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?
Our goal is to educate them on healthy cooking techniques and weighing and measuring normal portions, and to provide them a full refrigerator of healthy foods they use to prepare their own meals. We have a library of delicious recipes, and bring in guest chefs to share their healthy cooking techniques. For the most part, because their days are so full, cooking is simple. So a typical meal may be a grilled chicken breast, salad, veggies, and a whole grain.
Part of the process is to help the cast learn how to prepare meals so they can continue to do so when they leave the show, because many of them have never cooked and relied on eating out, and on packaged and convenience foods.
What is your secret to helping cast members keep up their new healthy lifestyles when they leave the show?
Generally, if they are still in the weight loss phase, their diet plan does not change much until they reach their weight goals. They also have my contact information if they have questions or need my help.
Most of the contestants continue working out hard and following the diet plan because they all come back for the finale, and that competitive spirit helps them stay focused on eating healthy and exercising. For continued success, we advise them to change the environment that led them to being overweight and surround themselves with people who are supportive.