December 04, 2008

Who is the real loser here?

This might be a contentious post. But before you get mad at me, somebody please explain this to me: why is The Biggest Loser seen as a positive show?

I've been hearing people talk about this show for months, and I finally saw it this week. Someone please explain the appeal to me.

Seriously. I'm not trying to sound bitchy; I just don't get it. In case you didn't watch it, I'll explain what has me stumped.

I saw a man get up on the scale to be weighed. He lost three pounds in a week. Last I checked, the sight of someone who is overweight losing three pounds is a good thing. Even though three pounds in one week is above the recommended amount for healthy loss, it's weight loss that's not a radical shock to the system.

The man heard the amount of weight he'd lost, and his face fell. He was downcast. He bared his teeth in an 'I'm being a good sport, damn it' grin, and managed to get out something along the lines of "well, it's better than nothing."

Excuse me? What kind of an upside-down reality is this where losing three pounds is 'better than nothing'? The values being preached here seem totally screwed to me.

I realize they tried to give the show a positive angle by showing people going back to their friends and family after having lost weight. I am glad that they included segments on how people are still exercising after they leave. But still, the point of the show itself is to lose numbers on the scale as fast as possible.

By focusing the competition on losing pounds, it seems like the emphasis is on doing whatever the hell you have to do to lose the weight. Doesn't matter how much you've improved your health, how much cardiovascular fitness you've gained, how much farther you can run or how much more weight you can lift. All that matters is the numbers on the damn scale.

Ryan Benson, a winner on the show, revealed how he won:
I wanted to win so bad that the last ten days before the final weigh-in I didn't eat one piece of solid food! If you've heard of "The Master Cleanse" that's what I did. It's basically drinking lemonade made with water, fresh squeezed lemon juice, pure maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. The rules of the show said we couldn't use any weight-loss drugs, well I didn't take any drugs, I just starved myself!

To me, any 'weight loss' show where someone who starves themselves would do better than someone who improves their fitness is not a show people should watch.

When I achieve world domination, I will design reality shows that actually let people win when they improve. Why not have a show that rewards people not for losing weight, but for gaining stamina? Measure a bunch of unfit people at the start of the show, test them for how far they can run, or how much they can lift, or something like that. Then test them again each week and reward the people who show the most improvement. Screw the scale! Screw numbers that only focus on size rather than health!

Cool people like Fit Bottomed Girls and Scale Junkie watch this show. From the comments I've read, apparently you watch it too. (Yes, you over there in the corner. You know who you are.) So what gives?

Please let me know why you think this show is something that people should watch. Or let me know what kind of a fitness reality show you plan to host once you achieve world domination.

Photo credit: Luis Munoz.


  1. Don't worry, you're not alone. I've never even watched the show, but then, I have the screaming horrors related that come out whenever I hear or watch ANYTHING about any reality tv show. There's nothing *real* about that sort of thing. It's just an excuse, I think, to feel superior to the people on the television.


    And Biggest Loser? Scary what they do to those people... I'm still shocked that someone hasn't fallen over and died.

  2. I'm totally with you. The training methods used are unsafe, as far as I can tell from the brief amounts of actually working out that they show; the stunts are ludicrous, and half of the show seems to be one sort of product placement or another.

    They encourage people to lose weight at an unsafe and unsustainable rate, and to think that a sensible rate of weight loss is a sign of weakness or moral failure or something like that.

    The only thing that's good about the show, in my opinion, is that it makes weight loss by "normal" people kind of cool rather than stigmatizing it.

    (And on just kind of a bitchy note, does the show HAVE to be two hours? It would be so much better with a good edit, less silliness with spinning the numbers on the scales, and less whining. But maybe that's just me.)

    I have watched just a little of this season, nothing before this, and I seriously doubt I'll watch it again.

  3. I do watch it but not religiously. I do get what you are saying though but I guess I'm able to watch it for it's "entertainment value" rather than as a guide to how I will lose weight... If that makes any sense. Watching people suffer for entertainment value can't be right though. However the contestants do sign up for it and they are that "contestants".

    At the end of the day it's about ratings, advertising, money... the only things that reality show tv producers are really concerned with. Is it worth it though if one overweight person learns something about food or exercise that they can apply to their lives? I dunno the answer to that one.

  4. When I first heard of it I thought it sounded like a good idea...but then I started hearing about the lengths the contestants went to lose weight so they can "win".
    I am also surprised someone hasn't fallen seriously ill or died...

  5. Glad to know I'm not the only one who doesn't watch. I'm not big on reality tv (wish most of it would go away).

    I did watch one episode near the end of this season, I came in part way through and they were doing this challenge to win something...I forget what it was...But they were all in the dark with tables full of food - brownies and cookies and donuts, etc - and at the end, the person who ate the most won the challenge. I'm assuming it was all about strategy - the benefit of winning this challenge vs. how eating all that junk would affect your weight loss, but I thought it was nuts and completely wrong when the whole idea of the show is to lose weight.

    And yes, trying to lose as much weight as possible in a set amount of time seems unhealthy.

  6. Crabby,
    My take on it is that I take it as a television show for the entertainment value. I agree that the premise is outrageous that hugely overweight people will put themselves through stunts and emotional weigh-ins to grab the elusive cash at the end.

    The appeal is the human drama that almost every "reality show" bases itself on. It's really no different than foolish people living on an island in the Far East to show that they can survive on worms and crickets or women that throw themselves at one "bachelor" so that they can win the honor of a marriage proposal.

    If you look at this as a weight loss program, then you will be appalled at the reduction methods and the unfairness of contestants dropping 3 pounds and feeling they didn't do enough. If you view as a game show however, this will give a different outlook and makes it much more palatable and even invokes a rooting interest.

  7. I don't have a television, so obviously I don't watch it. Everything I've heard about it tells me don't want to rent the DVD, either. It sounds repulsive.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky, not a fan of quick weight loss

  8. Tom? I'm really not Crabby, honest. :(

    Interesting comments!

