“Biggest Loser” or best Zoner?

A few weeks ago I spoke at the American Society of Bariatric Physicians. Later in the day I heard an interesting lecture from the lead dietician for the TV series “The Biggest Loser”. In this lecture, she disclosed all the keys for successful weight loss in the individuals on the show.

The first was incredibly careful screening just like you would do for a clinical trial. This is to make sure you have incredibly motivated people, who aren’t depressed or have other existing medical conditions, such as heart disease. In other words, you stack the deck. Considering that after the first pilot show in 2004, there were 225,000 applications for the 2005 series, there is no problem in recruiting motivated people. Just to make sure the motivation is maintained, the contestants get paid while they are on the show in addition to the big payoff for the winner at the end of the series.

Next contestants are isolated in a “camp”. Consider this to be like a metabolic ward where they only have access to good food for the next 10 to 16 weeks. This means no white carbohydrates and no artificial sweeteners other than stevia and all the meals made for them.

According to the speaker, the real secret is that they are fed a Zonelike Diet with 45 percent of the calories coming carbohydrates (primarily non-starchy vegetables and fruits) with a very limited amount of whole grains, 30 percent of the calories from low-fat protein, and 25 percent from good fats, such as olive oil or nuts. The typical calorie intake for the females is 1,200 to 1,600 and for the males about 1,800-2,400. The typical 300-pound contestant will consume about 1,750 calories per day. Finally, you spread the balanced calories over three meals and two snacks during the day.

Of course, you never see the contestants eating their Zone meals and snacks or the dietician discussing nutrition with them because that makes for boring TV. So most of the time you see them being yelled at by their trainers. That makes for exciting TV. In fact. the more tears they shed by being intimidated, the better the ratings.

So what happens to them after they leave the show, no longer get paid, and are surrounded by their favorite foods? About 50 percent regain the lost weight. But the other 50 percent have found out that the Zone Diet isn’t that hard, and now they have a clear dietary plan for a lifetime without being yelled at by drill sergeant-like trainers.

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This entry was posted in Lifestyle and tagged , , , by Dr. Barry Sears. Bookmark the permalink.

About Dr. Barry Sears

Dr. Barry Sears is a leading authority on the impact of the diet on hormonal response, genetic expression, and inflammation. A former research scientist at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Sears has dedicated his research efforts over the past 30 years to the study of lipids. He has published more than 30 scientific articles and holds 13 U.S. patents in the areas of intravenous drug delivery systems and hormonal regulation for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. He has also written 13 books, including the New York Times #1 best-seller "The Zone". These books have sold more than 5 million copies in the U.S. and have been translated into 22 different languages.

28 thoughts on ““Biggest Loser” or best Zoner?

  1. I much prefer a cheerleaders to a drill sargent.
    But I really love scholarly analysis. (yours)
    Did they match your exercise recommendations as well?

    When will you change my life again with a new book
    and what will the the focus of your next book?

    • They exercise the contestants about 5 hours per day, which is simply too much. The body needs rest to recovery after any bout of intense exercise. However, they do work on interval training which is the best approach to release growth hormone from the pituitary gland.

      My next book that is further along is one that explores yoga combined with meditation and the Zone Diet to remodel the brain.

      • Your next book sounds very interesting. A few questions:
        1) The date on the new work being done in neuro-plasticity is very exciting to me, and informs my teaching in my university classes. Is your writing of the new book informed by any of this new research? I’m thinking of such works as The Brain that Changes Itself.
        2) Is there a yoga book or approach you recommend and/or are using in your research?
        3) I’m very interested in the subject of your new book. I have been incorporating some of the yoga asanas into my teaching acting, movement and voice…Please say more and suggest some texts…
        Thanks,
        Joe

  2. I have used the Zone Diet before and it’s a great diet. I have recently moved to Tavares, FL and I need to find a local person who offers the Zone Diet. I don’t want to have to order food on line as it’s too expensive that way. Can you help me find someone in this area?

    • Im not in FL anymore, but I’ve used the zone diet with all my clients and they, like myself, have all seen great success. Feel free to email me if you would like some assistance. I would be happy to help you that way or via phone.

      Joetrainer31@yahoo

      Joe

    • You do not necessarily have to use the Zone commercial products to adhere to the “Zone lifestyle”. Purchasing Zone products can make it more convenient, at times, like when traveling, but otherwise, the dietary guidelines really work and it is all a matter of the food choices you make at home or even in restaurants.

      The website above is for a doctor supervised weight loss plan which uses the same principles as the Zone diet, but based upon the food and exercise choices you make. My wife and I have followed the Zone precepts for several years and it has completely changed our “body types” and led us to excellent general health.

