Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Biggest Loser Season 11, Episode 8: Total Chaos

Note: There is no way to do a good recap this week without revealing a very big spoiler. So if you still haven't watched your DVR'd episode and you don't want the surprise spoiled, click away and come back later!

Right after last week's elimination on the Red Team, the Black Team was brought into the elimination room to hear that this week, there would be a double elimination. Not only would there be team weigh-in and elimination as usual, but there would also be a red line.  If you aren't familiar with Biggest Loser Lingo by now, the red line means that the player with the lowest percentage of weight loss is sent home, no questions asked, no negotiation, no voting.  This always throws the players into a panic, and this week was no exception.

Cara and Brett take their players to a mixed martial arts studio to get an especially good workout. The workout looks similar to the usual Red Team workout, lots of boxing and fighting moves, throwing around heavy bags, etc.  I guess the main difference was a change in scenery.  The gym is owned by one of Rulon's friends from his prizefighting days, and after the workout, Rulon gets a chance to catch up with him. He confesses that he was nervous about the meeting, since they hadn't seen each other since Rulon was in fighting condition and he expects to be judged for his massive weight gain. Instead his friend is impressed by the fact that Rulon has already lost more than 100 pounds.  Rulon seems to get a big charge out of this, which is nice because he seems so hard on himself most of the time.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a lot of attention is focused on Arthur, who had an amazing 20-pound loss last week after some pretty mediocre numbers. Everyone is afraid that Arthur will have a bad week and get sent home.  Bob spends a lot of time with him and with his dad, Jesse.  Jesse has a great attitude. He's not thinking about the elimination. He's thinking about what he needs to do right now, he says.

Both teams compete in what is one of the goofiest challenges I have ever seen. The two teams have to maneuver huge inflated rubber balls as a team while wearing boxing gloves. They have to bounce the balls overhead as a team across a football field, and just to make it even more difficult, no player can touch the ball twice in a row.  As usual, the Red Team quickly settles into a routine, while the Black Team is in total chaos.  Each player thinks they know the best way to accomplish the task and everyone wants to be the hero.  They don't even get smart enough to copy the Red Team's successful strategy.  At one point, one of the girls gets in a shouting match with Jesse.  They get nowhere.  The Red Team moves all six of their balls across the field before the Black Team successfully navigates one.  It's a disaster. Worse, the prize for this is a THREE POUND advantage in the weigh-in.

Now every player on the Black Team is completely convinced they will lose the weigh-in. They are all terrified that Arthur will have a bad week and will have to go home. Everyone is freaked out and starts considering strategies for setting up the weigh-in so that someone who "doesn't need to be there" will go home.  Everyone except, of course Arthur, who is feeling good about his weight loss progress, and Jesse, who trusts the process.  He is angry with the other members of the team for assuming that they will lose and even angrier that they suggest that he should consider putting himself forward as someone to go home.  "Just because I'm old doesn't mean you put me out to pasture!" I am really in agreement with Jesse at this point.  All the talk of throwing the weigh-in is ridiculous.  Even if Arthur did get sent home, he had already lost 100+ pounds on his own before appearing on the show.  Eliminated players seem to get a lot more support than they used to to help them be successful.  By this point, everyone should be thinking about how they can transition successfully to at-home play.

That doesn't stop the Martyr-Off on the Black team, though. Deni wants to gain weight so none of the "kids" have to go home. So does Marci.  So should Jesse, they seem to imply, if he was any kind of a a father. I felt a little crazy just listening to all of this.

Moses is worried that his daughter, Kaylee, will go home because she has already lost a lot of her weight. Last week she would have been the player with the lowest weight loss.  He has a plan too: He wakes her up every morning for an extra workout.  Cara is also a little worried about her, and she decides to spar with Kaylee to show her just how far she has come.  Kaylee is obviously pretty good and seems to fling Cara around the ring.  My husband observed, "That's because she's in a higher weight class." Cara would have been used to fighting people her size, probably under 100 pounds, and Kaylee weighs about 180.  Cara gave Kaylee a sort of left-handed compliment, though, "I didn't go that easy on you," which suggested that she let her win.  Cara is much more skilled a boxer than Kaylee, but Kaylee definitely seemed to have the strength advantage, so I wouldn't count her out in a fair fight.

