The Wrongest Lessons from The Biggest Loser

Big article this week in the NY Times (NY apparently stands for Nutritional Yokels) about how contestants in The Biggest Loser TV show gain back the weight after the show. According to “science,” obesity is a disease of a malfunctioning metabolic system, rather than lifestyle choices.

One of the contestants, Amanda Arlauskas, lives in Raleigh, NC, not far from me. According to the Times, she's since regained 13 pounds (or 15% of the total weight she lost) while burning “591.1 fewer calories per day than would be expected for a woman her size.”

She was sponsored by Quest, a company that makes protein powders and paleo bars, and was interviewed on their blog in 2012, after having yo-yoed from 163 to 202 and back down to 161 pounds. Here's how she described her diet:

… because I eat no seafood, and limited red meat, I’m always preparing chicken in different ways. I also love just about every vegetable there is. But don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy my pizza, burger, and glass of wine here and there!

And her biggest learning on The Biggest Loser? This outlook:

I think one of the most important things I learned was counting calories and portion control. When we first started measuring everything, and counting every relentless calorie that entered our bodies, I was shocked to learn what the actual portion sizes really were.

So often we think we know what’s going in our mouths, but fail to realize that if it’s not measured, more than likely we are eating A LOT more than what we are supposed to be eating.

I always recommend to someone who is looking to lose weight or just become healthier, to buy a calorie counter, food scale, and measuring cups/spoons, and really become aware of EVERY calorie they are consuming. That’s when you really notice how much we typically overeat.

Now she sells protein powder for 4FrontNutrition, and unless she discovers the whole food, low fat, plant-based movement, she will struggle with this issue for the rest of her life.

Words cannot describe how sad this makes me. Not only for Amanda, but for all the NY Times readers who will give up on achieving a healthy weight because they now believe, based on “science,” that they have no control over their health destiny.

Update: the NY Times continues its campaign of weight loss misinformation with another “authoritative” article. This one, published on May 4, 2016, says that when it comes to weight loss, it's more important to exercise than to control food intake.

As Ray Cronise points out, the healthiest, longest-lived, slimmest people in the world do not exercise. They are active as part of their daily lives, but they aren't hitting the gym or the track for hours every week.

Instead, the basis of their lean physiques and healthy lifespans is a simple, whole food, plant-based diet.

Once you lose that foundation, then it's a crazy-science free-for-all in which dozens of bad theories compete to confuse and discourage the overweight public.

As the NY Times demonstrates on almost a daily basis.

We know the surefire formula for getting people to a healthy weight and staying there. Unfortunately, the number of people who get the message and follow through on the implementation are rare enough that they don't bend the bell curves of population research.

If you're overweight, you can stop all the tricks and gimmicks and weighing and measuring and counting and restricting right now.

There is a path, and it works, and it won't take you but a couple of weeks to verify it for yourself.

And it doesn't require you to override millions of years of human evolutionary biology with willpower.

If you'd like to take the first step on that journey with me, I'd be honored. Fill out the form below and click Submit to request a free exploratory consultation.

Protein and Performance

Everyone knows that meat is the manliest food. It’s full of protein, which we he-men need for our big muscles. On Father’s Day, we love to make fires and cook that meat like the cavemen did. And we get it – or used to, anyway – by hunting, which is of course the manliest activity there is.

Except for one small problem: it turns out that excessive consumption of animal products – including meat, dairy, and eggs – actually undermines our manliness in several ways.

I’ll spare you the sermon on heart disease, cancer, stroke, type II diabetes, and MS. I’ll leave the lecture on erectile dysfunction being the leading indicator of heart disease for another day. Let’s look on the bright side, and talk about high performance.

The Protein Myth

If you’ve bought into the myth that you need lots of protein to have a strong, fit body, and that animal protein is somehow “higher quality” than plant protein, then we need to talk.

First of all, think about our closest animal relatives, gorillas and chimps. Strong? Check. Muscular? Check. Meat-eaters? Not so much.

