September 18th, 2009

The Biggest Loser Pros And Cons: An In-Depth Objective Review of Television’s Most Popular Reality Show

The Biggest Loser – a reality show which is essentially a race to see who can lose weight the fastest – is one of the most popular in Television history. I’ve known about The Biggest Loser since it debuted in 2005 because people ask me all the time what I think of the program and of course, the burning question: “How do they lose so much weight?”

Until now, I’ve only seen video clips, browsed forum threads and read news about the show. To give informed answers to questions in the future, I finally wanted to see first-hand what this was really all about. So I sat through the entire two-hour 8th season premiere on September 15th.

Despite its worldwide popularity, The Biggest Loser is controversial and responses to the show are highly polarized. Most viewers seem to be either die-hard loyal fans who defend the show tooth and nail or critics who loathe the program to the point of disgust or outrage.

Most fitness professionals and personal trainers dislike the show, mainly due to what they say is inappropriate training program design and extreme (teetering on dangerous) overtraining.

The mixed reviews for the show aren’t surprising because The Biggest Loser clearly has pros and cons. Having finally watched a full episode, it reinforced my previous belief that the cons outweigh the pros. But in any complete and objective review, it’s only fair to show both sides, so here they are:

BIGGEST LOSER PROS

 

 

The Power of Accountability

 

 

Accountability is one of the most powerful motivational forces. The producers of The Biggest Loser have set up the conditions and environment with so much accountability, it’s impossible for contestants not to lose weight. This program uses all four levels of accountability which I have discussed in previous blogs: (1) accountability to self, (2) accountability to a partner, (3) accountability to a group, and (4) accountability to the public.

The Spirit of Competition

The most impressive and dramatic body, health and fitness transformations I’ve ever seen have come as a result of competition. You can count me as one of them. I’ve competed in natural bodybuilding more than two dozen times. Why do I still do it after all these years? Because competition is motivating and competition brings out the best performances.

I’m in shape all year round, but I’ve always hit my best shape – PEAK condition – for competition. An organized event with rewards gives people a goal and helps them get moving and give it their best. Although there are downsides to the way the Biggest Loser competition is judged, a healthy competition is a good thing in my book.

The drive of emotions

The producers of The Biggest Loser have done a meticulous job with contestant selection by finding individuals with touching life stories (as contrived as they may be, to encourage made-for TV drama ranging from romance to backstabbing).

It’s Television, so they need storylines and human interest and there’s no shortage of that here. I’m sure many viewers have to break out the Kleenex – it’s a real tear jerker that pulls at the heart strings.

If this program stirs up some emotions in viewers that stimulate them to get up off the couch and start a health and fitness program, then that’s a good thing. People are not inspired to action with logic, they are driven to action with emotion and only later justify their decisions and actions with logic.

Hope and inspiration

Having inspirational role models moves people from “What’s the use; I’ve tried everything and nothing will ever work for me” to, “If they can do it, I can do it.”

I’m tempted to say that these are not the right role models for the public and I do NOT recommend anyone at home try to duplicate what these contestants are doing. However, I can see the value of extreme role models purely for inspiration.

When a 65 year old runs a 135 mile ultramarathon, it makes a 20 or 30-something runner ask, “What’s stopping me from running a paltry 26.2 miles?” If an amputee sprints around a track on prosthetic legs, it makes sedentary able-bodied people, say, “What’s my excuse?” When a 425 pound person loses half his bodyweight, someone with only 40 pounds of excess fat says, “What’s stopping me?”

Seeing those who have already done it forces you to answer, “Nothing was stopping me but my own excuses and limiting beliefs. Now I see it’s not hopeless… it’s possible!”

The reality of hard work

Unlike most weight loss programs which promise results without effort, The Biggest Loser shows the contestants busting their butts. Arguably the biggest loser goes too far, replete with brutal training montages and plenty of crying, screaming, puking and falling down. That’s television for you.

Fitness for life can be enjoyable and even become part of your fun and recreation time. But to think that spectacular and quick results can be achieved without incredibly hard work is naïve. For above average results, it takes an above average effort. For mind blowing results, it takes a mind blowing effort. With effort and hard work, amazing transformations can happen.

BIGGEST LOSER CONS

 

 

The Biggest Loser is judged on weight loss, not body composition.

There is no doubt that contestants are losing huge amounts of fat – far above the average, which is usually 1-2 pounds per week. Even obese individuals rarely lose more than 3 pounds of pure fat per week consistently in a real world situation.

The results on the show – often 10 pounds a week with 20-25 not uncommon for first and last week – should not be surprising when you calculate the massive caloric deficit achieved from 4-6 hours of daily training and physical activity, combined with low calorie dieting.

What many fans seem to ignore is that weight loss is not the same as fat loss. Body weight includes muscle, bones, internal organs, water, glycogen and don’t forget the contents of the digestive tract. The weight loss on The Biggest Loser is deceiving. Much of the loss is water. Many contestants may be losing muscle and other lean tissue.

The solution would be simple: judge the competition on body composition, not body weight. Body fat testing is admittedly prone to error, but with the big budget of this show, there’s no reason they couldn’t use gold standard testing methods such as hydrostatic weighing or DEXA scans. They used a Bod Pod in the last episode, but the contest wasn’t judged on the results of those tests (it was more like, “look how fat you are!”)

What’s most alarming to me is that because the show is judged on weight loss, not body composition, contestants are penalized for gaining muscle and actually rewarded for losing muscle. Think about that one for a while.

Rapid weight loss competition encourages physically dangerous practices

The network, the trainers and other supporters of the show say they do not promote or endorse drugs or any unhealthy methods of weight loss. Official statements notwithstanding, the inherent nature of the show promotes dangerous behavior.

Listen to what Biggest Loser season one winner Ryan Benson had to say on his myspace blog:

“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. Its basically drinking lemonade made with water, lemon juice, 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! Twenty-four hours before the final weigh-in I stopped putting ANYTHING in my body, liquid or solid, then I started using some old high school wrestling tricks. I wore a rubber suit while jogging on the treadmill, and then spent a lot of time in the steam room. In the final 24 hours I probably dropped 10-13 lbs in just pure water weight. By the time of the final weigh-in I was peeing blood.

Was this healthy? Heck no! My wife wanted to kill me if I didn’t do it to myself first. But I was in a different place, I knew winning the show could put us in a better place financially and I was willing to do some crazy stuff. All this torture I put myself through has had no lasting effects on me (that I know of) and at the time it was sort of a fun adventure for me – but I am sure it reeked havoc on my system.

In the five days after the show was over I gained about 32 lbs. Not from eating, just from getting my system back to normal (mostly re-hydrating myself). So in five days I was back up to 240 – crazy!”

 

 

 

 

It’s unknown whether any Biggest Loser contestants have taken diuretics (they’re not allowed, but then again Major League baseball players aren’t allowed to take roids either). The greater the rewards and monetary incentives, the greater the willingness to cheat. One thing that’s clear is that even non-drug manipulation of water and electrolyte balance is incredibly dangerous. Would you trade $250,000 for a kidney?

The media often sensationalizes anabolic steroids as a big problem in sports and performance enhancement. What’s been underplayed is another drug used (un-medically supervised) by athletes to shed water and make weight classes – diuretics. It’s not the steroids, but the diuretics, combined with extreme dieting, which have resulted in more confirmed deaths, coronary events, kidney problems and emergency room visits.

Benson wasn’t alone. Kai Hibbard (season 3) answered a question about this on her my space blog:

Q: I’m curious on just how much did you all dehydrate yourselves before the BIG WEIGH IN?

A: I dehydrated off 19 pounds in the last two weeks before the BIG weigh in. I stopped eating solid food after eating only protein and asparagus (a diuretic) then I had two colonics and spent the night before the weigh in and out of a sauna. there really was no “diet” the day of the weigh in, we weigh in as dehydrated as possible on empty stomachs after 2 hour workouts in the morning.

 

 

As with Benson, Hibbard’s final week weight came flying back:

“I actually put on about 31 pounds in two weeks. After my body had a chance to stabilize I spent all last year hovering between 159 and 175, I fight everyday to find some stability.”

The Biggest Loser pushes overtraining to the point of high injury risk

On the first season 8 episode, just minutes after getting off the bus, contestants faced the first workout “challenge.” The group of morbidly obese contestants (weighing up to 460 pounds), were instructed to take a 1 mile run down the beach. It was NOT a go at your own pace type of thing, it was a RACE with a prize for the winner.

One of them collapsed just short of the finish line, at first looking dehydrated and fatigued and then progressing into looking seriously ill, incoherent and unconscious. She was flown by medivac chopper to the hospital. The hospitalization was weaved into the drama of the episode, but alarmingly trivialized.

It was not the first time. Contestants from previous seasons have also been admitted to the hospital and one suffered a stress fracture.

Later during the workout, contestants were shown climbing a Jacob’s ladder, pushing sleds, doing intense cardio and calisthenics, lifting weights and performing plyometrics. These did not look like beginner-level workouts and the form on some of the exercises was sloppy enough to make a professional strength and conditioning coach cringe.

Before the show (off camera), the contestants took a stress test to screen out people who might be at risk for a heart attack, and no doubt, they all signed airtight liability releases. There was also a disclaimer on the screen for the viewing audience. But aside from that, there seemed to be a disturbing absence of proper risk warnings in light of the physical tasks they were asked to perform.

There was also no mention that 4-6 hours of training per day for weight loss is gross overtraining, almost certain to bring overuse injuries, and something that no one at home should EVER try to emulate, even if they could.

The Biggest Loser has no relevance to real world situations

The producers of The Biggest Loser have created the perfect environment for success. Contestants have personal trainers, nutritionists, group support, accountability, a national audience, and the biggest carrot imaginable – a prize of $250,000 and a potential platform to launch a motivational speaking or fitness career.

The participants move out of their homes and onto The Biggest Loser “Ranch” where they have no job other than losing weight. There are no kids to worry about, no work, no social obligations, no chores, nothing – just working out and dieting.

This is a totally artificial and controlled environment with no relevance to the average person. In the real world, people who work out 4-6 hours a day for weight loss are not called inspirational and dedicated, they are called obsessive-compulsive or exercise anorexics.

Shouldn’t contestants (and viewers) be taught to exercise in a way that fits into a normal person’s daily life, between work, family and social obligations? Achieving health and fitness as part of total life balance is probably one of the biggest missing pieces in the obesity crisis, yet you won’t find solutions for that challenge on The Biggest Loser.

Rough Cut Clip – Weigh In Distortion from Steve Yu on Vimeo.

[special thanks to Steve Yu, producer of INSPIRED THE MOVIE for the video clip]

The Biggest Loser trainers are walking a fine line between tough love and abuse

I’ve listened to an interview or two with Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels and she was motivating, informative and seemed like a good spokesperson for fitness. That’s why I was shocked by her yelling profanities in the face of the contestants. She was dropping F-bomb after F-bomb.