Last week the Black Team was concerned about Arthur, so they helped him figure out how to modify his diet  so he was eating less calories. This week they seem convinced that the only solution is for someone to gain weight.  Throwing a weigh-in is a bad strategy, but it has been done before.  The problem this time is, just like in the challenge, they don't figure out a strategy.

The weigh-in starts with the Red Team, and the numbers aren't that great. I think my suspicion that the boxing workouts aren't as effective in burning off the weight is probably part of it, and as others have observed, the Red Team may never have gotten the hang of cooking their own meals since they started off at the spa.  Kaylee and Moses have a great week, but the rest of the players seem worried.  For a while, it looks like Rulon might be going home. Then Jen weighs in, and she has gained weight.  It may have been stress over her dad leaving, or maybe she was ambivalent about being there by herself. It seems certain that Jen will be going home, as player after player on the Black Team weighs in. Arthur, the focus of so much stress, did fine on his own. As the "parents" start to weigh in, we see gain after gain.  Marci gains a pound and proudly said she did it for her teammates. Jesse gained three pounds and said he did it to save his son. Then Deni weighs in and she has gained 8!  Did they all need to gain weight? It's crazy.  But each one wanted to be the hero, and they obviously didn't have a strategy.

The funny thing is that if they had not done this, they would have easily won the weigh in. That huge 3 pound advantage was only 1/2% for the Red Team, nothing really in the scheme of things. Jen would have been the player under the Red Line if the Black Team hadn't sacrificed. It's good in a way, because Jen is one of my favorites and I didn't want to see her go.

The Red Team says they are proud to have "won" the weigh-in, but they would have had one player under the Red Line and would have had to vote another player off too.  Brett and Cara's methods don't seem to be getting results.  They can thank the total chaos on the Black Team for giving them the only chance they had at viability.

It was great to see the eliminated players doing well on their own.  "Going home" may be scary, but it isn't a death sentence.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dressing like a real girl

It's amazing how often Shauna and I seem to be on the same wavelength. I was just logging in to write a post on self-image, and to warm up I read a few of my RSS feed items, including this great article about not feeling worthy of taking time on yourself. I have a tendency to fall into the same kind of "Jeans and Top" rut, with maybe a little tinted moisturizer and some lip gloss (or more often, Cherry Chapstick).  My husband doesn't really care what I'm wearing. He has never been much of a complimenter. If I ask if I look good, he always says yes, but I feel silly asking. Since he doesn't care, and usually dresses pretty casually himself when he's not at work, I feel silly taking time to do my hair and makeup or put on a nice outfit when we're going out.

I dress okay for work, but most of my clothes are basics.  If this explains anything, a co-worker saw me reading a magazine and said, "Oh! I thought you didn't care about fashion!"  Yay me.  I must be coming across as a little frumpy. I get regular pedicures and spend a fortune on keeping my hair its "natural" brown, but I guess I still haven't been giving enough thought to my appearance. I think I felt, like Shauna, that if I put too much thought into it, someone would ask, "Who do you think you are?"

All dolled up for the 80s prom
It became really clear what kind of a weird place I was living in when I had a chance to go to a silly "80s prom" event at a local Moose lodge. This was not a big-deal kind of event -- it was more of a costume party. Still, I LOVED the clothes and hairstyles in 80s. I was a teenager then, so of course I spent time on things like hair, makeup, and clothes, even though I liked to think of myself as too smart for all of that. Just thinking about dressing appropriately for that time got me all worked up.  I spent almost an entire day getting the right dress (thrift store), makeup (Ulta), and undergarments (I needed a strapless bra and did not have one in my newly-discovered size. I was happy to find that Dillard's carries my size and I don't have to special order from {intimacy}) for the event.  I must have spent an hour and a half getting my hair and makeup just right. I couldn't really do the full-on 80s hair, my cut is not right for that.  But I did curl it and wore about twice as much makeup as usual. And I really, really liked the way I looked for once.

Jeans and a Top might be OK for a day like today, when I am snowed in with not much to do, but I need to make a little more of an effort on regular days, not to get a reaction from anyone else but just to feel that confidence.  Even if no one else cares how I look, I do. Maybe if I start acting like a Real Girl, I will start feeling like one.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Biggest Loser Season 11, Episode 7: Lockout!

