Biggest Loser : more harm than inspiration?

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  • I have been catching up with the four last seasons of The Biggest Loser lately. Even though, I do not like the repetitions and the weigh-ins that go on forever, there is something I like about that show. I love to see the transformations, both physical and psychological. I also love the moments when contestants transcend game play and act altruistically.

    I also realize that this show has set completely unrealistic expectations in my mind regarding to weight loss which could be really detrimental. Lastly, Bob and Gillian in season 14 were petty and too ego-driven in my view. I found Dolvett to be much more inspiring and generous.

    I found this article written by Tom Venuto, a fitness and nutrition expert. (I will let you read the article.)

    Here are his cons. I will let you read the article.
    • The biggest loser is judged on weight loss, not body composition.
    • Rapid weight loss competition encourages physically dangerous practices
    • The Biggest Loser pushes overtraining to the point of high injury risk
    • The Biggest Loser has no relevance to real world situations
    • The Biggest Loser trainers are walking a fine line between tough love and abuse
    • On The Biggest Loser, normal rates of weight loss are penalized and frowned on as failure
    • The Biggest Loser encourages unrealistic weight loss expectations
    • The Biggest Loser does not teach real-world lifestyle strategies
    • The Biggest Loser doesn't focus on lifelong maintenance

    The more I think about it, the lesser I am convinced that overweight viewers get positive reinforcement. What do you think?
  • I completely agree with the above bullet points, but I still like to watch the show because I'm a sucker for any weight loss show. Right now, I'm loving Extreme Weight Loss and for the longest time, I was watching Supersize Vs. Superskinny on youtube (which has some major food binge triggering images for me). I feel terrible admitting it but even if a show has a lot of negative aspects and even though I get tons of info/support on this board, I still feel like I'm the only one who is struggling to lose weight in this world and watching these shows reminds me that I'm not alone.
  • I have just started watching it as it is on evening tv over here in Finland. I have found the show incredibly motivating, just to see the week by week changes. However I completely agree with the points raised and there's no way I would ever want to participate on such a show myself! For me, it's all about showing it is POSSIBLE to lose large amounts of weight, and make that change.
  • I've always felt that when you have these people regularly posting 6, 8, even 12 lbs lost each week, it gives people an unrealistic view of what they can expect. I was a on a very low calorie, medically supervised diet, and exercising and I still only lost 2-3 lbs a week.
  • I think you just need to know that these people are losing weight as a job. They're on super low calorie diets and exercising 6-8 hours a day. It's nothing that a normal person can do.

    I had never watched the show previously but started to right around when I started my latest 'diet'. I felt that it really helped me stay motivated during some rough patches and it was nice to compare some of the percentages as on my highest weeks I matched some of their lower ones. (It is insane to try and compare pounds lost as a lot of these people were double my size to begin with).

    Now that I've gone through all the seasons I started watching the UK show Supersize vs. Superskinny to keep me motivated.
  • I have to say "The Biggest Loser" has been a great motivation for me along with "Extreme Weight Loss" with Chris Powell, especially the last episode with Jami....that episode really hit home with me and I cried all the way through it. I admit, I have a HUGE problem with food and I have hardly any willpower....there is always something getting in the way of my goals and I always wind up falling off the wagon even though I want to be able to fit into smaller clothes etc. Next resort is weight loss supplements which I am hoping will help with the working out, etc.....I go to Weight Watchers every week and I dread going there...even though I follow program the majority of the time and even when I dont cheat (when I work really hard to lose weight) I still gain weight and it totally deflates me
  • That's awful, Missys. Fellow Canadian here. Did you have a full medical check-up(thyroid problem, etc..)?

    It seems that you need more than WW i.e. all the help our universal health care can offer (GP, specialists, nutritionists). It's too frustrating otherwise to work so hard for minimal results.

    I found Jami's episode on youtube and I recall Chris Powell for his help with David Smith which you probably have heard of.
  • Myssys -

    Thank you so much for nudging me in the direction of Extreme Makeover Weightloss edition. I love Chris Powell so much more than Jillian or Bob. You can tell that he speaks from a position of respect and love. I remember that David Smith became his roommate/friend when he was shredding his weight. I can't imagine any of the celebrity trainers being so invested in the well-being of the other.

    I also love that he thought Jami had restricted her calories too much in the first phase and she was over-exercising, so she had no weight loss goals, just fitness goals.

