Biggest Loser’s Vegetarian Connection
Last night Biggest Loser crowned its newest winner. Danni Allen won by what is likely the smallest margin in the show’s history – one pound. When you really break down the numbers, she beat her competitor Jeff Nichols by one quarter of a point. That .25 earned her a $250,000 check after this season’s it girl lost 121 pounds!
How did she do it? If you watched this season, or any season of Biggest Loser, you know it was through intense physical exercise, sometimes as much as eight hours a day, and through dramatic dietary changes. Cheryl Forberg, RD designed the award-winning Biggest Loser nutrition plan, which includes a healthy balance of lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. For many of the contestants though, those proteins and fats don’t always translate to meat, and vegetarians are born.
One of Biggest Loser 14′s teens, Sunny Chandrasekar, is one of these vegetarians. At age 16, this young woman is bright beyond her years and after a 51 pound weight loss on the show this season has lit a fire that will make her unstoppable. The show didn’t cause this change, but it certainly reinforced it.
A native of India, it’s no surprise that Sunny and her parents practice vegetarianism. Rethinking the way her entire family approached this style of eating has ensured Sunny’s improved wellness and that of both her mother and father.
She’s not the only one who owes some of her Biggest Loser success to going meatless.
Tracey Yukich went vegetarian for the long haul, telling us she adopted the eating style since her time on the show in season 8. Adhering to a vegetarian diet since 2009, she’s been able to maintain her weight loss, but also cites other benefits like clearer skin, longer hair and better eye sight.
“Food is medicine and being vegetarian is medicine for the body,” Tracey told us. “It can heal you.”
That’s exactly how she discovered a meatless diet. She spent the first 16 days of her time on Biggest Loser in the hospital after suffering extreme heat stroke during a day-one challenge. “They slowly started pulling me off of meat products [in the hospital] for my heart health,” she said, noting a lot of plaque build up on her heart. “When I got back to the ranch I just stuck with that same regimen.”
A fellow Biggest Loser alumni went veg after her time on the show.
“I was vegetarian for almost two years,” said Coleen Skeabeck, a contestant on Biggest Loser season six. “The benefit I gained was definitely knowledge of what my body needs to function.”
She fell in to a common rut for new vegetarians – carb loading. Coleen says it took time to adjust to the missing protein. “I had to do a lot of research on how to replace the protein I wasn’t getting from meat with vegetables, beans, etc.” She also became a more vigilant label reader to make sure she wasn’t consuming any hidden animal products.
“I learned a lot about animal bi-products… such as reading labels of soups, etc. to see what kind of broth it was made with,” she said. “Did you know, veggie soup is made with beef broth! Eek!”
Even the show’s trainer, Bob Harper, is known to not only skip meat, but animal products all together. A vocal vegan at one point, he’s now more along the flexitarian lines, allowing some animal proteins like fish and egg whites. He cites that his body was missing something, and discusses the topic at length in his book The Skinny Rules.