You may not need to lose megapounds like the contestants on TV's The Biggest Loser. But even those of us who'd love to part with just those stubborn 10 or so pounds could use the insider advice that transforms bodies and lives on the hit NBC show. Now you can get all that know-how—without having to sweat it off on national TV. So get inspired, and let your at-home transformation begin.
Your Biggest Loser action plan—drop 10 pounds in 5 weeks!
1 Exercise for one hour every day.
Show contestants put in at least 90 minutes of daily high-intensity exercise (plus several hours of low-intensity activity). But even an hour will make a big impact on the scale, says Kim Lyons, one of the show's trainers. Break the time into a few miniworkouts if you can't do the whole hour at once. Lyons suggests a mix of moderate-intensity cardio every day plus full-body strength-training three to four times a week. "The cardio zaps fat, while the strength moves boost metabolism and improve your muscle-to-fat ratio," Lyons explains.
2 Switch off among three different cardio activities a week.
Variety is one of the keys to the Biggest Loser contestants' success, because it challenges muscles in different ways and heads off boredom. Play tennis one day, take a Spinning class the next, hit the pool for lap swimming the day after, and so on. And don't forget that spontaneous exercise like washing the car and even pacing while you're talking on the phone counts, too.
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3 Cut back to 7 calories per pound of your current body weight.If you weigh less than 150 pounds, use 150 as your starting weight. Consult a dietitian and/or a trainer before you slash calories this way, suggests Michael Dansinger, MD, a doctor on the show's nutrition team. And check in with her regularly to make sure you're getting adequate nutrition throughout the weight-loss process. Once you hit your goal weight, adjust to 12 calories per pound to maintain your weight, he says.
4 Eat five small meals a day.
This strategy helps keep you feeling satisfied and gives your energy a boost, says Cheryl Forberg, RD, who also counsels show contestants on diet and nutrition. Each meal should contain a combination of carbs and protein, important for helping you feel full and keeping your energy high. Here's a sample day's menu: One egg with turkey bacon for breakfast; cherries, cottage cheese, and almonds for a midmorning snack; a spinach salad with skinless chicken breast and half an apple for lunch; Greek-style plain, fat-free yogurt with blueberries for a midafternoon snack; and grilled salmon with steamed quinoa and broccoli and a peach for dinner.
5 Cheat a little.
After six days of exercising and healthy eating, Biggest Loser contestants earn a cheat meal like their favorite pizza or pasta. Take a cue from them: At the end of each week, have a small treat (moderation is the key) that's really worth the calories. And stay motivated by keeping the prizes coming. When you lose those first five pounds, "win" motivators like a spa day, a pair of to-die-for shoes, or a movie night with your spouse or your girlfriends.
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6 Buy yourself an "I can do it" ring or bracelet.
Some of the best tips come from the show contestants themselves; find a whole list of them in The Biggest Loser: The Weight-Loss Program to Transform Your Body, Health, and Life (Rodale). For instance, wearing a special new bracelet or ring will help remind you to stay on track—especially at times when you're tempted. Instead of reaching for the doughnuts at work, look at your bracelet or ring. Make it your symbol of success, and repeat a mantra to yourself, like "I can do it!"
7 Get a makeover—right now.
More great tips: Don't wait to celebrate your new look until after you've met some ultimate goal. Whether it's getting a fabulous new haircut or buying a dress (in your smaller size!), do it now. You'll feel better about yourself, and build the confidence and the motivation that'll keep your success on track.
8 Use your head.
Hate to break a sweat? Imagine that it's fat dripping off your body, and you'll have a new appreciation for the stuff. If you're a little sore after strength-training, think of it as proof that you're getting stronger and making real progress. When you clean out your pantry, picture each package of junk food you toss in the trash as a pound of fat you're getting rid of. Mind games like these can make sticking to your plan a lot easier.