The Biggest Loser is one of the only reality shows I’ve ever become personally engaged with on a level that would warrant my committing to following it on a weekly basis for an entire season.
Of course, my wife will tell you that I watched the entire first season of The Bachelor with her.
This may or may not be true… Yeah… Well, uh… Let’s get back to the topic at hand, shall we?
For the first several seasons the producers and contestants of The Biggest Loser did a phenomenal job of maintaining a high level of secrecy regarding the behind-the-scenes nuances. This kept all of us Biggest Loser fans in the dark, allowing us to remain blissfully ignorant of what the contestants were really enduring and how the competition was truly being run.
Fast forward a few years…
Past contestants have now broken the silence and confirmed the truth to a number of claims that had been only rumors before, with the latest controversy surrounding Rachel Frederickson dawning a Skeletor-like physique at the finale having critics and haters sounding the alarms like never before.
While I would agree that Rachel’s finale physique bordered on the extreme, I will come to her defense in that she had 250,000 reasons to lose as much weight as she could before that final weigh in.
Money is a strong motivator and I wonder how many of those criticizing her would behave any differently when faced with the same opportunity.
The Biggest Loser is Structured To Encourage Extreme Behaviors
If anyone deserves to be blamed, it’s the producers, as they undoubtedly create the competitive environment we all know and love that is inherently rife with the potential for extreme behaviors.
The allure of financial security; The accountability of their teammates and trainers; The fear of failing in front of a national audience; Not wanting to squander what seems like the opportunity of a lifetime; Dreading the thought of going home early and having to face disappointed friends and family members.
All of these emotions (and many more) build together to form the perfect storm for throwing discernment to the wind to chase the goal of having confetti raining down on them with a national audience singing their praises.
And, of course, there’s also the plethora of sponsorships and career opportunities that inevitably follow for the Biggest Loser victors.
The ridiculous nutrition and training strategies employed by its contestants aren’t the only aspects of this reality television show that seem to take things a little too far.
Past contestants have alleged being cutoff from family contact for months on end.
The workouts and challenges during the first few weeks are obvious dangers for individuals weighing 350+ pounds, with multiple health conditions from years of being sedentary and slowly destroying their bodies.
Contestants have also been known to train for hours on end while nursing one or more injuries which should warrant serious questioning whether they should even be exercising at all. Extreme dehydration also appears to be common fare before every “weekly” weigh-in.
Producers have also been accused of asking patronizing questions about family or past sins in order to illicit an emotional response from the contestants.
All of this really isn’t news. To be honest, I’d have to question the intellectual honesty of anyone who’s watched more than a few shows of The Biggest Loser and didn’t glean most of these details on their own (if this describes you, you may want to exercise a little more to sharpen up that brain of yours).
Given the extreme environment in which contestants are placed, with little or no semblance to what they’d be dealing with in the real world, it’s not surprising that the majority of them end up putting back on a substantial percentage of the fat they lose while on the show.
Extremities notwithstanding, there is one specific detail about the show that is almost impossible to discern by simply watching the various episodes.
This little detail inundates millions with dangerous false expectations and eventual feelings of failure as they embark on a fat loss journey of their own.
A “Week” As Defined By The Biggest Loser
One of the most shocking details that has come out regarding how The Biggest Loser contest is structured has to do with the amount of time that takes place between weigh-ins.
As mentioned earlier, no indication is given that anything other than 7 days have passed between weigh-ins. In fact, contestants frequently make comments about losing more or less than a pound a day, with the obvious implication being that only 7 days have transpired from one weigh-in to the next.
Andrew “Cosi” Costello, a contestant on the Australian Biggest Loser, claims that producers and editors of the show took great measures to ensure that nothing was conveyed that would possibly give the impression that a “week” was anything other than a normal 7-day week.
This wouldn’t be that big of a deal except for the fact that Andrew also exposed that a “week” on The Biggest Loser ranged anywhere from 16 days all the way up to 25 days in actual duration.
Kai Hibbard, season 3 contestant, stated in an interview that weigh-ins during her season were as long as 14 days apart.
Who knows how many countless individuals have compared their weekly results to those experienced by Biggest Loser contestants, only to feel discouraged and downtrodden by the massive disparity that exists between the two?
This is foolish for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that the contestants have a copious amount of luxuries and resources at their disposal that aren’t available to the typical viewer.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that the results being displayed to a national television audience are done so under the false pretense of having taken one week to induce when they may have actually taken 2 or 3 times longer than that to accumulate.
Viewing The Biggest Loser’s “Secrets” in Proper Perspective
It’s been a while since I’ve stopped watching every episode of The Biggest Loser. I will still tune in if I happen to be flipping through the channels and see that it’s on.
I just don’t record every episode or make it a “family night” event anymore.
It might surprise you to hear that my viewing regularity falling off has nothing to do with any of the Biggest Loser secrets I’ve exposed in this article.
Despite the fact that the show’s producers seem to be intentionally misleading their faithful audience, and the contestants having to endure such harsh extremities, The Biggest Loser still presents fantastic stories of redemption and success (much like this one) that are highly motivating.
Without fail, every time I’m done watching an episode of The Biggest Loser it makes me want to get after my training with a renewed vigor and dial in my nutrition that much more.
Of course The Biggest Loser is a sham when examined in certain contexts.
It’s a reality T.V. show, though. Did you really expect anything less?
But that doesn’t mean we have to throw the baby out with the bath water and not respect the aspects of the show that are indeed worthy of our admiration.
The contestants all but kill themselves in pursuit of a healthier existence, improved self image, enhanced quality of life and the increased probability of extending their time on this earth, God willing.
I, for one, think it’s vastly refreshing to see people who have had their eyes opened to understanding how valuable getting and maintaining a high quality of health truly is.
Despite being our most prized physical possession, we foolishly take our health for granted, often prioritizing far more trivial pursuits ahead of it.
This seems to be especially true here in America, which is ironic considering we spend more than twice as much on healthcare than any other nation, yet are still one of the least healthy nations in the world.
Our healthcare isn’t the problem. Not yet, anyway. The government seems to be making it worse by the day.
Our problem is a food supply that is geared more toward killing life than nurturing it, combined with widespread nutritional ignorance.
Fortunately, more and more people are coming to the realization of just how tainted our food supply has become and are taking control of their diets (and health by extension).
Health consciousness is not anywhere close to being at what I’d consider to be an acceptable level. Still, the message seems to be spreading, which is encouraging – even if it isn’t happening as quickly as I’d like.
As sordid as certain aspects of The Biggest Loser may be, the show is still playing an important role in emblazoning the immense value of health and need for personal responsibility onto our collective conscience.
So Now You Know The Biggest Loser’s Biggest Secrets
The weigh-ins are a fraud.The training and nutritional strategies are largely unrealistic and unsustainable.
The producers orchestrate certain events to be more conducive to invoking an emotional response from the contestants.
This isn’t all bad, though. After all, what would reality television be without a few timely outbursts of raw emotion? I’ll tell you…
It’d be non-existent, because it would be mind numbingly boring and nobody would watch it. In fact, I would argue that the emotional aspects of The Biggest Loser are what drive its millions of faithful viewers to tune in each week.
Nevertheless, despite the number of instances where The Biggest Loser producers and editors are less than transparent with their audience – and the show’s strategies obviously lacking a basis in reality – the overarching message is still an incredibly positive one that deserves to be embraced.
Do you agree? Leave me a comment below to join the discussion.
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2 Golda Poretsky’s Interview with Biggest Loser Finalist, Kai Hibbard: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
3 Former Biggest Loser Contestant Blasts Show
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