Jennifer Widerstrom knows a thing or two about weight loss. On NBC’s The Biggest Loser, she has a perfect winning average after coaching two winners to the podium (including last season's Roberto Hernandez). Widerstrom's speciality? Helping her clients create a tailored plan that works for them. We asked the trainer, 33, for her best tips on slimming down—and staying that way. (A recent study on people who successfully competed on The Biggest Loser highlighted how tremendously difficult it is to keep the weight off.)
Your specific [weight loss] program may differ from someone else’s based on climate, geography, heredity, the quality of the food you’re buying, the volume in which you’re eating that food, and so much more. A lot people take advice that doesn’t honor themselves. What works for me is not going to work for you. It’s just not. So really, it’s [about] having an honest look at who you are, what your tendencies and triggers are, and how you can build a program that revolves around that.
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I often see a lot of spirit in the beginning. But people don’t yet have a lot of the tools in place to keep it going. Oftentimes, instead of practicing success, they practice quitting—because they’re taking on so much that they can’t keep up. Then comes the [thought], I’m failing, I knew it was stupid to try. My advice is to layer your responsibilities so that you don’t take on too much too fast. Pick something during week one, and replicate it every day to see how it makes you feel. [Consider] how it changes your workouts, how you look, how it affects your energy. Then during week two, add something else. It could be as simple as tracking your water, or putting a bar in your purse to keep from unhealthy snacking. It’s more affective in the long run when you layer in the responsibility.
If you’re craving something sweet, it’s because one or both of these things are happening: 1) You’re dehydrated 2) You’re not eating enough. When your body is feeling malnourished—which is what happens when you are not getting enough water or eating enough calories—your body starts to crave the most accessible source of energy it can find: simple sugars.
My solution is to make sure you’re eating enough and drinking enough water, because that’s really what the reaction is. I used to always have cravings, but I finally started eating a lot more and getting more water in and I never have them anymore. If you start to take the sugar out of your body, the cravings go down—just like an addict with any type of drug. Once these cravings stop, you have a different relationship with these foods, and [you get the] power back.
People are so hard on themselves. It’s important to realize that this weight loss journey doesn’t happen overnight. People sometimes have unrealistic expectations about how the weight loss is going to go. It’s not that it is going to plateau [indefinitely], but your body needs to re-calibrate with the weight loss, and then you’ll start to drop again. I recommend identifying your "non-negotiable." Think about, no matter what your weight is doing, no matter how busy you get, what are you never going to compromise? For me, I will never [do less than] two workouts a week.
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Give yourself permission to be human. We’re all going to have missteps. But know that you can find your footing again, and learn from why you fell off the wagon. When I overeat, instead of hating myself for it, or completely giving in for the week, I sit and I think, What led up to that? I start to put the pieces of the puzzle together and figure out how I can change things next time. Once you identify what these reactions are, you can see them coming and navigate around them.
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