What’s Wrong with “The Biggest Loser”?

The Biggest Loser, apparently, is BACK!

Maybe this is embarrassing, but I loved watching the biggest loser when I was in middle/high school and it’s honestly one of the reasons I wanted to become a personal trainer.

I wanted to help people transform their lives. I cried almost every episode watching the contestants have breakthroughs and sort through the emotional components of weight gain and loss.

In this Health at Every Size era, I think it’s important that we support people whether they are happy with their body size or if they want to change it.

As much as I have previously watched and loved The Biggest Loser, as a health/fitness professional there’s a lot of problems.

  1. It showcases unrealistic expectations.
  2. It showcases dangerous exercise protocols.
  3. It fails to include a maintenance/exit plan.
Let's dive in. 

1) It showcases unrealistic expectations.

Losing 34 pounds in ONE WEEK.

Losing 100 pounds in SEVEN WEEKS.

Read that again. IT’S INSANE! I mean, is it technically impressive? I suppose so, but even more so — it’s alarming. For the 100 pound 7 week weight loss, that’s an average of losing 14 pounds per week.

Do you know what the recommended weight loss pace per week is? 1-2 pounds. 1-2 POUNDS PER WEEK!

That is the rate at which it’s sustainable, safe and much more healthy for your body to lose weight. Of course if you are somewhat larger you may be able to average 2-3 pounds per week safely and if you are somewhat smaller you it might be more beneficial to aim for a half to one pound.

If someone at home with weight loss goals is watching this show and sees most people losing double digits each week, how are they to feel about losing 1-2 pounds per week?

The contestants are also working out five-six hours a day, no one with a job or family can realistically fit that in. And nor should they!

I guess if you do find this show uplifting/motivating and can recognize that this is an extreme version of what one should do and what one can expect for weight loss — then watch at your discretion.

2) It showcases dangerous exercise protocols.

As a personal trainer, when a client comes to me there’s a bunch of things I take into account when planning their exercise program. One of the most important things I keep in mind is safety and making sure I’m not adding further stress to a joint that could lead to injuring my client.

If I have an obese, morbidly obese client or someone with poor leg strength the last thing I’m going to have them do is a bunch of jumping. Guess what running/jogging is? A bunch of hopping from foot to food.

The biggest loser is constantly having its contestants sprint, do obstacle course races and jump onto boxes when their body is nowhere near prepared to do so.

What’s the best exercise for someone new to working out regardless of their weight? Walking. Regular old, not flashy walking. Especially if someone is significantly overweight, walking is going to be plenty taxing enough, but also SAFE.

3) It fails to include a maintenance/exit plan.

A lot of you may have heard of “The Biggest Loser” study. It followed participants 6 years later to see how they were doing and you can probably guess that the results from the show were not sustainable.

Honestly, this is probably the biggest problem I have with the show. I don’t fault the contestants for not knowing what healthy lifestyle looks like after the show, because they were put on extreme protocols inside a container. I blame the show, it’s trainer and nutritionist for not arming these people with a plan and providing follow up support after the show.

There’s really two options with weight loss/fat loss:

  1. Rapid, unsustainable weight loss
  2. Slow, sustainable weight loss

The other bummer amount rapid weight loss is that people are likely losing a greater percentage of fat than when losing weight slowly. So if they then gain back the weight (as mostly fat), they are going to weigh the same as they did when they started — but with less muscle. Meaning a slower metabolism and greater risk of injury.

Also, losing weight and regaining it doesn’t do us any favors mentally or with our confidence.

Long story short, although The Biggest Loser can be entertaining and inspiring — it has a few issues. It doesn’t mean you have to or should not watch it, just be aware and take it for face value. And if you’re interested in slow, but sustainable weight loss let me know!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close