Thursday, October 24, 2013

Biggest Loser: Loser of what?

The Biggest Loser is a television show that airs on NBC and is currently in its fifteenth season of production. It follows a group of fifteen overweight people who want to change their lifestyle at “the ranch”. It chronicles them dropping weight in ridiculous amounts each week to compete for a cash prize. But how successful of a program is the Biggest Loser actually?
The Today show wondered the same thing so they caught up with 54 of the past contestants from season one through season eleven (1). The statistics were as follows: 38 contestants gained weight, 13 stayed within ten pounds of what they left the ranch with and only 3 continued to lose the weight at home after the show. That means that 70% of the contestants interviewed gained weight back. This in turn leads to a failing success rate. So is this really a life changing show or just a momentary fix for a disease that is spreading like wildfire throughout America? Almost 70% of adult Americans are overweight or obese which shows that there is definitely a need for the ranch and a need for this type of weight lose show (2). However at what cost are these people paying to “get healthy”? One of the contestants on this season put his wedding on hold; another missed the birth of his first son. After learning about the failure rate and seeing how many of them gain weight back I just want to yell at the screen to go home.
For those who are not frequent viewers of the show, during the last couple minutes an intense weigh-in occurs with lights and dramatic music. They are ecstatic when they lose 15 pounds but are saddened when they only lose five. That’s five pounds in one week, almost a pound a day. Even at that rate these contestants are losing weight much faster than the normal obese person. Health experts say that a normal healthy amount of weight loss per week is between one and two pounds, not 15 or 23 as some of the contestants did this past week (3). This is one of the reasons that I think this program is hard for contestants to stick to. They are so used to working out for six hours a day, having temptations taken away from them and having a personal training for as many weeks they can stay on the ranch. Yet the most important factor that I think affects their weight gain is the sense of a fake world. On the ranch they do not have to be busy moms or dads, they do not have jobs; they are basically living in another world where reality does not exist. Then the moment they step home everything comes rushing back and the signs for McDonald’s are everywhere.
One of the contestants that the Today Show caught up with was Tara Costa from season seven. She started the competition at 294 pounds, got down to 139 while being on the Biggest Loser but then was at 161 when the Today Show interviewed her. You’re thinking, so what? Most of them did gain the weight back, why is she special? As of July of this year, she was being sued because of her weight gain. She allegedly had a business deal with FC Online Marketing Inc. that she would be their spokesperson in 2011 (4). Michael Parrella is chief executive at FC and was quoted saying; “She came on at a certain weight. We had a fitness clause. She was in material breach after she gained, in my opinion, about 45 pounds”. There are so many things wrong with this quote. First of all, how is a man’s opinion of how much weight a woman has gained considered at all credible. Most of them cannot even feed themselves (my father) let alone calculate how much weight a woman has lost. Besides this, the entire law suit is exactly the point I am trying to make in this write up. She had signed a contract with this company and not even that was effective in keeping the weight off. Not only did she not keep the weight off, now she is facing a lawsuit against her about not keeping the weight off.
This is not to say that this show is harmful in any way, there are a couple success stories with the contestants. Most of them do gain weight back but not back to the 300 and 400 pounds that they started at. So yes they do gain weight back but they are now at a healthier weight. They get a fresh start on life and many can do things that they never thought that they would be able to do. Tara Costa is now able to do Ironman’s even though she is not “fit” enough to be a spokesperson. The Biggest Loser is not harming these obese people but it is not as successful as they make the show seem. But then again, what shows are as successful as they promote? It’s all in the way you view things and I will still continue to watch the show despite what I have learned through this process.


1.     ‘Biggest Loser’: Where are they now?, 2012 MSNBC Interactive, 23 Oct. 2013
2.     Ogden, C. L., M. D. Carroll, B. K. Kit, and K. M. Flegal. "Overweight and Obesity in the U.S. « Food Research & Action Center." Food Research Action Center Overweight and Obesity in the US Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.
3.     Tupper, Naomi. "What Is a Healthy Amount of Weight to Lose per Week?" Calorie Secrets RSS. N.p., 2 May 2012. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.
4.     Rivera, Zayda. "Tara Costa, 'Biggest Loser' Contestant, Hit with Lawsuit for Allegedly Gaining Weight." NY Daily News. N.p., 10 July 2013. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.


  1. I think you've for sure got some great points here. I don't think the Biggest Loser Ranch is a very realistic place of residence... As you said, how many people have the financial capabilities to hire a personal trainer and the schedule to work out with them for 6 hours a day? Honestly, professional athletes don't work out for six hours a day. The expectations that are set on the show are really really hard to maintain and I think people view some of the "Losers" as actual failures when they gain weight back. It's typically not viewed as natural to lose 15 pounds in a week, and while many of the contestants do have a lot of weight to lose, no one can maintain that weight loss as their body re-regulates and the weight sheds slower. The show sets up these unrealistic expectations and can leave many people feeling like losers in the end.

  2. I think the show is definitely unrealistic, but studies show that sustaining ANY type of weight loss is unlikely. Within 5 years, over 90% of people gain weight back (and many gain more weight back than they initially lost). Perhaps we need to stop thinking of success in failure in terms of scale numbers going up and down, and instead think about making our bodies healthy regardless of what the scales say....


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