Is It Time for the Biggest Loser to Disappear?

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The web is buzzing with conversation following the final episode of “The Biggest Loser”. The season ended with a jaw-dropping win by Rachel Fredrickson, who shed 60% of her body weight. The young contestant is a former competitive swimmer and went down from 260 to 105 pounds in a matter of months. She took home the $250,000 jackpot.

But what did the viewers take home? How does an overweight person feel when she watches the program? Does it motivate, or does it create negativity?

There’s not one single answer, that’s for sure. But some things are for sure:

  1. NBC produces this show to make money, not to improve anyone’s health.
  2. The Biggest Loser pimps various products and foods targeting dieters. Some of these are healthy; others are crap.
  3. There is an excess focus on exercise as the means to lose weight, whereas scientific research has shown that food choices account for 80% of weight loss.
  4. Rapid weight loss does not mean sustained weight loss. In fact, most diets fail because they are a temporary period of suffering to achieve a goal. True and sustained weight loss should never be about sustained suffering, but rather about healthy habits you can keep with for years.
  5. Many of The Biggest Loser contestants have regained all their weight loss and suffered physical and emotional problems as a result of the show.

While the idea of a prime time TV show that encourages people to take control of their weight and improve their health sounds promising in theory, it appears that its manifestation in today’s extreme TV culture is fraught with problems.

What do you think? Is the Biggest Loser causing more harm than good?

  • Patty

    They are definitely causing more harm than good. They are only after
    The money. $250,000 is a minor prize for all they make. And like you
    Said-these people have emotional problems that need long term

  • james451959

    Stop…everyone is talking about her weight loss and saying it’s not healthy. But no one is talking about how it’s unhealthy. Is she eating properly?..Is she getting proper rest and exercise?…We have seen what she looked like right before the show and what she looks like now. But what did she look like before she gained all the weight?….Is a proper weight for body structure? So lets get off the band wagon and find out the facts. Lets get the answer to all these very important question before we say what she is doing is unhealthy. Like normal the media and people want to jump to conclusions before getting the answers to some important facts. Listen, I agree normally when you see smoke usually have fire…but sometimes it’s just smoke find out for sure before you start pointing fingers.

    • Dani

      How likely is it that she will keep it off when she lost so much so fast? A lot of former contestants have gained the weight back. That speaks for itself.

    • Michele Hays

      See the interview I linked above. For one thing, contestants are asked to dehydrate themselves before the “weigh-in.”

      • james451959

        Michele…agreed…but how is this addressing my statement…I want to know why her weight now is unhealthy?…not what she did before she was on the show. No one is giving any facts about why her weight now is unhealthy. If she is eating now healthy than what does her weight have to do with anything. She just maybe doing it wrong and this should be addressed not discussed over the Internet. But if she is doing it right with eating 1200+ calories with the right amount of protein, Grains, veggies and exercise what does her weight have to do with a hill of beans; I say good for her if she feels good about it. I agree this show isn’t probably the best answer to long term weight loss but some of these people on this show might not have done anything to help themselves if it wasn’t for this show.

        • Michele Hays

          The point is that the SHOW is asking contestants to do explicitly unhealthy things in order to “show off” a weight loss that cannot be achieved in a healthy way.

          I agree, “body weight” is not a great marker for health – although this woman’s BMI is classified as “underweight” which the WHO uses as a marker for malnutrition and an indicator of eating disorders. This is not to say you can’t be this height/weight and be healthy in other circumstances.

          You are equating “not doing anything to help themselves” with losing weight. That is a common misconception: typically, people who engage in healthy behavior weigh less as a side effect, but recent studies show it’s the BEHAVIOR that matters, not the weight.

          Contestants on this show change one set of unhealthy behaviors that endanger their health for a different set of unhealthy behaviors that endanger their health: compulsive exercise and eating disorders (which many past contestants of this show have stated they developed as a result, see the link in my other comment) are significantly worse for health than obesity.


