How To Eat Like A ‘Biggest Loser’


There are no two ways about it: The contestants on “The Biggest Loser” know — or rather, come to find out — that their weight-loss journey and the path to health is not a result of a “diet” or fad, but a medically sound lifestyle modification program that includes exercise and a sensible, healthy eating plan. Diets are temporary. This is not.

There is no “magic bullet” you can take to help you reach your weight and fitness goals. You must eat less and move more. But eating smarter is key. It is hard work, but it’s well worth it on many levels. And it’s the only healthy path. For 12 seasons, I’ve instructed every Biggest Loser contestant on the same eating plan — it works!

The plan has helped hundreds of contestants (and viewers as well) reach their weight loss goals. But it’s not only a great way to eat for weight loss, it’s an excellent eating plan for ANYONE and EVERYONE in the family. It promotes a strong immune system, healthy blood sugar levels (and increased energy!) along with regularity and cardiac health. The bare basics of the eating plan are this: strive to get 45 percent of your calories from smart carbohydrates (whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits), 30 percent of your calories from lean proteins and 25 percent of your calories from good fat (especially unsaturated fat like olive oil).

Did you know that one out of every four Biggest Loser contestants has diabetes when they arrive on the Ranch? They ALL leave without it! You may also have heard on this season’s premiere episode when Joe Mitchell reported that he’d been taking blood pressure medication for two-and-half years and was able to stop taking his meds after only three days at the Ranch! It has everything to do with the BL eating and fitness plan.

Simply put though, metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories.

Your BMR (basal metabolic rate) is the number of calories you need to fuel your body’s basic energy needs at rest. Depending on how active you are you will need 20-90% more calories than your calculated BMR. Here’s how to calculate your energy needs:

1. First, find your basal metabolic rate (BMR) by using this equation:

  • Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches ) – (4.7 x age in years )
  • Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in year)

2. To determine your total daily calorie needs, multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:

  • If you are sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2
  • If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
  • If you are moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
  • If you are very active: BMR x 1.725
  • If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training): BMR x 1.9

3. The number you get is the number of calories you need to eat in order to maintain your current weight. Decreasing that number by 500 calories per day is a good place to start if you want to lose about a pound per week.

If you want to do a quick estimate without a computer or calculator, a rule of thumb is that most people generally need a daily caloric range of somewhere between 7 and 10 calories per pound for long-term weight loss success, with a minimum of 1,200 calories per day.

The key is to divide and conquer … on this plan, you try to have three meals and two to three snacks each day. And an important factor is to pair protein with each meal and snack. This helps level out blood sugar and helps you stay full longer.

So, how do you do this? Here is an example of how to structure your meals according to the BL eating plan:

Day One of a (sample) 1,500 calorie menu
1/2 cup (3 ) egg whites scrambled with 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon chopped basil, 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan and ½ cup cherry tomatoes
1 slice Ezekiel or whole grain toast
1 cup non fat milk
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup decaf iced tea with lemon

Mid-morning snack
1/2 cup nonfat vanilla Greek style yogurt (or frozen yogurt) sprinkled with 2 tablespoons sliced strawberries

Southwestern Bulgur Salad with 3/4 cup cooked bulgur, 4 ounces chopped grilled chicken breast, 1 cup diced grilled veggies (2 tablespoons onion, ¼ cup diced zucchini, ½ cup Bell pepper)
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro with 1 serving (1 tablespoon) light Caesar vinaigrette and 1 tablespoon shredded low fat cheddar cheese
Ice water with lime

Mid-afternoon snack
2 tablespoons hummus and 1/2 cup jicama slices

1 cup wild rice with toasted almonds
4 ounces grilled salmon filet
1 cup wilted baby spinach w/ 1 teaspoon olive oil + 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup diced cantaloupe
Decaf coffee or green tea

Evening Snack
1/2 cup raspberry sorbet with 1 teaspoon chopped pecans

This is a sample based on a 1,500 calorie goal. I’ve written about guidelines on how to roughly calculate your own calorie goals here.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of keeping a detailed food journal, recording everything you eat over the course of a day. When done vigilantly the journal becomes invaluable in spotting trouble areas, and eventually becomes a grocery list and menu-planning tool.

