Home » Ranting » Dear Biggest Loser: Stop The Gimmicks!

Dear Biggest Loser: Stop The Gimmicks!

I have watched The Biggest Loser since its inception.   There are a lot of things about the show that I haven’t liked since the start, but I always liked it enough to keep watching.  At the beginning of the last two seasons I said I wasn’t going to watch but I did anyway.  I actually wasn’t sure I would ever totally stop watching.  Until last night.  Nothing (not even when Dane completely cheated and said he “ran” the marathon last year) has turned me off more from watching than what I saw last night.  And it was the straw that broke my back.

Over the last few seasons, I have been growing steadily frustrated with their gimmicks and the way in which they humiliate their contestants, but last night…when they made them stand in front of all their friends and family for the first weigh-in, that did it for me.  As if it isn’t difficult enough for them to see their weight (for some, it was the first time in years) they had to be publicly humiliated?  To me, that is just wrong.  Sure, everyone will see them on TV weigh in week to week, but at least then the contestants aren’t directly in front of them.  To do it publicly…it is just not okay.  And then…even worse, to get all of those people there, challenge them and then send the bottom four home right away.  Get their hopes up and send them home before they even had a chance to begin.  Seems me to the ones who came in last need it the most.  And they call this inspirational?  I call it heartless.  Cold even.  Not at all inspirational, actually.  Sure, they told them later they would be brought back in 30 days but WHY???  Why even do that at all??  Like I said, gimmicks.

A few other things I have noted that bother me about the show:

  • Rapid and extreme weight loss- And by rapid, I mean much too rapid.   This is dangerous. End of story.  Oh, and extreme dieting doesn’t work.  Just ask Ryan Benson, winner of season one who admitted on his blog that he “starved himself” and by the night of the final weigh-in he “was peeing blood.”  You can read even more here.  And if this is what people are admitting imagine what they aren’t saying.
  • Contestants are over-trained- Last night, on the very first night contestants had to bike 26.2 miles.  Last year, on the first day they had to run a full mile.  Prior to last year, the first challenge (which they didn’t even have the first couple of seasons) was always something like climbing or running up a hill for a prize.  People typically train for this kind of workout.  But not on the Biggest Loser.  And even worse, they make it a competition.  So let’s have these obese people who never exercise, compete to run a mile.  Or bike 26.  Or climb a mountain.  Sooner or later they will have them participating in a triathlon on the first day.  In addition to the welcome workout, the first few weeks are brutal.  The contestants get thrown right in, doing workouts that no one in their right mind would consider beginner.  Simply said, it is too much, too soon.
  • Nothing like the real world- The Biggest Loser does not focus on real-life weight loss strategies or encourage realistic expectations.  In other words, there is no relevance between the show and the real world.  For starters, these contestants are brought to a family-free, work-free, fast food-free environment.  They have complete access to gyms, refrigerators packed with low-fat and low-calorie food, personal trainers and group support.  Oh, and something else, the biggie- something not one of us at home has…a chance to win a quarter million dollars.  In short, the contestants are not given at-home, real world strategies for long-term weight loss.  In an article here, winner of season three, Bill Germankos says he was “hungry all the time” and gained weight when he went back home because “all his demands were waiting for him.”   Again, this is just what they tell us…think about what we don’t hear!
  • There is so much yelling- Bob and Jillian maintain that they use the “hardcore trainer attitude”  to motivate their contestants.  I would agree that this was the case at least through the first few seasons.  But then something changed…they got caught up in the hype.  Now their idea of motivating the contestants is screaming in their faces and yelling “F-you.”   That is not my idea of motivation.  In fact, I would characterize it more along the lines of verbal abuse.  I have had hardcore trainers and tough coaches in the past…and I want to be pushed hard, but I don’t want to be disrespected.  You can be tough without being an asshole and over the last few seasons both trainers have become almost unbearable to watch.

The one lesson that is missing from The Biggest Loser is the lesson people need to learn the most: being thin does not equal being healthy.   Being healthy means being smart about fitness, nutrition and overall health.  In my opinion, The Biggest Loser does not play smart.  They just play.  The  Biggest Loser has become laced with so many flaws, that they simply outweigh the good that it could offer.  This show should be strictly about weight loss and changing people’s lives, not money and game-playing.  The truth is, I really think this show could have been successful even without the prize money.  But I guess that wouldn’t make for good TV, huh?  I see this show now for what it really is…pure entertainment, where high ratings are what is most important.  And because these are people’s lives we are talking about, it pisses me off!

In the beginning, the show had a purpose- focus on worldwide obesity and encourage people do something about it.  But somewhere along the lines, it lost that purpose and went to gimmicky reality crap.  I am aware of the shows successes and I know that it has inspired a nation.  And I acknowledge those people who use the contestants as sources for inspiration, but I caution them not to use the show as a basis for their own weight loss program.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree.  I look forward to hearing your open and honest opinions.  What I have found from talking about this show with others is that either you love it and defend it or you hate it and critique it.  I used to think I fell in the middle but I think my side has been established.

19 thoughts on “Dear Biggest Loser: Stop The Gimmicks!

