Do the Methods on The Biggest Loser Really Help You Lose Weight?

  • By Dr. Anand Thakkar
  • 16 Mar, 2016
You clench your hands in anticipation as the next contestant steps onto the giant scale. Just last episode, he weighed 300 pounds. This episode, strict trainers pushed him to the max to exercise and cut calories. What will the scale reveal?

270 pounds! A 30-pound weight loss in just one week? Why can’t that happen for you?, you wonder.

If you watch The Biggest Loser, you’ve probably wondered whether the techniques from the show can actually translate to your life. Are the techniques in the show accurate—or a bunch of hogwash?

What’s Not So Great About The Biggest Loser

There are several reasons why the methods you see on the show aren’t necessarily the best way to lose weight.

It’s Sensationalized

The most important thing to remember is that The Biggest Loser is a TV show. Its purpose is to entertain and even shock viewers so they’ll keep watching.

While the show makes it look like people lose a startling amount of weight in just one week, the time period between each aired show actually spans several weeks. The contestants who make it to the finals are “on the show” for several months.

Plus, to entertain viewers at home, contestants engage in extreme exercise methods while trainers yell at them and call them names. While this kind of training may work for a short time, many do not respond well to so-called fat-shaming methods long-term. In fact, this constant pressure could lower self-esteem and lead to overeating and other unhealthy behaviors.

There’s Little Focus on Maintenance

While contestants lose weight on the show, can they keep it off? Evidence suggests that no, they can’t. Several contests told weight loss expert Dr. Yoni Freedhoff that about 75% of contestants regained the weight they lost on the show.

Why is this? Well, Dr. Freedhoff proposes that losing weight the way the contestants do lowers metabolism. A study from the research journal Obesity showed that contestants’ metabolisms slowed, making it difficult to maintain calorie burning and weight loss over time. The contestants also lowered levels of leptin—the hormone that controls hunger. All this means that contestants were hungrier, but their bodies had more difficulty burning the excess calories, leading to weight gain.

It’s Not Realistic for Normal Life

On the set of The Biggest Loser, contestants’ sole purpose is to lose weight. They exercise for hours a day, and their eating and exercising patterns are monitored by trainers and judged by competitors. Of course people would be motivated to lose weight in this setting.

However, viewers at home may be a bit disappointed when they fail to mimic these results. In everyday life, they simply don’t have the time to exercise for hours a day, and they don’t have trainers looking over their shoulders every minute.

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you’ll have to find other ways to motivate yourself while still living a balanced lifestyle. You might keep an exercise log, start a nutrition journal, or visit a weight loss clinic.

What You Can Learn from The Biggest Loser

As you can see, you should not put The Biggest Loser on a pedestal. But watching the show isn’t a complete waste; there are a couple things you can learn from it.

The Importance of Exercise and Healthy Eating

The Biggest Loser contestants aren’t allowed to lose weight via weight loss pills or surgery. Their main focus—as yours should be—is exercise and eating right.

On The Biggest Loser and other popular programs, you probably hear all about cutting calories. But remember that simply lowering your food intake won’t help you maintain long-term weight loss. To lose weight and keep it off, you still need to eat—but you need to eat the right foods that will keep you full and give you the nutritional benefits you need. These include:

Lean proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish
Whole-grains like oats, brown rice, and quinoa
High-fiber nuts
Leafy greens like kale, spinach, and swiss chard
Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts
High-protein legumes like black beans and lentils
See this blog for more healthy eating ideas.

The Importance of Getting Help

If you have trouble losing weight, you shouldn’t try to achieve your goals alone. Like the contestants on The Biggest Loser, you should turn to experts like personal trainers, doctors, and weight loss professionals. They can help you create a customized plan that will help you lose weight safely and permanently.

You should also turn to friends and family members for support. True friends will help you achieve your weight loss goals rather than make it harder. Let them know what you’re doing to lose weight and ask them for their help.

If you have trouble losing weight, don’t let the media tell you what to do. Instead, turn to weight loss experts who can help you create a healthy weight loss plan.
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