The Biggest Loser: How Much Reality in this Weight Loss Show?

The results on The Biggest Loser are dramatic, but are the methods realistic for most people?

Credit: Flickr/Kim Pardi

Do you have time to work out five hours a day like they do on The Biggest Loser?

I’m not sure if I’m a fan of the show The Biggest Loser and “America’s toughest trainer” Jillian Michaels

Sure, the contestants’ results are dramatic. But I think the methods are too extreme.

No contact with family, friends or work for three months. Daily workouts lasting five to six hours. Being yelled at by sadistic trainers. And this is “reality” TV?

How real is that for the average person?

Pop Psychology on Weight Loss Show

I realize that the true weight loss process doesn’t make for very exciting television watching. So The Biggest Loser producers set up situations to create drama and hook viewers.

But I’m tired of hearing the dime store psychology spewing out of the trainers’ mouths.

Inevitably, in every episode at least one contestant reveals some deep personal issue which is pounced upon by Jillian or Bob Harper, the other trainer.

No doubt there are emotional issues involved with overeating and obesity, but let’s look at the context in which these issues come up. The contestants are pushed to the brink of throwing up or passing out. They’re exhausted and glycogen depleted so it’s no wonder they get emotional. Their hormones are in a state of panic, so even the most level-headed person would break down.

And you’re not going to solve a complex issue, such as dealing with the death of your sibling, in a two-hour episode. I’m not kidding. This was an emotional issue one of the female contestants recently brought up. I think she’s going to need a bit more help than Jillian yelling at her about feeling like a failure.

Insane Workouts on The Biggest Loser

Even if we disregard the questionable therapy on the show, you can’t disregard the dangerous workouts the contestants are put through.

I’m all for pushing yourself to your limits. My clients will attest to this. But you don’t need to almost puke during every workout to get results.

The producers of the show must have a pretty solid liability insurance policy and iron clad waiver. I’m really surprised no one on the show has had a heart attack yet with the workouts they do.

I know in the interest of entertainment they only show the most brutal workouts. Most of their time is spent exercising at a lower intensity for long periods. But I wouldn’t recommend anyone at home who is in bad shape try any of the workouts they see. They need to gradually increase the intensity of their exercise.

And I’ve read accounts from previous show participants about how they use the weight loss tactics of fighting athletes, such as boxers and mixed martial artists, to lose more weight the night before a weigh in. They’ll spend a lot of time in saunas and steam rooms to drop a few extra pounds.

Empowering Entertainment?

If someone is morbidly obese they certainly need to take drastic action to change their life.

But is living in isolation, getting yelled at and driven to exhaustion the answer? And people actually say this show is empowering!

Yes the contestants get dramatic results but for most, if not all of the people watching, it’s not realistic to set up the same environment as seen on The Biggest Loser ranch. I think it sets up unrealistic expectations for the average person at home who won’t see nearly the same weekly results as the show. Realistically it will take a year or longer for people to lose the same amount of weight as the contestants do in a season.

The show has enormous popularity and tons of fans. Maybe I’m one of the minority who just doesn’t get it. What about you? Are you inspired or discouraged by the show?