  3. i like the zone anda as a dietitian i try to teach and allow people i meet ti lve this life style. i would like to learn more and more.
    i know there will be a meeting next year, in italy!!! i’ll do my best to be present!!!

    dietitian dr ilaria bertini, verona – italy

  4. “Biggest Loser” is inspiring, but it is sad that all the emphasis is put on exercise, when the real key to being healthy is HOW YOU EAT.

  5. Where can I go to verify what Dr. Sears says is true about what the Biggest Losers eat during the contest? I simply cannot accept ONLY Dr. Sears word on this subject..

  6. Julie..
    We ought to call out Jillian, et al. for half truth…..exercise certainly accelerates progress on the zone diet….as the show demonstrates….but then the variances may well be due to lack of resolution of inflammation….people are as different ( and burdened) as the nose on their face. I would like to hear more from Barry about not only diet at the ranch, but ( hopefully the loser producers want to share) also about whether/how Omega 3 supplements are used, as well as antiox, NO friendly, etc.

    • No mention was made of any supplements used during the program, however it was mentioned that many of the contestants who were let go during the competition continued to lose weight at home without the intense exercise.

  7. I just found your website through a blog contest and the Zone sounds great. However, my problem is psychological. I love to eat sweets and I can’t stay on a diet more than 2 or 3 hours because in my mind as soon as I think that I shouldn’t eat something then I seriously feel deprived. I am also constantly being tempted by my husband and 7 children with candy,chips, etc. that they buy and gladly share. I have gained 80 pounds in the last 5 years (I was already 20 pounds overweight before that). Everywhere I turn there is sugar and I love it . . .and hate it. I feel like I have no support and that I am doomed to fail. . . .and yet I know this works for others so why not Me? I will read more from your site. Thank you so much.

    • Sugar cravings come from disturbances in blood sugar control due to inability to maintain insulin levels in a therapeutic zone. The Zone Diet was developed to achieve that goal. Work from Harvard Medical School indicates the stabilization of blood sugar occurs with the first meal.

      • Dr. Sears,
        What’s the difference between your polyphenol product that is an extract from delphinidins and other products which are basically freeze-dried capsules or liquid forms of marqui berries?
        Thanks,
        Joe

        • Dried powders are simple the dehydrated juices. The levels of polyphenols in these are quite low, and the usually the sugar content is high. An extract has been chromatographically purified to remove all the non-polyphenol materials so that they have the highest concentration of the polyphenols in question. This means they are usually 5-20 times more concentrated in polyphenols than are freeze-dried capsules or juices.

          • Thanks. I’ll order some. Your next book sounds very interesting. A few questions:
            1) The date on the new work being done in neuro-plasticity is very exciting to me, and informs my teaching in my university classes. Is your writing of the new book informed by any of this new research? I’m thinking of such works as The Brain that Changes Itself.
            2) Is there a yoga book or approach you recommend and/or are using in your research?
            3) I’m very interested in the subject of your new book. I have been incorporating some of the yoga asanas into my teaching acting, movement and voice…Please say more and suggest some texts…
            Thanks,
            Joe

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  10. Hi Doc. I and a Samters sufferer(Aspirin exacerabated respiratory disease) and I am looking for someone who could give us thousands of sufferers a diet that at the most, can “reset” our immune systems or at the very least allow us to have better quality of life. I recently had the recommended asa desensitization in October(1300 mgs/day) and have also gone to a strictly whole raw food diet, including juicing, and all I have done is lost 20 lbs of which was mainly muscle( i have always been very fit) and I am still suffering from asthma, coughing and am now told that my sinuses are 50% occluded with polyps despite having my most recent sinus surgery 2 months ago. Nothing is working and although I have always considered myself a healthy eater, I am now !00% committed to the organic whole raw foods, I am still a mucous factory. Can you please help us because you are the only one I have found that spends so much time and energy on inflammation. Thank you, Rob.

    • Usually with an aspirin sensitivity, this means that arachidonic acid (AA) in the membrane is being diverted into increased leukotriene production. The best solution to this problem is going upstream to reduce the levels AA in the membrane phospholipids, while simultaneously increasing the levels of EPA in the same membrane phospholipids to change the AA/EPA ratio of the substrate pool. The leukotrienes derived from EPA are non-inflammatory whereas those from AA are powerful pro-inflammatory mediators.

      From a dietary perspective, this means following a strict Zone Diet supplemented with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids rich in EPA.

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  13. Thanks , I’ve recently been searching for information approximately this topic for a long time and yours is the greatest I have came upon so far. However, what in regards to the bottom line? Are you certain in regards to the source?|What i don’t realize is in reality how you are no longer actually a lot more neatly-preferred than you might be now. You are so intelligent.

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