  9. Well, I guess I will start in with the support crowd.

    I love this show for a few reasons. One, it has a big focus on health, not just on working out. They talk about eating well, diseases from poorly managed diets, and how to make adjustments in your lifestyle that are healthy without making you feel deprived.

    They show every day people how they can work out inspite of not being able to afford a gym, not being able to run because of bad knees, etc. The contestants have one situation after another thrown at them that mimic real life and they are helped to figure their way around it.

    The goal is, ultimately, weightloss. But its not so much pounds and percentage of body weight. Contestants are compared against themselves. And yes, within the quest for the final prize some people do crazy things, but just as many wind up changing their own lifes and spreading that to other people.

    The show isn't perfect, sure. But in a country that is getting fatter and sicker by the year, if not by the day, its a prime time focus in a much more positive, and I would argue sustainable, direction. While the folks on the ranch lose crazy weight fast, I think you would be hardpressed to find 2 trainers that don't know how to do that the right way and engage the doctors, therapists and endocrinologists necessary to do it right. In some ways, they are saving the lives of the people on the ranch. Just this season alone, consider the yellow team father who was the cop who looked like he was the sickest person ever on that show. And then look at him now.

    So yeah, I've watched BL from season 1, and as a health junkie myself, I think its awesome.

  10. Sorry Merry,

    I forgot about the tag team.

  11. I've never seen it but I totally agree with your rant! I think the most telling thing about that show is how many "winners" gain the weight back when they leave that pressure-cooker of an environment. It doesn't seem to teach healthy habits.

  12. Tom? No problem. I wish I were the Crab, she's much thinner and nicer.

    It's fascinating that some people love this show and others (like me) just don't get it. I'm wondering if it's a situation where you have to appreciate Reality shows in general to like it?

  13. This is the exact reason that I stopped watching the show! I watched it the first season, dreaming of losing that much weight. Then I stopped and tried watching this season, because a lot of people blog about it. But, I really don't like the message they're sending. They lose weight, but because it's a competition it's never enough. It's really dissappointing when everyone is upset that someone lost "only" 3 pounds.

    I'm with Lynn. They push those people, who are not used to exercise at all so hard with extreme exercise. I'm shocked that there hasn't been more health problems. I wonder how the past members are doing?

  14. As a professional in the industry, I am the first to say that it does more harm than good. At first it may motivate... but it follows with a thud as people cannot lose those amounts in "real life".

    Think of the biggest loser as "survivor with personal trainers".

    This show perpetuates the myth of the infinitely malleable body.

    If I could get my hands on the obnoxious trainers... look out!

  15. I've never actually seen the show, but I hate it for it's name alone.

    I try not to go off on TV shows too much though, since I don't watch TV and it makes me sound all smug about it.

  16. I can't watch that show anymore because I found myself getting angry and eating.

    Odd, but true.

  17. Never watch that show, or most any other reality show. I want to suspend disbelief :-)

  18. I agree and the drama and rerunning of drama clips and endless commercials made me stop watching the show...along with the crazy weight loss and torture of watching people fall off the treadmill...then get screamed at. Shouldn't excercise be a bit better than that? Doesn't Jillian know anything about psychology?

  19. To tell the truth i used to watch the show but i just couldn't take it anymore!! When they think losing 12 lbs in a week is great! And my husband honestly can't figure how any doctor can let someone go through that.

  20. I've never liked this show, for the same reasons. It seems to push people to the point that they are indeed very lucky that noone has fallen seriously ill....the fact that someone is proud that they used a master cleanse to wina weight loss competition is not normal or healthy. We don't need tonnes of people thinking it's a good way to get thin.
    There is another show (which of course I can't recall the name of)where a trainer comes to someone's house and then works with them for 6 months to see if he can help them, with food and exercise, to lose a goal amount of weight. It is up to the individual to do the things and sometimes they succeed...sometimes they don't. It follows the whole 6 months in one episode...and it is amazing to see how peopl change (or don't) over time. It's not some crazy hardcore weight loss compound, but how to change in real life.
    I know there are a few people out of a hundred that need the uberlevel of control to really work at losing weight and learn to control their eating, but I don't think the Biggest Loser is the way to go about it...

  21. Has anyone checked out National Body Challenge? I think it was originally on the Discovery Chennel, but now it plays on FitTV. It's the same idea, except actually done in a realistic, HEALTHY way. For one, the people are living their real lives and just learning to incorporate healthy eating and exercise habits into it. Weigh-ins are done every 2 weeks, and the contestants lose about 2-3 lbs in that time period, AND they track changes in body fat, too. Plus they create their own non-weight related goals they want to meet. By the end, a winner is picked not just on weight loss, but on who made the healthiest changes in their lives overall (they look at blood pressure and cholesterol too). Plus, the show is full of really good nutrition and health information, but without all the ridiculous manufactured drama you see on The Biggest Loser.

  22. Sorry, I just love the comments coming in... so I'll post again.

    The math is not perfect (no biological system is) but 1 pound of fat loss equals a discrepancy of 3500 calories per week or 500 per day. 12 pounds of loss equals 5000 plus extra... burner calories per day.

    Any time weight loss occurs, some lean tissue goes too... even in body builders... but this means huge amount of lean tissue is being dropped.

    Remember, heavy people have more lean tissue (but higher body fat %) in order to carry and move their extra weight. Goal one should be to maintain this benefit while slowly losing body fat.

  23. Cannot say as I've ever watched the show. I've heard of it through other people's blogs, but nothing I've seen here would induce me to watch it.
    Of course, I don't watch "reality" TV programs. There's enough reality in my life, thankyouverymuch. I wanna watch stuff that takes me away from my reality.

  24. I'm not a fan, because if a contestant were to stop eating completely, and come back to the final weigh in a skeletal stick figure because they simply stopped eating and did extreme amounts of cardio, they'd win hands-down.