Food journaling is one of the biggest weight loss secrets. We all eat more than we think we do, and keeping a running tally of every sip and nibble really heightens our awareness of how often we do this. But the first step in food journaling is to figure out — how big is a serving size?
Weighing and measuring food is really important when you’re trying to divide your daily calories between three meals and two snacks.

For this, you will need:
• A liquid measuring cup (2 cup capacity)
• A set of dry measuring cups (includes 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup and ¼ cup sizes)
• Measuring spoons (1 tablespoon, 1 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, and 1/4 teaspoon)
• Food scale
• Calculator

Be sure that the food scale measures grams. (A gram is very small, about 1/28th of an ounce.) Most of your weight measurements will be in ounces, but certain foods, such as nuts, are very concentrated in calories, so a portion size will be much smaller. Food scales range in price from a few dollars to $30 dollars or more. Some of them are digital and a little more expensive. Fancy versions may even have an internal database of foods to calculate the number of calories in the food you’re weighing. In the long run, you’ll be much better off familiarizing yourself with what different amounts look like and relying on a simple conversion guide, as any scale isn’t nearly as portable and you probably won’t have an extra scale at work or in your car.

Getting Started
If you like having your cereal in your favorite bowl each morning, measure 1/2 cup (or your designated serving size) into the bowl tomorrow morning. Then measure the milk in the liquid measuring cup and pour it on your cereal. Take a mental note of how this looks and you won’t have to measure each time. No more quart-size bowls of cereal or panfuls of buttered popcorn. Your food portions are now smaller, and soon, your clothes will be too.

For consistency, your food should be weighed and/or measured after cooking. Four ounces of boneless skinless chicken breast has around 140 calories when raw. When it’s cooked, it’ll weigh closer to 3 ounces. That is because it loses water during the cooking process and the calories are now more concentrated. The same holds true for vegetables and other cooked foods. Dry cereals or grains on the other hand may start off with a couple tablespoons per serving. Add water and cook and the volume or measured amount may double or triple.

After measuring all of your foods for a week or so, you’ll be able to make fairly accurate estimates by eye without having to measure everything, each time you eat. Of course you’ll always need to weigh and measure when trying a new food for the first time, so keep you measuring tools in a handy location. Over time, you’ll know what’s just right for you, whether you’re plating a meal in your own kitchen, or deciding how much of your entrée to eat in a restaurant (and how much of it to wrap up and take home!) But in the beginning, you’ll need a few tools until you get it just right.

If you’re not accustomed to spending time in the kitchen, here is a conversion table that may be helpful to you.

Conversion Table for Measuring Portion Sizes

Measuring portions is an essential element of my eating plan, and the one I’ve taught the Biggest Loser contestants for the past 12 seasons.

It’s important to be precise about amounts when food journaling. Serving size recommendations don’t always come in the measures with which we are most familiar, and if you don’t spend much time in the kitchen, you might be completely lost.  Please use the table below for reference whenever and wherever you are:
Teaspoon Tablespoon Cups Pints/quarts
Fluid ounce Milliliter
1/4 teaspoon 1 ml
1/2 teaspoon 2 ml
1 teaspoon 1/3 tablespoon 5 ml
3 teaspoons 1 tablespoon 1/16 cup 1/2 oz 15 ml
6 teaspoons 2 tablespoons 1/8 cup 1 oz 30 ml
12 teaspoons 4 tablespoons 1/4 cup 2 oz 60 ml
16 teaspoons 5 1/3 tablespoons 1/3 cup 2 1/2 oz 75 ml
24 teaspoons 8 tablespoons 1/2 cup 4 oz 125 ml
32 teaspoons 10 2/3 tablespoons 2/3 cup 5 oz 150 ml
36 teaspoons 12 tablespoons 3/4 cup 6 oz 175 ml
48 teaspoons 16 tablespoons 1 cup ½ pint 8 oz 237 ml
2 cups 1 pint 16 oz 473 ml
3 cups 24 oz 710 ml
4 cups 1 quart 32 oz 946 ml

