Monday, February 11, 2013

are we losing by watching "the biggest loser"?

i'm going to start off by saying that i enjoy the biggest loser. i do find the stories and transformations inspirational, and yes, for a long time, i wanted nothing more than to take a visit to the biggest loser ranch and get the crap sweat out of me by jillian or bob.

but is the biggest loser a tool for weight loss, or an inhibitor? is it really motivational, or is it giving us false hopes and inaccurate views of what it actually takes to lose weight and keep it off long term?

my questioning is inspired by a blog post written by my trainer. warning: if you are a big fan of the biggest loser, you will probably find his blog post extremely offensive and off putting. but, he makes some really valid points that should make us think about how we interpret what we see on the show.

the show is a pedal to the floor competition to lose large amounts of weight in a very short amount of time. for anyone out there that has struggled to lose weight, and for those who have lost weight and kept it off, you know this is just not realistic, nor healthy. but there's a difference between most of the people who will read this blog or do research on losing weight versus the large audience the biggest loser reaches. one audience is educated (or wants to be educated) on the subject matter and the other is taking in what they see on the show as their sole source of education. the wrong expectations can set us up for extreme disappointment, failure and even put us at greater health risks if we're not given appropriate guidance on the best weight loss tactics for our bodies.

don't be fooled: there is no "easy" button for weight loss & health!

we humans, and i'd argue particularly americans, want the easy button. we don't want to research what the body needs to lose weight. we don't want to spend time talking to our doctors or spending weeks watching what we eat or sweating at the gym. we want to be 20 pounds lighter now. i know the contestants work so hard (especially those that keep the weight off), but the show is essentially a two hour highlight reel that sends the wrong message about losing weight and keeping it off. it doesn't show the months/years of daily commitment to healthy habits like eating less and moving more. and why don't they show that? let's be honest, that's not tv that sells (proof: the follow up on contestants that were kicked off is only 5 minutes of the two hour show time)!

i'm fortunate to understand that weight loss as seen on the biggest loser isn't realistic (nor healthy) for me and for most folks i know. but i can't help but worry about the rest of the country who isn't yet in the right mentality to make the long term changes they need to lose weight, keep it off, and get healthy. while i won't be able to tune into the biggest loser tonight, i know i'll be watching the show from a different perspective from now on and i hope others out there will too. 

how do you feel about the biggest loser? inspiring and motivational? or inhibiting and damaging? lay it all out in the comments. i want a passionate debate/discussion!


  1. THANK YOU for writing this post. I have huge problems with the biggest loser. It doesn't promote a healthy lifestyle. They don't eat enough food for the amount they are exercising and it isn't safe to lose the amounts of weight that they lose. And when they don't lose, they get kicked off. Well, maybe they aren't feeding their bodies enough. Ugh I could go on and on about this subject so basically I'm really glad you wrote it. I'm actually thinking about doing my 25 page research paper on it and the effect it has on the population.

  2. Oh!! I would love to hear more about the paper you're considering writing. I agree with everything you've said 100%. Keep me posted on that paper (seriously)!

  3. I struggle because I know that parts of it are not good- but I also know that for some people it is kickstarting their journey. I personally know 2 of them and am acquaintances with another. Have they had their troubles since the show was over- yes but they also know in their head/heart the tools and work hard to keep their minds and bodies in healthy lifestyle mode.

  4. Really good point - I don't love it (watched one season a few years back) and don't find it realistic. I didn't think about people believing it IS realistic.

  5. I like the perspective of it being a "kickstart" - I guess I wish that they would show more of the tools that the contestants learn in the show, that way viewers could understand that there's actually more to the process. I feel like in the very early seasons, they showed more of the learning how to portion meals and what to eat, etc. That seems to have completely disappeared now unless it is some type of branding/product placement.

  6. This is an awesome post! I agree- I think making a spectacle of the unrealistic-for-many weight loss obtained on the show is terrible. I kind of like the Chris Powell show Extreme Makeover weight loss edition. It only showcases one persons struggle at a time, and I think its more realistic than the biggest losers 2 hour highlight. I think all shows should emphasize healthy lifestyles, not just healthy-for-tv-show. Great post!

  7. Thank you. I haven't seen the Chris Powell show (but I just got cable a month or so ago, been living under a rock beforehand). I'll have to check it out.

    Totally agree - has to be more about healthy for people, not healthy for profits (this applies to the diet industry on a whole, too)!

  8. I am hit and miss on the show. I don't support a lot of what they do, because I know how unrealistic it is to live in a world where you can workout 6 hours a day and have zero responsibility outside of eating and sweating. But it still does motivate me to see people work through their emotional struggles.

  9. Oh, I like that. You're right - the emotional struggles are sometimes the biggest hurdles to losing weight and getting healthy. We all have to fight through them, and seeing that others have to go through them and we're not alone is motivating!


Getting comments feels as good as a freezing cold glass of Gatorade on a hot summer day. So don't be shy - share your thoughts & opinions! - Alicia