The Nutrition Lessons We Can All Learn from Dr. Oz & The Biggest Loser

oz loserThe new year is upon us, and weight loss is something most people have on their mind. How timely to read a Slate article on one of America’s most beloved and popular adviser on the matter – Dr. Mehmet Oz. It’s quite a lengthy read, but the authors sum it up nicely in the subtitle

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

That’s a pretty damning accusation. but Slate nicely backs it up, showing time and again how products that the famous doc has recommended on his show were at best placebos, with little or no weight loss or other health benefits. What’s particularly worrisome  is the fact that Dr. Oz is a highly credentialed physician (Ivy league schools) and has published hundreds of academic papers.

So why is such a reputable doctor behaving more like a quack than a responsible physician?

Our take – ratings. It’s TV people. Dr. Oz needs high ratings. He needs to instill hope in his audience’s hearts. Which story is going to have more success with his fans – the real world facts where weight loss is a long gruesome road, or a breaking story about a NEW MIRACLE SUPPLEMENT THAT LITERALLY BURNS THE FAT OFF YOUR BUNS WHILE YOU ORDER A COMBO MEAL.

Not to pick just on Dr. OZ, the Biggest Loser is coming back for its 14th (!) season in a few days. In a world ruled by ratings, the producers needed to innovate, and this time they are bringing 3 kids onto the show.

WTF? Are these people sane? It’s bad enough that adult contestants face emotional trauma during (and after) their participation. Now teens???

Lessons to be learned: TV is not the real world. Even reality shows are not real. In the real world, there are no weight loss miracles. In the real world, losing weight too quickly is not only dangerous, it may lead to a rapid weight gain within a few months. In the real world, you should plan on a long and slow road to health, a marathon. In the real world, only sustainable habit changes can lead to a life long weight reduction. So spare yourself the agony of buying Dr. Oz recommended products and waiting for results that don’t appear. And try not to be the biggest loser yourself, rather the longest-term loser (even though you won’t get onto a reality show for that).

  • Michelle

    “WTF” are acronyms I generally avoid and I think I’ll be unsubscribing from you on facebook now. I’ve already deleted your app when it began to require that I let fooducate to post on my behalf in order to use it. Most of the time your food ratings didn’t make any sense anyhow.

  • Michelle

    While this post does certainly address a very important issue, I have to agree with other comments- saying ‘WTF’ on a professional app for food and health education, is just uncalled for. Not only is it a misuse of such a strong term, there are other ways to express disapproval than to use such harsh words. I’m a little disappointed that the Fooducate staff let that one slip.

    • april

      Totally agree! I was going to share this article on Facebook, but I’m too embarrassed by the language to do so.

      • Tim

        All of you grow up. It is so typical American to be overly sensitive about a stupid word or acronym.

        • Michelle

          We are all entitled to express our opinions, Tim. If you do not agree, feel free to kindly ignore the comment, and move on. Your reply was quite rude, and uncalled for. I have the right to express my opinion just as much as the next person does, and for you to insult my ethnicity over it displays that the real lack of maturity is in you, not I.

  • Robyn

    WTF is about the least offensive thing to be said about Dr. Oz. Comically puritanical limousine liberals who think an acronym is more offensive than a culture that lets quacks steal from the credulous by peddling wondertonics is pretty typical for the foodie corner of the internet, though, so I suppose I’m getting what I deserve for reading the comments in the first place. Still, let me say with expletives reluctantly omitted: Wow, ladies, calm down.

  • The Candid RD

    BRAVO!!! Love this post. It’s true, Dr. Oz needs to go back to what he’s good at, off television. Or, start from scratch and actually talk about things that are true like he did when he first started the show. His show used to be good. Same with the Biggest Loser, it was once good, now it’s all about the ratings.

  • Susan

    What exactly is your problem with Biggest Loser anyhow? Agreed that long term habits are the only way to sustain health and weight loss but it seems like these people have plenty of time and resources to learn how to eat properly. I love the show because it shows that no matter who you are or what your age, medical problems or other excuses are, if you eat better and exercise, YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT.


      The problem with The Biggest Loser (IMHO) is that they aren’t learning healthy, sustainable habits. The focus is on dropping the lbs so they can stay on the ranch regardless of how they come off. Previous contestants have stated after leaving the show that they would work out for 8 hours a day and severely dehydrate themselves to weigh as little as possible on weigh in day. Who in the real world can sustain a schedule of 8 hour work outs and no water?

      If you eat better and exercise you will lose weight but the contestants don’t seem to be taught to do either in moderation which sets them up for failure when they leave the ranch. Not to mention that each season brings with it more and more injuries as they push heavier and heaver contestants to keep up the breakneck pace.

      I really hope they are more thoughtful and careful with children on the show-if not I won’t be watching anymore-I have no interest in seeing a 14 year old shred his ACL or get overuse injuries,.

    • CheeseMcGee

      Here’s my issue with The Biggest Loser.

      The target demographic of the show is overweight Americans, of which I am one. In my opinion, they have taken what was originally an inspirational and motivating show, and have now turned it into a formulaic spectacle that, like the fashion/beauty industry, has created unrealistic expectations.

      My biggest gripe is how scripted each show is. Open on the “contestants” talking about how sad they are that X was voted off, and then heading off to the gym. Then during the first workout each week, the producers/trainers choose which “contestant” they want to emotional and physically break down to the point of crying and puking. We hear horrible stories of why they are fat and how horrible their life is. Each time it ends in hugs and extra footage of that person working extra hard in the gym.