    He is also gradual in his exercises geared towards the out-of-shape or obese. No puking, no abuse, no doctors who have to be on stand-by all the time because people are passing out left and right.

    Good find. Thanks!
  • I turned my nose up at Biggest Loser for years, but got drawn in during the stress of my husbands studying for the bar exam. The rates of weight loss are crazy, but I do think it demonstrates anyone can lose weight (like how anyone can cook from Ratatouille).

    I dislike the reality TV politics, but Season 7 was a breath of fresh air. If you haven't seen season 7, I highly recommend it. Hulu has season 1 and then skips to 6. Once in a great while I might learn something, like why do dead lifts.
  • For my part, if it wasn't for the biggest loser, i probably wouldn't be here right now trying to change my life. It was a huge eye opener for me. The fact that it not only focuses on the physical but also the emotional part made me realize that i didn't " just get fat " but that there was a problem behind it. After a few seasons of hearing the trainers talk to the contestants i started to understand and figure out what my real problem with food was and that is priceless.
    Of course you can't achieve that amount of weight loss at home without medical supervision and non-stop work outs, but even in the show they do focus on the fact that the most important thing is to change your lifestyle. Sure it has its flaws but over all i think it motivates thousands of people.
    To me, it gave me a wake-up call, made me understand what my core problem was and helped me deal with it, gives me motivation, helped me believe that it IS possible and more importantly helped me realize that for a better life, there should be NO excuses.

    So yeah, to me, definite inspiration :P
  • Nice to read you two. Season 7 was good indeed. I would have joined team Tara.

    To me, this is what I take from the show : role models. Not Bob and Jillian. I do not like what they have become.

    Here are my favourite so far. Tara, of course, Danni from season 14, Kim from season 13, the parents generosity and selflessness in season 11.

    I love the hard workers with athletics abilities. I love the contestants who do not rely on strategy and social skills and fear that one slip on the scale will get them eliminated. I love the ones who show grit.
  • I got disgusted with BL and had to stop watching. Too much petty drama, too much whining, too much unrealistic expectations and letdowns, too much stupid competition. And personally I find Jillian revolting. She is at times verbally abusive, she has terrible form and so do her clients. I think some of the exercises they do are just asking for injury. I also think that they way they lose weight, in a bubble in a crazy short period of time, is just asking for failure.

    I love Extreme Makeover Weight Loss! Jami's episode really spoke to me. I also tend to place my self-worth in what I weigh/how I look. I have serious feelings of worthlessness. I am also majorly obsessive. I do the undereat/overexercise thing. I am prone to developing an eating disorder. I have been suicidal in the past. I loved that first of all, he encouraged her to eat more and exercise less. Then when she didn't meet her weight goal and still felt good about herself, he saw that as a victory. I loved that he gave her a fitness goal instead of a weight goal. I actually just started doing this because of that episode. I had my husband stick the scale and measuring tape in the farthest corner of our tallest closet. I can't get it without climbing and potentially hurting myself. If I want to measure/weigh my husband has to get it down and I told him only once per month maximum. Unless I am ordering clothes online and need to measure for that there is no need for it more than once per month.

    I actually just watched the epidode with Ryan, the man with one arm. I don't think I've ever cried so much from a weight loss story. He was so inspiring. I love that Chris seems to really know when to push and when to back off and compromise. Jillian just pushes and pushes, no matter the circumstances. He is kind and yet not a pushover. He is very balanced in his training. And the fact that it is over a year, instead of a few months, and they are in their home environment, helps them to maintain because it is more realistic.
  • I don't watch BL but think success stories are very motivational. If people find that in BL great for them. I find mine here on goal and mini goal. And on the Huffington Post weight loss success stories.
  • Another way I feel the show is inspiring is that people keep going when they have been injured. They find ways to make it work. If I can't run, I walk. If I can't walk, I bike. If I couldn't bike, I'd swim.
  • I wish they would have a Weight Loss Show for us middle aged menopausel women with some disabilities. I was always an athlete and worked out hard and then an accident broke my neck and back. I recovered fairly well and went back to most activities (gave up running) but now in mid 50's, have had neck, & both shoulders done (surgery). Everything has to be so much more hypothyroid. Have a show to SUPPORT those that truly have to take the "turtle" approach, we need encouragement and success stories too! Jillian is hidious, can't stand her attitude, used to like Bob, but not so much anymore.