I'll begin by saying that I find The Biggest Loser to be a very inspiring show. These people have reached a point in their life where they have had to make a very tough decision and I cannot express how much respect I have for each and every one of them as a result. It takes guts and determination to put your whole life on display like that. Plus, it's pretty entertaining too. In addition to this, I also hold a great respect for Bob and Jillian in particular, who are both exceptional trainers.
The Biggest Loser selects a number of clinically obese contestants to lose a significant amount of weight in a very quick period of time. I am pretty sure that these contestants are all thoroughly screened by professional medical experts prior to embarking upon this challenge to avoid any unneeded risk due to possible medical complications.
Whilst the idea is good in theory...I do not believe that this show should be treated as an educational tool (for the most part), but rather a form of entertainment. These contestants can lose in excess of 5 kilograms per week which can be extremely dangerous to their health and wellbeing. Such rapid weight loss can put so much stress on all of the bodily organs and cause some serious medical complications. Take Artie from last year's Australian Biggest Loser - he was admitted to hospital with gallstones last year. According to News.com.au, "Doctors said it was due to weight loss". (Read the full story here in our news section).
Whilst on the topic of the dangers of rapid weight loss, I recommend that you have a read of a very important article I published, Yo-Yo Dieting - No-No Dieting that discusses this subject in far more detail.
Another factor to consider with this show is the strong emphasis on their body mass (due to the scale). As a result, the contestants hydrate and dehydrate themselves in order to manipulate the figures in their favour - also a very dangerous practice. This can place excessive strain on the kidneys in particular.
These contestants also train four hours a day, according to the show. Even in the initial days, they undergo four hours of very intense exercise after being sedentary for a long period in their life. As a personal trainer myself, I cannot comprehend how this is safe practice at all. Last night, one contestant threw up, another fainted - some very clear signs that their bodies are not nearly capable of the stress they have to endure. Even though medics are on sight, such extreme levels of exercise are, according to many professionals (and myself), by no means safe (as demonstrated) - particularly for the untrained individual.
One other important point to consider are, what I consider to be, their extremely restricted diets. Yes, they eliminate unhealthy foods (disregarding these gimmick challenges they have) - and this is great. But last night Bob mentioned that one male contestant (who I believe was over 150kg) was being restricted to only 1900 calories. Let's put this into context. A male, weighing over 150kg, performing 4 hours of intense exercise every single day consumes 1900 calories. I, on the other hand, at less than half his weight (73kg), perform between 30-55 minutes of intense exercise each day and consume 2200 calories. Admittedly, I most likely carry more muscle mass...but 1900 calories a day with 4 hours of intense exercise is, in my opinion, very, very restrictive. Such a restrictive diet is what results in these ridiculous weight losses every week which can pose a very significant health risk.
With regards to the long-term sustainability of such a demanding program, I do not feel that such methods will typically result in permanent weight loss. Some very important lessons are learnt from the very demanding exercise the contestants are subjected to - mainly mental lessons such as self belief and empowerment, in addition to nutrition. However such an aggressive approach to exercise can often lead to discouragement and lack of sustainability, particularly in the early stages of their physical development. Plus, applying a 4 hour daily workout in "the real world" isn't really all that viable.
So all in all, I find it to be a very entertaining, motivational and inspiring show. But if you are seeking to lose weight in a safe manner, please be smart about it and hire a trained professional who will guide you in a way that is specific to your needs. There are some very real risks associated with rapid weight loss which, I feel, are not discussed on this show - simply because it seems like more of a source of entertainment than an educational resource. If you are seeking a personal trainer to help you along your way, I do offer these services and would be more than happy to assist - please click here for more information.