Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Biggest Loser Season 10, Episode 2: Getting Serious

Now that "The Biggest Loser" is available in high-definition, it seems that the producers and editors have made the decision to change the direction of the show from entertainment to educational, at least for this first "real" episode.  This time, when we see the contestants on the ranch for the first time, there isn't much focus on their personal stories. We got that all in the premiere.  As Jillian said, "I don't need to hear a speech, I want to see what they can do." The contestants are hustled onto the treadmill to start their workout with no preliminary niceties.

We also find out that the contestants who were eliminated in the casting call got a second chance.  Bob and Jillian each got to pick one person who didn't make it to come to the ranch as part of the Yellow Team.  (One thing I found out when looking at "The Biggest Loser" website was that the others got to go to the new Biggest Loser resort to learn how to get healthy.) It was interesting to see the two trainers' different priorities: Bob chose the almost-500 pound man from Detroit, and Jillian decided that she wanted to bring the girl who passed out during her challenge.

The way the workouts are covered  was different this time. The way the scenes are spliced together, we get more of a sense of time passing during the workout, and I really was wondering as a reasonably fit person if I would have been able to do the workout these very large, out-of-shape contestants were doing.  I was more impressed with the contestants' hard work.  There was less focus on drama. When someone fell off the treadmill, we saw a medic help her up and she was almost immediately back on it. There is definitely a no-BS feel to the new format, which I really like.

We also got more insight into the food philosophy of "The Biggest Loser." As contestants sat around the kitchen talking about "eating healthy," Bob and Jillian emphasized over and over that the real emphasis of the TBL eating plan is portion sizes.  When some of the guys talk about the mega-sandwiches they used to eat, from foot-long prime rib hoagies covered in french fries to a giant burger Brendan used to eat called "The Gravedigger," Bob and Jillian point out that though the food itself is bad stuff, the worst problem is the size of them. 

On Day 2, we do get a little of Brendan's backstory.  He had been engaged to a woman who really seemed to love him despite his weight, but he said he did everything he could to push her away until the relationship ended.  Bob works with him and really pushes him through the whole workout.  We get some scenes from a few other people to know that the rest of them are also working just as hard as they did on Day 1. Afterward, all of the guys who described their huge sandwiches get a "special delivery" in the gym. When they see the food after working that hard, they seem mostly sickened by it.  Brendan, especially, seems broken up by the reality of what he was doing by eating a sandwich called the Gravedigger with a large french fry and a 2-liter of soda. He doesn't come out and say "Why was I trying to kill myself?" but that is the impression we were left with.

I had mixed feelings about the segment with Dr. H.  I felt like he was badgering the contestants a bit, and the photos showing their bellies larger than life seemed particularly cruel. Again, though, this segment seemed designed to drive home the deadly seriousness of all that fat.  Fat doesn't just sit there and make you look bad, he explained, it pumps hormones into your body that cause serious problems like diabetes and heart disease.  After hearing the bad news about their health, contestants were connected with their families via teleconference to help them realize that their health problems weren't only impacting them. Allie had weight loss surgery when she was only 14 years old, and Dr. H. was angry not with her, but with her parents and her doctors for letting a child get such a serious surgery without following up on the physical and psychological effects later.  "Did that doctor who took your check monitor your weight after the surgery?" It was also clear during the teleconference with her very overweight mother that Allie was going to be completely on her own when she got home.  It was hard not to be angry with a parent who had let her child get a life-altering medical procedure but wouldn't provide even the most basic support to follow up and help her be successful.

As part of the new Serious Regime, contestants were not competing as part of teams this time but as individuals, and instead of getting a Last Chance Workout, the weigh-in came with no warning.  I think both of these changes are in response to abuses in last season, with people either water-loading to strategically gain or purposely dehydrating themselves.  A pop weigh-in will keep them honest.  My guess is that contestants must be getting weighed every day now, because we know that the scale is just a big prop.  Contestants were told that the weight losses should be pretty big, since two weeks had passed since their first weigh-in at home and they "should have started your journey right away after that." Anyone who had partied their way through their last week at home was going to be held accountable.

