Friday, March 14, 2008

top ten diet tips from Jillian Michaels' podcasts

It has been fun to read the comments on my last post about "The Biggest Loser." One thing that all the Black Team contestants seem to be forgetting in all their drama is that even though there is only one "Biggest Loser," everyone on that show can be a winner. That was what I loved about Season 2. Rather than focusing on the gameplay and acting as if it's all about the $250,000 prize, the contestants all focused on their own goals and took advantage of the opportunity that the show gave them to get to their weight loss goals. A quarter of a million dollars is a lot of money, but the kind of weight the contestants lose on this show can make a much bigger difference in their lives than the money ever could. Plus, they've learned what their bodies really can do. I hope Jillian can get her team to focus on that.

Season 6 is casting now, but since most of us probably don't want to go on the show, I thought I'd share some of the tips that I've gotten from hours of listening to Jillian's radio show in my car. I hear her say many of the same things every show, while callers ask about weird things like fasting on maple syrup and lemon juice... If people can't follow a sensible diet plan, what makes them think they can stick to a crazy regimen like that? The thing about these tips is that they are simple, though far from easy:

  1. Educate yourself about calories. Jillian tells every caller to buy The Calorie King calorie counter, which is currently two-for-the-price-of-one at Borders bookstores. For a week or two, she asks people to write down everything they eat and look up the calories. I also think it's interesting that things that people think are really fattening sometimes don't have as many calories as expected. A teaspoon of sugar is 16 calories, and a pat of butter is about the same. I used to eat two rolls with no butter instead of putting butter on one, costing myself hundreds of calories. You can also use free sites like Calorie Count Plus or Fitday to track your calories. Weight Watchers is another system for counting calories that also takes into account fat and fiber. Either system will help you make better choices about food. Once you learn to make good choices, Jillian says you can back off the calorie counting as long as you continue to meet your weight goals.
  2. Weigh and measure your portions for a a couple of weeks. Again, Jillian recommends a training period to relearn what proper portions look like. It's not realistic to think that people will weigh and measure everything all the time, but after a week or two you will get to know what proper portions look like. Every now and then it's a good idea to take a refresher course, because the natural tendency is to pour a little extra into your cereal bowl or grab a slightly bigger "serving" of chips.
  3. Don't drink your calories! This is one of the first changes that I made. You can drink a 350-calorie Coke or a 600-calorie-plus coffee drink without feeling really satisfied or realizing how much you're really consuming. This also goes for juices, which are naturally high in sugar, and sometimes even have added sugar.
  4. Don't load up on artificial sweeteners. The Diet Coke addiction might not help with weight loss, and I agree with Jillian that all these artificial chemicals are probably also dangerous. I've never enjoyed diet sodas much, though I will have one now and then when I want a sweet drink and don't want to waste the calories. I've been trying to substitute with iced tea, plain seltzer (sometimes with just a dash of juice for flavor) and coffee (though my half-and-half habit is a violation of tip #3 above) instead of leaning on diet soda.
  5. You know the drill: Fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains. I can hear you all now: "BOR-ing!" These foods are more satisfying because you get a lot of volume for the calories they contain and they will keep your blood sugar more stable. You also can't find them in vending machines or drive-thrus.
  6. Cut way back on or eliminate processed foods. Processed foods are convenient, cheap, and easy to eat on the go. But they also aren't very nutritious and usually are mostly sugar and refined starch. This can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes, which can lead to more overeating.
  7. Plan indulgences into your calorie allowance. There's no reason to live in a dull diet gulag. You know you won't stick to it anyway. Work the foods you love most into your plan.
  8. Figure out why you want to lose weight. When people call in asking how to get motivated, she suggests that they write down all the reasons they want to lose the weight. No reason is too profound or too shallow. If you're motivated by imagining yourself in a pair of jeans, write that down. If you're concerned about your family history of heart disease, write that down. Make copies of the list and post them where you will see them so that you can look at your reasons whenever you're feeling unmotivated.
  9. Figure out what is standing in your way. Jillian believes that most people who have serious weight to lose are insulating themselves in some way. She suggests that some kind of therapy or support group might be necessary to help you work through those problems if they're too big or frightening for you to face on your own.
  10. Don't wait: Live your life now. I'm paraphrasing a bit, but this is the gist: "Live your life in the body you have now. Accept yourself the way you are now. Accepting yourself doesn't mean you can't try to improve, but beating yourself up or putting off your life until you get thinner isn't going to help. All we have is the present."
Most of these are common sense, but worth repeating, especially since most of us find them very tough to implement in real life. I still crave the processed junk food even though I know it's no good for me, for example. It's not that I don't like fruits and veggies, but I have never, ever, craved broccoli. If it's a choice between broccoli and Goldfish crackers, I want the crackers every time.

Have a great week. I can't believe another weekend is slipping away.


  1. Reading these suggestions was really heartening, especially as I went down the list and kept hearing myself going "check, check, check!" I feel like I'm following *all* of these pointers without even realizing it. That said, it takes a really strong woman to resist the goldfish crackers! :)


  2. Really good to see all of these put into a single list. I like lists, I like tidy, I like having specific things to do to help me get where I want to go. As you said, they're all things we've heard before but it helps to see them condensed down.

    I'm with you on crackers over broccoli, even knowing how great it is for me.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07