At the beginning of this week's episode, Arthur and his dad, Jesse, have a talk about why Arthur decided to switch the teams around the way he did.  Arthur says he doesn't trust Jay and Jennifer, and that his plan to pick weaker players on the team will protect him and his dad from elimination.  Jesse looks at Arthur with an openmouthed stare that seems to suggest he doesn't agree with his son but is either afraid to tell him or doesn't think Arthur will listen.  Or, which is also possible, the camera person just told Arthur, "Repeat what you just said, and Jesse, you listen and look interested in what he's saying." I got the impression, though, that Jesse is somehow afraid of Arthur.  Arthur seems emotionally fragile and maybe Jesse has spent years tiptoeing around his feelings.  Arthur does say, though, that he really needs to work this week to prove that he is worth keeping around. At least something he said made sense.

After this little bit of foreshadowing, Alli shows up with a weird challenge -- they are going to tie all the players in knots on a rope, and the team that gets out of this the fastest will have the gym all to themselves for a whole week.  As with any challenge involving teamwork, the Red Team's willingness to follow a strong leader, Justin, works better than the Black Team's egalitarian approach. By the time the Black Team has a plan, the Red Team is already untied.  The gym will be closed to the Black Team all week.

It's funny that there just happen to be a bunch of Spin bikes, rowing machines, and other equipment hanging around outdoors. Lucky for the Black Team and Bob and Jillian.  The one thing they don't have are treadmills, but since they are outdoors, walking and running are still possible.  They are in Malibu, where the weather seems beautiful all of the time.  Jillian is upset but she and Bob find interesting ways to work out the contestants, even using lawn furniture in their workouts.  There seems to be no lack of intensity.

The Red Team, even though they have full access to the gym, still seems to be doing the same workouts they were doing in their old Red Barn on the fitness resort -- mostly a lot of boxing and other martial arts maneuvers.  They do make some use of the treadmill, but other than running with weight sleds, I don't see them doing much strength work.  I wonder if this will hurt them in the long run.  Bob and Jillian's usual plan is to spend the first half of the players' time at the ranch building muscle to incinerate calories, and the second half more focused on cardio as the players have more endurance.  Brett and Cara seem to have started out with more endurance and agility work, and I'm not sure that they will have good results in the long run.  Rulon and Cara have a bit of a falling-out.  Cara keeps pushing him harder than the other players, reminding him that he is a former Olympian.  Rulon is getting angrier and angrier and is blatantly not doing what he is asked to do.  Cara gets him to admit that he has a lot of fear about "checking out" like he did for the last several years while he gained all of his weight. I got the impression that, "You're an Olympian, you should be able to..." was what his inner critic screamed at him the whole time he was gaining weight.  Rulon has an interesting life story, filled with freak accidents and tragedies. I don't get the sense that being too easy on himself was ever his problem.

We also have a rare segment about the contestants' food that doesn't involve a commercial for Jennie-O turkey, Ziploc bags, or some other product.  Marci and Sarah confront Arthur as he is deciding what to fix for dinner, a steak or sausages.  Marci and Sarah steer him toward poached fish with herbs and a salad.  Arthur knows he is on thin ice with his team so he takes their advice. This segment suggests that maybe Arthur's food has been the reason behind his lackluster weight losses so far.  We rarely see or hear anything about the contestants' diet, but they cook all of their own food and have to count their own calories at the ranch.  I also wonder if this has been tough for the Red Team, who had prepared and calorie-counted meals while they were at the resort.

There is another challenge, this time with the teams competing to push a train car down a track. Six players push the train while two players inside choose from 50-pound bags of food to answer six trivia questions.  Because the players don't know all of the questions before they start, and the train is moving too fast for them to think very long, both teams do poorly on the questions.  One team got two questions right, and the other only got one. The Red Team beat the Black Team, but not by much.  Arthur and Moses each had trouble keeping up with their teammates as the train car picked up speed.  Arthur is especially disappointed with himself, so Jillian shows him how far he has come by reenacting a scene from the beginning of his stay at the ranch, having him push her giant Chevy (product placement?) pickup.  The first day on the ranch, Arthur could barely keep up as the other players did most of the work. This time, after he got some help getting it going, he was able to push it all by himself. He really seems to light up after this and take himself more seriously.

