“The Biggest Loser” is holding auditions for an upcoming season this weekend in Oklahoma City. A lot of people are expected to show up, and that’s with good reason: In 2012, Oklahoma was ranked the sixth-worst state when it comes to obesity.
Before you head to the audition, please remember that “The Biggest Loser” isn’t without its flaws. That’s not to discourage you from doing what you feel is best, but it’s important to keep this information in the back of your mind. Information like…
5. The real world is thrown out the window
The first thing to remember is “The Biggest Loser” throws reality out the window. One only needs to watch the show just once to realize this.
The contestants all, effectively, live at a rehab facility where the best workout machines, healthiest foods and crew of medical personnel and personal trainers are there for them 24/7. While some people might joke and say they “live at the gym,” it’s the truth about the show’s contestants.
And that’s just not indicative of the real world.
There’s usually one episode per season devoted to seeing the top handful of contestants return home for a week to see how it goes. But, while they’re home, they’re not really into the swing of being “at home.” They don’t go back to work or school, for instance. So, it doesn’t really give them a sense of returning to normalcy. It’s when the contestants completely head back into reality that they realize just how tough things are, and no matter what kind or the number of challenges the show’s writers drum up, they never do an adequate job of preparing people for what they’ll run into when they get home.
What they can do better:
Although “The Biggest Loser” lacks any authentic real world situations that could actually benefit their contestants, the show does manage to stress the importance of nutrition and, to an extent, exercise (more on that later).
The above photo is an example of this. It’s a point in the show where contestants come face-to-face with the foods they love and, admittedly, would gorge on before hitting the Ranch. Foods like burritos, donuts, pizza, fried chicken and bread.
While it is a tad over-the-top for the audience’s viewing pleasure, it does serve a purpose: It lets contestants, and viewers, know just what they’re putting in their bodies. While the signs only mention calories, the show’s host usually breaks down where those calories come from: protein, fat or carbohydrates. This, along with the nutritional education they’re getting elsewhere, allows the contestants and audience to somewhat understand what they’re putting in their bodies, and why it’s potentially unhealthy.
But the show needs more of it. It needs to discuss the differences between simple and complex carbs, soy and whey proteins, and how the body processes both those and fat to use as nutrients. Then, the show can begin to stress that each person’s nutritional needs will differ, based on the goals they have and their body composition.
It wouldn’t be hard at all to do: Show people how to work out in the office, at home, while on vacation and even while doing everyday tasks like tending to the garden or cleaning the house. It would be a unique and worthwhile addition to the show’s premise, and one that would be welcomed with open arms. This would segue naturally into an episode that focuses on long term weight management, so it seems like a no-brainer.
But, before you know it, the show begins to goof up again when it focuses too much on a contestant’s weight, and when…
4. Body composition isn’t discussed enough
The strong emphasis the trainers and show, in general, put on weight loss is disconcerting. Just because someone weighs 300 pounds doesn’t mean they’re unhealthy — just take a look at NFL linebackers. Yet, on the show, that’s how it comes across: If you don’t weigh <insert magical number here>, then you’re tubby and need five more Last Chance Workouts to get into shape!
Then Jillian Michaels will yell at you, Bob Harper will give you a disappointed grimace and Dolvett Quince will pull you aside to ask you if something is bothering you.
It’s understandable why the show uses weight as its measuring tool: Because it’s easy for the audience, and contestants, to see a change in physical appearance and a number. Many viewers think, that if one contestant lost 10 pounds and another lost 15 pounds in a week, that the second contestant is doing a better job. But that’s not entirely accurate.
Notice how I just used the word “pounds” and not “fat.” That’s because the body is made up of much more than just fat, and when these contestants are entering into an extreme caloric deficit to help achieve their weight loss goals, they are likely losing much more than just fat. Ever notice how, in the first week of the competition, many contestants lose obscene amounts of weight? It’s because most of it is water. Notice how in subsequent weeks the weight loss dies down, the trainers get upset and the contestants get severely bummed because they “didn’t reach the goal.” It’s all because there’s no more water left to lose.
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