There’s been a lot of news lately about the study done on the contestants of Season 8 of “The Biggest Loser,” America’s most popular weight loss show. If you’ve ever seen it, you’ll know that the focus is almost entirely on calories in and calories out… each contestant is kept on a strict low calorie diet while trainers cajole, prod, and scream at the contestants through hours and hours per day of vigorous exercise. And they lose a tremendous amount of weight… the before and after photos and videos shown at each season’s finale is pretty mind-blowing. But guess what? The season 8 study has shown that, once back in the real world, these contestants struggle mightily to maintain their weight, and nearly all of them gain a significant amount of weight back.
So what’s the deal? Why is this happening to all these weight loss champions? It all boils down to this one concept that the show’s producers and trainers are getting so, so wrong:
They focused on losing weight to get healthy, rather than getting healthy to lose weight.
In other words, they focused on “forcing” the excess weight off by focusing on fitness, calorie counting, and macronutrients – the old (and tired) mythology of dieting and exercise aka “eat less, work out more.” By forcing the weight off, they created an unsustainable system that was bound to backfire at some point, rather than a self-sustaining and easily-managed comprehensive lifestyle transformation.
So what practical things can you do to focus on to create a sustainable lifestyle where your excess weight is seemingly magically “released”? In a nutshell, focus on a comprehensive series of lifestyle shifts that are proven to improve your long-term health. When you prioritize health, disease prevention, and quality of life, weight loss comes with it as a pleasant side effect.
Before we move on, sit back and relax for a minute. This new chapter in your life doesn’t need to be stressful. Sure, it’ll take some willpower. Sure, you’ll have to develop new habits. But following this path will help you create a new lease on life, and that’s something to be incredibly excited about!
Here are the five most important things to focus on:
- When it comes to food, focus on the “total package” rather than dividing everything up into proteins, carbs, and fats. What your body truly needs are foods rich in fiber and micronutrients – vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals – namely whole, unprocessed plant foods like leafy greens, colorful veggies, fruits, starchy vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices. A dietary pattern focused on these things doesn’t require constant caloric monitoring because it’s nearly impossible to overeat these foods! Simply eat mindfully and until you’re satisfied.
- Focus on consistent movement and activity rather than unsustainable hardcore exercise…unless you love it. The most impactful thing you can start doing today isn’t joining a gym or taking a crazy fitness class, it’s incorporating more walking and stretching into your day. However, if you find that exercise is a source of enjoyment and stress relief for you, then absolutely go for it!
- Focus on your mindset… self-acceptance, affirmations, stress relief, long-term goals, visualizations, and gratitude. Building practices that allow for more positivity and confidence in your life can help you wash away fear and limiting beliefs, quite possibly the two biggest obstacles standing in most peoples’ ways.
- Make sure you’re hydrating your body really well. Forget sports drinks or beverages claiming to contain “vitamins”… most brands are just sugar-water masquerading as a healthy drink. Drinking clean, high-quality water is one of the most powerful things you can do for your health… and it’s overlooked more often than not. As a general rule of thumb, aim for a minimum of ½ your body weight (lbs) in ounces of water on a daily basis.
- Optimize your sleep. More and more evidence is making it clear that making high quality sleep a priority can be a major performance and health enhancer. The days of glorifying all-nighters and long work hours are behind us… studies show that high quality sleep increased effectiveness and productivity much more than total hours worked. There are a number of things you can do to optimize your sleep quality, but scheduling 7-9 hours per night is an excellent start.
Does this seem like it would take a lot of willpower? Sure… but only in the beginning. Science has proven that the more of these health-promoting holistic changes you include in your life, the more your body, mind, and taste buds will adjust and come to love these new habits. You’ll actually come to crave these healthy new habits, which helps you stay on track for the long haul. In the coming days, weeks, and months, we’ll show you different ways to implement these powerful habits into your life!