  • Julie

    I used to watch BL because I identified with some of the emotional issues related to eating displayed by some of the contestants. What turned me off was the shilling for Big Food and the attitude-y edits that make a reality show a commercial reality show. BL is not reality, never has been, and I can’t believe that reputable trainers would follow the script just to have a job.

  • timlockk

    Think about all the hamburgers you could buy with $250,000!

  • Sandy Kline Barron

    Where’s the negative? Of course TV networks air shows to make money. It’s a business. This year’s winner appears yto be a small bone structured young woman of less than average height. She’s probably now at the low end of her ideal weight. If the end result us healthier individuals, great.
    % to purchase the mote expensive $ to purchase healthy foods & new sized clothing is a bonus
    You go girl & God bless you.

    • Smile

      Who cares, in two weeks no one will even remember Rachel’s name. She set out to loose the most weight and she did just that. Good for her, I hope she is happy and can enjoy life.

    • Michele Hays

      The end result of this show is NOT healthier individuals, which has been documented – do a google search on the health problems of former contestants. And this woman’s height and weight is listed in most of the news articles about her – all you have to do is look it up to see that she’s not at an “ideal weight.”

  • Dale

    Yes, it should disappear – and not just because they finally managed to drive a contestant to presumed anorexia.

    I’ve watched this show over multiple seasons, an episode or two at a time. There’s always ridiculous exercise stunts that are claimed to be entirely safe. If the level of exercise is supposed to be maintained tell me this: when and where are you going to pull your next plane down a runway?? Please let us know because I could sell tickets to that!

    Moderation isn’t sexy but then I’m less likely to have a heart attack or a stroke over exerting myself, too.

    Shows like Biggest Loser make obese people into the equivalent of soul baring trained poodles. Are these people really that desperate for the money and attention? I really have to wonder…

  • lucy1917

    The newest winner is a Minnesota native. I’ve seen her photos from when she was on her high school swim team, and she was much, much larger than 105 lbs. A local news story revealed her workout routine after leaving the BL “ranch,” spending 6 hours per day at a local gym, taking 4 spin classes every day, plus other workouts. Is that healthy behavior?

  • GiGi Eats Celebrities

    Even though this woman won the show… It sounds like she is losing. Yet, she got HEALTHY.

  • Stacy

    I don’t understand what the problem is with the show, for obese people to lose the weight it takes intense dieting and working out to lose it in that amount of time. Most these people suffer from long term emotional damage that they need to fix themselves through counseling and if they don’t get the proper help they resort back to food. Once the weight is off and they’ve trained, it’s much easier to maintain that lifestyle, but unfortunately some people just don’t have the emotional strength to stay on that track. I’m my opinion Rachael did lose too much weight, but that was most likely in an effort to win the money and she’ll probably put on a few pounds now that she has it. It’s smart. It’s probably still healthier than being obese, it’s really no different than gaining a few extra lbs around the holidays, except it’s the other way.

  • Michele Hays

    Kai Hibbard, a contestant on season 3 of the show, gave an interview about what she was put through:

    This show is all about exploiting our cultural bias against fat, and has nothing to do with health (I’m no fan of BMI, but the current winner’s BMI is in the “underweight” category – what does that say about what the show is promoting?)

    There is a growing body of research that shows that healthy habits are significantly more important than body fat in preventing lifestyle-related disease. Let’s have a show about healthy overweight people instead, can we?

    • J.A.V.R.

      People can be “overweight” and healthy depending where and how the muscles and fat are distributed. If it is your typical non-exercise overweight, chances are he/she is not healthy. Like I told someone else here, If your waist circumference is > 40 inches (102 cm) in men and > 35 inches (88 cm) in women (unless pregnant, of course), you have increased health risks. The more you have, the greater the risk. Fat in the abdominal region, known as visceral fat, is associated with greater risk of Type II diabetes, dyslipidemia (elevated levels of free fatty acids in the blood), hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

    • Dale

      Great idea Michele!

  • Eat Chic

    I wonder if there will be a new rule on the next season of the Biggest Loser that disqualifies any contestant with an underweight BMI at the finale…it appears that the “weight loss for money” model has overshadowed the goal to become a “healthy” looking individual. With a BMI in the “underweight” category, it’s clear that the Season 15 Biggest Loser winner is not the image of health.

