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“The Biggest Losers” Unhealthy Approach to Weight Loss--Editorial

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Weight Loss related image Photo: Getty Images

Whenever weight loss is your primary motivation, you are apt to go “too far” to reach your goals. Weight loss motivation focuses on pounds lost instead of body fat burned and inches lost.

And, if your motivation is to lose huge amounts of weight quickly, you could damage your health. Losing huge amounts of weight quickly will probably be regained quickly because you haven’t built muscle mass. You will usually regain more weight than you previously lost. Your health will also worsen with each yo-yo weight loss and regain.

No credible personal trainer will ever encourage you to focus on weight loss. Health improvement should always be the main goal of your fitness program.

Here are some facts surrounding the hit television show, “The Biggest Loser.” I’m not here to bash the show. It will continue to do well regardless of what I say. But, I feel an obligation to tell people the truth about quick weight loss and how it affects your health.

Here are some facts:

1. Ryan Benson, the 2005 season winner lost 112 pounds. He originally weighed in at 330 pounds. He confessed to urinating blood after fasting and dehydrating himself. His weight returned to over 300 pounds (he was absent from The Biggest Loser season finale).

2. Kai Hibbard was the season 3 runner up. She wrote on her blog that she and others would dehydrate before weigh-ins and stack on clothing during workouts (when the cameras were off). She regained 31 pounds in the two weeks after the show. She also detailed her experience on a CBS morning news show.

3. Contestants are able to lose 20 pounds or more a week because they work out up to six hours a day. This practice is unsafe and not reasonable in real life circumstances.

4. The “New York Times” reported contestants must have permission from NBC before chatting with a reporter. So, contestants are speaking out themselves. I have mentioned just two examples. There are many others.

Common sense tells you that its not wise to lose weight in this manner. And, although it is “only a television show,” some people will believe and follow what they see.

When you have rapid weight loss, much of that weight loss will be water weight and some muscle mass. So, you find yourself regaining this weight quickly when you begin to eat the carbohydrates, proteins and fats that your body needs. Why? Because you will also replenish water stores in your body's cells.

Health experts agree that it is safe to lose an average of about 2 pounds a week. At the beginning of a new exercise program, you could lose 6-8 pounds the first week. The weight loss will even out over time.

Health experts also agree that the best method for obtaining optimal health and fitness is to be patient. Eat right, exercise regularly, build muscle, burn fat and lose weight. This process takes longer but will keep the weight off and you will maintain a lean, healthy body!

If “The Biggest Loser” program has motivated you to start exercising, that is great! I hope you have continued your exercise program to better your long-term health. That is a realistic and safe approach. “The Biggest Loser” approach to weight loss is not realistic or safe.

Mark Dilworth, BA, PES, CPT is a Certified Personal Trainer and former NCAA Division I athlete. Mark is the owner of My Fitness Hut, Her Fitness Hut, Sports Fitness Hut and My Nutrition Hut. Mark’s Fat Blaster Athletic Training System has been proven to give his clients the fit, sculpted and athletic-type bodies they want. Visit Mark’s main site:

Your Fitness University http://yourfitnessuniversity.com

Add a Comment7 Comments

I used to relgiously watch the Biggest Loser-and then I really thought about the fact that these folks put their normal life on hold for months. Most of us can not afford to not work and excercise 6hrs a day. I lost alot of weight by changing my eating habits-by actually EATING!!- and yes I joined a gym. But what I didn't address and learn to cope with was the sexuality involved. I put some of the weight back on and I'm now working on the WHOLE picture. I want a life. You need to work the emotional issues and the physical to keep the weight at bay.

June 12, 2011 - 7:13pm
EmpowHER Guest

I was really concern about the calorie count i was given to use. I was going to sign up for the biggest loser club, and did "how many calories you need daily to lose weight" tool, and was given a calorie of 1039 daily calories. I thought that a person should not go under 1200 calories a day, and even thats kind of low I thought. I am 5feet 2 inches tall with a large frame, I had it measured, and look very skinny at 135 pounds. Do not know why, I`ve always looked like that. I am now going to follow a 1500 cal limit with exercise of no more than 60 minutes a day. I know I can devote an hour or less of exercise a day for myself. I am sick of extreme diets and will watch what I eat and exercise and find exercises that I enjoy like bikeriding and walking and most of all dancing.

June 8, 2011 - 11:02pm

Yes, its television and I think some people will do about anything to win $250,000. I don't know any trainers who would train people this way.

April 27, 2011 - 1:32pm
EmpowHER Guest

I don't quite understand why the contestants, whom we know are very fat, have to expose their bodies. I know they are exposing themselves in many ways--by telling their stories, by letting us see them cry and sweat--but I'm not sure it's fair to ask them to dress down for us. That's so sensationalistic to me. It's not like we don't realize that someone who weighs 476 pounds is very fat! Or do the contestants not care? Because I keep myself covered up thinking no one will know how fat I am! So is it just me?
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April 27, 2011 - 2:40am
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks for your share with us friend! i am a fat girl,i am crazy for my fat body,i can't wear beautiful clothes like other girls,i really want to loss weight,so i make exercise everyday and drink much water,only eat vegetables,and didn't eat oil and spicy food,also i ues weight loss items called meizitang from the website http://www.fashion-superslim.com

April 16, 2011 - 7:02pm

Thanks for your story! You are on the right track. 17 pounds lost in two months is great. I hope you are doing regular strength and cardio training. I would encourage you to regularly get your body fat percentage checked by a trainer (once a week). Fat loss is more important than weight loss. Burned fat and lost inches tells you that your body is shrinking and changing to lean and toned. Let me know how its going!

March 15, 2011 - 12:45pm
EmpowHER Guest

Thank you for this post. As someone who is inspired by and equally frustrated by The Biggest Loser, it is easy to get frustrated by not hitting the same gigantic weight loss numbers that you see on the show.
I am 36/m and 300lbs. I have a stint from a blockage I had when I was 32. Scary stuff. I've lost 17lbs in the last two months, which is good, I guess, but easily questioned when you get sucked into The Biggest Loser mentality.
This posting came at exactly the right time.

March 15, 2011 - 7:06am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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