  1. Since you asked…

    I’m a fan of the show. I think all your points are valid and I was really sad last night to see four people who really needed to be there sent home (not including the twin, who also was in need). I just really started watching it last season and I don’t watch it religiously or anything. I think people’s lives really do change for the better and it does have potential to inspire others to take the step. (He weighs 526 pounds and he is doing it, I guess I can too!) However, it is unrealistic. Unless you weigh 526 pounds, have a personal trainer and a strict diet, you won’t lose 34 pounds in a week! That’s ridiculous and unfortunately, not a lot of people know enough about health and fitness to know what’s a healthy, normal weight loss.

    I won’t defend the show to the death or anything, but I think it has a lot of good aspects, despite it being super sensational and unrealistic.

    And on a side note, last night was the first time I’ve watched the Biggest Loser and actually exercised during it!

  2. In total agreement. I know they need the product plugs, but they’re SO annoying. I don’t agree with what they make the contestants do, especially right off the bat, or how they make running a marathon seem like anyone can do it from morbid obesity to 16 weeks or whatever later. Whatever, I’m with you, entertainment only, especially since I’m usually on the bike trainer tuesday nights, but I’m not falling for it anymore. Great post.

  3. I have never seen the show but read a lot about it in blogland, the show seems to have a lot of fans. After reading your post I have to agree it’s not the right way to lose weight. I can imagine someone watching it at home who has no experience with healthy food or fitness and just start with an extreme diet and sports regime. This doesn’t seem right.

    We’ve had two season here of a show which was based on The biggest loser. I didn’t watch all episoded but I do know it wasn’t so extreme as TBL. In this show people stayed at home and the dietist came to visit them and learn them about healthy food. The PT made a plan for their exercise. Seems better to me.

  4. I get fed up with TBL too but I do like watching it. Its a love hate relationship. I usually try and DVR it so I can just fast forward through most it.

  5. Interesting thoughts. Last season was the only one I ever watched and was simultaneously intrigued and disgusted by the whole thing. TBL is missing a lot of key items when it comes to health, maintenance, and food.

  6. Can I be honest? I’ve never watched a single episode but the more I read about it from everyone’s blog the more I think I wouldn’t like it anyways!

  7. I haven’t seen the new episode yet, but oh my goodness, I can’t believe they made them weigh in front of everyone they know. I mean, I know they’re going public about it, but that’s totally different. My 2 biggest gripes about the show are 1. How fast they lose so much weight and 2. How they throw them into a professional athlete level workout schedule.
    Most people aren’t supposed to lose more than 2 pounds a week without risk of regain–what are they supposed to think when they see someone drop 20 plus?! I think the follow-up episodes speak for themselves when so many people have gained the weight back.
    As far as jumping from 0 to 200% in exercise, this bothers me INSANELY. How are they not causing serious injury?! I’ve noticed recently they tend to be wrapped up with various injuries, but seriously? This is not a good practice.
    I just hope for all the bad, there really is some good. There are a few contestants who I think really do learn the right way to take care of themselves, and I hope they stick with it forever!

  8. A lot of those contestants lose water, not weight. As soon as the show ends, they put it back on. I feel bad for them. I know it’s a struggle…but do it the right way – teach them the skills they need to succeed! There is some good in it…but there’s also a lot of negativity!

    Happy Almost weekend!!!

  9. I’ve watched it once. It’s totally beyond the realm of reality for what folks can actually do, on their own, to battle obesity. I kinda hate it, actually.

  10. That show is just backwards. What fascinated me at first was why the crap all the contestants were constantly crying. It didn’t take long to realize that “DUH” they are overtrained, starved, without their families, etc, etc. It’s just a horrible experiment.

  11. Amen to all of this! This show worked just fine without all the gimmicks. People could do what they did on the show and see results. There’s no way the every day person can duplicate the process or results.

  12. I don’t watch the show but from what I have gleaned it is intense, rapid weight loss. And I also wonder how long that will last for the people who leave the show. It’s a good place to start but does it hold up when they leave the camp?

  13. I had never watched TBL until last season, and it appalled me yet I couldn’t stop watching. From the awkward moments where they have to talk about specific products to overtrained contestants, I was overall annoyed with the show.

    It upsets me the way they almost diminish the magnitude of fitness milestones, especially the marathon and other endurance activities. And I’m even more mortified after hearing from your post just how sick they are FROM the training. Granted, we know they’re sick going into it due to their size, but when they are working out that much and starving to drop big weight, that’s sad.

    I think it’s sad how people are sent home when they need help, especially right off the bat because they couldn’t complete the physical challenge. Perhaps the first ones done should be sent home because they don’t need it as much! 😉

    Joking aside, the most poignant moments of the show are when the contestants have breakthroughs that help them realize why they have allowed themselves to get to that point.

    I’ll stop now, I don’t want to hijack your blog with a too-long comment. I feel like I could keep rambling on about this.

  14. I stopped watching the show…couldn’t take all the Jillian yelling! I think she just irriatates me now that she has this line of supplements. I mean, come on…you’re a PT! You shouldn’t be promoting that crap!

  15. Pingback: Happy Two Years & 400 Posts To My Blog « Finishing is Winning

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