Second, there’s tons of scientific research on the ill effects of an animal foods-based diet. That paleo stuff you’ve been seeing all over? Pretty much “Bro Science” fantasy.

Third, let’s look at some counter-examples to the “plant eaters are scrawny and wimpy” stereotype.

Jack LaLanne ate an almost entirely plant-based diet in his later years, and was still working out two hours a day up to the week before he died at the age of 96.

Scott Jurek, one of the world’s dominant ultra-marathon runners, hasn’t consumed animal products since 1999. He credits his clean diet for his performance, and for the remarkably short recovery periods he requires between races.

Gary Player, the South African golf champion, went plant-based 23 years ago, and at the age of 80, is a poster child for fitness at any age. His daily workout begins – begins! – with 1000 sit-ups and push-ups.

I could go on and on. But I’d like to end with the story of a regular guy who went plant-based, with remarkable results.

Rich Roll’s Amazing Plant-based Journey

Rich RollRich Roll was a “desperately unhealthy” 39-year-old lawyer who was 50 pounds overweight in 2006. His gift to himself on his 40th birthday was a new diet – 100% plant-based – so that he might “lose a little weight around the middle” and perhaps interact a little more energetically with his children.

Aside from that, Roll didn’t anticipate that the change to a plant-based diet would do anything other than make him feel “hungry all the time.”

Turns out, the dietary shift changed everything. Roll recalls, “My vitality returned and the weight came off. With energy levels suddenly through the roof, I found myself electrified, returning to fitness with vigor – something I hadn't done in decades.”

How much vigor? Just two years later, Roll found himself performing at a high level in ultra-endurance events, “something that previously seemed unimaginable.”

In fact, in 2009, the 42-year-old Roll was named one of Men’s Fitness magazine’s “25 Fittest Men in the World.” He was only the second “Regular Joe” – i.e. non-professional athlete – ever to make the list.

“Without a doubt, I attribute all of what I have accomplished — not just as an athlete but as a husband, father and human being – to adopting a whole food plant-based diet, proving that our bodies are is far more resilient than you can imagine.”

Read about Rich's transformation in his bestselling book Finding Ultra.

Isn’t that the best news you’ve heard in a long time? No matter how you may have treated your body in the past, shifting to a plant-based diet – which means eating mostly plants in as close to their natural state as possible – can slow the aging process and actually bring us back to the vigor, stamina, and performance levels we thought we’d said goodbye to forever.

And if you get started now, we may never have to have those talks about heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and erectile dysfunction. Just sayin…

WT 004: Leigh Johnson on Befriending Our Connective Tissue


Leigh Johnson is a licensed massage and bodywork therapist as well as a certified Pilates, RedCord Active®, GYROTONIC®, GYROKINESIS® and MELT Method® instructor.

Leigh excels at describing movement in an entertaining and effective manner and has worked with dancers, athletes, expectant mothers, brides to be, and individuals recovering from injury and surgery.

Listen to this episode (00:26:54)
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Leigh’s study of massage therapy has expanded her understanding of the human body and inspired her movement instruction in new ways. Combining movement and massage, she continues to help individuals achieve their goals of fitness, whole body integration and pain-free, active living.

Leigh has been teaching in the triangle area since 2000, and a licensed Massage Therapist since 2012.

I've experienced Leigh's expert teaching in a MELT class. She knows her stuff really well, and can explain it in easy to grasp language. She pays attention to each student in the class, making adjustments and optimizing their practice.

Plus, she's fun, with a wicked sense of humor.

But more important for our purposes here, the MELT Method is one of the most efficiacious modalities for dealing with pain, restriction, and overall “crankiness” that medicine has discovered or studied.

So before you go down an orthopedic rabbit hole to escape from your pain, give a listen to this Well Talk episode with Leigh Johnson. And then, if you're curious, check out her schedule of local classes and try one for yourself.

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