    Also Charlotte did a post about how one of the trainers deliberately sabotages her own food (I think she dumped salt on a piece of cake) so she won't gain weight, which frankly makes me wonder how great of a trainer she could possibly be if she can't even allow herself to eat a whole piece of cake every now and then.

  25. I used to be a big fan. It's interesting now, I flipped it on the other night and was like, "wassah? These people are just asking for an eating disorder..." That MIGHT have something to do with pregnancy though. Get back to me in a year when I'm gung ho about losing weight...

    There are two thing I liked about the show, 1) real people getting results, 2) Bob, has been overshadowed by many many other things, (lame product placement, the NUMBERS, all the scheming to win the game, the drama, etc.)
    So I'm not a fan right now, like I said, I might change my mind again when I'm looking for some inspiration in a year or two.

  26. I AGREE.

    I can't believe the winner said/did that. That's terrible. Definitely not a good thing.

    Some people seem to be inspired by the show, though. I've only seen bits of it once or twice and then I turned it off. I don't get how it's depressing to lose *only* 3 lbs and that kind of thing.

  27. "I wish I were the Crab, she's much thinner and nicer."

    Noooo Merry, we love you just as you are! We love Crabby too, but you are awesome in your own way :).

    As for the Biggest Loser. I watched season one. It was Fall 2004, I was deeply depressed and overworked. Once a week I would sit on my futon snarfing a pizza and marveling at the show. I was a bit in awe. After a season, I got a bit bored. Now I read the hilarious recaps on because they snark at the blatant advertising within the show even as they develop fondnesses for certain contestants. I do not think TBL is anything like reality, or that it models healthy weight loss (hey, I'm a Turtle, doing this slowly!).

  28. I'm with you Merry - I wrote about this on my blog not so long ago.... there are many many more aspects of the Biggest Loser that I think are totally screwed up. Actually don't get me started....

  29. I definitely hear and agree with many arguments against the show. Obviously the show is kind of like a vacuum where drama wins. These people get totally beaten into weight loss through insane amounts of exercise and ridiculously low calorie counts. Despite all this, I still watch. Sometimes it's because I'm curious as to what Jillian and Bob are going to have the contestants do, other times it's to ogle Bob, sometimes I do get sucked into the drama (read: for this season we all want Vicki to get her fair share). Overall though, messed up or not, the show motivates me to workout, eat better and make the most of my life. I'll never adapt such extreme behaviors as what is needed to win the show, but I'm a sucker for anyone who changes their life.

    Oh, and for the record, if you took out the product placements, focused more on the training and measured body fat instead of pounds lost, then I'd really like the show.

  30. Wow. I have never watched the show but I had no idea some people reached this fate!

  31. Someone else here who has never seen this show -- or any other "reality show". I gave up on tv back in August of 2000. Reading about stuff like this just confirms to me that I did the right thing.

    The whole concept seems fine on the surface, but works out skewed once Hollywood gets a hold of it. The Discovery Channel's version sounds much better, but it probably isn't sensational enough for the people who want to be entertained this way.


  32. When I first heard the concept four (?) years ago, I thought, "Cool!" Finally, a "reality" show that just might do some good. I watched most of the first season and was very disappointed. The methods didn't seem fair. The tactics were the same mean-spirited, win-at-all-costs that every other reality show had. I thought, here's a chance to really do something good for once, but nope. Just ended up more of the same. Haven't watched it since. (Of course, I've barely watched any TV since.)

  33. You know most of what they do is for ratings. Numbers on a scale make for better TV than cardiovascular performance. There are negative aspects of that show and yes, people should take a healthy approach as opposed to a weight loss approach, but here's what I like about that show; it shows really overweight people, used to just eating and sitting, getting up, working hard and seeing results. It has encouraged a whole slew of inactive people that maybe they can make a change in their life too! Even without the trainers and the tv show.

  34. Wow!

    I've never been a fan of the show for all the reasons cited above, but then I also don't watch any reality shows generally. The Lobster, her mother, and many of our friends, however, do, so I always thought I was some kind of freak!

    Every now and then I'll wander by the TV when one of these shows is on, and I become so obnoxious in my smarty ass commentary I have to leave.

    This is so interesting to me that there are so many non-Loser fans here! The show is hugely popular. Are we an unusual crowd here or have we just scared the Cranky Fitness Biggest Loser fans away? It's ok, BL fans, you can like it--you're normal!

    And note: Merry is, by far, the nicest of the Cranky Fitness team!

  35. Don't watch it, the whole concept is repulsive to me. All reality television falls into that category but I'm especially disgusted with a show that focuses on weight loss as its ultimate goal and doesn't focus on health overall, continuing to perpetuate the myth that to be healthy you must be thin, no matter how you get there.

    Nothing pisses me off more.

  36. I actually have a real opinion on this - and my feelings may be more appropriate on my blog, so I'm sorry if I write too much here.

    Like many of you, the show was a real turn-off for me for the first few years. I was annoyed at my husband because he watched it - how could he watch a show that promoted weight loss at any cost, along with serious amounts of scheming among the contestants to get further in the show?

    Last season I was still no fan, but happened to catch part of an episode where a contestant who had never run before the show was running at 15mph (30sec)! The possibility of that had never crossed my mind before. I started watching on that day. Seeing the contestants push themselves further than they ever though imaginable is enormously inspirational.

    Also, the trainers were talking about the unrealistic results seen on the show recently. It's not so unrealistic if you work out 6hrs/day. Every reality show is unrealistic in that it puts people in circumstances that aren't common in the real world. They made the point that so many people who are seriously overweight feel like their only option is a gastric bypass. The program that they follow on BL gives the same results as GB without surgery. My aunt died one week after her Bypass surgery (because the surgeon nicked her colon), a friend of my sister had a stroke on the operating table and now needs to be fed and bathed by her 16 y-o son. I know thousands of people have had the operation with great success - but I wouldn't want any other person I love to take that risk.