The weigh-in this week was stunning so I won't ruin it for you.  Let's just say there are some big surprises. The Red Team's exclusive access to the gym didn't seem to pay off as much as I would have thought, and even their prize from the challenge, choosing one player to sit out for the weigh-in, didn't seem to be a huge advantage.  The weigh-in came down to the very last player and is definitely worth watching.  I think this week's eliminated player will be a threat for the at-home prize.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Loving ourselves on Valentine's Day

Self-compassion goes beyond self-acceptance...It has an active element of caring, of wanting the best for yourself. It means saying to yourself, "I want to heal, to be happy, to be healthy," and knowing that sometimes requires you to make a change.  -- "Nurture the New You," Yoga Journal, February 2011
I went out to dinner this weekend with some friends-of-a-friend. I was seated across from a woman who, even before she sat down, said she wouldn't be eating much because she was just diagnosed with fatty liver disease and had to watch her fat intake.  She was very overweight.  I took her at her word. When the bread basket came, I didn't pass it to her and I put the dipping oil between me and the other person at my table.  The woman with fatty liver disease then ordered a cappucino, a cup of lobster bisque, and tiramisu. She got someone else to pass her a different bread basket and plate of oil.  It seemed very sad to me because I knew that she knew what she was doing to herself but still chose to do it anyway.  I didn't think about my own behavior, though, until later -- having some of that bread and oil, drinking two glasses of wine, splitting appetizers with the woman next to me instead of thinking about ordering a dinner salad.

Self-love is tough. It feels like enjoying the food and drink is the self-loving thing to do, even when it obviously is not.  I think sometimes of myself as "not the kind of person" who can resist temptation. My desire to dip into the bread and olive oil is just another aspect of my flawed nature, and I can either accept it or resist it, but it's still who I am. I'm sure that's how the fatty liver patient saw it too.

Reading the article quoted above gave me a different way to look at it.  The same article also talked about our true nature, which is like a diamond that has been covered over with dust and dirt. The dust and dirt become so familiar to us that we forget the diamond is even there.

I like thinking of uncovering that diamond nature more than I like thinking about disciplining myself. I like the idea of part of me that is already dazzling, waiting to be discovered.

Happy Valentine's Day. Be good to your diamond heart today.

Jillian Michaels' podcast now available for download!

I had trouble accessing it until I used the links I found on Balanced Living Weekly. It was a great podcast day today -- first I listened to the new Two Fit Chicks, then I had a new episode of BLW, and now I have a fresh Jillian podcast just waiting for me to listen.  It's almost enough to make me go out for another run!

Trying to profile the people having trouble on Points Plus

Weight Watchers CEO David Kirchhoff has a blog where he posts about his own experiences with the program, plus a few news items here and there that he relates to Weight Watchers.  He's in maintenance, so his posts are, of course, not about struggles with weight, but the blog seems like an attempt to humanize the Weight Watchers leadership.  Until reading his blog I never really thought much about who was in charge of Weight Watchers, and just pictured a stainless steel building at the top of a mountain filled with nutritionists and scientists in silver jumpsuits who were always testing foods and sending orders down from on high, "Henceforth, no Set Points for avocados!" Or something like that.

On a relatively innocuous blog post about the new USDA food guidelines, Kirchoff got dozens of comments from people struggling with Points Plus, people who said they had been doing great on Momentum but started gaining weight or at least not losing when the new program came along.  I'm fascinated by this because I can't claim, like they can, that I'm following it to the letter and it's not working for me.  I follow it really well on Mondays and Tuesdays, sort of halfheartedly Wednesdays and Thursdays, and then fall out of the boat every Friday and get back in sometime Sunday evening.  Amazingly, this doesn't work well.

It would be easy to write off the people who say it isn't working for them as being in my tipsy little boat, but I don't think it can be true for all of them.  I think that at least some of them must be telling the truth, so I have been trying to read between the lines and figure out what kind of person is struggling. This, by the way, is what I think Weight Watchers should do -- get some members to volunteer to share their journals and do some serious troubleshooting so they know what is going on.  I think that the people struggling probably fall into one of a few categories.

1. They were at the low end of the Points range before the new program.  On Momentum, the lowest daily points target was 18. Now it's 29.  That had to feel like a terrifying switch for people who were used to a very regimented, tightly-controlled food plan. At 18 points a day, a person would just barely be able to get in all the Good Health Guidelines if she planned everything out very carefully and stuck to a tried-and-true plan.  These could very well have been the people who never used their weekly points allowance.  If they had gotten their bodies used to a very low calorie intake, they could very well be gaining now that they have more points to work with.  Sure, some things (like oatmeal) have more points on the new plan but others (butter) have the same.  Plus, fruit is now zero points.  It's possible that the new plan is like getting to eat twice as many points all of a sudden, which could really be scary for someone who likes to keep things in tight control.

