The Biggest Loser Effect: An Inside Look at The Popular Reality TV Series

We’ve all seen it.  The Biggest Loser is a reality TV show that has in recent years, swept the nation and captivated millions.  It’s developed a very passionate following amongst the fit and un-fit alike.  Living in a world where most everyone is looking for that magic bullet or quick-fix, a phenomenon like The Biggest Loser is quite appealing.  We see these terribly overweight people go through a remarkable change.  Contestants lose hundreds of pounds, drastically improve their health, and seemingly become happier and better people. 

For the millions who struggle with their own weight and workouts, thoughts inevitably turn to, “why can’t I lose weight like The Biggest Loser contestants?”  We see these contestants drop 12, 15, even 20 pounds in a week.  Progress like that takes the normal person weeks or even months…yet the Biggest Loser contestants are dropping are dropping LB’s like it’s nothing.  Sure their workouts seem hard, but we tell ourselves, we’re doing the same things, we’re following the advice of Jillian, and Bob, and all the other trainers featured on The Biggest Loser. 

At this point, desperation, disappointment, and feelings of worthlessness set in.  These three offenders play a huge role in the fitness burn out a lot of us struggle with.  It’s hard to maintain a rigorous fitness routine when you feel all the work you’ve been putting in is for vain.  Seeing other people lose so much weight and change their lives so effortlessly is a tough pill to swallow; and even tougher when you bust your hump for hours on end to “only” lose a measly 2-3 pounds in a week. 

But have you ever considered what really goes on behind the scenes at the Biggest Loser?  Have you considered the HOW or WHY these people are losing so much weight in such a seemingly short period of time?  Kai Gibbard, season 3 Biggest Loser finalist did an interview with well-known blogger and Holistic Health Coach, Golda Poretsky about her experience on The Biggest Loser and what life on the ranch was really like.  Check out some of these shocking answers…

On The Biggest Loser’s diet and exercise program…

“Unfortunately, what they’re telling you the contestants are doing and what they actually have the contestants doing are two different things, at least as far as my season goes.  We were working out anywhere between 2 and 5 hours a day, and we were working out severely injured. There’s absolutely no reason to work a 270 pound girl out so hard that she pukes the first time you bring in a gym.  That was entirely for good tv.

There was a registered dietician that was supposed to be helping [the contestants at the ranch] as well . . . but every time she tried to give us advice . . . the crew or production would step in and tell us that we were not to listen to anybody except our trainers. And my trainer’s a nice person, but I have no idea what she had for a nutritional background at all.”

On The Biggest Loser staff overriding the show’s doctors…

“The doctor had taken our blood and tested us and sent us a solution, I don’t know exactly what it was but it was salty, so I’m assuming that our electrolytes were off.  And when the trainers found out we were taking it, they told us under no certain terms were we to be taking that, because it would make us retain water and gain weight on the scale and we’d have to go home.  The doctors had ordered us to take it and the trainers were like, ‘throw it out, right now.’  There was this interference between the people who were actually probably trying to get us healthy from the people who wanted a good television show.

On what a “week” really meant at the Biggest Loser…

“It varied.  It went from 14 days and I believe that near the end we had one week that was 5 days.”

On contestants dehydrating themselves before weigh-in’s…

“The trainers tell you.  And it was [trainer] Kim [Lyons]‘s first season, and I remember Kim having a conversation with [trainer] Bob [Harper] where she said, and she said it to her team, ‘You know, look, let’s do this the right way this season — no dehydrating, let’s just do it the healthy way.’  And Bob completely agreed to it.  Then, right before our very first weigh in, Kim came over to us and she said, ‘Guys, I’m really, really, really sorry.  I know that Bob and I agreed not to dehydrate our teams, but I’m watching Bob, and if you look right now, he’s dehydrating his team.  And if you guys don’t dehydrate, you don’t stand a chance.  You’re going to get picked off one by one and have to leave.  And that’s when it started.

 For the full interview transcripts, as well as audio, please follow THIS link to Golda’s website.

I strongly urge all of you guys and girls to head over to Golda’s blog and read everything Kai Gibbard had to say.  The behind-the-scenes life on The Biggest Loser is nothing short of appalling.  But I digress…

Let’s do a quick mental re-cap…

  • Working out 2-5 hours per day, often while injured.
  • Ignore registered dietitian’s advice about diet and nutrition.
  • Consume between 1,000-1,200 calories per day
  • Ignore doctor’s orders
  • Dehydrating in the days leading up to weigh ins to artificially further reduce weight
  • “Weeks” on The Biggest Loser can mean up to 14 days.

It’s no wonder these people are losing so much weight.  When you’re doing endless hours of cardio, eating nowhere near your daily caloric requirements, dehydrating yourself, and generally going about weight loss in the least healthy way possible….of course you’re going to lose massive amounts of weight.  You may also develop an eating disorder, serious injuries, body image problems, and set yourself up for failure once you leave the highly structured confines of your weight loss prison facility. 

What Is Healthy Weight Loss?

Healthy weight loss amounts to about 2-3 pounds per week.  I know, I know….We’re Americans (at least most of us reading this) and we expect things to be done 5 minutes ago.  But you know what, this is one of those instances where slow and steady really does win the race.  2-3 pounds a week puts you on track for 8-12 pounds per month.  Stick to that formula for 3-4 months and your down 50 pounds.  How many of us have 50 pounds or less to lose?  I’d be willing to bet the vast majority of readers fall into this category.  You guys don’t have this enormous battle to fight.  You have 3-4 months of solid work ahead of you.  In the grand scheme of thing, it’s really not that long.

Focus on 2-3 pounds of weight loss per week; that should be your goal.  Take things one day at a time and don’t worry about next week.  Get yourself a solid fitness plan designed for weight loss, consider combining with a fitness plan to help you build lean muscle mass, and just stick to your schedules.  Learn to block out exterior influences like The Biggest Loser and focus on doing the best YOU can do.  Remember, The Biggest Loser is a reality television show, it is designed to be entertaining, engaging, and provocative.  It isn’t real life.  It isn’t how the vast majority of us live our lives.  Forget the quick-fix, opt for slow and steady, and you’ll be amazed at how much you change your body and life in the process.


3 thoughts on “The Biggest Loser Effect: An Inside Look at The Popular Reality TV Series”

  1. I used to love BL and what you wrote was exactly why I STOPPED watching. I really felt like it was unrealistic for the typical person trying to lose weight. Most of us can’t spend a few months at a camp, isolated from all outside temptations, working out with a personal trainer for 5 hours a day. When I was losing my 100 pounds I still had to work full time, find time to finish school and still have a social life. 

    1. It’s unfortunate that it has caused so many people to put themselves down bc they can’t achieve the, often unhealthy, levels of success, the contestants on BL do. You’re story is a great example of how the slow and steady approach is the best, and healthiest, way to achieve weight loss goals. Congrats on all of your hard work!


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