Remember that an ounce of DRY weight is not the same as a fluid ounce. You cannot convert the two without knowing the density of the ingredient you are measuring.

It is imperative to keep track of the number of calories you take in (and burn off through exercise) each day, especially when you’re just getting started. Buy a notebook and a pen just for this purpose. Keep it in your desk, your handbag, your backpack or wherever is handy or most convenient for you. Take notes throughout the day, because it’s easy to forget an unplanned snack or tasting. Find a routine, a favorite place and a time to record your journal. This is one of the biggest keys to your success. If your prefer, you can record this on your computer, too — whatever is easiest and most convenient for you.

If you want to keep track of how many of your calories come from carbohydrate, protein or fat, remember that a gram of protein or carbohydrate has 4 calories. One gram of fat has 9 calories.

When we inform the contestants on The Biggest Loser of their calorie budgets at the beginning of each season, we tell them to let us know if they’re tired or hungry, in which case, we will raise their calorie level (until they’re not tired or hungry!). Below is a sample journal from BL12’s Boston Johnny Forger. His daily calorie goal of 1,670 is lower than most of our men, largely due to Johnny’s age (65), activity level (low), muscle mass and lower metabolic rate.


Keep reading this season and I’ll give you MORE menus, MORE recipes, MORE weight loss secrets and all the things you need to be a “Biggest Loser” at home!


7 Steps to Bring Balance to Your Life


Recently, my friend was excited because she was driving by herself to the airport to pick up a friend. I remember this feeling when my children were toddlers and I had a dentist appointment. I looked forward to the drive there, sitting in the dentist chair, listening to mindless music and then driving home. An hour to myself! Most of the articles and blogs I’ve read about balance focus on revising time spent in different activities. I propose that balance starts with “being with” yourself so you can pay attention to what your needs are.

First take a little assessment to see if you would agree with any of the following statements:

• I don’t have a minute to myself all day.

• I get up before dawn to have time alone.

• I stay up past midnight even though I have to wake up at 6 a.m.

• I take work home with me (or never close my home-office door).

• I multitask in order to free up time for a mini-vacation, and then feel like I need a vacation when I return.

If you agreed with any of the above, you may want to consider the following steps to bring balance into your life.

Step 1: You are doing it right now: pursuing an idea to bring more satisfaction to your life. By reading this you are making yourself a priority.

Step 2: Stop reading and take a deep breath. Simply focus on the in breath, don’t try to control the exhalation.

Step 3: Allow your mind to float over your day, remembering all the distractions, all the deadlines.

Step 4: Take another deep breath. (Step 3 can be exhausting!)

Step 5: With your focus on all the day’s activities, imagine the moments between distractions, between deadlines. Perhaps on your drive to work you always have to stop for a particular red light. Or while your children watch a TV show, you have half an hour to yourself.

Step 6: During these “free” moments, imagine not doing, not thinking about what you could be doing, simply be aware of yourself — how you’re feeling emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. This gives us the information we need to proceed to get our needs met. Simply notice your thoughts and feelings without judgment.

Step 7: Practice finding the “free” moments during the day.

Even during my busiest days as a mom working two jobs with teenagers getting ready to head off for college, I had the “in-between” or free moments I’m referring to. Now I find them while I’m waiting in line at the grocery store or in traffic. Being around my active 5-year-old grandson is the most challenging. He doesn’t tire of my attention. With him, I’ve learned to say, “I need to take a break.” He doesn’t like this, of course, but he’s learned that I’m a better playmate if there’s some give and take.

