About a year ago I started to have an intense inner conflict over the show. On one hand I loved the inspirational stories and how they seem to move people to believe that change was possible. The trainers knew how to get results - psychically and psychologically - and I especially loved it when healthy eating experts were on the show. But then I really started THINKING about what I was witnessing and started researching and reading horror stories from the contestants after they left the show. It was like a kid finding out Santa Clause wasn't real. I don't know why I was shocked, after all it IS a TV show, but somehow ---perhaps because my own personal journey -- I wanted to believe. I know that IT IS POSSIBLE to lose 70 pounds in a relatively short period of time (10 months). I know what can happen when a person makes up their mind and refuses to quit. But some of the stories are just UNREAL!
Case in point, the latest winner, Rachel.
Rachel lost 105 pounds, 60% of her body weight in the space of 4 and 1/2 months???! Sound the alarm!! I shudder at the thought of what she may have been compelled to do and quite honestly may have been encouraged to do to WIN. What started out as a journey to live a happier, healthier life turned into something ugly...a race for cash, winner take all, by any means necessary. Even if she did do it the right way (which I seriously question with those results) the bottom line is that the Biggest Loser isn't real. It may be "reality TV" but it isn't real.
Losing weight in real life is not being shipped off to the ranch where everything is controlled. Is not working out with celebrity trainers 4-6 hours a day like it's your job. It is not having expert nutritionist flying in and teaching you how to cook a meal. It is not environment without work, kids, family pressures, and sabotaging friends...The Biggest Loser a contrived situation...it isn’t real. And in addition to my concerns about the crazy risks people take to win (not eating solid food for days, severe dehydration, living in the sauna), I'm conflicted about watching and supporting something -- no matter how inspirational -- that in many ways portrays as real the very misconceptions I am fighting every day.
I preach that change takes time - aim for 1-2 pounds a week and a person on the show loses 15 to 20 pounds in one week. I try to teach the importance of not competing with others - only with yourself - and on the show it's about winning a contest every week. I encourage my clients to find what works for them - start small, modify/keep it safe, and gradually take on increasingly more challenging fitness routines - but on the show, everyone has the same workouts, physical challenges, goals, etc. and is expected to achieve the same results - go hard or go home.
There are elements of the show that I still love, but as with everything I have to weigh the pros and cons and right now the cons have it. I just can't anymore and I feel bad for those that have been on the show and those that have unknowingly been deceived by it. Rachel just made the horrors of the show real -- she is a living breathing example of what happens when things go too far and why the "microwave mentality" in our society is so dangerous. My heart breaks for Rachel. I hope she didn't unintentionally damage her health rather than improving it.
Losing weight and getting healthy are not always synonymous and I fear that Rachel's battle may have just gotten a heck of a lot harder rather than easier. My two cents.
P.S. I will not comment on the debate that she is "too skinny". I don't know her height, age, or BMI and she could very well be at a "healthy weight". My issue is how I believe she got there.
Originally published: February 6, 2014