2. They like high-carb foods.  This would be on the other end of the spectrum from #1, probably.  I was unpleasantly surprised by how some of the foods I liked had changed with the new points values.  Bread, granola bars, and even popcorn all have more points now. Things that many Weight Watchers relied on, like 2 point bars and sandwich thins, suddenly aren't such good choices. Even though the points allowance is higher, if I have a day where I eat a second serving of those Kashi crackers, I struggle for the rest of the day.  Obviously, the message of the new program is to change some of those food habits, but it's not surprising that some members would find the change a struggle.

3. They are stuck eating on the run.  One thing that I notice with Points Plus: The foods that take a while to cook, like beans and whole grains, are still a points bargain.  But if you're trying to grab something quick on your way out the door or are stuck at an all-day work meeting where your only options are the buffet lunch or the vending machine, you're in big trouble.  Obviously that's because the kinds of foods that are easy to get on the run: processed carbs, sweets, etc., are not great choices.  But they are even "worse" with the new points than they used to be.  I had a recent meeting where a boxed lunch was provided: A sandwich, chips, a little cup of pasta salad, and a cookie.  No fruit, and I only had veggies because I had asked for a vegetarian sandwich. There wasn't much food there and it wasn't at all filling, so I had the choice of blowing half my points allowance or being hungry.  I ate the whole lunch and was still hungry.  Next time I need to plan ahead and bring my own fruit, veggies, and yogurt so I can skip the chips, cookie, and pasta salad.  Conferences are even worse because you're usually eating three catered meals a day and the choices are so limited.

4. They aren't crazy about fruits and vegetables.  Weight Watchers relies pretty heavily on those zero-point foods to fill members up. I don't think that a Weight Watchers points allowance is really a lot of food, despite what group #1 thinks. If you can't use those zero-point foods to fill in, you're going to be pretty hungry.

5. They are misinterpreting something about the plan.  One of the commenters called the plan "Atkins Lite" because of the changes to the points values of high-carb foods.  I have people in my meetings who are doing the program that way, too, snacking on hard-boiled eggs and cutting out all breads and grains.  Our leader said she found that someone was counting those little plastic cups of fruit in "lite" syrup as a zero-points fruit, and when they did the math, they were fairly high in points.  I could imagine that there are all kinds of places where people who didn't read carefully are making errors.

Like I said, I'm struggling too but I place the blame firmly on my own shoulders and not Weight Watchers, but I would be interested to see if my theories are right. What are you finding challenging about the new Points Plus plan?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Biggest Loser Season 11, Episode 6: Red and Black

Note: There is a pretty big spoiler in this post -- the result of a temptation figures heavily into the plot of this week's episode so it would be hard to write a good recap without it. 

This week, everyone was back at the ranch to compete as Red and Black teams. The episode started with another temptation -- this time, because it was Valentine's Day week (at least for the audience, the episode was filmed months ago so it was probably more like Thanksgiving for the contestants), the temptation was chocolate candy. Contestants had to spend three minutes alone in a room with hundreds or even thousands of pieces of candy.

Of course, on "The Biggest Loser," the real temptation isn't just food -- it's power.  The contestant who consumed the most chocolates would have a chance to keep the Red Team and Black Team exactly as they were at the start of the episode or choose two players from each team to switch places.  Most of the players don't take the bait. A few players decide to have a couple of candies hoping to assure that the teams stay the same. The two teams seem fairly evenly matched at the beginning, with maybe a slight edge for the Red Team.  But then there is Arthur, who is terrified that he and his dad will be the target of the next elimination.  He decides that he is going to take control, and stuffs candy by the handfuls into his mouth.

Does anyone besides me find it interesting that on "The Biggest Loser," every temptation is about overeating high-calorie food in an attempt to take control?  I think the message of this show is that this never works. Players would always be better off to stay focused on their real goals and ignore the temptations. In this case, it was an especially bad idea. Arthur wins and trades two of the strongest players on his team for two women he perceives as weak players on the other team in order to have "sacrificial lambs" (that term is used several times in the show) to take the fall the next time his team loses a weigh-in. Of course, this makes his team more likely to lose the next weigh-in, and has also angered all of his teammates, who feel that his actions have put them at risk. Of course, his two new teammates are really not happy about being chosen as weak players who would be easy to let go.  As Jillian tells Arthur, "You've let your fear talk you into creating the thing you were most afraid of." His team knew how important weight loss was for him, and had been trying to protect him, but now I think all bets are off. Arthur has not been losing at the rate that would be expected for a guy his size on the show, and his teammates now have a sense that not only is he wasting his time on the ranch by not working hard enough, he is willing to sacrifice everyone else's interest to protect himself.