  • Jessica Linn

    The Biggest Loser takes a group of vulnerable people who’ve been taught by experience that the world is against them, and who are told repeatedly (and usually erroneously) that they are ticking time bombs of death because they are fat. It preys on every emotional weakness these people have, every insecurity, every feeling of shame and of being somehow “less than” because the scale says you’re “more than.”

    It takes these people and put them in a competitive atmosphere. It isolates them from their friends and families. It abuses them – and yes, screaming at people and cursing at people in the name of “health” qualifies as abuse.

    Then it teaches them to make losing weight the very thing the literally LIVE for every single day. Weight loss is made an obsessive goal. Exercise is done at a level most normal people never even remotely consider. It’s compulsive.

    It puts men – who typically lose weight faster – against women, who typically lose weight more slowly. Same with size difference, though this current winner showed that isn’t necessarily the case every time, being both not that big to start with and also a woman.

    There is NOTHING healthy about the way this show encourages or shows weight loss. Furthermore, they use the tricks of reality TV – like measuring a “week” by 10 days or 5 days, instead of 7 – and editing to make themselves appear to care, or appear to have the right intentions.

    Make no mistake. The Biggest Loser is a HUGE money maker for NBC and for itself. It has diet programs and sells products. It’s not out to make people healthy. It’s out to make money. Like ANY diet, that is the primary goal here. They sell false hope and promises, but they do it in a way that is potentially quite dangerous, not only to the contestants participating, but to the people watching at home.

    Nothing this show does or has done or will do (unless the format changes dramatically, and I’d be shocked if that happened) is about making people healthier. It’s about making money and making people thin. Thin does not equal health, especially when it is accomplished via dangerous methods.

    • Fooducate

      Well put.

    • J.A.V.R.

      Sorry, but no. If you’re fat, not a bit overweight or thick but fat, you’re a “ticking time bomb for death”. If your waist circumference is > 40 inches (102 cm) in men and > 35 inches (88 cm) in women (unless pregnant, of course), you have increased health risks. The more you have, the greater the risk. Fat in the abdominal region, known as visceral fat, is associated with greater risk of Type II diabetes, dyslipidemia (elevated levels of free fatty acids in the blood), hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

      • Dale

        So sorry but, no, you are NOT a “ticking time bomb of death” . You are at serious risk but you are NOT about to go kaboom at any second. Less dramatic but certainly more accurate. And, sorry again, NOT well put.

        • J.A.V.R.

          Tell that to my friend’s father. All of his life obese but seemingly all right. One day, he got out from taking a shower and he bent over to put his underwear on and “boom”, heart exploded, almost literally. How many other fat or obese (I don’t use overweight because most bodybuilders are technically overweight) people have died while just having sex or because they had to use strength and their hearts couldn’t take it? If that is not a “ticking time bomb”, I don’t know what is.

    • laura

      Excellently written and so true. I will never watch this show again, it is all about the mighty dollar

  • J.A.V.R.

    To all the people who believe being overweight may not be unhealthy, more than the Body Mass Index, this is one of the most important guidelines:
    If your waist circumference is > 40 inches (102 cm) in men and > 35 inches (88 cm) in women (unless pregnant, of course), you have increased health risks. The more you have, the greater the risk. Fat in the abdominal region, known as visceral fat, is associated with greater risk of Type II diabetes, dyslipidemia (elevated levels of free fatty acids in the blood), hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

  • michael22

    Frankly I see both ends of things here. It has its pros and cons but understand this…..some of these people who go on this show need that kind of push of winning that money or even sometimes being yelled at. They’ve gotten to the weight they have because no one has told them they’re worth it, no one has given motivation or attention sooo they drown themselves in eating all these food. I do agree that some of the exercise is quite intense for people of that size but come on! If someone doesn’t give any of us a little kick in life….that push that everyone needs once in a while! Goals wouldn’t get done. I support the concept of the show and believe it should continue but the execution of certain things maybe could be dealt with a little differently.