This time, half the contestants were under the yellow line instead of just two. Unfortunately, most of the women were below the line and most of the men were above it.  The "Biggest Loser" of the week got to choose one person to get immunity, and contestants were able to compete their way to immunity in a race that was designed to bring the eight vulnerable players down to just two.  There was a little bit of drama between Jessica and Burgandy in the first heat -- it was obvious that Jessica cheated by pushing Burgandy back to keep her from winning. I respected Burgandy for standing up for herself, and was not impressed when instead of admitting she was wrong and apologizing, Jessica got angry with Burgandy for speaking up.  I hope that this was a temporary thing in the heat of the moment and not foreshadowing of a future feud between the two players. I have to say I was disappointed that Jessica didn't end up being one of the two eligible for elimination.

I was disappointed with the players' choice for who to send home, and hope that the player ends up doing okay on her own.  It looked like she was being proactive and trying to seek out support when she didn't find it at home.

What did you think of the show (if you watched it)? 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Weigh-in report: Down 1.8

I started explaining about my weekend trip before I even got on the scale today. I didn't bring anything for the Lose For Good Campaign (just because I forgot, actually).  I really didn't expect a loss this week  And then I lost almost 2 pounds.  Very exciting.  What a roller-coaster ride this weight loss stuff can be.

This makes a total of 3.4 pounds down in 3 weeks, just a little more than a pound a week on average.  Not bad. I'm getting close to that first 5-pound star, so I am going to do everything I can to make it happen.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It was going so well...

I was having a really great Weight Watchers week so far, and then the weekend happened.

Or, to be more accurate, over the weekend I had an out-of-town training trip and let being tired and cooped up in a seminar room all day be an excuse for not making great choices. So I'm down 22 points for the week.  To be fair, there was no way I would have had time to fit in exercise, other than what I got walking around in airports. It was a quick fly-in-fly-out kind of thing.

I plan to do the best I can today and hope that I get even a tiny loss tomorrow.  And then just keep making good choices.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cooking and planning

It's the third day in my Weight Watchers week and I've only used 1 of my weekly points so far.  That might not sound like much of a victory, but for me it is.  I had been just sort of going along through my day, making food choices on the fly, and hoping that the points would add up and I'd have all my Good Health Guidelines.

Guess what? That doesn't work. Shocking, I know.

So, usually after breakfast, I've been figuring out the whole day ahead.  And earlier this week, I planned dinners for the week and made a grocery list so I would have all the things I needed to make those recipes. Then I bought all the stuff.  Pretty elementary, I know.

I have a few meals this week where I'm not going to be able to plan, which is why I'm saving up those weekly points and trying to earn a few activity points too. I'll be out of town for training this weekend, and who knows what they will feed us?

One other thing I did was to pull out all my healthy eating cookbooks. I have a bunch of Weight Watchers cookbooks and also some others, like the Eating Well cookbooks. And remember , which I reviewed here a while ago? I tried another recipe from it, a spicy Thai chicken with light coconut milk ("Thai Beau"), and it was amazing.  Because it was a little high in points (7 points per serving), I made some steamed broccoli to go with it in addition to some brown basmati rice. The broccoli recipe is from Alton Brown's show and requires no steamer basket -- you use the stalks of the broccoli to keep the florets out of the water. It takes 6 minutes and the broccoli tastes just like what you would get from a Chinese restaurant.  Because I had a big portion of the (0 point) broccoli and the chicken portions turned out to be huge, half a serving with the broccoli and half a cup of the rice was plenty for dinner. I'm looking forward to trying other recipes from this book, since I haven't found a loser yet.

Last night we did the broccoli trick again to go with General Tso's Chicken from my absolute favorite cookbook -- not my favorite healthy cookbook, my favorite cookbook period -- .  I have the old version in the previous link, but there is a too. It has sections for different ethnicities: Chinese, Greek, Italian, etc. It even has some diner-type recipes.  What I like about the Weight Watcher cookbooks, as opposed to some of the recipes handed around in meetings, is that all the recipes are regular food, not fat-free-sugar-free-chemical-pumped weird foods. Most make around four servings.  Usually I eat one serving, my husband has two, and then he takes the fourth serving for lunch the next day. I know there is a new plan coming out in the fall (you can even preorder ). The rumor is that the points will be figured differently, so I hope there will be some way to get the points for recipes in the old cookbooks.

It can feel like a big pain to plan out recipes for the whole week, do the shopping, etc., but I find that it is actually more of a pain to come home with no idea what I'm going to have for dinner and then try to figure out what I can do that would be low-calorie, tasty, and quick, especially if there is nothing much in the house. The other nice thing about doing all of the planning and shopping ahead of time is that it means that if my husband gets home before I do, he will actually make the dinner we planned and have it ready for me when I get home.