On several episodes, Bob has worn a weird horizontally-striped shirt that makes him look like a mime.  He has it on again this week, and becomes an angry mime when he hears what Arthur has done.  Jillian sympathizes with the fear that motivated the decision, and then works him out like crazy.  There is some tension with both teams sharing the gym. The Black Team is annoyed by the distraction.  Cara and Brett decide to show off by working themselves out before working out their team, which seems like a strange choice motivated by feeling intimidated by Bob and Jillian (or wanting to show off to them). As a member of the Black Team says, the Red Team was not burning any calories watching their trainers work out.  The Red Team then makes as much noise as possible because they want to rattle the Black Team. The competitive stuff between the two teams seems silly -- they are all working for the same goal. A little friendly rivalry is one thing, but they should try to get along as well as possible because there is always the possibility that the teams could shift again, as they always seem to on this show.

This week's challenge was really interesting, and the teams were playing for a big prize, videos from home. They are told that they should pick two players on each team to represent them on strength, speed, agility, endurance and knowledge.  The teams pick the people they think would be best for those skills. Of course the prompt was misleading -- strength becomes strength in balance, for example, so the big players the teams chose were not that great at the task.  The agility task was about mental agility in arranging dishes from most to least calories, and the Red Team chooses a duo that seems completely hopeless at it.  They struggle with it so long that the Black Team wins easily, an upset when the Red Team is so heavily stacked with big, strong players.  The Black Team has a cozy movie night under the stars watching their videos together curled up with blankets (it looks cold, we can see the players' breath).  It was most shocking to hear that Deni and her daughter (the "sacrificial lambs") missed Deni's other daughter's wedding by choosing to be on the show.  She gets to see the video, but Arthur's trick seems especially mean after realizing how much the mother-daughter team sacrificed to be on this show.

The weigh-ins are intense. It's Brett and Cara's first on-camera weigh-in.  There are some big surprises.  The biggest one for me was seeing the "sacrificial" team each lose as much in pounds as Arthur, who lost 9 pounds but bigger than both of them put together. The team he got rid of each lost 14 pounds.  The weigh-in isn't close. Once we know what team is going to lose, there isn't much surprise about who they choose to send home. There has been plenty of foreshadowing. What is great, though, is that player seems to really thrive at home, and has lost a lot there when we see the "Where are They Now" video.

Hope you have a great Valentine's Day and that you don't eat two dozen chocolates in an attempt to control your life. Take it from Arthur, it doesn't work.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

You aren't stupid...

...so you know that when a weight-loss blogger stops posting weigh-in data, it isn't because the results are so great that she doesn't want you to be jealous.  I have had a couple of discouraging weigh-ins in the last couple of weeks. I had lunch meetings both last week and this week, and had to weigh-in after lunch.  Last week I had a very low number on my home weigh-in in the morning so it didn't bother me. This week the home scale was two pounds up from last week.

Just didn't want to look like I was hiding anything. I definitely need to work on that energy management project.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A new way of thinking: Energy management

I teach at a small college, and so I occasionally get review copies of textbooks the publisher is hoping I will decide to have all of my students buy.  Generally, I give them a perfunctory once-over and then set them on my shelf. I don't like to make my students buy brand-new books if the one I'm already using is still working for us.  This week, though, I got a copy of a book for a class I taught once but don't normally teach. When I flipped through the pages, I saw a chapter on "Resonance, Leadership, and the Purpose of Life" (Clawson, 2008). I was intrigued. I had plans to go out to lunch by myself that day, so I took the book with me. 

The chapter (a version of which is available at the Social Science Research Network site) described a theory of performance by Dr. Doug Newberg, a sports psychology professor who works with high-performing athletes.  He found that the world-class performers he worked with consistently thought not just in terms of external goals ("win a gold medal in the Olympics"), but on an "experiential dream," a way that they felt ("easy speed") when they were at the top of their game, "performing at their best and enjoying it most" (pp. 2-3).

