NORMAN — Q: I have been really overwhelmed with the number of weight loss contests around. I’m not really “fat” so I don’t think I would win the contest but would still like to participate. Are there any reasons not to do it?
A: No, there are not any significant reasons not to participate as long as you have the OK from your physician. You are right. “Biggest Loser” has really motivated a lot of companies and individuals to develop similar contests to encourage people to lose weight. You will need to remember, however, that what we see in a matter of one season on “Biggest Loser” actually took around nine months or more to complete. Do not expect to have the same results in the typical six to eight week programs that your job or gym may sponsor. Benefits will vary on the individual and their health issues.
You may not be significantly overweight but even a moderately elevated BMI does increase your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancers (especially endometrial, breast and colon), high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglyceries, liver and gallbladder issues, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, difficulty with regulating menstrual cycles or infertility and even depression. Of course, an elevated BMI is not the only predictor of such issues. Even someone with a normal BMI may still be at risk for these diseases, especially if there is a strong family history, so an exercise and healthful diet routine is not going to hurt. Weight loss is not the sole reason for participating in these contests; they should really be a starting point and motivational tool for making positive lifestyle changes.
There are a few things to keep in mind before starting such a program. “Biggest Loser” contestants have meals prepared for them and have a registered dietitian to guide their meal planning. If you have to plan meals on your own, it will be important to avoid falling prey to fad diets. Not only could they thwart your weight loss plans but making severe changes in your diet — when amping up your exercise — could be dangerous. Be cautious about anyone encouraging you to take magic weight loss pills, especially when they do not know your medical history.