Hope you're having a good week. I'm planning to. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Biggest Loser Season 10: Competing for a Chance

The theme for this season of The Biggest Loser is "Pay it Forward." The idea seems to be to expand the reach of the show. Only a few people can (or would want to) go on the show out of the many, many people who are seriously overweight.

To make this excruciatingly clear, the show traveled around the country for big casting events in major cities like Detroit, Los Angeles, and Boston.  Three people from each region who had applied to be on the show were introduced to us and the crowd and publicly weighed in.  The stories were heartbreaking, from mothers who had lost children to people who had grown up in abusive homes. It was clear that behind every seriously obese person, there was an equally serious problem that had made abusing food seem reasonable.

The three people then had to compete in some sort of challenge, and the top two got to go right to the Biggest Loser ranch.  A few of the challenges were one-mile races, and the rest were step-up competitions.  Usually it seemed that the person who had raced to get ahead at the beginning was the one eliminated.  A couple of people pushed themselves so hard that they collapsed.  Of course there were medics on the scene, and I am sure they were screened beforehand for major health problems.  It was still pretty frightening to see a guy in his 20s collapse twice during the mile race.  It was also sad because he obviously felt like The Biggest Loser was his only hope.

The show was both compelling and a little repetitive. I liked that we got each contestant's backstory.  The long preview for next week's show suggests that the people who didn't make the first cut will have another chance.

Seriously, though, what are the options for a person who is 100+ pounds overweight?

Conventional weight-loss programs like Weight Watchers, though they have some 100-pound-plus success stories, don't really seem set up to handle people with the kind of tragic histories that TBL contestants have. They have some good behavioral tools to offer for regular situations, like this week's topic about asking for help.  But someone in my meeting this week talked about needing to build self-esteem, and none of us seemed to have much to offer about how to do that.

Therapists could potentially help, but not all of them are informed or helpful. Some of them are pretty judgmental about people with weight problems. The first time I tried therapy at about 65 or 70 pounds overweight, the therapist sort of flippantly suggested that I should just eat less fruit because fruit has too much sugar.  That was my first and last session with her.  She didn't seem to look for a deeper issue besides eating too much.

There are twelve-step programs like Overeaters Anonymous. I don't know if there are any stats about how successful they are. From my time on the blogs, I get the impression that people in some of those meetings can be just as unhelpful as the general population.

There are weight loss surgeries with all the inherent risks.  Some people do very well with them and some end up on The Biggest Loser even fatter than before. And we know that even people who have been on TBL can end up regaining all the weight.

There don't seem to be a lot of clear answers out there. Every method has its success stories and its epic failures.  The X factor seems to be that spark that gets a person motivated enough to stick with whatever method they choose. I think it would be great to know more about that X factor.

One thing that seemed a little discouraging to me. There was a guy who weighed in at close to 500 pounds who quipped, "The next time you see me I will have a six pack." It just seemed to reinforce the idea that if you're not within a very narrow range of celebrity-like perfection, you're a failure. The first problem with this is that it's terribly unrealistic: Even the guys on the cover of Men's Health with a six-pack don't look like that on a regular day just walking around. Jillian Michael's Making the Cut made it pretty clear that there is a pre-shoot ritual of ultra-strict eating and low-level dehydration that makes muscles pop like that on one specific day of the already-superfit person's life.  Plus, with most magazine photos, there is airbrushing on top of all of that. The second problem is that it ignores the difference that even a small change can make in someone's health. The show has documented this before: After the first week, before the contestants have lost much weight, their health risks have already gone way down from the change in their lifestyle and many people get to stop taking medications that they had been on for years.  Just the changes in mobility after a few weeks on the show would be life-changing for TBL-sized people.

We don't all need to look like movie stars to have happy lives. I know it's probably too much to expect that fans of a television show would start to focus on health instead of appearance, but that doesn't keep me from wishing they would.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


The receptionist told me I was the same but I was up 0.6. I know what I need to do. It's still a little discouraging, though.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

It's that time again...

I'll be happy with any loss this week. I was over my points by quite a few, because I let planning slide -- I still tracked everything, but without a plan, it's easy to get into too many points.  I was also a little less active this week -- only earning 46 activity points instead of last week's 63.  I just got back from a run, but those points actuallly count for a new week. I also have my meals for today all planned out.  That's really the only way I'm going to hit the numbers right and still get in all the foods I need for a balanced diet.