I believe strongly that a good coach sometimes has to get in a client’s face and be very tough. People are motivated by different styles of leadership and coaching, but in general, most people need to be pushed, not coddled, out of their comfort zones and they will always perform beyond what they believed they could accomplish when they are put under pressure.

Read the biographies of some of the great coaches like Vince Lombardi. Read about the great military leaders like General Patton. You’ll see they were not soft on their players or troops. It was tough love. It was necessary for victory. It was not however, disrespectful, rude, humiliating or unprofessional (when Patton crossed the line, he was reprimanded… watch the movie, it’s a classic).

Then again, this was television and Jillian makes for good TV, I‘ll give you that.

On The Biggest Loser, normal rates of weight loss are penalized and frowned on as failure

One of my first exposures to this show was a video clip of the weigh ins, which I saw a couple years ago. A blue team member lost 20 pounds in one week. Mouths were open, gasps were heard, jaws were hitting the floor, followed by congratulations and applause.

When the other blue teammate stepped on the scale and registered “only” an 8 pound loss, the congratulations quickly faded, heads were shaking, facial expressions turned to contempt and blue team member number two sulked off in shame because it appeared as if she did something horribly wrong and that only one member of the team pulled her weight .

When an 8 pound weight loss is seen as a failure, imagine what viewers at home will think about a perfectly normal 1-2 pound weekly weight loss.

The Biggest Loser encourages unrealistic weight loss expectations

 


Surely any clear-thinking person realizes The Biggest Loser is a contest and at home they are NOT going to drop 25 pounds their first week and 8-10 pounds every week after that. However, more and more people are posting on forums online and asking their trainers why they “only” lost 3-5 pounds their first week or why they can’t lose more than 2 pounds per week.

When people get discouraged with perfectly reasonable weight loss, it makes our job as fitness professionals and health educators much harder. This is a big reason why most trainers hate this show.

Do you know how difficult it is to persuade a Biggest Loser fan that 3 pounds per week is exceptionally good fat loss? A 3 pound weekly weight loss of pure fat is outstanding and above average, but it’s more difficult than ever today to get people to accept slow and steady weight loss as a best practice for healthy, maintainable results.

Is it fair to pin the blame on one reality TV show? Well, not entirely. We can pin blame on a combination of human nature and the approach of the weight loss industry at large, including diet program, pill and supplement advertising, especially those which show “results not typical” (or even phony) before and after pictures. But reality TV courtesy of The Biggest Loser is certainly one of the culprits.

The Biggest Loser teaches you absolutely nothing about setting realistic goals. It actually encourages the opposite.

The Biggest Loser does not teach real-world lifestyle strategies

I haven’t watched enough of the show to assess whether the participants are given any kind of nutrition, exercise and health education that they can take home with them and make a part of their lifestyles for the long term.

Even if the contestants get psychological counseling, fitness education, motivational tools and time with dieticians – off camera or on – the structure of the competition leads me to think it is all for naught.

Participants and viewers are not learning about nutrition and training as a lifestyle, because the inherent nature of the show only teaches them how to crash diet, crash exercise and achieve short-term weight loss.

In particular, where is the emphasis on nutrition? I guess there’s not much time to film nutrition education when 45 minutes of the show is spent on the high drama of the weigh-in and elimination round.

The Biggest Loser doesn’t focus on lifelong maintenance
Weight loss is easy. Whether you lose 1-2 pounds a week or 10 pounds a week, either way, maintenance is going to be the true challenge.

A study from Oxford showed that 80% of weight losers will gain all the weight back within 3-5 years. A report from the National Weight Control Registry suggested that this relapse rate could be as high as 95%.

It’s not a foregone conclusion that you’ll regain weight after a large and or rapid weight loss. Some can keep it off. Most won’t, and if you lose weight rapidly, the odds are against you. Without a plan for maintenance, the odds are close to nil.

Where is the focus in The Biggest Loser on teaching contestants maintenance strategies for keeping the weight off after they get back into the real world?

“The Biggest Loser”: Much worse than a clever name

 


I have one final con; more of a personal pet peeve, really. I despise the name of the show. No one wants to be a loser. Anyone who sets a goal and achieves it is a winner, but in this show, if you win, you’re a loser.

The words “lose” and “loser” should be stricken from your vocabulary. Release, shed, discard, incinerate or burn the fat, but don’t lose it and for your own sake, please don’t call yourself a loser.

“But it’s just semantics, Tom.” Precisely, and the hidden meanings of words, names and labels carry great power. They can shape a person’s identity, affect self-esteem and influence behavior.

Conclusion

As a show so widely broadcast and publicized, which spotlights the worldwide obesity problem and encourages people to do something about it, The Biggest Loser could have been something great. But it falls short in many areas. There are unredeemable flaws weaved into the very fabric of the show.

The trainers and physicians get on their soapboxes and tell the contestants how sick they are. But is this show really about health? Depending on how you approach it, getting skinny doesn’t always mean getting healthy – physically or psychologically.

Not only do the cons outweigh the pros, if you go back and look at my list of positive qualities in the show, you can find every one of them somewhere else in a more healthy context. It’s important to have role models, but this show is no model for physically and emotionally healthy weight loss.

The Biggest Loser is just Television, where the bottom line is ratings and sponsors. If you can, draw some inspiration from the show, but not your education. If you watch, then please recognize this show for what it is – entertainment; show business. Nothing more. nothing less.

Tom Venuto, author of:
Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle & The Body Fat Solution

Founder & CEO,
Burn The Fat Inner Circle


About Tom

Tom Venuto is a fat loss expert, lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, certified personal trainer, freelance writer, and author of the #1 best selling diet e-book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat-Burning Secrets of The World’s Best Bodybuilders & Fitness Models( e-book) and The Body Fat Solution (Hardcover, Avery/Penguin Books). Tom is also the founder and CEO of the Internet’s premier fat loss support community, the: Burn The Fat Inner Circle.


Related Articles:
Listen to Maintainers, Not To Losers
www.burnthefatblog.com/archives/2007/06/listen_to_maintainers_not_losers

Biggest Loser Season 8 Contestant Hospitalized:
http://www.burnthefatblog.com/archives/2009/09/biggest-loser-season-8-contestant-hospitalized.php

The 2 Pounds Per Week Rule And How To Burn Fat Faster
www.burnthefatblog.com/archives/2009/02/the_2_pounds_per_week_rule_and.php

Accountability: The most powerful motivational force
www.burnthefatblog.com/archives/2009/04/the_motivational_force_a_syste.php

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110 Responses to “The Biggest Loser Pros And Cons: An In-Depth Objective Review of Television’s Most Popular Reality Show”

  • Beth Melton

    Hi Tom,Great review. I’m a fan of the show but also agree with everything you have said. I’ve listened to Jillian’s podcasts and I do believe she would agree with you also.So, are you going to watch the rest of the season?Beth

  • Brian Rickerson

    Great review Tom. You really hit the nail on the head with “draw inspiration, not education”.

  • Hey Tom,As someone who spent her most formative years overtraining in the gym, cheerleading, and finally spending almost 7 years trapped in an eating disorder, I applaud your comments.I have been TOTALLY free from weight and compulsive eating issues for 20 years now, and I work out because it feels good, but seeing people applauded for the very kind of behavior that nearly ruined my life makes me cringe.It took studying “naturally lean” people and adopting their realistic, non-obsessive lifestyle to change my thinking and life. Then again, there’s no exciting reality-tv in that!Keep up the great posts.Gina

  • Linda

    I totally agree with your review. I feel the show is sensationalized and not healthy. I don’t know of anyone that could follow this program after the show and the fact that the contestants were dehydrating themselves the night before the final weigh in is very irresponsible. I also disliked the personal trainers. Overall, I think it’s a garbage relaity show that exploits obese people.

  • Jenna

    I really enjoyed your review. I got into TBL last year during the final episodes. As someone with only about 15lbs to lose, I was actually inspired by Jillian Michaels. I find myself on the treadmill saying “Jillian would call me pathetic if I can’t do 30 minutes”.I have also read several interviews in which Jillian herself does not really agree with how the show works. She has often debated not returning, but continues to do so because after all is said and done, so many people start their own weightloss challenges because of the show. And that is worth it to her.

  • Sean

    Good write-up, and I think you’ve gone an excellent job of addressing the pros and cons of the show in a fair way.The only comment I would question is where you ask “Where is the focus in The Biggest Loser on teaching contestants maintenance strategies for keeping the weight off after they get back into the real world?”I actually think they do spend some significant time in this area, with involved instruction on meal selection and preparation, and addressing the various challenges that will face the contestants on their return to the outside world. This typically results in an “outside” challenge where the contestants are taken off the ranch for a week and returned to their families to see how they are able to do on their own, and then again for the finalists when they leave the filming and then return several weeks (I don’t recall how many) later for the finale. I also think it is fair to assume that there is a lot of education that is deemed boring by the producers. This may create some negative traits in the show for the viewers that are not issues for the participants.Also, you make a statement about the studies showing that 80% (and possibly up to 95%) of individuals who lose weight gain it back, and criticize the program for not focusing on long-term maintenance of the loss, however the grounds for this are not clear. You would need to provide statistical data showing that after some period of time, 80% (or 95%) of contestants regained the weight (no benefit of the program), >80% of contestants regained the weight (adverse effect), or

  • Sean, thanks for your post.Look up the National weight control registry, the organization which tracks maintainers. compare the data on what maintainers do to the approach the biggest loser show is taking, and you will see why someone who uses an unsustainable “biggest loser” approach will be more likely to regain the weight.Its not just the education for doing it on your own and preparation of a maintenance strategy that influences the odds of maintenance success, it is the approach used to take off the weight in the first place. Rapid weight loss and quick fix approaches correlate very highlywith relapse and weight regain.By all rights, former contestants on the show could have higher chances of maintenance success if they put themselves in a position of continued accountability such as speaking, public appearances and so on, but I d be surprised if that were the case. Id bet that the most of the ones who slip out of the public eye back into private life will relapse.Someone posted a link in the last blog post to a “where are they now” article, but it followed up on only about half the winners and not the whole pack of contestants.I would love to know how ALL the former contestants are doing and what the relapse rate is. Regardless of whether its better or worse than average, the approach doesnt favor long term maintenance and I saw no indication that a maintenance plan was in place. Im not even sure if the contestants have any idea just how much their energy needs and metabolism have changed after a massive weight loss.cheerstom

  • randi

    “I agree with everything you said, despite the fact that I am still a fan of the show. However, I’ve always seen it as a contest and not translateable into real life. It inspires me to keep at my own fitness journey, but I refrain from making unrealistic expectations of myself because of what’s on the television. I can see how others, who haven’t studied health and fitness thoroughly might make those kind of errors in thinking from watching the show though!”

  • Marylin Sanchez

    Thanks for the great review Tom! I absolutely loved that you wrote down the pros and cons. I agree with you wholeheartedly.No matter how much good TV that show maybe for ratings and getting you in front of the boob tube, I still see it as dangerous and irresponsible. Then again, no one is holding the proverbial gun to the contestant’s head. In today’s world, it’s so easy to get information so if the person doesn’t attempt to get information before embarking on such a program, then so be it, it’s their own fault and problem! Hopefully though, most people know better.