    Weightloss on Biggest Loser: Unrealistic? Yes. Possible? Definitely.

    The contestants are going to decide what they need to do in order to lose weight. The past winner you spotlighted cheated himself, and he knows it.

    As far as rewarding stamina - they did it this season. People who were kicked off of the ranch were given a chance to re-enter the game. Last year, it was based on who had lost the highest percentage of weight.

    This year, the first person to complete 1000 step-ups on a step was allowed to rejoin the competition. Anyone following the Cleanse wouldn't have the stamina to rejoin, and I'm sure that anyone who went to extreme measures to get their weight down eliminated themselves from the game too.

    In the end, the show is entertainment, but it may be the only information on health and fitness to enter some homes. That, at least, is a start.

  37. Yeah I can't watch that show. It depresses me. And I think that's the strongest argument against it, in the end, it is teaching us that our efforts are not enough.

    I sit there and see these people loosing 10-20 lbs in a couple of weeks where I'm struggling to loose 5 lbs in four weeks.

    Even knowing what extreme measures they go to to loose that weight, I come away feeling like I'm not working hard enough.

    So Poo on that show.

  38. I interviewed Maggie from last season and it's really disturbing what they do on the show. The weigh ins are filmed in the morning. The night before they literally just sit and roast in a sauna w/ the trainers while wearing layers upon layers of clothing. After the weigh in they are allowed to eat pretty much whatever, drink water and get hydrated again so they good on camera for the elimination. It's so unhealthy how they do it.

  39. It's fascinating that some people find the show inspirational while others find it discouraging. I'm going to have to check out that National Body Challenge show!

  40. I hate this show with a fiery, fiery passion. For serious. First of all, exercising for 6 hours a day, alternately purging (through exercise, starvation or dehydration) and then bingeing (seriously, one of the challenges was "whoever eats the most wins?!" SERIOUSLY?)? That is called an eating disorder. It's not healthy, and it worries me that some people find it inspiring. (I'm frankly surprised no one from that show developed a disorder from those methods - or maybe some have, and we just haven't heard about them.)

    Second, if you live in the real world, and are hoping to make progess like the folks on the show, how can it do anything but discourage you, ESPECIALLY if you don't have any knowledge of fitness to begin with?

    People argue that seeing something like The Biggest Loser is better than nothing for people who don't know anything about fitness, but I have to disagree. When you realize that you don't have time to spend 4 hours a day at the gym, when you eat healthy food, but still aren't dropping double-digit pounds every week, how can you feel like other than a failure? If you know nothing about fitness, and fail to acheive the results you think you "should" acheive based on that show, how could that NOT cause you to throw in the towel, feeling like there's no use in trying?

    I just . . . I just . . . *sputter* I would say that words fail me, but clearly that's not the case, LOL. I'll climb down off my soapbox now. :P Sorry for the epic comment, Merry!

  41. Thanks for this post! TBL, as Tom and others have written, is a game for TV - with the themes (dramatized in a big way) of fat loss, exercise and LOST POUNDS as the focal points - not good, but great for ratings, I suppose. There is nothing remotely "real" about the contestants' lives vis a vis the daily living of folks such as ourselves on the "outside," making difficult decisions about their own weight loss commitments. It can be tough to take, but shouldn't have been for the 3-pound loser. Crabby: you're right on! I've been trying to lose 3 pounds for the last month - maybe I've have enough steam coming out my ears now to get moving! Thanks again!

  42. Totally with you.


    It makes me nuts. To be fair, though, I've made it through like 10 minutes TOPS of that show.

  43. Given how much they're making these people exercise, going on a master cleanse while doing all that exercise is just not healthy! I'm amazed he was about to go through it and not have his body totally shut down!

    I think it's great they're finding a way to motivate people to lose weight, but I don't think that it's sustainable. It's teaching people that the slow and steady route isn't as good, and you have to go gangbusters and lose 20lbs in a week. But then, we're kind of a society that overdoes everything, aren't we?

  44. I admit I watch the show. I like the show... okay really I love it. But not for any weight loss or exercise ideas at all. I watch this show for the same reason anyone watches reality television. Mindless mental entertainment with little to no social value.

  45. Thank you, Crabby!!!!! The methods portrayed on this show are NOT HEALTHY!!!! The idea of "whoever loses the most weight, in the fastest way possible, wins a buttload of money" being passed off as HEALTH advice is ridiculous!!!!
    There was an article in "Time" about a year ago about the show. The winner of the first season had gained back all his weight (surprise, surprise), and past contestants talked about the diuretics, starvation, over-exercising, etc. that took place.
    Having said that, I often watch the finale. It's kinda like a trainwreck; horrible, but you can't tear your eyes away.
    (And I DO like the workout DVDs that Gillian and Bob have put out. Just not their methods on the show.)
    One more thing, then I'll shut up. I think this show perpetuates some dangerous beliefs: weight loss should be fast, you must "work off" any food you ingest, and it's a good thing to lose 30 pounds in 2 weeks, as one contestant did a couple of years ago.

  46. Merry,
    I have watched the show a couple of times though I am not faithful, or a big fan. Well, wait. I am probably bigger than the average fan but just not a fan of this show. I do think that heavy, fat, obese (whatever you refer to them as) people are inspired by seeing other heavy, fat, obese people lose weight when most of us (formerly much fatter, me) read and hear about how difficult losing weight is. I guess what the show reveals is the lengths people must go through to become healthy/and or just plain thinner, not necessarily healthy. Or rather the length people will go to to earn money.

    If it was for losing weight to get healthy, why not lose weight on your own?

    Where money is involved, the *health* incentive goes out the window.

  47. I never watch the show. I feel that it promotes weight loss, rather than promoting the idea of achieving a healthy weight.

  48. Wish I'd written the post, but this one was Merry!

    Most of the good ones are hers.

  49. Oh groan.

    When I'm dictator of the world I won't allow ANY reality shows whatever. Reality is real enough for me.