      Next, we move to the immunity challenge. Sometimes it’s actually a physical challenge, but occasionally they like to slip in the “eat this random stuff hidden under a cover that is more than likely bad for you until you find the golden ticket”. After the elimination challenge, the next morning the “contestants” confess what horrible things they ate to win the challenge and the trainer yells at them for “competing”.

      Then, back to the gym for more exercise and a ton of “LAST CHANCE WORKOUT” screaming until the weigh in. At this point in the show, they usually like to give you a “healthy” tip like “Instead of eating a huge fatty meal, chew Dentine Ice gum” or “a great way to eat healthy is package a salad in the “new” GladWare Soup and Salad containers”. Oooh, now that’s some great tips to help me at home lose weight!

      Now we come to the worst part of the show… the weigh in. Lets have everyone strip off their shirts, stand on the scale and see what 8-10 hours in the gym along with a monitored nutritionist diet has done for you. Followed by a bunch of tears or cheers depending on how they did. Then, we go to the decision room where they decide who they should kick off for not losing enough weight that week.

      Now, having run down a typical show, here are my issues with this GAME SHOW.

      1. Where in the show have they shown anything that is going to help me in my real life loose the weight. All they have shown is people working out incessantly, I know the contestants spend time with nutritionists learning how to eat right, but why are we the viewer, not given insight into that as well?

      2. These people spend 8-10 hours in a gym working out meanwhile they are being monitored constantly. How is that “real” for any of us. Where are the suggestions for proper exercise regimens when you have a 9-5 and/or family.

      3. If they were really concerned about making these people healthy, they wouldn’t be sending them home each week. Keep them on the ranch and provide prizes for contestants that win challenges. Don’t throw someone off the show in the first few weeks because they only lost 40 lbs, and they have another 150 to go. Sometimes an ex-contestant will stick with it at home, but I have seen lots of them that either stop losing the weight, or gain it all back plus some.

      4. I CAN’T STAND seeing someone hop on the scale and crying their eyes out because they “only lost 4 pounds this week” putting them below the line. Meanwhile we get shots of fellow teammates and coaches shaking their heads in disgust. At this point, the “contestant” says “I tried my hardest, and I don’t understand what is happening”. YOU JUST LOST 4 FREAKING POUNDS… IN A WEEK!!!!

      5. In my opinion, the most egregious part of the show keeping in mind the target demo is fat people… they make you sit on your butt for 2 stinking hours watching this show! How is that helping anybody watching get more healthy!?!

      Yes, there are inspirational stories and moments in the show, but as an overweight person, I find it more demotivating watching people drop weight that fast and that easily. I have to work HARD to loose the weight. It’s been almost 2 years, and I have dropped 70 lbs, but I have a long way to go still. I am trying to create a life change, and I have hit bumps in the road, but game shows like this just tend to feed into the instant gratification world we live in. Would I like to lost my last 80 pounds in the next 4 months, absolutely, but I also want to do it the healthy/proper way.

      Disclaimer: I have not watched this show in 3 or so years, so maybe they have changed the format, and maybe they are teaching proper nutrition and exercise but I sincerely doubt it… this is after all a game show on TV. It’s all about ratings and drama.

      • Fooducate

        Thank you for sharing your point of view. Good luck on your journey!

  • Princess Dianne

    Thank you! THANK YOU!!! I have no feelings about Dr Oz, as I don’t watch his show or – apparently – any show that he’s on, so I don’t know much about him. I do, however, have strong feelings about The Biggest Loser. In fact, I just recently wrote a couple of posts about my audition experience on my blog…it was incredibly eye opening. If you’d like to read about my personal experience, here’s the link:

    While I find weight loss before/after pictures to be inspiring, the things these people do in order to achieve results is alarming. As a morbidly obese person who is finally making positive changes in her life, I have to tell you: it’s incredibly hard to embrace slow, consistent, meaningful change in a world of “lose 100 pounds in 3 months…here’s how!” This show really goes against everything I’m working towards and it makes me sick that now children are on it. Ugh!!!

    • Fooducate

      Thanks Princess Dianne, good luck with your journey!

  • mikes

    I’ll have to leave that article open on the computer. DrOz probably costs me $150 a year when my wife insists on buying these things. Raspberry keytones anyone?

  • Barbara

    I have attended a program for weight loss through my health clinic and knowing my personal plan, watching The Biggest Loser gave me motivation but on the same hand it also gave me a visual of what is unhealthy. Our nutritious/physical therapy led support groups agreed that too fast is not good. Teens on the show is just wrong. Parents had to sign the papers for them to be on the show and that type of dieting/exercise can lead to eating disorders.

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  • Andrea T

    I understand the ratings thing, but I’m not completely against the “placebo affect”. If it’s harmless and makes a person feel better, they why not? I also believe that anecdotal evidence is often better than scientific evidence that’s biased based on where the studies’ funding comes from.

    Re Biggest Loser: I’ve never watched more than a few minutes of it but I do occasionally listen to Jillian Michaels’ podcast. She’d left the show because, among other reasons, she didn’t like the show herself anymore. She shared concerns that have been raised by commenters here.

    It’s now got a whole new production team and she’s returned under specific conditions. While I remember few of the details, the new Loser is supposedly less “about the ratings”, and less competitive. Team coaches are now allowed to advise members of opposing teams. There will be emphasis on sustainable changes and results.

    Childhood obesity is among one of her concerns, hence the addition of children who won’t be subject to the same competition rules as the adults. They won’t live on the ranch.