The 7-step strategy is based on my assumption that we know what we need when we stop and listen. Of course, that isn’t always true, but at least we can be aware that we don’t know. That awareness is important in itself. In my psychotherapy practice most of my clients have not been raised to pay attention to their own needs, but rather the needs of others. As opera singer Jessye Norman said, “Problems arise in that one has to find a balance between what people need from you and what you need for yourself.”

How often do you eat because you’re tired? Or stimulate yourself with coffee instead of taking a quick nap or doing a short meditation? And what about personal connection? When you’re lonely, do you turn on the TV or get on the computer, instead of reaching out to a friend? When we are clear about what we need and what we want, we have a better chance of satisfying those needs. Then we are on course to balancing our lives.

One last point. I read a comment on a blog about finding balance in which the writer exclaimed that he wanted to put all his energy into one area. My take on this is as follows: Putting all of one’s energy into a passion might be a perfect balance for right now. If your life feels in balance by doing the one thing you love, then there’s not much impetus to change. However, circumstances do change (we get older if nothing else!) and the more one is self-aware, the easier it can be to transition to a new balance.

Walnuts may protect against breast cancer; Nuts are powerhouse of antioxidant polyphenols


Ladies should feel free to go nuts.

New research suggests women can defend themselves against breast cancer by eating about two small handfuls of walnuts everyday.

The study conducted by researchers at Marshall University and published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer found that a daily dose of walnuts — equal to 2 ounces a day — reduces the growth of breast cancer tumors in mice.

“A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut,” said chemistry professor and study researcher Joe Vinson, who completed a separate study on walnuts announced earlier this year. “But unfortunately, people don’t eat a lot of them.”

Walnuts are loaded with antioxidant polyphenols, compounds that interact with free radicals to stabilize them and prevent them from wreaking havoc on our cells.

They also have almost twice as many antioxidant polyphenols as almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamias, Brazil nuts, and pecans, researchers said.

Plus, like all nuts, walnuts are loaded with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

What Does the Bible Really Say about Forgiveness?


Maria Mayo

Co-editor, ‘Feminist Companion to the New Testament’


When I teach church classes about forgiveness, I begin with a question: What do you think the Bible says about forgiveness?

The first thing someone calls out is usually “70 times seven,” a reference to Jesus’ instruction to his disciples that they must forgive without bound. Next, students mention the Lord’s Prayer, citing the verse, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Often there is a lull at this point, and then someone remembers Jesus’ words from the cross, “Father, forgive them.” With most groups, the discussion falters here.

Everyone is sure that the Bible is full of messages about forgiveness, but when it comes down to it, few people can identify exactly what the text actually says about it.

The Old Testament has very little to offer on interpersonal forgiveness. The most salient example is Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers who had sold him into slavery (Genesis 45:1-15), although this is arguably more a story about reconciliation than it is about genuine repentance and forgiveness. Elsewhere in the Old Testament, the focus is on petitionary prayers to God for the forgiveness of wayward individuals or groups, especially through the sacrificial system established with the covenant. Examples include animal atonement offerings (Leviticus 5:14-16, 6:67; Numbers 28), Job’s prayer for pardon (Job 7:21) and Moses’ plea for the restoration of Israel (Exodus 32:32). In the prophetic literature, God’s forgiving responses are recorded, as in the promise to Jeremiah to restore Israel (Jeremiah 33:8), and in Isaiah to “blot out” and “not remember” Israel’s sins (Isaiah 43:25). God’s forgiveness stands out as a theme throughout the Old Testament.