  50. I hate that show for all the reasons mentioned above and because they rarely discuss healthy eating at all. It's just about exercise. When they do discuss healthy eating, it's only to push a product, such as Quaker or something like that (a paid sponser of the show).

  51. Just wanted to add that I don't think it's necessarily about whether you like reality shows or not... I confess to loving Top Chef and Project Runway and shows where someone actually does something. I even kind of like the Amazing Race, which objectively is a horrible show. My husband cringes.

  52. Merry, I've never watched it either, I'm just not really into reality shows. However, I will definitly NOT be watching it now.

    That kind of attitude is the last thing I need to perpetuate my mental war with 'scale results vs. health results' that I've been wageing the last 6 months.

    Sheesh! Talk about sending mixed signals

  53. You asked "why you think this show is something that people should watch."

    I think this show is something really obese people might get something out of. It might change some of their thinking about what they are capable of.

    For me, I like this show, sure it's not realistic to think you could lost 10-20 lbs in a week but what it does show me is that an obese person can change their life if they really want to. This show is about empowerment of ones self in my opinion. It shows the contenstants that they can change themselves and that it's in their hands.

    I've been big all my life (378 lbs at my highest). I've even had my stomach stapled at 15 yrs old. I've tried every quick weight loss thing you could think of. For some unknown reason I thought I wasn't capable of losing weight on my own. That it wasn't something I had control of. Like my obesity had a life of it's own. What BL shows me is that I can change if I want to. That it's all in my hands.

    Sure on the BL you have some game players but all of those people are there to lose the weight, to change how they think about food and how they think about moving their bodies. That's what I try to take from it.

    You also asked "Or let me know what kind of a fitness reality show you plan to host once you achieve world domination". If I could have my own show it would have a shrink on it for sure because without fixing your mind as well as your body the weight is never going to stay off. A person doesn't get that obese for no reason. They have some deep issues that unless are sorted out really they can't truly change.

    My show would also be about healthy weight lose at a slow rate of 1-2 lbs a week. It would be about losing body fat and maintaining lean body mass. That's another thing I've learned about myself because I carted around all that extra weight all my life I'm darn strong with plenty of muscle under all the fat. I think that's what obese people need to realize too that they are probably stronger than most of the people they encounter everyday.

    My show would be about total lifestyle change not about the scale. It could have challenges of goals that the people set for themselves, running a 10k, doing a triatholons, climbing a mountain, hiking the appalachian trail, whatever dream they never dreamed for themself before. Probably my show wouldn't have enough drama lol but oh well.

    On a different note, have you seen the Ruby show on lifestyle channel? Now that's a show that has potential, one woman's struggle to lose the weight the right way with the help of family, friends, trainer, doctor and shrink.

    Boy way to much rambling I know.

    Bottom line, really it's whatever a person gets from something that counts.

  54. I used to watch this show almost religiously, but with the changes the last few seasons I don't anymore. 2 hours is way too long, and its become more and more about winning the game and less about healthy weightloss. This season has been the worst so far, with all the drama and scheming.

    I will admit to loving Jillian's style of training, I want her to kick my ass and give me a hug afterwards.

  55. I can't stand that show. People are abusive (especially that female trainer). It's totally dysfunctional. It's focus is on TV ratings, not health.

  56. I agree with you! I totally don't get it either!

  57. Frankly, I won't watch it. It makes me sick. It's unrealistic. And gives people false hope. Plus, it's cruel. Who tortures themselves that way!?!

  58. I watched a view episodes of TBL back when it first started, and while I thought the premise interesting, I had no desire to watch it regularly. Of course I'm very anti-tv and gave it up altogether a couple years ago, I've never understood the appeal of a lot of tv shows, particularly reality shows.

    However I've been frequenting the community message boards on the Canadian Weight Watchers website, and on my two fav boards there is a thread every week dedicated to TBL, and there is a group of people who are huge fans and never ever miss a show, and enjoy discussing it each week.

    I don't tend to read the threads much because I don't care about the show, but it's obvious that these people get a lot from the show. As previous comments mentioned, it can be inspirational to a lot of people. Speaking from personal experience, when you're morbidly obese and have been so most of your life, a lot of the times you simply do not believe it is possible to lose weight, that it is simply out of your control. What's more is that you often feel alone and isolated from other people. Yes there are lots of overweight people in the world, but a lot of us live without having someone else close to us who is also morbidly obese, someone we feel we can actually relate to. And needless to say there is usually a scarcity of morbidly obese people in the media.

    When I made the committment to lose weight, I was obsessed with seeing before and after photos of people who had gone from being morbidly obese to a healthy weight. I would spend hours looking up blogs and the like. It inspired me because I could see there were others like me, and that they were actually able to lose the weight, that it was possible.

    Yes, on TBL they do it in an unrealistic time-frame that most people could not incorporate into their lives, BUT that doesn't change the fact that they changed their behaviours (ie, eating and activity), and they lost weight. For overweight people who struggle with trying to believe it is actually possible, seeing someone they can relate to (similar age, weight, similar life circumstances) being able to take the weight off, it helps them find the confidence that they can do it too. Seeing the happiness and pride in the contestents can be motivating because viewers who are also trying to lose weight think about what they have to look forward to when they reach similar goals (eg, reaching the 25lb or 50lb goal). Hearing people talk about the positive changes in their life after reaching those kinds of goals is very inspiring to people with similar goals.

    Also a lot of people on the baods talk about how they were inspired to start exercising by seeing contenstants they feel similar to in terms of physical ability do things they never thought they could achieve.