This didn't mean that they just focused on how success would feel and let the Universe make it happen for them (as in "The Secret"). They worked very hard.  This focus on the way they wanted to feel helped them to maintain the energy they needed to keep working hard even when they encountered setbacks.  They also carefully managed their energy levels by doing things that energized rather than drained them. In one example, a surgeon realized that when he took a slightly longer but more scenic and light-filled walk to work instead of taking a shortcut through a dark hallway, he arrived at work with more energy.  This energy management allowed high performers to keep doing the intense work that was required for them to be world-class performers. 

What's the alternative? When most of us encounter a setback, we try to work through it by pushing ourselves harder, getting caught up in a draining "duty cycle" of "work harder, setback, work harder, setback." This drains our energy and motivation, and often we end up giving up (p. 13). Or we can even achieve the external goal but find that it doesn't make us feel the way we had hoped. The way back to achievement is to "revisit the dream" and to figure out what kind of preparation will bring back the feeling that we are seeking.

What does this all have to do with weight loss? I hope the professors will forgive me for borrowing their theory for this purpose, but I felt like understanding this motivation cycle was a huge breakthrough.  Where was I feeling stuck? In the "duty cycle" above: "work harder, setback, work harder, setback." And, of course, periodically giving up and then having to start the whole thing again.  One thing the author did not mention about the duty cycle, but that I imagine is a big part of why it doesn't work, are the punishing thoughts that accompany it.  "Who am I kidding? I'm never going to reach my goal.  I don't have what it takes." I imagine that everyone, from world-class athletes to star surgeons, can feel this way in the face of a setback, but people trying to lose weight are already usually coming from a place of feeling bad about themselves and feeling that they are lazy and undisciplined.

I think it's very easy to get caught up in an external goal ("lose 50 pounds," "be a size 6,") rather than focus on the way you want to feel ("energized and healthy," "light and free around food," "strong and powerful in the gym").  When you inevitably have a setback on the way to that goal, you feel like a failure and start up the self-punishment machine.

What's the alternative? Think in terms of internal motivation, how you want to feel. Try different activities (spinning class, kickboxing) and notice whether they make you feel the way you want to feel or whether they drain you.  When eating, notice when foods you eat seem to make you feel calm and satisfied or whether they just leave you craving more.  What kinds of self-care activities, even and maybe especially ones completely unrelated to weight loss, can you do for yourself to keep you energized and happy?

What's the point of getting to an external goal and still feeling worthless when you get there? Or doing a hardcore sprint to that goal (juice fast) that doesn't look anything like a sustainable lifestyle?

I think this theory can be applied in a whole lot of everyday, commonsense ways to help us live more purposefully.  I have started to apply it to my work and have been feeling much more productive. I see why I felt so good when I was working on my dissertation when I finally found a way to get my work done each day instead of worrying about how I was ever going to finish in time to graduate. 

It's not easy to keep this mindset, though. I think it's a practice, like meditation where you have to continue to gently bring yourself back to the center in order to keep reaping the benefits. 

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Biggest Loser Season 11, Episode 5: All Together Now

Note: There is one small spoiler in this recap, though if you watched the teaser at the end of the last episode, it probably won't be much of a surprise.

This week was the week when the Unknowns came back to train at the Ranch with the rest of the players.  We get some scenes about how nervous/excited everyone is about going back to the ranch for the first time.  We see the trainers putting everyone through one last workout to make sure they're ready. We get more hints that the other players are frustrated with Q about his lack of team feeling and about his lack of results so far.
 
First, however, we have some unfinished business at the Ranch. We didn't have a weigh-in last time because of the shortened time slot. The Green Team returns to do the Last Chance Workout with the rest of the teams and are asked what the other trainers and location are like.  They are a little vague at first, just saying that it's "180 degrees different." Then they go into some of the things that were different, like the fact that the contestants have their meals served to them in calorie-controlled portions.  They also talk a little about the different kinds of workouts. Of course, the Green Team and everyone else assure Bob and Jillian that there is no way the new trainers could ever measure up.  This week, the standout moment is Jillian working one-on-one with Hannah, the injured former athlete.  Hannah had a car accident that had caused all kinds of back problems and ended her sports career. She said this is what caused her to give up and start gaining weight. This week, Jillian wanted to show her how strong she was, and had her doing all kinds of things. She finally has Hannah do a supported back bend to prove that there is nothing that she can't do. This is a breakthrough moment for her.

