In my line of work, you hear and see it all when it comes to weight loss and weight management. Inevitably someone will ask ” so what do you think of that show The Biggest Loser?” and I will say, “meh, it’s an extreme show about extreme weight loss for people who are extremely overweight, to each their own”. This week, however, the big question heard all over social media was ” wow, did you SEE how skinny she got?”The person in question being Rachel Frederickson, the winner of this season’s $250K prize.
Yes, I noticed her dramatic change as well, you’d have to be blind to not see that the pendulum has swung the other way for her weight. So much so that she has crossed categories into underweight for her height. Still, that is as far as I want to take any criticism or opinion of her journey to self-love. Not because I’m above judging someone, but because I don’t think she is the problem: The questions left answered by the show’s producer’s are the problem.
The Biggest Loser is modeled after the “extreme” brand of tv shows that take something/someone that needs an immense amount of work and completely revamp it/that person into something/someone new. Extreme Home renovation, Extreme Makeovers etc etc. But at least with home renovations you see much of the behind the scenes and what it takes to overhaul a space even when it has been reduced to a sound bite. With BL you do see some serious sweating but not much is said for the real grit and dirt of changing your body under extreme pressure and a tight time frame. The general, interested public would benefit from knowing how unrealistic and potentially harmful this particular brand of weight loss can be. So did you know that:
- Contestants are exercising for about 4 hours per day? Here is a link to average calories burned during 1 hour of exercise based on different weight categories. Multiply that by 4 hours and many contestants are likely burning at least 3,500 calories per day which is the number of calories in one pound of fat.
- Contestants are on a crash diet of 1000-1200 calories per day? Everybody needs a minimum of essential calories to maintain organ and physical function. 1,000-1,200 calories is barely cutting it. Add that to the calorie deficit created by all the exercise and voila, you are losing large amounts of muscle along with fat and have landed in a space that needs to be medically regulated.
- Exercising and crash dieting all day can mess with your head? The psychological impact of physically working hard added to PAST self esteem issues (obese people usually have eating disorders too) + being hungry and TIRED all the time = ? Have you ever fasted? yeah, it’s not easy or pretty. What do you get when a a hungry, tired person with a history of binge eating starts to get rewarded for losing weight at an unhealthy pace? Enter Rachel Frederickson.
Some might argue that the Biggest Loser is no more dangerous than bariactric surgery which is far more invasive. After all, when someone is morbidly obese shouldn’t they do whatever it takes to lose weight? The trouble with that here is that risks are made clear to patients before surgery and many are often encouraged to lose weight in more traditional ways first. Then there is the fact that this is a national television show with far reaching appeal. Who exactly is watching this program and taking it as the whole truth? I recommend that the Biggest Loser use its platform for more than ratings and aim to educate the viewers at home as well.