    I also think it interesting to note is that those of us who dislike TBL do so because it is so overblown and unrealistic. The thing is, the people on the WW boards who love it tend to agree, none of them think or even want to do the types of things they see on the show, or aim to lose weight that rapidly. It's nice that people can recognise that the show is unrealistic, and yet still take positive messages from it :)

  59. Biggest Loser definitely began to skew my perception of healthy weight loss. I also watch a show (X-Weighted) that seems to encourage healthier weight loss and I started comparing those people, who don't lose anywhere near as rapidly, to the Biggest Losers. I became turned off when I realized that I had to put the two different shows into different categories: healthy weight loss vs. unhealthy weight loss. I think I just mindlessly watched and hadn't truly thought about the weight loss methods being used on Biggest Loser until compared side to side with a more rational show.

    It's encouraging to me to see people lose weight, so I can't say that I'll never watch it again. For what it's worth, though, I used to tivo it faithfully but haven't watched it at all this season.

  60. I've watched it every so often, and while its inspiring to watch these people go from not really trying to giving it their all, a lot of what the show promotes and what the trainers say worry me. And I don't think it's a long term solution. Not sure about the American version, but here in Australia several of the past contestants looked great at their final weigh in, but stacked the weight back on over the next few months because they had lost it too fast and couldn't sustain it. A couple of them are now spruiking diet shakes.

  61. Hi there! I am new to your blog and a fan of The Biggest Loser. I was very inspired by Ali Vincent who was last season's winner, and the first female winner. I do realize that some of the things that happen on the set of the show and after are unhealthy, but it is not unrealistic or unattainable to do what those contestants have done. I did it. As soon as I figured out that extreme exercise was the key to the Biggest Loser, I lived it. I spent 4-6 hours a day at the gym 6 days a week all summer. I lost 100 pounds in less than six months. I have relaxed a bit and now spend 2-4 hours a day in the gym (in addition to working a full time job and having 6 children) and I am still losing weight (although it is at a slower pace).

  62. I LOVE the show. It's incredibly inspirational to me. I have a habit of going to the gym, getting a salad and watching the episode on Tuesday nights.

    It revs me up & helps me focus on being healthy and getting to the gym and eating right all week.

    I don't understand the folks who hate it - and I really don't understand the folks who laugh at it or sit and eat pizza and binge while watching it.

    Jillian is an amazing trainer. Obviously, the accelerated weight loss is not possible if you work 8 hours/ day. But her exercizes are well worth the price of the DVD and are original and do really get results. I'm sporting a 6 pack for the first time in my life thanks to her workouts.

    I do agree that the last few episodes every season are a bit disturbing. I was a huge fan of Ali last season, but as she got smaller and smaller I was like "enough!" she looked healthy and very fit 2 weeks before the finale. I was hoping the season would end sooner so she wouldn;t have to keep losing weight.

    I'm completely against the Master Cleanse and diets of that sort and it disheartens me that folks on the show use it. The show does not condone that diet -- and is very normal about calories - not dipping below 1200 for women or 1500 for men.

  63. Great comments... this clearly is a topic that a lot of people have strong opinions on! Thank you all for sharing what you think. I'm fascinated by all the different points of view.

    Also, I'm in love with the word spruiking. SpellCheck hates it, but I think it's great :)

  64. I like the biggest loser but I agree with you, it is a bit backwards. I guess the appeal (at a very high level) is that you can help yourself get out of what might seem like helpless situations..

  65. That show is just disgusting! I watched it when it first came out and I was horrified that the purpose of the show seemed to be to parade people with weight problems so that others would be entertained! I still don't understand why they are encouraged to lose more than 2lbs in a week, it's just completely unhealthy.

  66. Two words - Jillian Michaels. ;) HOT!

  67. Cranky,
    Ok I am a BL junkie. However, I see beyond the 30 minutes of scale time with these people. It actually encourages me to exercise when I see 300 lb people running I wonder "what the heck is wrong with my 150lb butt, why am I not running.
    There is a lot of unspoken things about this show that are good, but they don't come right out and say it.
    When Ryan Benson was actually at the ranch he would have never filled his tank the way he did at home.
    At the ranch they are watched by medical professionals, dieticians and trainers (anyone can argue creditials, but I am not going there). The medical part is not a part of the weekly show, but they are closely monitored.
    Now as an avid weightloss person, I know that I want to get up and slap that guy for being upset about losing 3 pounds, but what everyone needs to remember is they are also up for $250,000 so while they are happy to lose the weight, they are going to be damn spanking GITTY about winning $250,000 and they are going to do anything to get there, hence the Master Clense when they are on their own for 3 months before the final weigh in.
    I think they all get pretty drastic for that final weigh in because of the money.

    I would love it if they did do a show where they lose weight, there was no voting off (no money prize)and they showed more of what they actually do, eat, etc.

    Just my thoughts.

  68. AMEN!! Thank you for saying, so eloquently I might add, what I've felt about this show for so long. My wife has long loved the show and insists she wants to sign up for it. I say it is a tragedy that network television is allowed to place people's health, their very lives at risk, for ratings. This show does nothing to foster an environment in which healthy weight loss can be sustained in real life. The winners often tell how upon returning home, they spent 8 - 10 hours a day working out. Who can do that? I have to work. I gave up on this show the first time I watched it and saw a beautiful young woman cry her eyes out because she had only lost three pounds at the weigh in. Tragic. I would have been jumping for joy. Any weight lost is a victory when you are already overweight. Great post! I'm glad I followed the link from Bossy's blog to discover you here. I'll be back for more.

  69. While I've watched the show before and found myself routing for certain "contestants" and was totally torn. I know that the methods are madness, but I still found myself jealous and wishing I could lose weight just as "easily" and quickly.

    I'd really love to see a follow-up show with ALL the previous top 5 "losers" to see what lessons they've retained and whether they've maintained a healthy weight or not.

  70. I can't believe that people actually watch this show! I agree with you completely.

  71. just for the record, i love this show. and they do talk quite frequently about how much farther they can run or how much more weight they can lift, they just must not have shown that in the episode you saw. there is a big emphasis on the numbers, but i do think they try to put an emphasis on health, too. for whatever it's worth, i like it.