  • Amazing post! Thank you so much for putting it up! As someone who has dropped over 100 lbs through lifestyle change (which took a while), I cringe every time my friends ask me how they can drop 5 lbs in a week. And when I tell them that they cannot do so without damaging their health, “Biggest Loser” card is pulled! What does that show have anything to do with real life? NOTHING!

  • Joel from Pennsylvania

    Great review, Tom. I am a part-time trainer at the local gym. I’ve used your method on myself when I was fat a few years ago. I use your methods now on my clients who are fat.I watched the show for the first time. I was shaking my head for the same exact reasons you have outlined.

  • KevinD

    Thanks for this article! I have only seen the show a couple of times, but I agree with you on all points…it’s very unhealthy and it feeds into peoples’ “instant gratification” issues, which are developing into a much bigger problem in society, every day. People who want to lose weight want it gone RIGHT NOW…they don’t want to hear 2-3 pounds a week and they definitely don’t want to hear “permanent lifestyle changes.” Unfortunately, those are the only way to really make it stick…you have to change your entire mindset and relationship with food and exercise!

  • Kevin

    “Great, and I mean GREAT article! I have clients who are big fans of this show and even at times they say their happy when they lose a pound or two a certain week their expressions reflect disappointment that it’s not much more than that.”

  • Steven Mincheff

    Hi Tom,Thanks for the pro insight!!You know, as I read how the contestants ate and trained before the big weigh in, I was amazed.Now that I’ve been thinking about it for a bit, if these people had tapped some of that willpower and massive drive, they wouldn’t be in that situation to begin with.Do you think there are some “plants” among the contestants??

  • LG

    I watched this show once and never again after that. I find it demeaning and sensationalized to gain a viewing audience. It trivializes people’s plight and puts them in untenable situations; weight loss and maintinance is a journey, not a destination.Thanks for a very fine review. Too bad no one involved with the show is listening to you.

  • Regina

    I’m a BL fan and I have been since the beginning BUT I agree with you 100% Tom. Fortunately, because I’ve been a health/fitness buff for years, I know what is right and what is wrong…but there are many people out there that do not. That is where I think that the show really does people at home a disservice.

  • Steven Mincheff wrote:“Now that I’ve been thinking about it for a bit, if these people had tapped some of that willpower and massive drive, they wouldn’t be in that situation to begin with.Do you think there are some “plants” among the contestants??”I don’t know about “plants” but I did have another con in my list that I didnt include in my final draft– i figured that many ofthe starting weights were elevated and thus producing much more dramatic first week weight losses based on false starting weights… ie, sodium-bloated, waterlogged, huge pre-weigh in binge meals/days… the opposite of of the finale weigh in

    • Rose

      Some contestants have admitted as much. Once they’re chosen and weighed in, they have a lag time of a few weeks before they report to the ranch (at least that’s been the case for most seasons). Some of them begin intensive dieting and exercising so the first weigh in on the ranch will show a huge drop from that pre-ranch number.

  • Nice Tom. Exactly the right analysis. I will be incorporating these points into conversations with my kids (who love the show).

  • Excellent article. I think the show is entertaining but you hit the head on the nail when you said it is not indicative of real life weight management. Everything is so exagerated on the show that it messes up one’s sense of reality.

  • Mike G

    Tom,Totally agree!

  • Kara

    Dear Tom – I completely agree with your assessment that these contestants on Biggest Loser are verbally and physically assaulted. I was particularly dissappointed when Jillian Michaels screamed at the female contestant who had left the exercise room tho go aoutside and regroup. When she returned on her own, Jillian should have just started where they left off, without the tirade. I often get down on myself for not losing 5 lbs in a week, which created the situation of gaining/losing the same 10-15 lbs for the last 15 years of my life. Thanks for the blog post, will regroup -again-Sunday and see if I can make a positive change.

  • Keven

    I have watched The Biggest Loser for the past few seasons mainly because my girlfriend loves the show. :) I believe there is substantial nutrtional and lifestyle education that happens, though you have to watch it a lot to see the brief glimpses. They have recipe books out that are pretty good and most of the recipes have come from the contestants themselves. The recipes would be in the ballpark of what Tom recommends nutritionally and dietarily. They also do some form of counseling but I’m not sure how extensive that is.One other “pro” I would add would be that the show demonstrates that you can fall off the bandwagon and get back on. As mentioned, there are episodes where contenstants go on prize vacations/excursions while still on the show. They often do some unwise eating and find out how easy all their hard work is undone. They have to start working again and I think it is a valuable lesson for the contestants.I do wish they’d focus more on the hard work aspect and the insane amounts of exercise they do and the fact that this *is* their full-time job.I can’t agree more that a test of body composition would be far, far superior and probably much harder to game since water weight is “lean” weight.Overall, I wouldn’t watch the show myself but my GF likes it and it is mildly entertaining. I wish she would use the BFFM program because she is about 60lbs overweight! Which brings up the final irony: she likes to eat buttery popcorn while watching the show!

  • I’m a personal trainer that happens to be a fan of the biggest loser. I do agree with most of what you say though, Tom. The ugly reality though is that if the show tried to live up to the ideals of what it could be, it probably would have been cancelled already for low ratings. For a show to last on a major network it has to pull huge ratings and continue to change and push the envelope more. The show does that and continues to survive. I blame the producers, not the trainers, or other professionals on the show. You do have to give credit where it is due though, most of the contestants not only lose a lot of weight and body fat, but also get off many prescription medications, and improve many of their other health indicators as well.Enjoy it for inspiration and entertainment.

  • Well written article as usual, Tom!I like the Times Magazine idea for “The Biggest Maintainer” show – THAT would be interesting.

  • Deb

    Tom, I love you. Thanks for saying what needed to be said. I don’t watch any reality tv at all, and this is why.

  • Tarron Coalson

    Tom,While I found the majority of your article to be right on target, I somewhat disagree with what you call a normal weight loss. While realizing that for most “size normal” folks, a 1-2 pound per week loss is outstanding and the safest way to lose weight.However, when you’re very obese as I am, and most of the others on this show, I don’t think it’s strange to have such large numbers. As a 489 lb. individual, I just started changing my eating habits (2000 cals) and doing cardio (30-45 min a day, 5 times a week) & dropped 17 lbs. the first week.I can tell you that it definitely seems as if the language on the show gets worse every season & I wish that would change. I also thought that the contestants doing a race on the first day, especially against someone who had been a previous contestant & had been training for 12+ weeks was a little unfair, but I also get that they want them to see where they started verses where they finish.I like the show & I’ve gotten a lot of good info from it. Does it have negatives?? Sure, but I think overall it’s motivated a lot of people to attempt to change their lives.

  • Lisa

    Tom, Thank you and I just love your philosophy…I am a fan of the show, I am also an online member of their website. The website is different from the show, It has a much healthier approach to weight loss. I draw my inspiration from the show in the ways you said, but I know that it is TV and the bottom lines are very clear. I am recovering from a major surgery and will be unable to exercise like I want, but when I am back to 100%, you can be sure that it is your program I will be following, as my desire is to be Healthy and fit and not just SKINNY and some vanity size… I desire to be an athlete.. Thanks for all you do, you are awesome!!

  • Galina

    “Plants”??? Common ladies and gentlemen! 450 lb “plants”? OK, even if they drop 20lb of weight they gained on purpose in one week , the overall start weight is horrific. If there was no financial prize, no one would participate in a show like that. But then again, what people would not do for being on TV. Pure exploitation.

  • Tarron Coalson wrote:“While I found the majority of your article to be right on target, I somewhat disagree with what you call a normal weight loss. While realizing that for most “size normal” folks, a 1-2 pound per week loss is outstanding and the safest way to lose weight. However, when you’re very obese as I am, and most of the others on this show, I don’t think it’s strange to have such large numbers. As a 489 lb. individual, I just started changing my eating habits (2000 cals) and doing cardio (30-45 min a day, 5 times a week) & dropped 17 lbs. the first week.”Youre 100% correct that obese individuals can and will (safely) lose more weight. The current recommendation you will see in my book and recent articles is not “2 lbs per week” across the board for everyone, its 1-2 lbs per week or up to 1% of total bodyweight. That would mean 4.5 to 5.0 lbs per week of weight loss would be perfectly normal for someone weighing 489 lbs.First week weight loss is never indicative of ongoing weight loss, once that initial water and glycogen weight loss occurs. If you lost more than 4-5 lbs a week each subsequent week, then id want to see your body composition results. If you lost 10 lbs each subsequent week and body comp tests showed that you lost 5 lbs a of fat and 5 lbs of muscle tissue, wouldnt it have been better to just lose the 5 lbs of fat?Overweight have faster, not slower metabolisms, ie MUCH higher calorie expenditures to support the larger body and cost of movement, therefore overweight people can create MUCH larger caloric deficits, even with caloric restriction alone.example: a man 5′ 9″ tall weighing 489 lbs will have a basal metabolic rate of about 3800 calories!! maintenance level will be about 5800 calories a day, at least theoretically, according to standard calorie forumulas such as katch mcardles or harris benedicts. If you cut calories to 2000, then on paper you have a 3800 calorie deficit, which would produce more than a pound of fat loss a day! Granted, I dont think I trust the theoretical calculations, but even if your total daily calorie expenditure is “only” 4000 a day, thats STILL a daily deficit of 2000 calories per day if youre only eating 2000 a day, for a weekly weight loss of 4 lbs per week – darn close to my 1% a week figure.Now lets plug ME into the formula. At the moment Im about 185 lbs. I need to be 176 to make middleweights for my next bodybuilding competition, so yes i DO need to lose weight. at my weight, my BMR is only 1800 a day. My calorie expenditure, being very active is about 3200 calories a day at the moment. If I follow your diet of 2000 calories, I only get a 1200 calorie per day deficit for an (on paper) weekly weight loss of 2.4 lbs per week. Because Im concerned with muscle retention, I generally do a more conservative deficit and cut on about 2500 calories a day, with a high calorie day at maintenance ever 4th day — voila, that gives me about 1 to 1.5 lbs of fat loss per week.Indeed, there are VERY big differences in fat loss and weight loss for already lean and overweight indidivuals and weekly weight loss recommendations should be customizedOne last note, as you get leaner and lighter your weight loss will slow down for a variety of reasons; If a person continues to expect rapid rates of weight loss after dropping from 480 lbs to 400 to 300 to 250, they will end up getting disappointed and discouraged.Id be pleased to hear about your continued success… drop me an email in a few months.cheers!

  • Evelyn

    Hi,Just a quick note….1 week in the house is between 10-21 days so really the “dramatic” weight loss is not that dramatic. I got this info from a freind who talked to a former contestant. They don’t really know when their weigh-in day is so to dyhydrate themselves days before the weigh is in counter-productive.The networks want to make it seem more intense than it really is but they are there around 6 months, a far cry from the 8 weeks or so that they lead us to believe.