Because of the Lose for Good program, I'm bringing food to the center when I weigh in. The idea is to bring the amount of weight in food that I think I'll lose. Last week I brought a 2.5 pound jar of peanut butter. This week I'm bringing three 8 oz. cans of pineapple in juice.  That's 1.5 pounds, maybe a little optimistic, but that's OK. The real point of the food is to remind ourselves that in a way, a weight problem is a "lucky" problem to have.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday evening rambling

Just got back from my swim and am feeling mellow.  Swimming practice had been on hiatus for the summer and I have really enjoyed being back at it these last two weeks.  I did a little swimming on my own, but I don't tend to do the kind of workouts on my own that our coach assigns.  I did have to ice my shoulder after doing a lot of backstroke tonight.

Have you heard about the Great Ma'am Debate? I heard this story when it was on NPR and I wasn't impressed with the way it was covered. They let it turn into a discussion about how some women like being called "ma'am" and some don't and how men who do it only mean to be respectful, blah, blah, blah. This isn't really an individual issue at all. It's about what it means to be a woman, and especially what it means to be a woman over 30 or so years old. Women who don't like being called "ma'am" are expressing very understandable feelings of loss of a certain kind of status that comes with being a "miss" -- that is, young. I've pretty much accepted that I am in "ma'am" territory now and don't let it bother me.  But I do wish that either I could stop aging right now or that it was a kinder world for older women. With men, there is no change -- they start out "sir" and continue to be "sir."

I ordered some Origins potions today, speaking of getting older... I have been breaking out and I think it's the new (cheap) cleanser I bought.

Did you hear there is a new Weight Watchers program coming this winter?  There are rumors posted around the message boards, but actual information is pretty scarce right now. I guess that it is the biggest change since the Points system was introduced -- sounds exciting. I hope that it makes the program easier for me to follow and not harder.

I have struggled on and off this week. I didn't earn as many activity points and I was over points. I am setting the over/under for Tuesday at 1 pound this week. Anyone care to bet?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The radio station in my head

Even though I've been feeling more optimistic since I rejoined Weight Watchers, I still feel like I'm in a funk. I was listening to this passage from and think it explains how I've been feeling perfectly:

If you are not careful, station KFKD (K-F****d) will play in your head twenty-four hours a day, nonstop, in stereo. Out of the right speaker in your inner ear will come the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is. Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn’t do well, all the mistakes one has made today and over an entire lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything one touches turns to sh*t, that one doesn’t do relationships well, that one is in every way a fraud, incapable of selfless love, that one has no talent or insight, and on and on and on.

Exactly. What I love about Anne Lamott is she expresses the nasty little feelings and embarassing thoughts that are scurrying around in my head so perfectly, and in such a charming way that I realize that I probably am not as screwed up as I think I am.

Mostly I am doing fine. Coffee has become a major high point in my day, since it has almost no calories and wakes me up.   I spend a lot of time wishing I had gotten it together soon  enough to have some reasonable hope of being at goal by my 40th birthday in December. I am trying to turn down KFKD, focus on my behavior each day, and hope for the best.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

First week's weigh-in

Down 2.2!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Some lessons learned

Just wanted to share a few things I've learned on this latest gain/rejoin WW adventure:

  1. Summer seems like a great time to get fit, but it's also an easy time to get fat. All those veggies and the longer days seem like they would make losing easy. But long lazy days, a sense that you'll magically "be more active," and a lot of barbecues and other events where food is all around can make it a tough time for me. Sometimes it's easier to get a workout in when you don't have a bunch of extra time than when you have all day and "will get to it later."
  2. Planning is really the key to doing Weight Watchers without feeling hungry or crazed. Obvious, but easy to ignore.
  3. One bad day can do a lot of damage to your Points balance in an otherwise good week. I went to a street festival and breadsticks and beer are surprisingly not-points-friendly. 
I'm sure there are others. I have had a pretty good week, except for yesterday, which put me a little in the hole for the week. I still think the week is enough better than what I was doing before that I will have some kind of a loss. I plan to really be careful tomorrow, too. I'm setting the Over-Under at 2 pounds. We'll see.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Midweek check-in

In case there was any doubt that rejoining Weight Watchers was the right thing, I give you a picture that is worth many, many words:

The last time I weighed in was in January, and even though the graph looks really, really bad, the gain is actually only 6.6 pounds. Still, I would much rather be 6.6 pounds down than 6.6 pounds up. Monday's weigh-in was lower than the home scale weight that had me all freaked out, which was a relief.

