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Biggest Loser - Firefighters Keep Shedding the Pounds

As June rolls along and summer officially arrives, the North Saint Paul Fire Department’s “Biggest Loser” competition continues. This segment is going to look at their weight loss, diets, and workout programs.

Overall, the weight-loss percentage has dropped from the first month of the competition, when it averaged 4.65 percent, down to around 1.5 percent to 3 percent. One individual has lost 6.7%, while another has gained 0.65 percent. This is not unusual when someone starts a new diet or fueling program along with a regular workout program. Often, there is a period of rapid weight loss followed by a slowing of it. This is typically due to one of two things – a new program delivering a shock to the system or the realities of life coming into play.

Between a change in eating habits and beginning a work-out routine, a new program is a shock to your system. However, with time your body begins to adapt to some extent, especially if steady-state cardio is involved. With steady-state cardio, your body adapts and becomes less effective at burning fat. Second, the realities of life can be a significant factor. Work, family, BBQs, etc. all impact your diet or fueling plan. That is why it is best to have a cheat day or simply decide to loosen your diet on the weekends and tighten it back up during the week. No matter what anyone says, the diet or fueling plan is the hardest part of losing weight and getting in shape.

Talking with the participants in this contest, most all of them made significant changes to what they eat. The majority have cut out what we would term junk food – foods containing refined sugars such as various forms of candy, empty calories such as soda and beer, and high-processed foods, such as you find in many of the microwavable products. Many of the participants replaced those types of products with fresh fruits and vegetables along with increasing their water consumption. A few of the participants also switched from the high-sugar energy drinks to either the low-carbohydrate or no-carbohydrate versions.

One area that did seem to pose a challenge was the weekends with BBQs, a night out, and beer consumption. Again, those types of “cheat” days need to be included in any program. With that being said, try to select one day a week to be your cheat day or have your cheat meal. By scheduling, you have it to look forward to and will definitely help you stay on track during the next week. If you know you have a big weekend coming up where you will more likely than not cheat all weekend, do not take a cheat day the weekend before. That way, you can have your cheat weekend and not worry about it, but enjoy it.

As far as what the participants were doing for workouts, it has been nothing novel or unique. Most have utilized some form of cardio workouts, ranging from three times a week to everyday. The cardio workouts range from running to elliptical, to walking their dog in the evening to get a little extra cardio in. Some described working to build their cardio up, which is not uncommon and often is the best choice. Start with 10 minutes a day of fast walking, increase it to 15 minutes the next week, and so on. The key is to get in shape and improve your health, not kill yourself trying. Many participants added some form of strength or resistance training, which ranged from the functional circuit training conducted at the station to boot camp workouts, kettle bells, and traditional weightlifting.

As you can see by North Saint Paul Fire Department’s competition, all of the participants have (for the most part) a common theme. They all changed their diets, replacing refined sugar with fresh fruits and vegetables. Then they began cardio programs, which helped them burn calories. Lastly, most added some form of strength training, which not only helps them when responding on calls, but also burns calories.

How to get started losing weight:

  1. Get a physical
  2. Change your diet
  3. Begin some cardio workouts
  4. Add some resistance/strength training

For more information on how they developed, launched, and conducted the competition. You can contact Fire Marshall Dustin Kalis or Deputy Chief Jason Mallinger.

In July, we’ll see who won, and I’ll talk with the top three about their diets, training and biggest challenges. Until then, be safe!!!!!

SCOTT TOMEK MA, EMT-P has been a paramedic for 25 years with 23 of those at Lakeview Hospital EMS in Stillwater, MN. He is a faculty member with the Century College Paramedic Program and wrote the curriculum for and served as the interim director of their public safety degree program. He is a frequent contributor to EMS World Magazine, a frequent presenter at EMS conferences in the Midwest and an educational consultant to fire and EMS services. View all of Scott's articles and podcasts hereHe can be reached at