  72. I don't, on the whole, like reality shows, because they rarely have any relationship to reality.

    But I have to admit, I watch and totally enjoy Biggest Loser! Hooked and there every Tuesday night.

    Yeah, I hate the constant product placement. I don't think the amounts of exercise they put the contestants through is realistic and sustainable, and I'm surprised they haven't had more injury on the show! I wish they'd edit it and condense it into an hour. And of course I hate the game playing, the food temptations and the fact that it is all about the pounds on the damn scale.

    Still and all, there is a good message here... and that message is that if you want to lose the weight, it *CAN* be done.

    Whether you are diabetic, totally unfit, barely able to walk without huffing and puffing... the show at least gives the idea that it is POSSIBLE to change your life.

    I see those contestants working out and it inspires me to work hard.

  73. TV is the problem. A 'healthy fitness show' wouldn't be popular because it delivers what most people would consider to be bad news: to be healthy we have to eat carefully and exercise. Check out what Marie said - watching The Biggest Loser makes her angry, and then she eats! That's what television was designed for! It's one big "there's something wrong with you" message. It's like a big chocolate doughnut for your brain.

  74. I've never watched the show, but I read about it ALL THE TIME. Based on your remarks, I'm glad I haven't tuned in.

  75. I admit it.....I watch. Jillian, who is easy on the eyes, is one reason. I do find many things about it annoying, however.

    I am from the Evolutionary Fitness/Primal Blueprint/Paleo camp and think they have a lot of the diet & fitness stuff wrong.

    1) Way too much emphasis on low grade cardio and "burning calories" as if it is a simple calories in/calories out game and you need to burn.
    2) Weight isn't a good measure. Body fat and waist circumference is much better. This drives weight loss rather than muscle gain.
    3) The people are huge. We are several weeks in an they are almost all still obese. Hard to believe people could let themselves get that way.
    4) The product placement is so obvious. I could tell we were going to see something come up and sure enough Jennie-O turkey was 20 seconds away. Reality TV my foot! Looked at least partially scripted to me.
    5) Time scale is too short. There can be variations day to day and 1 week is too short to account for that. 2 weeks would be better and healthier.
    6) The exercise looks too painful and gives the wrong message. It is like you need to suffer greatly in order to get fitter and leaner and that isn't true. Some intensity is required, but nothing uncomfortable for hours a day. This could scare people off rather than inspire.

    I would love to see Mark Sisson(Mark's Daily Apple) go head-to-head against Jillian and Bob training the contestants of “The Biggest Loser”.

    Mark’s primal blueprint would win hands down and I think it would shock people to see you don’t have to do hours of boring cardio or eat nothing to get amazing results. The only issue in my mind would be the week time frame between weigh ins and the fact that weight, not fat loss is the measure.

    Since Mark is pretty photogenic I think he would be a great fit for TV. A “flex off” between Bob and Mark would be no contest and I bet Bob is in the gym hours more per week. If you go to his blog you will see what I mean.

  76. Extreme exertion is probably counter-productive, if not dangerous, especially to those who are not in top physical condition, but the impression the show leaves with the viewer is that this is what it takes to lose weight and get healthy. Many people whould not even try.

    Exercise is a good thing for many reasons, but it is not necessary for weight loss. Weight loss comes naturally as part of a healthful low-carb lifestyle, but it would make lousy television--much too easy.

  77. I subscribe to Jillian's daily email, and it's so common-sense and straightforward that I'm surprised to read the comments about the show (which I never watch).

    That said, I think it's still better than nothing, but the nitwits who do reality TV programming are always after extreme situations that create drama instead of harmony. But how many obsese people have figured that if that 300-pound guy can do it, I can? That was the reaction I effected on some friends by my own weight loss -- I was the biggest person in our group, and after I lost 130 pounds over a period of 18 months, a few of my girlfriends finally took up some serious carb-watching and working out, crediting me as their inspiration. If I were seriously obese and had no external support system, and watched a lot of TV, this is at least a place to start, but I fear that it may do more harm than good by encouraging unrealistic results.

    And about this post from Jeff:

    "3) The people are huge. We are several weeks in an they are almost all still obese. Hard to believe people could let themselves get that way."

    Seriously, dude, not very kind or empathetic. Nearly everyone has an unhealthy addiction, and food addiction/compulsive eating is among the worst if only because the people who suffer from it are disparaged, attacked, judged and discriminated against because the effects of this addiction are impossible to hide. With a nearly 50% obesity rate in our country, a screwed up nutritional pyramid promoted by the FDA with the one hand as it distributes subsidies to corn (sugar) growers with the other (both revised after the damage done), and phys ed classes taken off the curriculum of most grade schools, what's so hard to believe about it, exactly? You should count your blessings if you're educated, healthy and fit, but you would do well to exercise compassion toward those who are still struggling!

  78. I, like some of the other posters watch the show purely for entertainment value but I think it teaches poor messages. Also, I think that some of the contestants probably suffer from binge eating/food addition and TBL doesn't tech or reiterate healhy habits, but rather instill new obsessive patterns that could be harmful.

  79. Great post! I have always hated that show from the point that they never tell the real story (about the calorie restriction and 4 hours of cardio a day) and anything that promotes "quick" results is a scam in my book (as it will all come back). There can be better ways to help motivate people to get healthy, but quick weight loss should not be one of the only thing that does is help sell ratings, commercial ad dollars and weight loss pills/diet books. It's more dangerous and unhealthy to lose alot of weight and gain it all back! Slow and steady wins the race, as that is lasting weight loss. Health should be a lifestyle...not a race to dehydrate and lose lbs. In weight loss the motto should be "Easy Go....Easy Come Back".

  80. Great post- and I have to agree and disagree. As a personal trainer I've had many of my clients watch the show and be disappointed that they're not losing like they are on the show. I used to preach about what they're going through and how it's unrealistic to think you can achieve that in the 'real world'- I also wonder how many of them kept the weight off after the show.

