As many of you may already know, I am NOT a fan of 'The Biggest Loser'.
Television shows like 'The Biggest Loser' make it near impossible for me as a personal trainer to convince people that their weight is not an accurate measure of their health and that they should be focusing on 'feeling' better rather than measuring their progress with the scale. I do not agree with the premise of the show, the message that it sends, or what it really represents. That said, I will admit, that up until a week ago, I had never even watched an episode.
Given that after many seasons that the show continues to be very popular, I decided that I should give it a real chance. My plan was to watch an episode and observe as objectively as I could. Perhaps I was wrong about 'The Biggest Loser' and maybe I would learn something valuable.
Last week, I watched Season 13, Episode 1. Here is the play by play of what I noticed....
1) At the very beginning, the teams were forced to do a challenge that would eliminate one team from even being admitted through the entry gates of 'The Biggest Loser' camp. How cruel is that? Imagine being selected for the show only to find out that you were eliminated before you even got a chance to play. Brutal!
2) The elimination challenge in question was one in which the teams had to perform sprints. Unfortunately, the contestants had no opportunity to warm-up prior to engaging in this competitive event. Doing maximal effort exercise without preparing the body for physical activity is a recipe for disaster. It was therefore not surprising at all when one of the contestants fell to the ground with a hamstring injury. If 'The Biggest Loser' was really concerned about promoting health and fitness, they would have ensured that the viewers had seen the contestants warming up properly.
3) As the camera pans to the entry gates of 'The Biggest Loser' camp, the host proclaims to the contestants, "Everything you need to change your life is behind those doors!" Really?!? Does anyone really believe this?
I believe that everything you need to change is actually within YOU and not at some 'magical place'! Think about it...
4) Why are the trainers yelling? This is a low-level motivation tactic that seems to take place quite frequently during the workouts on the show. No one likes to be yelled at and there are many more positive ways to motivate.
5) At one point, one of the contestants works so hard that he vomits. Yes, it is true that in order to get stronger and fitter, you'll need to push yourself but making yourself sick is an indication that you are doing too much. However, the trainer on the show doesn't seem to share my opinion as he suggests to the vomiting contestant that, 'This is what it takes to be healthy.' I could not disagree more.
6) At one point, one of the contestants works so hard that he passes out . Yes, it is true that in order to get stronger and fitter, you'll need to push yourself but losing consciousness is an indication that you are doing too much. There seems to be a recurring theme here.
7) At the end of the show, it's weigh-in time. How humiliating! One contestant lost 13lbs in one week and was criticized for not losing enough weight. Another contestant lost 22lbs - that is crazy! Yes, many of these contestants are extreme examples but what is being portrayed on this show is not healthy or realistic for the average person in terms of weight loss. Furthermore, maintaining such a rapid weight loss is incredibly difficult. A quick search of some of the contestants from the first 11 seasons (http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/40423712/ns/today-entertainment/t/biggest-loser-where-are-they-now/#.Tx5EpqW0x2A) revealed that of 56 contestants, 3 lost weight since being off the show, 7 were able to maintain their weight (within 5lbs), 3 people did not reveal their current weight, and an astounding 46 people gained an average of 25 lbs each since appearing on 'The Biggest Loser . While a few contestants did manage to maintain some of their healthy habits, sadly, many were well on their way to gaining much of their weight back. This is just further evidence the 'The Biggest Loser' method is not an adequate solution for long term health.
Consequently, this show was even more appalling than I had previously thought! My suspicions were confirmed...'The Biggest Loser' is sending a terrible message to viewers about weight loss, expectations, motivation, and long term health. Sadly, the person who is led to believe in these extreme weight loss tactics is actually the biggest loser.