  • KM

    Once again, this is an excellent article and I loved reading it. Is it fair to say we’d all been wondering about these methods to create stunning change? And while stunning, it’s not lasting or maintainable, or duplicable. Thanks for giving us the complete information, Tom. While lifestyle change takes longer it’s a beautiful, lasting result that I’m thrilled with! And excited about!

  • Poli

    Hi, Tom,I haven’t seen the show (not yet on the TV in Europe, sure it’ll be addopted soon). I have only read about the conditions and at that time I thought that it was another media pitfall.I appreciate very much your sound analysis. Thank you for promoting common sense guidance for how to change body composition and achieve a healthy style of life.

  • Susan

    I feel like someone is going to die while taping that show before the network pulls the plug on them…. Jillian’s tactics pure training sacrilege!

  • Tammy McDermott

    Mr.Venuto:Excellent comments! You definitely hit the nail on the head. I didn’t see it before, but I definitely see it now. Unrealistic and unhealthy weight loss.I watch the show myself faithfully. The show definitely has contestants on there that pull on your “heart strings” and yes, I found myself saying “If they can do it, then so can I.” And I found that to be motivating. I don’t have to lose anywhere near as much as they do, and I do know that 1-2 pounds a week in weight loss is healthy & proper, but in spite of my knowledge and in comparison, my victories each week eventually became nothing to celebrate.Thanks for the wake-up! I have BFFM, I love it and I love your posts! Thanks for keeping it real!

  • Erica

    Respectfully, watching one episode is not necessarily enough to do an in-depth review. I have watched every season, so for good or ill, I know the show well…The first season, they DID look at percentage of fat / muscle rather than just weight loss. I believe they gave this up for two reasons:- it was complicated, and- the order rarely changedIf you were the most muscular person one week, that tends not to vary. The same guy kept winning. But with weight loss, the results can fluctuate a lot, adding the necessary suspense. (I’m not saying this was the right choice.)They spend a fair bit of time on nutrition. Contestants are expected (and challenged) to correctly guess the number of calories in various dishes. Usually at least one episode centers around them preparing healthy meals and getting tips from chefs. Bob and Jillian are in the kitchen with them a lot showing them what to do. And they always tell the contestants that they MUST keep eating to fuel the exercise, not starve themselves. There is always one contestant who tries this, and the trainers complain that it doesn’t work. So I honestly don’t think the show can be said to promote crash dieting.Jillian’s cursing has gotten worse, undoubtedly fueled by ratings. She does, however, focus on the psychological causes of each person’s overeating.I am disturbed by the time compression aspect, which I have heard about before. They should be up front about it — it would not hurt the show’s drama, and make it more realistic.As many have pointed out, the cookbooks and exercise manuals spun off from the show are pretty good.For myself, now that I bike 100+ miles a week, weight has not been an issue for several years. I usually get hungry during the show and eat junk food…I had to laugh when the trainers said these obese people “are you [the audience]“. No, they aren’t, but I feel richer for having known them and find their transformations inspiring.

    • Rose

      And as long as they’re calculating muscle mass in the equation, a woman doesn’t stand a chance against the larger male contestants.

  • Karen

    I have not watched the show but once since it has been on tv. I feel that if personal trainers really wanted to help people lose weight, they would offer more. They offer all of these books to buy and that’s it. Buy this book….you will lose weight if you follow this book…here is a meal plan to follow….Come on guys….not everyone eats the same way…not everyone can go to a gym…where has humanity went???Oh god, the mighty dollar….no one wants to help people…Watch people lose weight while you sit for 2 hours….not my idea of helping people….how about a tv show that shows you how to do these exercises like it use to be….alternate the show with meal plans…talk to people…I would much rather lose weight the healthy way…I work 6 days a week and would love to work out with my daughters every evening or have them help me prepare a meal that we can all enjoy….How many people like fish or seafood?…Not alot….I love to exercise…I feel better about myself when I do…Help the obese children in the United States…

  • Tom,As always you did a great job on this post.I am a long time personal trainer. As a fitness professional this show definitely make my job tougher.While the show is very entertaining…I have watched it several times, it is absolutely not even close to realistic, NOT EVEN CLOSE!In my online weight loss program and my work in the gym I have to dedicate much of my time to setting realistic expectations and teaching why 1-2 pounds of fat loss per week is a great achievement.So for me the “cons” far “outweigh” the “pros”.Not to mention the fact that I would get fired from the gym if I treated my clients that way.Jason Chiero, CPT

  • Ronda

    Tom, thanks so much for the great review. I am a fan of the show, but I know that the results are definitly not typical. I use it for motivation knowing I could like like any one of the contestants if I let myself go and give up on any idea of healthy living. I know if a 350 pound person can summon any strenth at all to get out and move wether it be walking, running, or whatever, it takes away every excuse I give myself for not doing those things.I downloaded your book ‘Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle’ and have read it many times. It has helped me tremendously over the years. I really appreciate your ‘common sense’ about weight loss. Thanks again, and keep up the good work in educating people like me about the ‘Right Way to be a Winner’.

  • James Murphy

    Tom,Great review and truly a fair assessment of this show. My biggest personal concern about the show are the distorted illusions that this show creates (or it might be more appropriate to say delusions)At a time when people are so in need of real world fat loss and fitness solutions, it is nice to know that you are standing up for the truth. I have been using BFFM techniques now for over 10 months and although my transformation has been slow, relative to extreme methodologies, it is real and it will be lasting. I will take that slower lifestyle transformation over being a “biggest loser”, any day.Thanks again for a wonderful article.James

  • David Olson

    You say that many are losing muscle mas on this show. If you had watched it more, you would have sen that they actually gain muscle mass on the show. Typically the doctor visits halfway through the season to inform them that they have gained an average of 10 to 20 pounds of muscle.

  • AMAZING …. HOW true this is … I Can’t belive it ……..thanks ……

  • David Olson wrote“You say that many are losing muscle mas on this show. If you had watched it more, you would have sen that they actually gain muscle mass on the show. Typically the doctor visits halfway through the season to inform them that they have gained an average of 10 to 20 pounds of muscle.”it IS possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, under certain conditions. Excluding the possibility of steroids and muscle building drugs which is not likely here, whats most likely is the “newbie gains” (beginners muscle gain) effect.In addition, when someone is very overweight and they begin training, even bodyweight training/calisthenics, etc, that makes for added resistance which a lighter person does not have to move around. That could stimulate muscle in a way that a lean person could not achieve. Many overweight folks, after losing weight, reveal a set of calves that would make a world class bodybuilder jealous.Some contestants I have seen finish looking impressively muscular – the germanakos brothers arms come to mind – I have to say I certainly noticed and was duly impressed when Bill and JIm hit the double biceps!Nevertheless, I would not believe that there is an average of 10-20 lbs of muscle gain per contestant without seeing the ACTUAL DATA from a hydrostatic or DEXA scan machine posted for each contestant throughout the show.How did this doctor who said they gained musle measure it? If it was impedance analysis (BIA) that is suspect and even the bod pod is not fully validated in all populations yet.Let me repeat what I said in my post: If they gain muscular bodyweight, they are penalized, if the lose muscular bodyweight, they are rewarded.Lets call for the producers to judge the show on body composition or at least post the body composition results every week. I doubt they ever will because they lose the drama (weigh ins, large drops in weight, etc) and the results probably wont be pretty, with contestants losing lean body mass.Well formed goals revolve around DECREASING BODY FAT and INCREASING or MAINTAINING LEAN BODY MASS. This must be part of the education process, but this message is not being emphasized on the biggest loser. Instead, the message is lose as much weight as you can, as fast as you can, at all costs.weight loss and fat loss are NOT the same!

  • Tom,Great post. I lie somewhere in the middle just because I think everyone deserves to have a healthy body but need help to achieve it. The methods used on the show should be taken with a grain of salt. We don’t see everything so to base your program entirely off of what you see during the program would be dangerous to say the least.Mike

  • chris

    “Amazing article Tom, should be mandatory reading for anyone who watches that show.”

  • susan

    “That show’s training/nutrition sacrilege tactics are going to kill someone someday, only then will people stop and learn the truth…. excellent post…. Jillian and Bob make my stomach turn, they abandon their knowledge and beliefs for a big fat paycheck.”

  • You shed a lot of light on this. I am 5’2 and weigh 255 lbs. I have been trying to kick up my motivation so I can stick to an exercise program, but I always look my motivation and revert back to my old eating and non-existent exercise habits. This is due in part of watching the Biggest Loser. I always start out carte blanche with the exercise program. I over-train and get more fatigued. I am telling myself that I am not working out hard enough and that I should be losing more than 2-3 pounds per week. It never occurred to me that losing 2-3 pounds per week is good and that if I can only do 10 minutes on my treadmill, then that is ok too. One week it can be 10 and the next week it can be 20. Your article has helped me to realize that my goals were unrealistic and that I really need to pace myself so that I will set myself up for failure. Thanks again. You Rock!!!!

  • Tom, great article.Susan who posted above me, excellent statement. I have thought for quite a while that they are going to kill somebody. I made a blog post about the girl who broke her hip last year. Interesting that Jillian kept pushing her through the pain, until an x-ray showed a fractured hip.I hate the show and watch only to share with clients about potentially hazardous environments these people lose weight in.

  • vincent martin

    i am a soon to be 45 year-old totally blind, retired US A paralympian. I have compteed in the Pentathlon (five track events in one day at 5 percent bodyfat and 190 lbs and as a 225 lb record setting discus thrower at 17 percent bodyfat. I am currently sitting at 207 lbs and 12 percent bodyfat. I have used similar Burn the fat principles all during my athletic and retired career to remain fit and lean. I intend to graduate from college fro the third time again next year (twenty years after I did it the first time) and do it at the same weight or five pounds lighter. All of my current fitness regime does everything opposite of how they do it on the biggest loser. I maintain a calorie deficit, but only am losing half a pound to one pound a week. I will plateau at 8 percent bodyfat and then go back into maintenance moe. I have had to lose two pounds of muscle while losing twenty pounds of bodyfat the past two years though. Keep up the great work Tom.

  • cheryl mcewan

    You’re right of course, Tom – but the show isn’t about health and fitness – it’s about entertainment.I love the show, but purely for mindless entertainment. I like to watch the fat people get thinner and fitter and more confident. However, I hate the massive prize money and think it encourages the back-stabbing and game playing that goes on. I wish they’d lower the prize money and kick out the one with the lowest weight loss each week.Btw, they had this in the UK and prize money was way smaller than the USA and Australia versions. One of the guys that won became a personal trainer, not bad for a former 300lb slob!

  • scott davis

    The Biggest Loser is absolute drivel! Nothing more then low-brow entertainment sensationalized for ratings. I’ve seen it twice, and lamented having wasted that time.I’ve got a “novel” solution to everybody’s fat loss woes. EAT LESS, EXERCISE MORE. Oh my god, did I just say that? How escoteric is that?Instead of watching the show, gasp, go for a walk, or, heaven forbid, do something productive, instead of watching this vacuous show.