    Isn't that what celebreality is all about though? Can we really expect to get Jennifer Anistons thighs, Jennifer Lopez's butt or Jessica Alba's post-baby body? Everything on TV has to be taken with a grain of salt.

    So- if you know anything about fitness I think the show can be somewhat rewarding and somewhat inspiring. As long as you see it as an extreme form it can give you good tips on how to exercise and eat right if you don't already.

  81. I hate this show and I refuse to watch. The only way I would watch something like this is if they based the win on health instead of weight. Like maybe increase in muscle mass and decrease in fat percentage corrected for hydration, so fasting and not drinking water wouldn't be rewarded. Improvement in LDL particle size, triglycerides, HDL, A1c, hsCRP, nutritional status (vitamin & mineral levels,) etc. They could pit one diet philosophy against another. Low carb vs low fat. Protein power & slow burn vs Ornish w/lots of cardio, etc.

  82. just saw a link to this from limes and lycopene and had to comment as I just hate reality tv shows that make people's lives into entertainment and try to pass it off as helping people - when losing weight becomes entertainment and competition I agree that the values get seriously skewed! Good to hear your thoughts on this!

  83. I have to disagree with all of you. The down side to the show is the game aspect. That any of those people have to go home. I think this show is great and the web site as well. I am a hard core "biggest loser" fan! I think it's great how the contestants get this incredible opportunity to devote that much time to fitness and making themselves healthy. I will reiterate that I do not like the game aspect because it takes away a part of the bigger picture of what these people are doing. On this last season the said over and over how 3 pounds in one week is an incredible thing. They encourage and only say positive things to the contestants. The contestant who got the sad face got the sad face because he knew with a low weight loss he may be off the show.

    Any way. Think about it.

  84. I've been popping back over here to read comments and now I'm ready to comment.

    Initially I was a fan of the show because I found it very motivational. However after watching it for a few seasons I've become increasingly disenchanted by it and in some ways disgusted. To hear the contestants in agony because they only lost FOUR pounds this week is probably the biggest thing that drove this home for me. Their rate of weight loss isn't safe or healthy and its unrealistic for 99% of us who watch the show.

    Safe weight loss is slow weight loss that comes through lifestyle changes that last a lifetime not extreme exercise and dieting.

    I stopped watching mid way through this season and I can honestly say I'm done, the only way I'd watch is if someone I knew were a contestant on the show.

  85. They aren't dieting on the show. They are eating healthy. If you look at the plates when they are eating it's good food. Bob even puts whipped cream on their Jell-o. I wouldn't even do that. But I don't like sweets. I think I only eat Jell-o on Thanksgiving with cranberries in it. Yummy!! But anyway. The show promotes healthy weight loss and ,yes, perhaps a pretty intense work out which may not be for everybody but it is for those who chose to get on the show. Those who prefer less intense work outs should well, do less intense work outs. The point that they say over and over is just get out and do SOMETHING. There is a large part of the U.S. that don't do anything. Really, if you take 15 minutes 2 or 3 days a week and go for a walk out side or some cardio on a machine at the gym you would notice an increase in your energy and a boost in your metabolism. The show isn't about superiority. It's a show about weight loss and exercise. Finally a show that isn't about switching wives or who will marry handsome or sexy who ever. I know that when I see those people who are 200 pnds heavier then I am doing what they are doing. It definitely makes me want to do what they are doing. But I am a fitness junkie I don't know.

    "To achieve your full genetic potential, the intensity you apply must be great enough to exceed your body's work threshold."

  86. via my other half (my hubby!!) I showed him this and he sent me this. Thought I'd post it. Check out the link.....also I'd like to add that he's pretty passionate about fitness....the right way!

    Here is something that's very interesting. Everyone is soooo quick to
    point the finger. Wah wah it's the FDA's fault it's the schools fault
    wah everyone is fat because somebody else didn't do their job (which I
    guess is keeping everyone else healthy). The only only thing I see
    coming from this show is positive motivation as an end result. I would
    label this as entertainment period. Do you remember the show Jackass on
    MTV? It had a disclaimer at the beginning of every show. Despite the
    warning America had flocks of teenagers and kids trying to recreate the
    stunts or activities ripping themselves to ribbons and angry parents
    looking for someone to blame. If you spend time focusing on the bad
    you'll never see the good.

    I've got a question for Merry. What's the other side of the story I
    only see one and it's negative. Maybe the real problem is t.v. itself.
    Look at this obesity scale that cnn put up. I bet the
    amount of desk jobs have increased also. The amount of time kids spend
    outdoors have decreased. There isn't enough time to explore all the new
    fast food restaurants that have sprung up. I think what this boils down
    to is personal responsibility. If people let their bodies get so out of
    hand then panic on their next dr. visit because they have one or many
    ailments or risks associated with being overweight. I would hope that
    most reasonable people would look to the disrection of their dr. and not
    a reality t.v. show.

    I guess if you can't get anything good out of it don't watch it. If you
    expect your projects to turn out like Martha Stewarts or Dr. Phils
    advice to help your relationship then you might also be dissapointed.
    If you watch it to be entertained you just might be doing what was

  87. I have just begun a weight loss journey and my main concern is my health and becoming a healthy human. This has to be a long term goal and has just as much to do with maintaining weight loss as the actual loss in the first place. Perhaps the 'real biggest loser' show would be revealing what happens in the long term after the contestants leave the show and are left to deal with the results of their messed up bodies.

    Interesting post, I am glad I found your blog and will definitely be returning :)

  88. I hate Jillian. I think she has a potty mouth and cannot control her anger. It's like she's on steroids. If she ever talked to me the way she talks to the people on Biggest Loser I'd taze her.

  89. hahaha, tazed Jillian...that's funny. My husband and I always kind of giggle when she gets all fired up. We say she's on a 'roid rage.

  90. The training routine is absolutely unsafe, looks like they're looking for entertainment value more.


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