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The ‘Biggest Losers’ share their success secrets

Contestants and trainers from the hit NBC program "The Biggest Loser" share their tips for devising a winning weight-loss strategy. Here's an excerpt from "The Biggest Loser Success Secrets."
/ Source: TODAY

Contestants and trainers from the hit NBC program "The Biggest Loser" share their tips for devising a winning weight-loss strategy. Here's an excerpt from "The Biggest Loser Success Secrets":

The inspiration to make a change: Getting startedYou may be surprised to learn that one of the most important components of a weight-loss strategy isn't grit-your-teeth willpower or having the latest, greatest exercise machine. It's not even coming into this world with the right genes. It's being motivated to make lasting changes in your life. A lot of people refer to this as their "moment," and every single Biggest Loser on NBC's mega-hit show has had one. For each of them, it was the kicking-off point for losing weight and staying dedicated to their goals.

This moment — which researchers call a "triggering event" — could be the result of a frightening medical diagnosis, an emotional struggle, or a sudden, life-changing event. Whatever form it takes, your moment is something that causes you to reevaluate your life and your choices from a new perspective and motivates you to take charge of your own destiny. So the next time someone makes a rude comment about your weight or your doctor warns you that your health is in danger, be grateful. Their words may be just what you need to get started.

Are you ready? 10 steps to get startedMaybe you've experienced your own life-changing moment, or perhaps one of the stories in this chapter clicked with you. Just knowing that you're ready to get started is an important accomplishment. If you feel that fire in your belly, here are a few guidelines from The Biggest Loser for getting started now.

Step 1: Admit you have a weight problem.

If you're overweight, fess up! Denial can prevent you from taking action and pounds will keep piling on, leading to health problems and more weight that will have to come off down the road. Says Kelly Fields, Season 5: "When I saw pictures of myself, I realized how heavy I had gotten. I had to face the music."

Step 2: Don't make excuses.

There's never a "good" time to start a weight-loss program. Just ask the contestants, who leave their jobs and families for several months to be at the ranch. The time to start living healthfully is now — whether it's convenient or not.

Step 3: Learn from your past.

Most people have been on umpteen diets. Okay, maybe you failed in the past, but use this as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes. What worked for you before? What didn't work? What did you like about one diet or hate about another? Incorporate your strengths into your new diet plan and try to avoid things that tripped you up in the past.

Step 4: Make a clean sweep of all junk food.

You can't eat it if it's not there! Rid your environment — home, office, car — of foods that aren't nutritious or that will cause you to overeat. Replace problem foods with healthy choices such as those recommended on The Biggest Loser diet, including fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats and poultry, and low-fat dairy products.

Step 5: Build your team.

"Everybody's got to have a really strong support group if they're going to get healthy," says David Griffin, Season 4. "There has to be at least one person who is willing to go that mile with you. For me, that's my wife."

The research shows clearly that people who lose weight and keep it off have good support systems to help them along. So start recruiting a team to help keep you on track. This could be your family, your co-workers, a personal trainer, an exercise partner, a running or hiking club, an online support group on, or a weight-loss group. No matter what form it takes, having support will help you stay on track and strengthen your resolve.

Step 6: Set realistic goals.

You've heard it a million times, but if your goals aren't realistic and attainable, you'll get frustrated and most likely quit. Set small goals that you can meet each week to maintain your enthusiasm and momentum. If you need help setting appropriate goals for your age and body weight, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian.

Step 7: Make daily resolutions toward reaching your goals.

Early in a program to change your lifestyle, it's helpful to make daily resolutions that are manageable rather than focusing on far-off end goals. Your daily resolutions should be a cinch to pull off. Focus on small steps, like eating two extra servings of vegetables, learning a new exercise, walking for an extra 30 minutes, and playing an active game with the kids. If all you do is concentrate on what you need to do today, achieving your end goal — like losing 50 pounds or fitting into size 6 jeans — will take care of itself. That's exactly what the Biggest Losers do every day at the ranch — concentrate on what they must do that day.

Step 8: Set your calorie budget.On the show, each cast member's calorie limit is determined by a formula that considers his or her starting weight, body-fat percentage, and goal weight. Kae Whang, Season 4, for example, first weighed in at 230 pounds and follows a 1,200-calorie-a-day diet, while Isabeau Miller, Season 4, who started at almost 300 pounds, eats between 1,500 and 1,600 calories daily.

At home, use this simple formula to determine your limits: If you are obese and sedentary, multiply your goal weight by 10 as a starting point. So, for instance, if you want to get down to 135 pounds, eat about 1,350 calories a day. If you're fairly active, multiply by 13 per pound, for about a 1,755-calorie allowance to reach 135. Keep in mind that additional variables may factor in as well, such as gender and age, which may increase or decrease your budget slightly.

Step 9: Plan to be active for at least 60 minutes a day.

"Before I got here, I imagined we'd start with 20 minutes one day, maybe 40 minutes the next," laughs Isabeau. "Ha!" Biggest Losers jump right in, with cardio training lasting for hours at a time. Should you do the same? No. Contestants are pushed to work out harder than average, but only because they are under the close supervision of trainers and a medical staff. What you can do safely to reach your own fitness goal is to shoot for 60 minutes of physical activity a day at a moderately intense level. (If you're over age 50 or have a chronic disease or are at risk of developing one, consult your doctor before starting any plan.)

Step 10: Expect to have setbacks.

Cheryl Forberg, R.D., nutritionist to The Biggest Loser cast, says that change doesn't come without setbacks. "If you slip up today, jump back in the game tomorrow by eating less, exercising more, or both. With a little motivation and dedication, you'll find yourself fit and full of energy this year. Losing weight may be just a bonus."

Adds Bernie Salazar, Season 5: "Love the small steps forward you're taking, and love the small steps backward you're taking because that's what makes you, you. Don't let those discourage you. Tomorrow is a new day."

As these stories show, the real challenge in transformation is not only figuring out what to do, it's having the courage and the drive to actually do it. If you're ready to get on the right road and get a fresh start in life, read on. By following the success strategies gleaned from five seasons of The Biggest Loser, you'll begin living a healthier, happier life — starting now.

Reprinted from "The Biggest Loser Success Secrets." © 2008 by Universal Studios Licensing LLLP. The Biggest Loser (TM) and NBC Studios, Inc. and Reveille LLC.  Permission granted by Rodale, Inc.