Are we The Biggest Losers?

By Meeghan, 15 March, 2010

The title of The Biggest Loser has always annoyed me a little but recently a number of my clients have asked what my thoughts are of the show. In the process of answering this question I’ve had to put my thinking cap on and dig deep for some honest answers.

At the outset it’s important to recognise The Biggest Loser is a reality TV show not a serious sports training program. It’s all about ratings and commercial success. This is the 5th series of The Biggest Loser and on Sunday March 7th 2010, 857,000 viewers tuned in to watch. So that’s plenty of bums on seats right?

The Biggest Loser has always been a target for criticism but in this series sports scientists are horrified that contestants, some of whom began the program at more than 170 kilograms, will compete in a marathon - yes that’s right a 42 km road race (a distance equal to Melbourne to Frankston) after only 11 weeks of training.

And, the other major criticism seems to be the weekly weigh ins, which according to former contestants who spilled the beans to the Age, actually happen every 10 to 14 days or longer. Personally I’m outraged that the show’s producers would deliberately mislead viewers (like that’s never happened before) and claim weight loss of up to 17kgs a week in order to put more more bums on seats! Anyway the moral of the story seems you shouldn’t always believe what you read or watch – even if it is supposedly a weight loss reality TV show.

The health and fitness industry is very big business as our nation grows and expands due to an obesity epidemic. A TV show like this can inspire and motivate others but ultimately it must be viewed as it is - a reality TV game. Why else would contestants who are falling off treadmills, throwing up and losing dangerous amounts of weight keep going? Well that would perhaps have something to do with the tasty carrot of $200,000 which the ‘winner’ will take home.

You and I don’t have the luxury of The Biggest Loser living environment. Cameras in your face, trainers like Michelle Bridges telling you “I pay respect to anyone that can puke, get up and get on with it”, and a lock-down environment in which you may train for 5 or more hours a day if you like without having to work, cook or clean.

The irony is presumably some of the contestants who made it onto the show had been doing quite a bit of sedentary TV watching themselves. So are we The Biggest Loser in all of this while the TV executives laugh all the way to the bank?

The Biggest Loser entertains viewers and sometimes even has some great health and fitness advice. However in my corner of the world I’d be more inclined to encourage you to lift your bum up off the couch, switch off The Biggest Loser and head out for a walk.

And if you do watch the show, don’t settle into the couch with some popcorn, do some squats, do some lunges and burn some fat in a healthy and realistic way. After all the main message really should be it’s all about balance; a healthy body, a healthy mind and a healthy spirit.

You don’t need to throw up or fall off a treadmill to achieve that.

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