The Real Biggest Loser…The Contestants?!?

Filed under: General Health, Weight Loss

An online consulting client of mine sent me a link to a recent article in the NY Times. It was on one of my “favorite” topics, The Biggest Loser. Now I know that a lot of people like this show, they find it inspirational. I get that. I wrote an entire blog about that.

Unfortunately I think this show promotes unhealthy and unrealistic habits along with dangerous training. Apparently the contestants agree. According to the article the winner of season one, Ryan Benson, who lost 122lbs on the show, did so in part by fasting and dehydrating himself to the point where he was urinating blood. That is near renal failure/death. That is not what I call healthy weight loss. What I don’t like about the show is that is does not reward learning lifestyle changes that lead to long-term weight loss and maintenance of a healthy weight, it promotes maximal weight loss at all costs.

I have always been slightly surprised that more people do not get injured on the show, but we are starting to see it more and more. Last season there was a hip injury and an injury during a very ill-fated marathon. This season alone there have already been two contestants sent to the hospital, one by air lift due to serious heat-stroke.

Here is one of my favorite quotes of the article, discussing the health implications associated with such severe caloric restriction, six hours per day training and the rapid weight loss they lead too:

“I’m waiting for the first person to have a heart attack,” said Dr. Charles Burant, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System director of the Michigan Metabolomics and Obesity Center.

“I have had some patients who want to do the same thing, and I counsel them against it,” Dr. Burant said. “I think the show is so exploitative. They are taking poor people who have severe weight problems whose real focus is trying to win the quarter-million dollars.”

I agree completely with that quote. I think these people are just being exploited and their health and actual results are a distant second to ratings. Now I love the fact that this show inspires people to exercise and eat better, I love it. What I don’t love are the methods it promotes and the expectations it creates for people to have for their own results, which can’t be replicated in the real world. If you want to read more great points about this topic, the great strength coach Robert Dos Remedios wrote an excellent blog perfectly encapsulating my thoughts right here.

I have nothing against people trying to get in shape, and I understand they want the results to come quickly and efficiently, but there are healthier alternatives to starvation and all day training. An effective protocol I have used in the past was the Warp Speed Fat Loss program, where I lost about 12lbs in one month. Recently a new and improved Warp Speed Fat Loss was launched, which you can check out here.

Have a great weekend everybody!

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Posted on December 4th, 2009 by Brian St. Pierre

7 Comments

  1. Bob Parr Says:

    Wait, are you saying that there’s something wrong with the training they do on the The Biggest Loser? Do you mean tons of plyometrics, plus marathon cardio and weight training sessions are not good when people are 150 lbs overweight and have never exercised before in their life?

    But seriously, my only fear is that these kinds of criticisms will give some people the impression that it’s best to stay away from exercise. I was appalled when I saw a “medical expert” interviewed on Fox News right after Thanksgiving. The doctor said that exercise often fails to work as a weight control tool because it promotes increased appetite in about 50% percent of people. As an example, he said if someone does an hour of cardio and burns 250 calories, and then goes out and eats a 500 calorie burger or dessert because their hunger has been ramped up, they will end up fatter.

    If somebody is such an asshat they honestly think a Big Mac or a banana split constitutes proper post workout nutrition, they deserve the results they get.

  2. Andrew Says:

    I’m waiting for the first lawsuit. Until then I don’t think they’ll change a thing on that show. The pathetic thing is they keep showing it at the gym I go to… I think I need a new gym.

  3. Deborah Says:

    I’m completely over The Biggest Loser now that I’ve been working with a trainer for the past 5 months. I train twice a week and hit the gym twice more on my own (doing complexes). I’ve had steady weight loss and have lost a lot of inches (the muscles are looking awesome). The reason I’m over the show is because working out 6 hours a day is absurd. As you say, it does not promote healthy, steady, realistic, LIFE LONG weight loss and health. I saw a whole lot of still very fat, unhealthy people at the finale. I think that was quite telling. The heart attack contestant really is right around the corner.

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