ShareThis Page

Biggest Loser Resort replicates weight-loss boot camp

| Friday, Feb. 24, 2012

As a contestant on season 12 of "The Biggest Loser," Jessica Limpert lost 80 pounds and gained a new career. Limpert, a registered nurse from Murrysville, has signed on as a personal trainer for Biggest Loser Resort Niagara in western New York. It opens in May.

"We are going to bring that 'Biggest Loser' show experience," says Limpert, a sunny blonde who seems more cheerleader than drill sergeant. "A lot of people hold themselves back and think they can't do that extra mile."

The resort, which charges $2,600 per week for a private room, will replicate the boot camp-style weight-loss program featured on the popular NBC show. Guests will live, eat and work out under the supervision of personal trainers, nutritionists, medical staff and chefs. Reservations are being accepted. It's the first Biggest Loser resort in the Northeast.

Limpert, 26, says six hours of daily exercise is only part of the experience. Guests will attend health-and-wellness lectures and learn about cooking nutritious meals and editing the junk food out of their pantries. They will be limited to 1,400 calories per day, 1,800 if they weigh more than 250 pounds.

"Nutrition is 90 percent of the battle," says Limpert, who also will serve as staff nurse at Biggest Loser Resort Niagara. "Ten percent is working out."

The 6 a.m.-to-6 p.m. schedule includes a morning stretching routine, a four-and-a-half mile hike, water aerobics, kickboxing, yoga and spinning. Each day concludes with a bonfire, where guests can share their experiences.

Limpert answered a "Biggest Loser" casting call at Station Square and had begun working out on her own when NBC executives chose her to compete on

Season 12. During the taping of the show, she forged a romance with fellow contestant Ramon Medeiros, who also is a personal trainer at the Biggest Loser Resort Niagara. While neither won the $250,000 grand prize, they lost a combined 260 pounds.

"My biggest fear was going there and not losing a darn pound," says Limpert, who once tipped the scales at 286 pounds. "The fact that I got there, and I didn't make an excuse, was a big deal. I don't like to look bad."

Is it worth it to pay $2,200 per week for a double room at Biggest Loser Resort Niagara• If a person realistically can be expected to lose, say, 2 pounds in a week, that's $1,100 a pound.

Madelyn Fernstrom, founding director of the UMPC Weight Management Center, says that should not be the focus.

"If you're someone who's going, 'How much weight am I going to lose in one week?' I would not recommend that," she says. "This is a good destination for someone who is investing in themselves for the lifelong term. ...Two or three thousand dollars a week is not economical, but for some people, re-starting their lives in this kind of isolated environment helps them take this change home."

Biggest Loser Resort Niagara is set on 300 acres of woodland. It's owned by Fitness Ridge Worldwide, which operates the two other Biggest Loser resorts in Ivins, Utah, and Malibu, Calif. They'll partner with Snyder Corp. of Buffalo.

"It's going to have the look and feel of the Olympic village," says Sandra Schoellkopf, executive vice president of marketing for Snyder Corp.

Since the show debuted in 2004, "The Biggest Loser" has expanded its weight-loss franchise to include exercise DVDs, meal plans, cookbooks, even a hand-held computer called Slimcoach that tracks and analyzes the user's movement in real time.

Weight-loss experts are divided on the extreme approach of the show, where some contestants gained back the weight they lost while others risked their health by deliberately dehydrating themselves for weigh-ins.

Christy Ferguson, director of the STOP Obesity Alliance, says people shouldn't measure the success of their diets based on the dramatic weight loss on "The Biggest Loser." Losing as little as 5 percent to 7 percent of one's total body weight significantly can improve health, she says.

The show's "You've got to want it" philosophy helps perpetuate the notion that obese people simply aren't trying hard enough, Ferguson says.

"As long as we view it as a personal failing and not a health-care issue, we are shooting ourselves in the foot as a country."