So far, sticking to the plan hasn't felt that difficult. I have been feeling good and not getting too hungry.  I think it might be because I am training less aggressively. I am also taking the time to plan my meals and make sure I'm getting those healthy checks and focus on filling foods. I'm trying to save most of my weekly points for the weekend, which is always the hardest time for me.

I just rejoined Monday, so I'm still in the honeymoon period. I have two goals. First, to maintain a positive attitude while I'm losing and stick with this until goal. Second, to really learn maintenance and not have to ever rejoin again. If I had done that back in 2002, this blog might have never been started in the first place. 

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A new WW day one

Starting weight 179.8 (just relieved that it was not in the 180s at this point). Someone at the meeting made Lifetime today and another person was 40 pounds down. The meeting was OK. I had been to that one before and there are some good people in it, and no apparent crazies.

Coincidentally, the Lose For Good campaign started this week. I set a goal for 10 pounds down (and out of the 170s) by the end of the 7 weeks.

I feel a lot less crazy now that I am doing something to stop the downward (or upward) spiral. Now I just need to stick with it.

I'm going back to Weight Watchers

As I read the comments on yesterday's post, I realized that I hadn't exactly communicated the message of hope I was trying to indicate with the title. And obviously, I wasn't feeling very hopeful when I wrote it.  

I have been toying with the idea of returning to Weight Watchers for a while. I see yesterday's post as a last-ditch effort to talk myself out of it, but it didn't work. It actually was the final piece of the picture that's been building for a while.  It did work for me when I really took the time to plan meals, eat real food and check off all those healthy checks. I want to be the kind of person who can do this all alone with a free app and a couple of workout DVDs, but at least right now, I'm not feeling like that person.  In fact, I'm not even going to try the online only, I'm actually going to a meeting. I'm going to a lunchtime meeting today, in fact. 

What clinched it for me is that in my area, there is a special on the monthly pass. If you buy the first month, you get the second month free. And because Weight Watchers takes PayPal now, and I had some money in my PayPal account from BlogHerAds, I feel like I'm getting a two-month free trial. That should be enough time for me to build some momentum and feel like I can do this again.

I sat down last night and planned my meals for the week. I downloaded the updated iPhone app. I printed out my temporary monthly pass. I went to the store and stocked up on things like Ezekiel bread (1 point) and salad. I made steel-cut oats last night so I had them ready for breakfast today. I got a little calendar to use as an exercise planner and journal.

I feel like I should be embarrassed to go back to that same center yet again, but I'm feeling hopeful.  There's no reason I can't make this work if I really take it seriously. 

Monday, September 06, 2010

The next right action

Last week's virtual meeting idea was a bust. It didn't give me the feeling of support that I sometimes found in Weight Watchers meetings. Thinking back, the best meetings for me were the At Work meetings, where I actually had some relationship with the people who were there with me. When I didn't know anyone at the meeting and didn't really feel I had anything in common with them, they just made me feel frustrated.

Lately I have been feeling more panicked than frustrated. My weight seems to have reached a new plateau in the high 170s/low 180s. I am toward the low end in the middle of the week, and back up in the high end at the end of the week. Besides not really feeling happy with the way my body feels and looks, I am afraid the trend will be to increase and increase.

I don't feel much relationship to the person I was when my weight seemed like an easy thing to manage. I don't even remember how I did it.  I have been casting around for something that will work -- which to me means easily get me back to the weight I used to be without a struggle.  I am pretty sure that nothing like this exists. I have toyed with the idea of going back to Weight Watchers, but I was never really able to do it right. When I got to goal, I was treating it like a diet. I managed to stick fairly strictly to the program until I hit my goal weight, and then I stopped. Most of the time that I did follow the program, I was hungry and cranky.  I have been doing calorie counting, but not with much consistency. I have been exercising, but it hasn't made a difference this time.  I thought getting my thyroid meds at the right level would help -- but my doctor says everything is normal and I'm still stuck. The idea of mindful eating and mindfulness in general sounds nice, but then I sit down to eat without distractions and feel like I'm going to go crazy.

This morning as I was waking up I was turning this problem over in my head and a phrase I've heard before, "The next right action" popped into my mind. I made Toasted Peanut Butter Oats for breakfast. I plan to go for a bike ride today. Maybe if I stop panicking about what might happen in the future or regretting what I did or didn't do in the past, I can get through this rough patch.
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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07