  • Tom,I am a big fan of yours and former contestant of the show. I will work on a post that gives background details of the show and post the link for your review (there goes my evening – thanks Tom :-) But here are a couple of things about this particular post.Pros:Your Pros – I admire the pros you hit upon as I refer to them myself when I teach classes as the things that caused me to change my life. If more Health and Wellness programs and professionals included ALL of these components in their programs then greater success would occur in these programs. Notice I said ALL not some as most programs have.Your Marketing – This is a traffic driving piece at its core and you are a marketer extraordinaire so I commend you on writing it and the traffic it will generate.ConsWhile normally you do a splendid job in your various analyses this one was a rather poor and far from complete. While I understand its purpose the real mistake is that you come at the show from a teaching and education angle. That’s understood because you are a teacher. Yet you review the show from an education angle when you yourself conclude your post by saying the show is not an education show. If it was an education show it would be at 1am on PBS. It is a motivational show designed to draw ratings as you yourself state.But since you analyzed the show from an education perspective I must say that you simply did not do enough homework and that is why it is far from complete or objective. You reveal your lack of prep work in your responses to certain comments where you even refute your own ‘cons’: Example here –it IS possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, under certain conditions. Tom, there are way too many if’s and may be’s in your analysis. ‘If the contestants get this at all’, ‘If they gain muscular bodyweight’, ‘Many contestants may be losing muscle’ if this and that. This indicates you don’t really know what happens on the ‘ranch’ and this really just becomes a speculative opinion piece.You don’t know what type of body fat measurements are taken yet you go in depth critiquing what may be in them (We have had them ALL by the way, bod pod, bio impedance, hydro static etc. The DEXA – now iDEXA II – scanner was redesigned in part because we contestants could not even fit in the original).The poorest statement of all was the same remark that I once saw echoed from a PHD Dietitian who claimed that all we contestants lose is water weight. Here is your similar statement ‘The weight loss on The Biggest Loser is deceiving. Much of the loss is water.’ It was really rather discouraging to see you write this when you that know losing more than 15% of the water in your body is typically fatal. Bill and Jim who you admired lost 50% of their body weight apiece. They should be dead as we all should be.Also should I judge the hard work you and your fellow body builders do on a year round basis based on what you all do with diuretics the week or weekend prior to a show? By the same measure you judge you should be judging this part of the competition also and maybe even explaining it to your audience as a normal part of what happens in the completion phase.Lastly you missed a Pro. Or rather you phrased it as a Con. The results on the show should cause everyone in the industry to ‘sharpen their saw.’ How can Hollywood producers get such gains (or losses) while the average health and wellness pro can’t explain scientifically (ie not anecdotally), why our type of losses are not ‘realistic’.I believe that it is because the average health and wellness pro is a poor educator and has a disdain for the show because they themselves are very poorly versed on weight loss or profit from this segment of the population and cannot afford for their lively hood to be threatened (I exclude you from these groups).I explain how to achieve BL type results in my class during the goals portion of the class and then let people decide if they can do it. I have never met a trainer who could come close to doing that. Why? No Professional with a diverse enough knowledge of the subject has ever approached me or the more knowledgeable contestants about how it’s really done.I recent spoke with a Dietician who explained that at a recent national conference the presenter categorically stated that 1 – Every Loser gains the weight back and 2 – Weight loss by the general population is not sustainable long term. This has to be from a bias against the show – Why else would academics do ZERO solid research into the show? There is a famous (or infamous if you’re from the NFL) Doctor behind the scenes of the show who has written a book on the show.In conclusion, here is something to think about and a challenge. The Biggest Loser is seen in over 90 countries and produced locally in over 30. It has been called the most watched television show on earth. In my opinion it will do more for (or to) health and wellness globally than the fitness revolution of the late 60’s and 70’s.So here is the challenge to you and every other health and fitness professional: Learn what actually happens on the show and then objectively and scientifically explain why our type of losses are not realistic. At least then you can try to refute what people actually see with their own eyes.In fairness – and to mimic you – I say that for anyone who reads this article, look at it for what it is, not a true complete and objective review piece but a great post to drive traffic by a great marketer.Still love your work,Pete Thomas

  • katzz1

    hi tom… wow. your review is an eye opener. i have been a TBL fan since its inception…. i did not know about the dehydration techniques and such that the contestants were doing.. i have lost 27.4 pounds so far 0on a great program.. i am learning about nutrition, and behavior modification, eating better foods and such. my weight loss is about 2 pounds a week. some weeks its only .2 or .4 pounds. the thing is i know i am succeding.. thanks for all you do.

  • Pete thank you for your detailed reply! (and congrats on the mind-blowing weight loss!)you wrote“here is the challenge to you and every other health and fitness professional: Learn what actually happens on the show and then objectively and scientifically explain why our type of losses are not realistic. “Awesome! Perhaps we should get together for an interview if you are game, to discuss these pros and cons. I think it would be awesome to hear from a successful contestant to hear about what really goes on at the ranch.Just to quickly address a few of your comments1. My review was absolutely NOT written for “traffic generation” or marketing purposes – if that was my intention I would have sent out a press release to PR web, etc, etc. It was a needed response to countless emails and forum questions I get about the show, it was the most objective, balanced, fair, honest write up I could give having only seen one two-hour episode and following short news and video clips over the last few years. As you may have noticed, many of our colleagues in the fitness training industry wont give the pros, only the cons. I gave both, as best as i could.2. I certainly could have done more homework – I have only watched one full episode3. All statements about body composition are speculative as I dont have body composition data on contestants4. Very large first week weight loss IS usually largely water and there are lots of examples of this in the scientific literature. My statment about water loss was referring primarily to initial large weight losses and finale weight losses, which have been admittedly from other contestants, dehydration induced… also there is a big difference between losing 50% of your bodyweight over 9 months and losing a large percentage of your bodyweight over night. This again is why we should educate readers and viewers about body composition and not just body weight5. I have NEVER EVER taken diuretics, steroids or any other illegal or banned substances. Bodybuilders have died from taking diuretics such as lasix for example, and that is exactly one of the reasons I will have no part in drug use or extreme measures the week or day before a competition. I compete NATURALLY and promote drug free fitness and bodybuilding. I have no explaining to do about extreme competition prep techniques because I do not use them!6. I maintain strongly that biggest loser type losses are absolutely NOT realistic for the average person at home. However, I by no means have said they are not possible or cannot be explained scientifically. In fact, if you kept dietary records and used a body bugg, I bet the math of calories in versus calories out would explain the massive weight loss to a T. But the average person cannot achieve that kind of calorie deficit that gets created from hours and hours of training per day.7. Youre 100% correct that some dieticians and fitness/health professionals are too academic and conservative to recommend losses greater than 2 lbs per week. However as I said in response to a post above, obese people can certainly lose more than an already lean person — 1% per week is a perfectly reasonable goal even for ordinary folks at home (ie, 3.5 lbs per week for someone at 350 lbs). See more about rapid fat loss and losses over 2 pounds per week in my previous post on fast weight loss: http://bit.ly/gitVt8. I agree there is a depressing pessimism among some academics and researchers who state that “every loser gains the weight back.” As i stated above, NOT all of big losers regain. Rapid and massive weight loss correlates with higher relapse rates but does not CAUSE relapse. The statistics still stand at 80-95% relapse for ALL weight loss, regardless of the methods used, which is somewhat depressing, but it doesnt have to be that way. Having a maintennce plan, understanding how energy needs change after weight loss, and continuing with accountability can all help tip the odds in your favor. Looks like youre a prime example, and kudos for thatThanks again for “weighing in” and if you want to disucss further – both sides, pro and con – you know where to find me!cheerstom

  • Ana Estevez

    Pete: I would love if you took Tom’s offer about the interview. It would be very interesting to know better about the show and congratulations in that incredible change!!!Tom: I love your work, and I definitely love this discussion, it opens the mind even more. Great posts.Love,Ana

  • Tom,I would love to talk more – My email address is Pete @ WinningMan.comThanks for the comments back and the discussion. I left out tons of facts about how the show works primarily because I am a dreadfully slow typist. I would love to connect if for nothing more than to educate pros everywhere on how B.L. results are achieved so they can then properly explain to their clients how it works.It is disappointing to me for any fitness pro to dislike the show so much when it influences the obese so highly. To me a perfect combination would be to encourage obese clients to watch the show and then spend time educating the client on how it is done. THEN the client can decide if they are willing to put in the effort but use the show as motivational entertainment. To quote you, “For mind blowing results, it takes a mind blowing effort.”So I suggest a serious discussion where we can really challenge some of the conventional wisdom out ‘there’ today. Such as whenever I read about a pro who says they would never have someone who is 300 or 400 lbs doing this or that. Let’s really discuss this type of illogical thinking. IMHO the logical thought process would be ‘under what circumstances could I get a 400 lb client to do this or that’. Mentally reverse engineer the show instead of casting aspersions and you can probably figure out why certain things are done.This is a response I gave to one trainer as we discussed the show1200 hours of footage is cut down to 2 hours and you can ‘maybe’ see 5 minutes of a trainers entire workout routine. I have never seen them even show an entire routine from one of the trainers programs. And rightly so as it is a motivational show not an exercise video. The star is the scale.Now to be honest there are some crazy things done on the ranch but they are done purely to prove to the contestants that they can do almost anything physically. After all the ranch experience will only last 2 months on average and much less for most, and in that time you have to convince the contestant that physically, almost is possible – That’s why you will see a 400 lb person running at a speed of 7 mph for 5 minutes this past season. Not for the immediate physical/fat loss benefit but for the mental benefit to convince the person to continue the program after they have left the ranch. What excuses do you have at-home when you have done something like that even once on the ranch?Unfortunately, some of us contestants get a ‘superman complex’ and after the show we don’t acknowledge that we have a ‘condition’ called obesity that needs follow up attention to the details of our diet and continued exercise, but I digress.Things have gotten more intense since I left but I was never asked to run a full mile while I was on the show. Ever. No need. As you know there are so many other ways to raise the heart rate without the impact on the joints.So Tom I would love to talk about some of the facts and myths about the show such as the caloric intake (mine was 1600 – 1800 while on the ranch and 2000 at home) number of hours working out – 4 hrs per day for me but more in recent seasons without better results. I blame the bodybugg for placing an inordinate focus on calories burned instead of intensity which was our marker in Season 2, injuries, or a lack thereof and why, the types of workouts that were the most important, how and why we did HIIT almost daily etc.And we have to be careful of using terminology such as normal and average since this group (us Losers) are far from either weight wise :-) Lastly, when I left the show I asked three trusted people from the show about what was necessary to keep the weight off. I wanted to know how to fish, not just be given a fish. Your name along with a couple of others was given to me and I have you all in my google reader (I have commented on your blog before). I went on to learn about nutrition, observational and meta-analysis studies as well as walking things out on my own. This has allowed me to keep the weight off – as verified by an iDEXA II body fat scan every so often ;-) Hope to talk to you soon,Pete Thomas

  • Jacques Therrien

    Hey Tom,Thanks! You’re right on the nose as usual. I did watch some episodes of one of the seasons but stopped for many of the reasons you list.My fat loss has been slow and gradual with virtualy no weight loss but I am losing fat whch means I am also gaining muscle!It is very gradual however and shows like this are actually discouraging.Keep up the great work!