About one-third of adults in America are obese. Generally, a person is classified as obese if they have a body mass index of 30 or more. Body mass index is calculated using an individuals' weight and height.


Americans find extreme ways to shed pounds

Americans will try just about anything if they think it will help them lose weight. Some examples:

Crash diets: Fasting yourself thin might work in the short term, but crash dieters frequently regain the weight they lose. And drastic cutbacks in daily calories without a doctor's supervision never is a good idea. Losing about two pounds per week still is the most common-sense approach, experts say. "In general, the quicker people lose weight, the quicker they gain it back," says Dr. Donald Hensrud, a consultant in the Division of Endrocrinology and Nutrition at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Dietary supplements: There are thousands out there, from Hoodia to Gut Cut to Jillian Michaels' Extreme Maximum Strength Fat Burner. Their effectiveness is a matter of debate, but most, at least, do no harm. However, dietary supplements are not screened for safety or effectiveness by the Food and Drug Administration. Typically, the FDA intervenes only after problems with a particular supplement are reported by consumers or health care professionals. In 2009, the FDA issued a warning to consumers to stop using Hydroxycut dietary supplements after they were linked to serious liver injuries and at least one death.

Diet books: Some diet books take basic nutritional advice and dress it up with glitz and gimmicks. Others name drop celebrities or exploit public fascination with a glamorous locale, like Sonoma County or Hollywood. For example, consider "How the Rich Get Thin: Park Avenue's Top Diet Doctor Reveals the Secrets to Losing Weight and Feeling Great" (St. Martin's Press, $22.95). It might be fun to read about Manhattan restaurants and historical architecture, but how that will help you shed pounds is anybody's guess. A less-sexy but more-practical book is "The Mayo Clinic Diet: Eat Well, Enjoy Life, Lose Weight (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, $25.99). "Our clinicians and other experts support it because it's evidence-based, effective and sustainable. And, of course, there's nothing in the plan that's unhealthy or unsafe," says Ginger Palumbo, spokeswoman for the Mayo Clinic.

Bariatric surgery: This often is the last resort for people who have tried other forms of weight loss.The most common procedure is gastric-bypass surgery, in which the surgeon creates a small stomach pouch with a stapler. Almost 140,000 people per year have this procedure. Other forms of bariatric surgery include vertical-banded gastroplasty, where surgeons staple off a part of the existing stomach to create a pouch. Vertical-banded surgery and gastric bypass have been shown to reduce or eliminate Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and high cholesterol. Generally, these procedures are intended for those who are 80 to 100 pounds overweight and who suffer from obesity-related health problems.

Non-medical weight-loss programs: Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem aggressively promote their weight-loss programs, often using celebrity spokesmen. They usually augment their meal plans with meetings, consultations and other forms of support. Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem restrict members to their brand of prepackaged, low-calorie foods, as least, initially. While this approach could be convenient, it might keep people from learning about healthy nutrition, according to the Obesity Action Coalition website. "Safe and effective programs will offer educational materials that have been reviewed by a licensed health care professional," according to the site. Weight Watchers does not restrict what foods are consumed, but gives each food a points value and then sets a points-per-day goal.

Camps: They're known as boot camps, weight-loss facilities or fat farms. Typically, they emphasize a regimented schedule, close supervision and camaraderie with other guests who are trying to lose weight. Most stress lots of exercise, but the best ones also show guests how to eat healthier and motivate themselves from within, which are lessons they can unpack once they return home. "Used correctly, it's really great," says Madelyn Fernstrom, founding director of the UMPC Weight Management Center. "But you can't be fooled into thinking exercise is the only thing that counts. It's not for everyone. If it has no appeal to you, stay away."

"It depends on the person and where they are physically and emotionally," says Barbara Liptak, a register nurse and clinical coordinator at the Well Being Center for Mind/Body Health at Westmoreland Hospital Excela Health. "One size does not fit all."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.