recent episode, the guest chef, Curtis Stone, gently guided Dave Lee, a 23-year-old contestant in Raleigh, N.C., who weighed 396 pounds when filming began, into the produce section of a supermarket. “I don’t see a lot of things that look familiar here,” Mr. Lee said. He cautiously accepted a taste of cilantro and brightened when he was able to identify it as “something in salsa.”
“This,” Mr. Stone said, handing Mr. Lee a spice rack, “is going to save your life.”
Even if home cooking is of the fried-chicken-and-mashed-potatoes variety, it rarely produces extreme obesity, said Barry Popkin, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Almost any kind of cooking you can produce in a kitchen is healthier than fast food.” The decline of home cooking worldwide, he said, is an underlying cause of obesity
“People are eating more, and more often,” Dr. Popkin said. “And the foods that they are consuming almost always replace meals cooked in a kitchen and eaten at a table.” It is difficult to quantify a decline in cooking skills, but many studies show that time in the kitchen has declined steeply since 1965, when American women spent a weekly average of 13 hours cooking. Last month the government of Britain, where obesity is spreading rapidly, passed a law requiring all secondary-school students to attend cooking classes.
Today, women in the United States report spending an average of 30 minutes a day preparing meals. The percentage of women who are overweight has risen to about 65 percent from about 30 percent in the 1960s. Cooking and eating well is much harder than just eating less, “Biggest Loser” contestants said.
“The first two weeks, you’re throwing up so much from working out, you’re so tired, the last thing you want to do is eat,” said Mr. Brantley, a chef in Raleigh, who in the last season lost 139 pounds (more than 40 percent of his body weight).
Next, Ms. Salama said, you become ravenous. “You want to eat everything you see,” she said.
But soon, food becomes the devil they love to control. Every contestant is required to eat a minimum number of calories each day and is supposed to keep a daily food journal to prove it. But many of them actually eat less.
“It gets so you crave that feeling of going to bed with hunger pains in your stomach,” said Erik Chopin, a Long Island deli owner who won the show in 2006, going to 193 pounds from 407. Mr. Chopin said the absence of the foods he loves helped. “It’s not like you can go in the kitchen and make yourself a bacon, egg and cheese on a roll,” he said. “More oatmeal wasn’t very tempting.”
The 24-hour surveillance helped, too. “You’re accountable to your team, you’re accountable to your trainer and you’re accountable to the American people for what you eat,” Mr. Chopin said. “How stupid would you feel to sit there stuffing your face on national television?”
Most contestants say it is surprisingly easy to resist food in the throes of competition. “You learn to get over being hungry, like you get over the pain of the workouts,” Ms. Salama said. “The first temptation, it’s very hard to think clearly when you smell all that sugar, but you learn that you can say no.”
During scheduled “temptations,” contestants are bribed to eat junk food with prizes like cash and calls home, sometimes while locked in a dark room with mountains of candy. “We want to simulate the real world in there,” said Dave Broome, a co-creator of the show. “At home, there’s a McDonald’s on every corner, there’s a birthday cake at the office every afternoon, there are friends who will encourage them to eat.”
When the contestants return home to live like the rest of us, without personal trainers and cash prizes, how do they adjust to eating in the real world? Like Oprah Winfrey, who recently acknowledged that she once again weighs more than 200 pounds, the contestants say that the slide backward can be slow, but for some of them it may be inevitable.
Although Mr. Chopin sold his deli after his victory (“I was worried that the quality control alone would make me fat”), he has gained back more than 100 pounds. Most contestants say they did not expect to maintain their entire weight loss once at home. Many have gained back 50 pounds or more, some have continued to drop and all say they have abandoned the fasting, asparagus binges (asparagus, a mild diuretic, temporarily reduces weight) and all-coffee strategies they used while on the show.
What lessons can be learned from the blood, sweat and tears that pour freely on the ranch? Simple: count your calories, exercise and learn to cook.
“Twenty minutes in the kitchen will save you three hours on the StairMaster” said Devin Alexander, a chef in Los Angeles who developed the recipes for the cookbooks. “You can’t trust restaurant food to be low fat.”
Mr. Brantley says that after six days of salad, grilled chicken and air-popped popcorn, he allows himself one day to eat real ice cream, blue-cheese dressing and other foods he loves.
“There’s no such thing as low-fat foie gras,” he said.