  • Pete, I’ll look forward to chatting with you.Stay tuned everyone… more to come!tom v.

  • michael vallely

    Tom, you hit it spot on with your post. It would be great if people looked at the show as a motivational tool only. I have been working out and eating healthly, following your guidelines and weight watchers and have lost 123 lbs in 19 months , but more importantly have learned the way to maintain my weight, and keeping the muscle!! thanks for all your help!!

  • This is the reason why blogs are so great: Where else could you follow a direct conversation between Tom & Pete and get excited about the coming interview? :-) I’m no fan of the show and I also watched only 1 episode (since it hit TVs in Germany about 1 or 2y ago). I share Toms concerns and I’d like to see some background information about the work that is done with the contestants.

  • One of the many cases where a good blog post becomes post by dint of the comment box. Congrats, Tom, for once again showing us why you are one of the top Googled sources for fat loss info.

  • I have always loved the show as pure inspiration and motivation..not for realisitc expectation. I have lost 88 lbs since Sepetmeber 2006 and have kept my weight off for over more than a year. So i can say that I am not one of the “typical” people who lose a lot of weight to gain it back. Pete has shown that if you go out and search the info you need to “maintain” and/or improve your health and fitness that “results not typical” can indeed be typical(as long as one puts into action what they learn). Mindset is key!I for one am excited about this interview and will be in line to have a listen!shred on!Suzette

  • TJ

    I wish the show would include the contestants’ height and body fat % – even if they insist on using “overall body weight” for the contest, it would be nice to see their stats.Also, a couple of seasons ago they allowed a couple of contestants who had been voted off early in the season to “return” – the top man and woman (if I recall correctly) who had lost the most “at home” came back on the show. It was interesting because the guy that returned had actually lost MORE body weight percent than the people that were still on the Ranch at that point. However, when he walked back into the gym, while the Ranch folks were able to crank out numerous push-ups and actually bench press more than 50 pounds, the guy that returned could barely crank out one push-up. So even though he lost more body weight, and by the show’s definition of winning he was in the lead for greatest % of body weight lost, he looked like a piece of spaghetti.It’s a shame the show won’t do a COMPLETE “Where Are They Now” – the few times they’ve done something like that, they only highlight a few of the past contestants.Your books are rocking Tom….I think it’s time you get into some reality T.V. yourself, TV style!!!

  • R. Hobi

    The real problem is that the very people who should be in the gym at night working out are watching junk television shows like”the Biggest Loser”. Chances are they’re eating snacks while watching the show. Here’s a tip: if a TV show doesn’t teach yousomething useful…..DON’T WATCH THE DAMN THING!!! Call mejudgemental if you like, but that’s the way it is. Why is it thatTom Venuto hadn’t watched an episode until he decided to research the program. It’s because he spends his time in moreconstructive pursuits, like reading, writing, or training. If thisoffends you, “methinks thou doust protest too much”.

  • NE (Lea) Hall

    I refuse to watch another episode of TBL because it brought back some nasty memories of my Army days.In my youth I was always being mistaken for being lighter than my actual weight. Even at my heaviest in college people could not guess closer than 30 pounds too low. While I was in college, I went on the Adkins diet and a nightly dancing regimen and dropped some significant weight (210+ # down to 165 #) and I was usually guessed at 40-50 # lighter than my actual weight.After college I went into the Army, with a waiver to get me in since I was 5# above the then Army standard of 160# for my height (5’10″). I had to put up with being told I was overweight, when I was at the lowest weight of my adult life. In the first couple weeks of Boot Camp, I added maybe 15 pounds, most of it in muscle and some in fat from going off Adkins.It was absolutely impossible to maintain the low-carb lifestyle when I could not load up on lean meat and green vegetables. There were carbs and fat everywhere in the Army food that they served us.I kept asking if they would do the pinch test to determine what my realistic goal should be, but I was told, ‘lose the weight and then we will get you tested, your realistic goal is the Army Standard of 160 pounds’. When they were forced to pin on my promotions, they were not done in formation, but privately, because I was still overweight by Army Standards.Long story, short, when I got out after active duty, I was still overweight and again had to get a waiver to continue in the Active Reserves. Of course, I had to lose some weight, but they did send me to get evaluated. While in the Army, I had added 26 #. At that time I weighed 191 # and the doctors at the testing facility measured, remeasured and recalculated three times, calling in a different doctor each retest time. They determined my maximum weight for my height and bone mass (figuring maximum 30% fat for a female) should be, by calculation … 190 #. I had to lose one pound which I did by the next weigh in. This means that when I went in at 165, I was probably dangerously low for my actual build. The amount of muscle in my legs alone was higher than usual. Blame it on riding a one speed bicycle up and down the hills of Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia in my youth. I know that, especially when I wore pants, nobody would believe me when I said what my actual weight was since I was near-skeletally gaunt except for my heavy legs.With injuries and medical issues, my weight is significantly higher than that now, 28 years after leaving Active Duty, and I would love to reduce down to my ‘fighting trim weight’ again. Now I could not even contemplate the massive exercise that I saw in the only episode I watched, I was totally turned off by the badgering of the morbidly obese as they tried to handle the exercise requirements of, say, an Olympic athlete. I too wondered how much of the initial weight was from over-hydrating or over-eating before the first weigh in.

  • Cathy

    Hi Tom,I have watched occassional BL but much prefer a show called Diet Tribe.In your section on motivation you mentioned competition, but I have never been motivated by competition. Even at school I would cringe if I came first (academically) and seek out thosewho failed a subject and work with them to bring up their grades.I find it hurts me to look in the face of someone who has tried their best and is not rewarded by the system. Hate other people’s pain so bad that competition is painful for me.I love Diet tribe even though I have only seen one show because it is a group who stick together from beginning to end and co-operate to achieve results.I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the only one who is motivated to do well for a group. Fulfilling other people’s expectations is what drives me at work and at home. I think it makes me a great mother and employee and when I attend a gym my personal trainer’s expectations of what I can do are what motivates me to lift that one more time.Probably it is accountability to a group but I think it is more that I just love the harmony of everyone being happy cause evryone did really well.What kind of motivation is that? Overly empathetic I guess.Please watch diet tribe and please write about fulfilling other’s expectations as motivation.BTW love your columns so much. Wish as always that I lived on the same continent you do. Would come to train with you if even only once.

  • GREAT write-up and I totally agree. The show is a great motivator but it’s just not practical and people give up when they don’t get near the same results as the show. They assume they will get the same results but since they don’t… they quit.I just subscribed to your blog – like your posts… thx

  • Clar

    I think most fitness professionals have the same initial knee jerk reaction to Biggest Loser.After several years of refusing to watch, last year I was finally roped into watching a full season. The logic my friends used was, “you need to understand what your potential clients are seeing.” I think it’s just been an excuse to hear me froath at the mouth and watch me throw socks at the television.After a year of watching, I still get upset but I still watch. Why? Because my friends were right. As a fit person, I don’t get what always motivates the unfit. I also forget that I’m now what many of them consider an unattainable ideal. Being able to pull snippets from the show and repeat them back to clients has proven useful. It’s also a HUGE teaching tool. I can have them watch and episode, then we go back and discuss what happened during the week. I can point out what isn’t realistic, and help retune the vision.At the same time, I can point out, “if contestant X can do a 24 inch box jump, you can do this 12.” It’s a tool. It’s my job as a trainer to find the best ways possible to help engage my client and educate them.There are a couple other things I’ve learned after watching a full season.1) The contestants have to hit the ground running. They face elimination in the first week. If the trainers do not get through RAPIDLY to their contestants, there is a very real risk that the contestant can’t succeed at home. We all know that people who are morbidly obese have some serious mental baggage.I submit that treating that type of individual with kid gloves, in this setting does them no favors. They have faced a lifetime of “I can’t”. Low paced training is ideal if you have time. These folks don’t. The contestant who was verbally abused by Jillian faces the chance of going home that first week. Is telling her it’s okay you can walk away from this helping or hurting?Ideal in a gym? Absolutely not. Valid technique in a high pressure situation? Possibly. (Mind you the cussing in this ep was way out of character and out of line.)2) Based on unofficial sampling (ie. eyeballing it) Biggest Loser looks to have the same overall success rate in subjects achieving long term sustained weight loss as most programs out there. We all know the statistics. Drop off on any weight loss program is a very real issue. The average American sticks with a gym for about 18 months. Within 3 years of loss a Why do we hold Biggest Loser to a different standard then any other program?Maintenance has not been a focus for the fitness industry until very recently. People have become conditioned to see weight loss as a destination with an end point. There’s been little focus on helping people develop lifestyle adjustments. Nobody teaches you that you can’t eat the same way to keep weight off that you did to lose it.Thankfully, that’s finally starting to shift.I look forward to seeing a discussion between you and Pete. I’d also suggest that you consider watching a whole season of Biggest Loser and then do an after review. I know it would be time consuming, but I’d be interested to see if your view on the pros/cons shifts with a bigger sample.–Clara

  • Lorraine

    Having been a faithful follower of this show for the first few seasons, I can comment that, over the course of time and educating myself, I came to the same conclusions as did Tom.As a person who has always struggled with excess body fat, at first it was inspirational to see these previously hopeless contestants achieve fitness and weight loss goals that they never dreamed possible.Slowly, however, I became more bothered by the unrealistic expectations inherent in the “cutthroat competition” premise of the show. Also, the inspirational stories seemed to be overshadowed by the depiction of pure melodrama, increasingly sensational physical challenges and borderline-brutal (and not in a good way) workout regimes. Even though beneficial advice was offered, those tidbits seemed few and far between.I have no doubt that this show has inspired many to make positive changes for the sake of themselves and their families. However, it seems that this show could now use its great influence to better promote realistic fitness goals and stress the importance of maintenance. As Clara said, “Maintenance has not been a focus for the fitness industry until very recently.” If The Biggest Loser adopted this position, it would have the potential of becoming an even greater force for promoting long-term lifestyle changes.But then again, maybe that would make for boring television.(P.S. – Thanks to the invaluable, accurate advice offered by folks like Tom Venuto, I am making steady progress towards my own fitness goals. Thanks Tom!)

  • Awesome breakdown! I stopped watching this show for many of the CONS you listed.

