Expert Q&A: Tips from 'The Biggest Loser'
An interview with Cheryl Forberg, RD
What are your best weight loss tips to help people at home get
If you really want to get the scale moving, one of the biggest first steps
is to lose the white stuff, like sugar, white bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes.
It sounds simple, but can be a really big change. Most people don’t realize how
much sugar and refined flour is in condiments, breads, tortillas, muffins,
baked goods, and bagels. Start by replacing white bread, rice, and pasta with
whole grains, and instead of cakes, cookies, and candies, eat more fruit.
Keep in mind that the quality of the calories is just as important as the
quantity. If you focus more on eating nutrient-rich foods, you don’t have to
worry as much about calories.
Start recording what you eat in a food record. Just by writing down what you
eat, you take ownership that you ate it -- and that can be a powerful motivator
to eat more healthfully.
Find a fitness routine that you can stick with on most days.
What type of diet do the Biggest Loser contestants follow?
Calorie levels are individualized for each person, but in general we rarely
go below 1,200 or above 2,400 calories per day. With the exception of skim
milk, most of the calories come from food instead of beverages because food is
more filling than drinks. The food selection is based on nutrient-rich foods
that provide good nutrition, fiber, and meal satisfaction for the least number
Here is the nutritional breakdown of the diet they follow:
- 45% of calories from healthy, whole-grain carbs.
- 30% of calories from lean protein from chicken, turkey, dairy.
- 25% of calories from healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, seeds, and
- 3 meals plus 2 snacks daily.
- 4 cups of fruits and vegetables daily.
When contestants are hungry or tired, we reevaluate the food budget to make
sure they are getting enough food to fuel their activities and that the
combination of foods is satisfying. In fact, at times we have trouble getting
them to eat all their calories. On the flip side, when the scale gets stuck, we
might cut back on the grains.
What is the role of a registered dietitian on the show?
Prospective cast members come out for a week, and during that time I conduct
a nutritional assessment and diet history. Once they are selected, I see each
one for an individualized consultation about their diet plan and give them
instructions on the importance of keeping a food record, which they send to me
daily. From their food records, I create a spreadsheet to ensure they are
getting enough nutrients and food.
How are meals prepared for cast members?