Believe it or not, one of the things I'm most frequently asked about is my opinion on NBC's "The Biggest Loser" reality show. And fans are getting geared up for the show's 8th season! Simply put: The Biggest Loser is a TV show and TV shows are meant to entertain. As a result, contestants are put through rigorous and unsustainable workout regimes and dietary restrictions. So, the audience gets exactly what it's looking for, jaw dropping transformations that seem beyond human!
I actually had the opportunity to listen to the dietitian and medical physician who created the program for The Biggest Loser at a nutrition conference nearly two years ago. They gave us all of the details for the contestants' diet and exercise regimen. Yes, it certainly was jaw dropping. I was so stunned to see so much exercise and so little food. I was convinced, that this show was a recipe for disaster.
It's a pretty well known fact that restrictive eating and overexercising often lead to binge eating. While all of these contestants would benefit from a healthier lifestyle, I just can't advocate such an extreme method. While it may create the immediate desired result (weight loss) I have a hard time believing it can lead to the ultimate goal (permanent weight loss). One of the reasons is that the show isn't getting to the root of the problem, but that must be dealt with in another blog post.
An excellent article by Time magazine summed up my feelings rather well. While some people may find the show to be inspiring, the premise is so extreme, so unhealthy, and so unsustainable I cannot advocate it for anyone.
Ryan Benson, the winner of the first season claims that after the show he gained back "32 pounds in 5 days simply by drinking water." And another contestant, Kai Hibbard, consumed only sugar-free Jello and asparagus for several days along with jumping in and out of a sauna for six hours prior to the final weigh-in." That folks, is what the producers don't tell you. And that sounds like an eating disorder to me!
If you are interested, the Today show has a "Where Are They Now" slideshow. It's a bit dated, but you'll notice the general trend- weight gain after the show. And the sad thing, is that losing so much weight then gaining it back is extremely detrimental to a person's self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.
So, it's no surprise. I am not among the millions of fans that support The Biggest Loser. While making dramatic changes is pretty alluring, the consequences can be pretty damaging. So rather than going round and round in circles (losing weight and gaining it back), why not slow down and find a healthy way of living that can last a lifetime? Sounds like a boring TV show. But hey who said the personal gratification of creating sustainable habits can't be every bit as rewarding?