The Biggest Loser

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I have a confession to make…. I absolutely LOVE the Biggest Loser. I feel so inspired by all of the different contestants and the amazing feats that they do. Every time I finish with a show I leave feeling inspired and motivated.

Almost anyone that is in the healthcare (specifically fitness) industry has a strong opinion about the show. It seems that people either love it or hate it.

Criticism #1 – Unrealistic

Most of the criticism over the show is that it gives the public an unrealistic expectation about weight loss. Some weeks there are contestants that lose a huge number on the scale, but are still unhappy with their accomplishment. I agree. It can be strange to see someone lose seven pounds and stand up there frowning. After all, that is 24,500 Calories burned! For any person trying to lose weight on their own, this would be an enormous accomplishment.

It is important to remember that the contestants on the show have a single goal to lose weight and become healthier. They are not trying to balance a job or family while on the ranch. There are hardly any distractions. Plus, whenever the contestants go home for a week or go on vacation, we see less weight loss. The ranch is completely set up for weight loss. There are amazing trainers, an awesome gym, a pool, trails and roads to run on outside, the right type of food in the house, other contestants to motivate and compete with, and a scale that holds them accountable each and every week.

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The gym at The Biggest Loser

THIS is the reality of the show and anyone that watches it should realize this. Probably every couple of episodes someone on the show makes a comment about how amazing it is how much weight the contestants are losing and that these results would be near impossible to replicate at home. People trying to lose weight on their own need to keep this in mind.

Criticism #2 – Too Hollywood

The recommended weight loss for the majority of people is about 2 pounds/week. However, the contestants on the show lose way more than that. This is done in order to make good TV. The weight loss is set up like a competition with challenges, voting, and lots of drama going on. It makes for one exciting hour! If a show featured only 2 lbs/week, no competition, and no drama, then I doubt it would even make it onto the TV in the first place.

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Contestants competing in a challenge that involved LOTS and LOTS of mud!

I think it’s a really good thing that The Biggest Loser is reaching people through TV because this is their target audience. Many of the people watching the show are being inactive sitting in front of the television, so this is the audience that the show needs to reach.

Criticism #3 – Unsustainable

Another criticism of the show is that the contestants can’t sustain it long term. I’ll start off by saying that the research for this is very very difficult to obtain. How do you define successful weight management? Staying at goal weight or only gaining ____ amount of weight back? Staying in the healthy weight range? Although it is nearly impossible to figure out how successful the contestants on The Biggest Loser are in comparison to other dieters, I did find some interesting research.

Cris 4 Cris did an awesome blog entry where she researched this. She looked at past contestants before season 8 as she wanted to only analyze people on the “maintenance” phase for a minimum of two years. She found that, “of 53 contestants, only two (Ryan Benson and Erik Chopin) had gained over 50 pounds back. 11 contestants had gained between 25 and 50 pounds back; however, one of those contestants, Amy Wolff, had just had a baby, so does she really count? The remaining 40 contestants had either lost, maintained, or gained less than 25 pounds back. So this gives BL a 75% success rate of full weight loss maintenance.” Even if this percentage is off by quite a bit, this still gives the Biggest Loser a pretty big success rate. Another drawback is it only looks at the first 7 seasons and therefore only includes contestants between 2-5 years post-Biggest Loser because the show has only been around for so long.

Of course the success rate is not 100%.  Just like people recovering from addictions have relapses and aren’t always successful, the same is true for weight loss. Drugs aren’t the addictions, though, food is. Unfortunately for them, they can’t just avoid their addictions all the time. We need food in order to survive; and these people, therefore, have to face this challenge day in and day out. A 100% success rate would be amazing, but it is just not feasible.

My favorite Contestant

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before and after

I haven’t watched all of the seasons, but I’ve probably watched about five or six. Out of all the episodes there is one contestant that is still my favorite – Tara Costa. She came onto the show at 297 pounds – well over 100 pounds overweight. She was previously a model, but came onto the show completely disheartened. 7 seasons later, Tara still holds the record for the highest number of challenges won on the show. She’s a beast!

After the show, Tara went on to run the Ironman triathlon in Kona, Hawaii.

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Tara finishing the Ironman!!!!!

If you ever need a little motivation I would suggest watching the 12th episode in season 7. All of the other competitors know that Tara is a huge threat and take any opportunity to stop her from winning. In the first part of the challenge, Tara is heavily disadvantaged and she becomes very annoyed at the other contestants. However, Tara comes back to CRUSH the rest of the challenge.

My Opinion

All in all, I think the service that The Biggest Loser does for the public by motivating people to get healthy is pretty incredible. Even if the show only inspires 100 people to get healthy, then I think it would be worth it – and I know it’s inspired way more than that! After all, it’s definitely inspired me! I’m lucky enough to have never struggled with being overweight, but the show still motivates me to eat healthier or just get out for my run instead of watching TV on the couch.

Bottom line: There is a health crisis that is occurring in America and other countries that is caused by obesity. I’m glad that the Biggest Loser is taking action.

What do you think about the Biggest Loser? Love it? Hate it? Do you like to watch it? 

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3 thoughts on “The Biggest Loser

  1. Pingback: Weighing in on the Biggest Loser | Joy Runner

  2. Great post! I love the Biggest Loser and think its a brilliant show.. But as you say, in the “real” world things are quite different, it’s much easier to lose the weight when you have the facilities, time, coaches etc.

    • Thanks, Izzy! Exactly, as long as people watching the show realize how much of an advantage the contestants have and don’t get bogged down that they aren’t losing as much, then I think it is a great motivator.

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