  • Bernie Marchant

    TomI live in Australia but your my personal trainer and mentor. Whenever I find myself struggling with my training or nutrician its Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle that I turn to. When people ask me advice on training or nutrician I tell them about Tom Venuto and your e-book and to buy it if they are serious about taking things to another Level.People who make up these reality TV shows need to speak to the Tom Venuto’s of this world instead of being so reckless with people’s health and misleading the general public.We have the Australian version of the biggest loser and I had to stop watching it after seeing a contestant get ejected from the show for putting on weight. It was heartbreaking to see as it was so obvious that his weight gain was pure muscle and this man didn’t deserved to be voted off. If the show had been based on composition he would have been (and still is in my eye’s) the biggest winner.Thankyou Tom for fantastic informal honest advise and for helping me achieve many goals in my own personal fitness, training and well being.

  • Liz

    BL is quite motivational, but it’s unforgivable that the “healthy” truth about the show – the hours of dietary education, the expanded testing process, the longer time at the ranch, and the overall fitness philosophy that several commenters have lauded as being what REALLY happens on the ranch – is not revealed for all to know and understand. The folks at BL should consider sharing those revelations a matter of integrity. The target audience – which is clearly not the fitness community – NEEDS to know. Immediately. If the target audience does not understand those “facts,” they may as well not exist at all. The Biggest Loser has its audience and 8 seasons under its belt, and it’s fully capable of doing more for the health of our country. The Biggest Loser is NOT living up to its potential!

  • I COULD NOT AGREE WITH THIS MORE. i, myself, a fitness professional, always hated this show for ALL THE SAME reasons you said. and i always hated the title as well, completely agree, glad someone said it. this show is just “entertainment”, and honestley, i don’t believe it should be on or should be watched when it basically preaches bad health to people…it’s sick and disgusting, and i wouldn’t let anyone i care about go on or anywhere near this piece of s**t show. fin.

  • ALL I CAN SAY IS THANK YOU! I loathe this show and all it stands for. Any professional with half an education should feel the same way and preach preach preach the truth!!

  • I had the exact same feeling while watching the show. Why are they disappointed when someone lost 8 lbs and why is some one leaving who lost 15lbs. Are they only motivated by the fear of getting kicked off?I know there are better ways of motivation, and healthier ways to lose wight while gaining some confidence (and muscle) without being torn to pieces by Jillian. If someone could make a show (not Supper Size Me) about healthy weight lose and true successes that would be amazing and truly inspiring.I do love the accountability factor, and the letting go of “your story”. I think that’s one area everyone struggles with. How to be accountable without beating themselves up for missing a workout, or feeling guiltily for eating a cookie. Accountable but in an acceptance and motivational way. Anywho, there’s my two bits and then some about the show. Great post!

  • I’ve never liked that show because of how it turns weight loss into game show, something that should never happen.And some of the competitions left me wondering what the heck they had to do with weight loss, too.Great article, Tom!

  • Tom this is a fantastic account of the show. I so often get clients, right after the beginning or end of the the show, telling me they want to loose X number of pounds and when I do the math of max 2lbs a week assuming they follow my prescription they become upset, unhappy and give up saying “why can’t I loose it faster, like in the biggest looser?”Breaks my heart to think that this show leads people to believe that they too can loose 20 lbs in a matter of a week or two weeks. I can’t help them if that is what they want. We meet for one hour or 90 minutes maybe 3 times a week due to busy schedules.Anyway, I will be sharing this with my clients and readers. I think more people need to read the pro’s and con’s and watch this show as nothing more than entertainment and not the cure for their weight issues.Thanks again.Terie

  • TaT

    Wow, very well put.

    “The Biggest Loser is judged on weight loss, not body composition.”

    Brother and I have watched the show a few times and we have both commented to each other on this. Only have seen one show where the doctor mentioned to a contestant that she gained 40ish? lbs of muscle while only dropping like 50lbs total.

  • Hi Tom,I really appreciate your review. It was very nice…I heard that Ali Vincent, winner of The Biggest Loser 5, will do a web chat with her fans next week. Wouldn’t it be nice if she give her perspective? Especially since it has been a year she left the show and she is still pretty healthy? The name of the site is livecloud.com. Hope everybody can join this great conversation!

  • Sarah

    Hi Tom.Unlike everyone else on this blog, I disagree with you. Mostly based on your judgment of a show after watching one episode. I believe your research techniques for this article were flawed, which is odd because usually you research items thoroughly. To make a fair judgment of this show, you should watch an entire season, actually speak to Jillian and/or Bob, talk to the doctors and nutritionists that care for the contestants, and perhaps even talk to past contestants (rather than quoting their blogs). The best research comes from gathering all of the facts and then making judgments/decisions.Some specific points of contention I have:BL does work at showing contestants how to incorporate exercise and healthy eating into a normal life with jobs, kids, school, etc. If you had watched an entire season, you would be aware.As for past contestants ‘doing it wrong’, it is unfair to blame BL for their poor decisions. You spoke of personal accountability in one paragraph and then went on in the next to blame a TV show for contestants’ behaviors.All weight loss is celebrated on the show. One pound or ten pounds, it doesn’t matter. Some contestants are a little emotionally unstable, so they take the smaller weight loss poorly. The trainers are always proud of them and tell them so. A loss is a loss.Yes, the show has its problems – mainly the way weight loss is measured (I do agree with you on that point). However, I believe if this show motivates just one person to live a healthier lifestyle, then it’s served its purpose, and the pros definitely outweigh the cons.Thank you for listening to someone who disagrees,Sarah

  • Sander

    I don’t watch the show but I can hear the dreaded ‘beep beep beep’ from the other room as my wife watches it. Luckily she has a completely healthy weight and eating/exercise habits so I’m not concerned about her getting the wrong ideas because of the show.Your review sounds very well thought out and balanced and is consistent with your book which I enjoyed reading. Keep up the good work!

  • SARAH WROTE:Hi Tom. Unlike everyone else on this blog, I disagree with you. Mostly based on your judgment of a show after watching one episode. I believe your research techniques for this article were flawed, which is odd because usually you research items thoroughly. To make a fair judgment of this show, you should watch an entire season,Actually I endured TWO episodes. To waste two hours of my life every tuesday nite watching reality TV is unfathomable. What a waste of time. Shut off the boob tube and read a good book… or heres an idea — go to the gymIn episode two a contestant suffered from a stress fracture of the patella. Would you care to comment on that in addition to the two contestants hospitalized in the first episode – in relation to the type of training and training volume the contestants are being subjected to? Would you care to get some professional personal trainers to step up and vouch for your defense of the show and post their endorsement right here on this blog? Im interested to see how many professional, certified trainers – and also medical professionals not on the BL staff, who will put their stamp of approval on this show . Comments are open.It was in episode two where I truly realized the nature of the show – its nothing more than REALITY TV — entertainment for the masses; ratings, ratings, ratings, drama, drama,drama…Some specific points of contention I have: BL does work at showing contestants how to incorporate exercise and healthy eating into a normal life with jobs, kids, school, etc. If you had watched an entire season, you would be aware.they do try, in their “educational nutrition segments,” etc etc but I fear it is all for naught when the over-arching goal of the show is to produce as much weight loss as possible as fast as possible – therefore, they are NOT learning how to eat in normal life, their actions are aimed at learning only how to achieve crash weight loss with crash dieting and extreme trainingAs for past contestants ‘doing it wrong’, it is unfair to blame BL for their poor decisions. You spoke of personal accountability in one paragraph and then went on in the next to blame a TV show for contestants’ behaviors.The producers want the most drama and the biggest weight losses possible – they are pushing the envelope, especially this season with 460 pound contestants running intervals, etc etc and pushing for the largest % of weight loss. Furthermore, any show that encourages the type of incredibly dangerous behavior (dehydration etc), at the time of final weigh in strictly by virtue of the program’s inherent structure (most weight loss wins) should be condemned and I condemn themAll weight loss is celebrated on the show. One pound or ten pounds, it doesn’t matter. Some contestants are a little emotionally unstable, so they take the smaller weight loss poorly. The trainers are always proud of them and tell them so. A loss is a loss.bullsh*t!!!!! Watch the video clip I embedded in the blog. YOu call the reaction to that EIGHT POUND LOSS a celebration???????? The entire program and almost all of the contestants show utter disappointment and contempt for losses of 5-6 lbs a week, when even 3-4 lbs a week would be spectacular fat loss in the real world. Are you kidding me???????????????Yes, the show has its problems – mainly the way weight loss is measured (I do agree with you on that point). However, I believe if this show motivates just one person to live a healthier lifestyle, then it’s served its purpose, and the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Thank you for listening to someone who disagrees, SarahYoure welcome….

  • Hi Tom,I never actually watched this show because I don’t live in the US but I know what it’s all about just from the name alone which really sucks and has a negative impact.From what you pointed out, it seems that all the problems are resulted from the very nature of the show: whoever loses the most weight by a given deadline wins. Obviously, this kind of competition does you no good in the long term.I totally agree with you that the judgement method here is flawed. If the judgement is made based on body composition, there will be no crash diet, crash training, etc because they will do nothing to improve body composition whatsoever.I believe this one simple change means everything. The show must focus on quality instead of quantity of the results. After all, the purpose of weight loss is to make us look better, not just thinner. Weight is just a number, right?But there’s a reason to everything. People love to watch something extreme and shocking (positively or negatively) and what would be more so than someone losing 20 pounds in a week? That’s what people want from a TV show and BL gives them exactly what they want. The showbiz cares more about profit than the real value its viewers get.Stay safe – Don’t try this. :) Thanks a ton,Thong

  • Very good review, Tom. Very well detailed and explained.I have watched one episode of the show and I asked myself how this kind of TV show can be so popular ?Why do they make such an easy thing as losing fat appear to be so extraordinary ? Do strength training, have a heatlhy and natural diet, add some cardio if you have time and that’s it: you will lose fat and look good. One more thing: keep the good habits over your lifetime.I have a question: If you would have asked to participate in the show as a trainer, would you have accepted ?Do you think you could advise this kind of show to be educational and a successful show at once ?Regards,

  • Alex wrote:I have a question: If you would have asked to participate in the show as a trainer, would you have accepted ?No. The inheret nature of the show presents multiple conflicts of interest, including the product endorsements.Do you think you could advise this kind of show to be educational and a successful show at once ?Im sure many trainers and fitness pros wonder the same thing and it would be a godsend to maintain their media power and send a better message, but again, I think the inherent nature of the show prevents that from ever happening. Its a reality show. Its almost like a game show. They ARE trying to educate with nutrition tips and the show is motivating millions, but its about ratings first – no ratings and they are off the air

  • Excellent, excellent, excellent! I have received your newsletters, mini course, all twelve, and they really opened my mind…I’ve learned, well some things, I cannot say a lot about dieting and weight loss yet, because everyone is tauting their products and exaggerating.I know you have something to offer as well, but in my information overload,I have now seen light and knowledge with your emails and website and everything that you have said..it makes sense, hands down, no sugar coating and it is refreshing.I am continuing on with your book and what I feel helpful to me in my physical fitness regime.By the way I am a sixty year old…woman. In xint shape, needing to lose 20lbs.mostly the fat hips and thighs..that pear..ha, ha.Thank you for this review it is much needed in a world of illusion and lies…Hollywood and advertisng..Elaine

  • Lorraine

    Sarah wrote: Unlike everyone else on this blog, I disagree with you.If you had taken time to read all of the comments, you possibly would not have made such a sweeping statement. Perhaps a little more research would have been in order.