They then weigh in and the Green Team, as usual, has amazing results.  So does almost everyone else, though Jesse of the Blue Team has a bad week and only loses 3 pounds. Everyone talks about how Arthur on the Blue Team is not doing as well as expected, but he lost more than 2% this week -- his father didn't.  Courtney and her mother Marci have a great weigh-in, and Courtney seems to be totally in the zone -- she feels confident that she is doing the work she needs to do and she lets the scale take care of itself. I thought I saw a little flash of resentment when her mom went on for so long about hitting the magical 200 pound number and expected to be in the 100s next week.  Courtney just made it into the 200s herself. Courtney said in an earlier episode that she always felt her mother was disappointed in her about her weight, and despite what "The Biggest Loser" would have us believe, one "clear the air" conversation can't completely eliminate years of fear, pain, and doubt. I think there will be a lot of work still to do there for both of them.  In the end, it doesn't matter how well any of the matched-color teams did in the weigh-in, because the remaining Black Team twin wants out and he purposely gained weight and convinced his partner to do the same. I think they just drink about a gallon of water before the weigh-in to make that happen.  Dan is eliminated instantly, since he says he wants to leave and all of the contestants want to let him go if that's what he wants.

We have a big scene where all the Unknowns return to the ranch in their pairs.  As they walk in, the Rancher whisper about how much weight they seem to have lost. One thing I noticed as I looked at the numbers -- a typical weight loss for the men was about 60-70 pounds (in 4 weeks) and a typical weight loss for the women is 30-ish pounds. Q has lost 39, which may be why the other players are annoyed with him.  Allie tells the teams that they each have their own "game." If the Ranchers do better than their last week's weight loss as a group, they will all have immunity this week. 

The Unknowns are finally going to have their elimination, but they have a chance to win immunity in one of the old "Knock out the Other Teams" challenges. This kind of challenge has been done all kinds of ways on TBL: People have thrown baseballs at targets, dumping water into buckets, etc.  The effect is always the same: Knock out the teams you think pose the biggest threat to you. There is no nice, team-building way to do this challenge, except, maybe, to hit all teams equally. That never happens.  This time it was placing weights of different sizes on scales to total 500 pounds. As each team had 500 pounds on their scale, they were knocked out of the competition.  In this case, players looked to eliminate the teams they thought might lose less than them and make sure they would not have immunity. That meant that the Red Team was Target #1.  The Pink Team very happily explained how this made sense, but then were surprised that after the Red Team was knocked out, they also became a target. In the end, because no one went after the Yellow and Gray Teams, it was a race to the finish. The Yellow Team had wisely saved some of their biggest weights for the end and win in a nailbiter race to the finish.  Then Rulon cries because he won, which seems really silly.

The Unknowns then get a chance to train in the gym at the Ranch, and seem to try to avoid using any of the equipment that was not at their home gym. I never understood why, if they were training at a fitness resort, the Unknowns didn't have access to modern, normal workout equipment.  Maybe it was because there were guests at the spa? Or maybe the "Red Barn" was easier to set up for cameras? No clue, I guess it's all part of the mystery.

I won't go into the weigh-in here because I know that some of you don't want big spoilers. In this case, unlike the earlier weigh-in, there is some suspense and drama.  I think that the outcome will come as a little bit of a surprise.

It was fun to see the eliminated players -- both seem to be doing very well and to have found good support systems at home.  The show seems to be doing a better job of helping contestants make the transition to the real world and providing and suggesting resources for them so that they have a chance to succeed on their own.  

Next week, more drama to come.  The Red Team returns. I would have thought they would choose a different color, since Red has such a doomed feeling. That was Kim's team color, and Jillian's before she left the show the first time. Maybe they still had a lot of really big red t-shirts lying around?  Bob and Jillian's team will be Black, in a nod to all the Jillian fans out there. 

By the way, did you see that Jillian will have a new podcast? According to her Facebook fan page:

Anyone who wants to ask me a question directly on my podcasts here is the TOLL FREE number (888)950-6611 Call ANYTIME & leave me your question & call back number where my producer Janice can reach you to schedule a time for me to call you back. THIS IS ALL FREE. WE WILL NOT GIVE YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION OR # OUT TO ANYONE.
 I thought about calling but then I didn't know what I would ask. I'd probably just sound like a crazed fan, which is, of course, what I am. I will let you know if I see the download link for iTunes.

I plan to do a catch-up post with my own weigh-ins soon.  As of now, though, I think I'm officially computered out after being snowed in all day. At least I'm caught up on my grading.
"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