The New Testament continues this concern for the forgiveness of an entire people, but shifts the focus to Jesus as the “perfect sacrifice” who replaces the old sacrificial system (Hebrews 10:8-10). At the Last Supper, Jesus declares, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

However, Jesus also offers direct teachings on forgiveness, and while his words are sometimes contradictory, it is clear that interpersonal forgiveness is an important concern. While he does instruct his disciples to forgive “70 times seven times” in the Gospel of Matthew (18:21-22), in Luke he qualifies this teaching, saying, “If there is repentance, you must forgive” (17:3). Both Gospels include the reciprocal formula in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us as we forgive others,” but where Matthew’s version talks about forgiving debts, Luke’s prayer asks for forgiveness of sins (Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4). The Greek word translated as “forgive” in all of these passages is also the standard term for the remission of a financial debt.

In all four Gospels, Jesus notes the importance of forgiving others to ensure God’s forgiveness. Matthew includes the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, in which a freed slave who does not forgive the debts of another is thrown into jail to be tortured. Jesus concludes this story with a less-than-comforting moral, “So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

One of the most celebrated forgiveness texts is Jesus’ prayer from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). This is often cited as the quintessential moment of unconditional Christian forgiveness, and held up as a model that believers should seek to emulate. Often, pastoral caregivers present victims of violence with this verse to demonstrate the perfect Christian response to persecution and wrongdoing. This becomes especially problematic when victims — especially of domestic violence — are pressured to reconcile quickly and unconditionally with their abusers based on an idealized portrait of Christian forgiveness.

While Jesus is certainly an advocate of forgiveness — in addition to the verses cited above, he claims the authority to forgive sins on earth (Matthew 9:6; Mark 2:10; Luke 5:23) and announces his mission as one of “forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47) — he is far from consistent on the issue of interpersonal forgiveness. When he cries out from the cross, he does not say to his attackers, “I forgive you,” or, as he has before, “Your sins are forgiven you.” Instead, he prays that God might forgive them. Considering that earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus makes it very clear that repentance was required for forgiveness (17:3), and since no repentance is forthcoming from the men who are attacking Jesus, we might assume that forgiveness is a non-issue in this case. Indeed, nowhere does Jesus plainly state that unconditional forgiveness is a virtue or a requirement for the new covenant community. However, in the same Gospel, Jesus does instruct his followers to “bless those who curse you [and] pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:28), which appears to be exactly what he is doing on the cross.

I ruffle a lot of feathers when I suggest that Jesus might not be forgiving his attackers as he is being crucified. But this interpretation pays off for victims who are concerned about living faithfully in the aftermath of violence. Instead of a Jesus who appears to be endlessly and impossibly forgiving, here is a Jesus who is true to his teachings and also easier to imitate.

Praying for one’s attacker is an easier — and much safer — task than offering unconditional forgiveness and reconciling with unrepentant abusers. Requiring repentance before granting forgiveness gives victims another way to protect themselves while remaining true to the biblical text.

What’s A Calorie?


Calorie is a fairly straightforward term — a calorie is simply a unit of measurement of energy. One calorie is one unit of energy, specifically the energy it takes to raise the temperature of one cubic centimeter of water by one degree (Celcius). When it comes to food, what we refer to as calories are actually kilocalories, measuring an amount of energy that is 1,000 times larger than a calorie in scientific terms.

So the calories that we see on our food labels are really indicating the amount of energy that will be released into our body when that food product reacts with oxygen. Fats, carbohydrates and proteins have the greatest amount of calories, generally.

What’s An Antioxidants?


Antioxidants are substances that sop up free oxygen molecules, which some believe may prevent the damage that occurs naturally through daily life to our cells and DNA.

When our tissue comes into contact with oxygen as we breathe and eat, a process called “oxidation” occurs which can set off a reaction that permanently damages cells — and even DNA — within your body. Although this is a lot of science talk, oxidative stress may contribute to the development of a host of conditions — including cancer, cataracts, arthritis, stroke and heart disease.

Antioxidants may contribute to the prevention of oxidative stress. Some of the most common antioxidants include Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Uric Acid and Melatonin. They can be ingested naturally through certain foods or be taken in supplement form.