  • Dana

    After watching the finale last season, I swore off The Biggest Loser for good. Too much of it seems to be scripted and set up. Helen looked like a piece of dried up beef jerky while Mike and Tara looked alot better off. Then you have Jerry, the at home winner looking just as bad! Doesn’t it seem a little suspicious that two older contestants won the season? hhmmm…guess TBL thought it was time to reach out and turn late middle age americans onto their products. The ending of this season was just a little too “predictable” for me.Sarah above wrote that every loss is celebrated, but I think maybe she’s gotten Weight Watchers confused with TBL. There have been WAY TOO MANY weigh ins with Bob, Jillian, and contestants staring with their mouths wide open, shaking their heads in disbelief when a contestants steps on the scale and loses only one pound during a team weigh in. There is no, “hey great job! Instead it’s “you’re not training enough, or your over training, your eating too much, or you lost only one pound on purpose to throw the weigh in, blah, blah, blah” that’s not celebrating!Then you have the ridiculous number of former contestants who gained the weight back and suffered horribly from depression once they left the show. They didn’t leave these people with life skills they could use on the outside! They left them with skills you can only adhere to when you’re living on a ranch with no distractions or responsibilities.I also agree with the authors mention of body mass over weigh in. Didn’t a guy drink gallons of water in season 3 to gain 17 pounds during the weigh in, which somehow made him immune to being voted off? I remember lots of people getting outraged over that one.Sadly I did break down and watch last weeks show, after hearing all the talk about “Crazy Tracey” from my family and friends. At the end of the weigh in, her team contestants made it clear that she would be the one voted off as they headed to the conference room…..but *surprise *surprise…she didn’t get voted off…the boring black guy did! Her teammates didn’t keep her on the show because it was the smart, tatical thing to do for the team…I’m going to speculate and say NBC told them to keep her, because she’s the sh*t stirring, ratings grabber thisseason. After that stunt, I won’t be back to watch anymore.While this show may have some positive points, it also brings out the worst in people. Backstabbing, lying, cheating….anything to win. Sorry, no longer for me.

  • Actually, I got inspired to lose weight after watching the biggest loser .. it’s like .. “hey, if they can lose it, then what’s 8 pounds to me?”Just like you said, take it with a pinch of salt .. inspiration.And thanks to your article, now I know 2 pounds lost in a week is perfectly normal :)

  • I am just one more person to say, “Thank you” and “This was a great review.”I have never seen an episode and never intend to. As soon as I heard the name – The Biggest Loser – I knew that it would not be a safe way to inspire others to lose weight.I found your review informative. It’s a good one. I’m going to link it as one of my favorites.

  • I find no fault in your various points or logic however someone that has battled obesity and food addiction I do not agree with your conclusion. We can argue healthy ways of losing weight until the cows come home, the point is these people are addicts and their minds are like addicts. Reasoning does not work, pain vs pleasure motivation is very powerful especially in starting the process. I lost 170 lbs and kept it off for 6 years now, that show reminds me of both the pain and the pleasure and what I am willing to pay to stay slim and healthy. While the show definitely has its glaring faults it delivers positive motivated infotainment and I highly recommend it to my clients.

  • steve,I agree that the show has glaring faults and its infotainment!tom

  • I don’t live in USA so I have never heard before about The Biggest Loser. But I found this review very interesting.In psychological books you can read that competition is one of the biggest things that motivate humans. Clear desire in form of “I want to be better”. But as you said, consequences of this competition may not be worth $250,000. It’s like selling your health and making it worse.

  • James

    I think your last paragraph hit the mark, which is why the rest probably wasn’t necessary.

    I think the show has made some effort to include more “healthy lifestyle” and “do it at home” entertainment in recent seasons.

    If I were to change the show, it would be a beauty contest. Who can lose weight and build muscle to make themselves the most attractive? After all, that would make it most reflective of society and the training/body-building/workout mentality.

  • I AGREE WITH YOU 100%. All of those situations are unrealistic and NOT a healthy way to lose weight or keep it off. I’m in the process of reading your book. BURN THE FAT FEED THE MUSCLE! I’m glad I’m learning the RIGHT way! Thanks for your undying devotion to the craft of WELLNESS!

  • Wow, you definitely were able to pull out more pros/cons than I would’ve been able to think of.

    I think the most important Con to note is that they were NOT in normal conditions. Their sole job, as you pointed out, was to lose weight.

    No wonder why a lot of the contestants gain the weight right back after the show is over- and its not just water weight!

  • ruth

    thanks for that tom – i have wondered about body composition – and also the tactics used to get that lean. i am currently a challenger in your 2011 competition for MAUI (YOWEE) and am FINALLY getting to understand how/why i need to eat, as in LOTS OF FOOD and what kind of food. your ‘feed the muscle’ idea has finally clicked with me after 50 years of having no idea.

  • ruth

    p.s. the Australian version of the Biggest Loser has a more balanced approach i think – actually drilling the contestants on calories and fat/protein/carb choices. it also deals with emotional issues from each contestants past – and helps them become more emotionally expressive, and thus not needing food to be their only friend when times are tough. its STILL not ideal weight loss, by any means, but there are a couple of people from this year’s series who probably wouldn’t have lived more than a few years with the weight they were carrying – one guy was 260kg – couldn’t put his own socks on even. tragic. he lost 81kg (my weight!) and regained a LIFE. to see him running around with his kids after that loss was really inspirational – and to hear him talk honestly about his old food choices, and his determination to eat cleanly from here on out was also. in my mind, his total life change including the loss entitled him to the Biggest Loser crown – but he didn’t lose ENOUGH WEIGHT. doh . . . and – as you say – therein lies the problem. the priorities are skewed.

  • Hello Tom, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed your comments on BL, more importantly the super information you share with your readers. I also have had to tell people my views and they think I am being to judgmental. After 27 years in the filed coaching and training coaches in Life Style Management the set up to fail are painful to watch… Helping people to learn how to be accountable with support and feedback and practicing new behaviors allows the client to reach their health goals and maintain them…
    Thank you
    All the Best in Health Steve

  • The Biggest Loser has absolutely NO SCIENCE behind it. Real obesity sicentists laugh at the show.

    It is entertainment ONLY.

    NOTHING the commercial diet industry promotes is valid.They exist on lies, false promises and false assumptions.

    Razwell

  • Ann

    I LOVE YOU TOM. I love what you have to say. You truly care about the health and wellbeing of everyone no matter what their body composition.

  • Tom,

    Great post. I agree with all of it. Big fan of your techniques. One thing I would have hoped you would touch upon with TBL is how these people look at the finale. I think the finale of the show is the BIGGEST problem. Not only do they focus on the unrealistic expectations throughout the show, the cheer all the people who lost TOO much weight (there are multiple folks on there that look skinny and emaciated by the finale. I’ve said for years that this show would be far better if it focused on LBM or Body Fat Percentage. Anyway, kudos big guy. Keep up the great work!

    -Steve Hare

  • I just want to say that, like everything else, moderation is the best approach to everything. The BL is obviously much more than we can see on tv and I am glad a former contestant gave some information about what goes on behind the curtain.

    My story is that my husband and I decided to watch all seasons available on Netflix in a BL marathon that almost killed me. In one season there was this lady that was scared of jumping on that platform/stand thingy. I was intrigued by her difficulty, I thought it shouldn’t be so difficult. Hubby called her a whimp. One day at the gym he challenged me to do the jump and I, as a very immature 48 y.o., accepted, but asked him to hold my hand for safety, something never done at the BL. He did the first time, but refused to do it the second time. I has having difficulty jumping with my weight forward, so I would not fall backwards. In my third attempt, I definitely fell backwards, landed on my ankle, which twisted badly and probably teared all my ligaments. I have been in bed for almost three weeks now. Have no health insurance, so cannot go get an MRI to see how bad the damage is. Well, my point is that this is just one more instance in which a tv show may be dangerous just because of what leads its viewers to believe is possible, when sometimes it is not.

    In any case, this was a blessing in disguise, because while looking for articles on the Biggest Loser, I found this one from TOM and have become a fan and follower of the BFFM! Without any particular effort on my part, just cutting the coke drinking and hamburger eating (and being on my ass the whole day!), I have lost 4 lb, whith which I am not really happy. Could it be just muscle mass (oh, the horror!)? If anybody has an idea about this, I’d appreciate a response.

    Thanks and a goal-achieving, wonderful New Year to ALL!

  • Barbara Kautz, MSN, RN (RET)

    I am a huge fan of TBL even though I know their methodology is suspect. If you watch enough shows then you will see that in week 2 contestants have a more down to earth weight loss and this is always a source of emotion. As a former instructor of Fundamentals of Nursing my complaint is this: Where is Dr H explaining the relationship between building muscle, which I do believe contestants ultimately achieve, tissue (normal) damage, and the inflammatory response—again entirely normal that should be expected as part of such an intense training program. Good! I’ve been wanting to express my opinion for years.

  • Michael Young

    Hello Tom. I have enjoyed reading your article speaking about the affects the Biggest Loser has on people. I can see now how the set stage can alter the minds of those who have the everyday life. This can either motivate some and cause others to fall deeper into a life of depression about their weight plus the affect of feeling there is nothing they can do about their size. I have believed some of the same things. Being a former college football player I prided myself on being a big guy at 245 lbs. Now I am 39 and 330 lbs and I am struggling with the methods of losing weight. Thank you for your article, Michael Young.

  • I love it when folks get together and share thoughts.

    Great website, stick with it!

  • cathrynalcal

    Ηello! I’ve been reading your blog for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Huffman Tx! Just wanted to tell you keep up the excellent job!

  • KaSandra Swanson

    I was planning to fill out an application for next season…After reading your review I think I would be dead or seriously injured within my first few days tops. I figured watching the show that the motivation, the complete lack of “real world disturbances,” the proper training from coaches, dieticians, and counselors could get me to the place I need to be to take better care of myself. I thought it would give me the boost it gave them on the show…but reading this I think I would be worse off than I am now. I just don’t have the slightest clue about fitness, nutrition, or how to get going…but like I said your article leads me away from filling out the application for the biggest loser. I am back to wandering the Internet for the endless “right” answer lol congrats to those that have figured it out though :)

  • Kerry

    Well done, Bravo
    I watched a season of BL in Oz and The trainers came down under for it. I agree with all your comments and would like to add I stopped watching it due to the unfair strategy of the game. I felt that a lot of contestants that were working hard could and would get penalised by the luck of a stone getting turned over, or the choice of a contestant. I found this not in the best interest of the contestant which goes hand in hand with your comments.
    Cheers Kerry

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