“The Biggest Loser” Sets Up Unrealistic Expectations

Have you been watching “The Biggest Loser”, the new reality series on TV which features obese men and women trying to lose the most weight the most bodyfat in the fastest period of time? Like you, I watched the show, hoping to find the secrets of weight loss success that may help my clients. What I saw, although interesting and compelling, was horrendous. I really feel now that this show did a huge disservice to all the knowledgeable personal trainers and exercise physiologists who so carefully instruct their clients to lose weight safely and healthily. First and foremost, the amount and intensity of exercise which the participants performed was, bottom line, unsafe and almost unethical. To ask individuals as unfit and at such great risk to exercise at this pace is ridiculous. In the real world- no pun intended- this is grounds for a lawsuit. A 400 pound man sprinting? Hundreds of push-ups, squat thrusts, pull-ups? Major injuries are guaranteed with this type of overtraining. No sane trainer would ever allow their clients to exercise at this level. And, while I applaud the”losers” for their guts and determination,this level of exercise, and the weight loss shown on the show, is impossible for the average person to achieve. Last night, on a follow-up show, they looked at weight lost and bodyfat lost for a second place prize. Note something interesting- many of the participants lost a tremendous amount of SCALE WEIGHT- but not nearly the same ratio of bodyfat! One percent bodyfat is estimated to be about 3-5 pounds of fat. So, if you lose 50 pounds, you should lose a minimum of 10% bodyfat. Yet, this did not hold true for most of the “losers”. The reason? Because, instead of fat, they lost water weight- and worse than that- muscle tissue, the only tissue that maintains metabolism. This means that the exercise was excessive and calorie intake insufficient, resulting in “cannibalization” of muscle. Personally, I want to see these participants in a one year follow-up reunion. While I could tell that some have really made permanent changes, I wonder what will happen to them now that their metabolisms are run into the ground and they go back to a real life of work, less exercise, and normal healthy eating? What do YOU think?