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6 ''Biggest Loser'' Lessons to Unlearn

Leave This Advice in the Living Room
  -- By Jason Anderson, Certified Personal Trainer
TV can be educational. After all, I outlined eight great lessons you can take from NBC’s hit television show, "The Biggest Loser" and apply to your own healthy lifestyle program. I said it then and I'll say it again: I am a big fan of the show, and I love to see the wonderful transformations that take place in the lives of the participants. If you have watched it yourself, you know that the contestants come away with fit bodies, a healthier way of eating, and new way of thinking. While "The Biggest Loser" offers some great lessons and plenty of motivation, there are some other things about the show that are not ideal for the everyday "loser" and some of these things are downright unrealistic!

So as the newest season unfolds this fall, be sure to watch out for the unsafe, unrealistic, or too-good-to-be true tips, which happen from time to time. Combine these realizations with the other take-home lessons, and you'll have lots of great tips and motivation for your own weight loss goals!

6 Lessons to Unlearn

1. Their results are not typical. "Biggest Loser" contestants weigh in once per week. In the first few weeks of each season, the contestants lose massive amounts of weight. I am not talking about four or five pounds either. I'm talking about 15, 20, or even 25 pounds gone in a single week! Healthy weight loss guidelines, like SparkPeople's, state that up to two pounds lost per week is safe for adults. Occasionally, adults with BMI's higher than 30 can safely lose a little more than that. Losing two pounds per week on "The Biggest Loser" would send you home very quickly! Later in the show, everyone's weight loss slows down, and they're disappointed with four-, six- and even eight-pound losses. In reality, even these "small" amounts are more than what most people can expect. In real life, most dieters can lose up to two pounds per week. Remember the lesson from the tortoise and the hare: Slow and steady wins the race! You're more likely to keep the weight off that way (and not go crazy with exercise or dieting extremes during the process).

2. They put their lives on hold. Probably the single biggest factor that makes these folks so successful is that they spend weeks on the "campus" with NO outside distractions. They have no jobs, school, family responsibilities, last-minute meetings, errands to run, bills to pay, cell phones to answer or obligations to attend to. Their only focus is exercising and losing weight. When contestants finally go home, you can see the fear on their faces. They know how hard it will be to continue their diet and exercise plans when LIFE resumes. In the perfect environment—with trainers and dietitians and doctors overseeing every step, we could all be big losers. But weight loss doesn't require putting your life on hold. Sure it'd be easier, but it's pretty unrealistic and it doesn't teach you how to really deal with life and weight loss. Those of us who learn to lose weight and live in the real world are far better off—because we can build habits that really work and create lasting change.

3. They are often overtraining. Behind the scenes, participants are closely monitored by physicians and trainers to make sure they can hold up to the rigors of training. All, if not most, of the participants go from zero fitness activity to training every day for hours. In the controlled environment of the campus, they can rest optimally, eat optimally, and recover optimally. But this isn't a good training philosophy for the everyday person. In essence, they go from inactive to athlete, but that can be dangerous for many people, inviting injuries, pain, and health risks. The best bet is to start slowly increase the intensity, duration and frequency over time. Even then, no one person needs to exercise for hours a day. Allow your body the time it needs to adjust to workloads and remember that there is more to life than fitness.

4. They rely on trainers. At nearly every workout, Bob or Jillian tells the "losers" what to do, when to do it, how often to do it, and how long to do it. It sure would be easy to reach your goals if you had a trainer standing over you, motivating you, and forcing you to work harder than you would on your own, right? I believe in personal training (heck, I am a trainer!) but you don’t need a personal trainer to be successful. For my clients, I teach them how to exercise and then to let them go. A dependent relationship between client and trainer is not a good idea. SparkPeople has all the tools and resources you need to work out, get motivated, and lose weight on your own!

5. They give up their favorite foods. When voting in the elimination room, the contestants can be seen sitting in front of back-lit coolers full of treats, which represent their favorite foods. The show doesn’t come right out and say this, but it seems to imply that you must give up all “contraband” to lose weight. This is unrealistic, not to mention boring. In reality, you can enjoy your favorite treats from time to time—just not all the time. Trainer Bob even said once that you can have dessert once per week. Food should be enjoyable, and even when losing weight you should allow yourself to eat delicious foods that you like. Saying "no" to everything sugary, doughy, fried or fatty will set you up for failure. Like many things in life, healthy eating is all about moderation.

6. They compare themselves to others. Each week at the weigh-in, the person who loses the most weight gets "immunity" and the people who lose the least are likely to be eliminated. No one wants to be the one who loses the fewest pounds. Inevitably, someone gets discouraged because they compare their weight loss to the losses of others. This is part of the TV game, but in real life, comparing yourself to others is a losing game. The only person you should be concerned with is yourself. Everyone loses weight in different places and at different rates. Don’t let someone else’s victory or defeat determine whether you view yourself as a winner or a loser. Keep your eyes straight ahead as you eat right, exercise hard, remain consistent. If you do this, everything else will eventually fall into place.


Although it isn’t realistic for everyone to follow everything they see on "The Biggest Loser," the basic principles hold true: Making healthy food (and portion) choices, surrounding yourself with supportive people, and exercising regularly will lead to weight loss. Changing your habits into a lasting lifestyle will ensure that the weight stays off. Watching the show can be helpful and motivational—especially when you can determine what's realistic and what's just reality television.