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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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September 29, 2009

The Biggest Loser… Is the Audience

By Mark Sisson
178 Comments

The Biggest Loser HoaxI watched The Biggest Loser last week – as well as the prior week’s opener, thanks to TiVo. I know what you’re thinking, but, hey, it’s my job and it has to be done. Truth is, I figure it’s about time someone shook America by the lapels and exposed the myths and fallacies in this show, which has become one of the most popular on TV. With all the glowing coverage, the average viewer is starting to think The Biggest Loser somehow represents the indomitability of the human spirit and the triumph of modern bariatric medicine. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a made-for-TV spectacle that has morphed into a cruel hoax perpetrated on the typical overweight person in America who is desperately looking for the weight-loss secret. It shows precisely how NOT to lose weight. Talk about two steps forward and three steps back. A few years ago, I suggested in this post that there were a few things right with the show (I still took them to task for their sponsor choices) but I’ve changed my mind. If this season’s opener, in which two morbidly obese, untrained contestants nearly died trying to race a mile in the heat, is any indication, nothing will do more to prolong the current obesity epidemic than a fixation on the Biggest Loser and its yelling, screaming, puking, crying, collapsing, extreme dieting, six-hour workout mentality. Hell, if I were an obese person watching all this, I’d be thinking, “dude, if this is what it takes to lose the weight, pass me another Twinkie and let’s see what’s on VH1.”

For those few of you unfamiliar with the show, every season NBC gathers 16 or so exceptionally obese people on a remote ranch in Malibu (just up the road from me) and then follows them on a 12-week odyssey of rapid, substantial weight loss as they are coached by two celebrity fitness trainers. Men usually start at 300-400 pounds and women at 200-300, but recently some have shown up weighing in at over 450. During the process, which is actually a competition for a $250,000 first prize, the ones that lose the least amount of weight each week are subject to being voted off campus by the rest. As the season unravels, remarkable bodyweight changes do take place and it’s not unusual for the top finalists to lose over 100 pounds during their stay at the ranch. But as we will soon see, the costs can be significant. After each season is over, we don’t hear of the ones that gain much or most of the weight back (and many do). We don’t hear about the viewers who adopt the Biggest Loser strategy only to virtually guarantee failure once again. We don’t hear about the eating disorders that surely emanate from the guilt and shame from failure at all levels.

The first thing I noticed about this season is that the trainers come off looking more like sadistic prison guards or whacked-out drill sergeants than the caring, loving guides I’d seen on previous seasons. I think I’d like Jillian and Bob if I met them on the street, and in their hearts they probably mean well, but this is reality TV and these guys use every means possible to hammer their poor contestants into whimpering puddles of blood, sweat and tears at every opportunity. Their charges are obese people who have historically had a hard time getting up from the couch, yet are now being berated into multi-hour workouts where F-bombs and other epithets are hurled at every missed step and each pause for breath.  “Don’t feel like a four-hour workout today? Loser! Pussy! You should be ashamed of yourself!” I assure you those words will be ringing in their ears long after the contestants have left the ranch, haunting them with guilt every time they sneak a pad of butter onto their steamed broccoli or opt for a 15-minute walk outside instead of an hour on the treadmill.

The assumptions that go into this formulaic weight loss program – and, hence, the lessons that are supposedly being taught to the tens of millions of viewers are, of course, based on faulty Conventional Wisdom. Count calories, watch the fat intake, and exercise as hard as you can for as long as you can, and eventually the theoretical math should work out to lost tonnage. And since virtually everyone on the show loses a significant amount of weight in the twelve weeks, the viewer probably thinks something must be working, right? Wrong. If you are a regular MDA reader, you know by now that losing 5-20 pounds a week of stored body fat week-in and week-out (without losing any muscle) is virtually impossible. Reprogramming genes that have been carb-dependent and insulin insensitive for decades so that they can rebuild efficient, reliable fat-burning systems can’t be done in a few days, nor without sending the proper signals. Stress hormones rise, diuretic hormones kick in, testosterone drops, inflammation increases and all manner of metabolic havoc is loosed. Ah, but it looks great for 12 weeks of compelling television.

If you do the real math and account for hormonal responses and the gene acclimation process, you understand that one to two (maybe three) pounds a week of burned body fat is a safe, effective and bullet-proof way to drop the pounds with some predictability and regularity over the weeks and months until you reach a comfortable, healthy body composition. Instead, in pulling out all the stops for quick results and TV ratings on the Biggest Loser, the producers have chosen the most dangerous methods with the highest long-term failure rates. Just about every workout on TBL looks like someone’s going to have a heart attack or a stroke. And every meal looks like an anemic Jenny Craig leftover.

Here are a few added observations on what’s wrong with TBL:

Water weight is always the first to go. The extreme (and generally very impressive) first week weight-loss numbers are coming from a few short-term adaptations that largely have to do with water weight. Water is lost directly through urine and sweat as many contestants reportedly drink copious amounts of water (eight pounds per gallon) prior to the initial weigh-in simply to pad the “starting” or “before” numbers. Furthermore, a week of intense exercise will deplete glycogen stores, and for every gram of glycogen, four grams of water is also lost. That’s a 5-for-1 deal in short term loss, but eventually the body wants to replenish that glycogen (which is why a week or two later contestants hit a temporary weight-loss plateau). Diuretic hormones start to kick in as a result of the increases exercise stress, and water is excreted from spaces between the cells and even from the bloodstream. All of these have little or nothing to do with healthy weight loss, but a 400-pound man can “easily” lose two or three gallons (25 pounds) in a week this way.

Too much emphasis on counting calories. The show obsesses over calories – especially the tired “calories in, calories out” mantra. Weighing every portion, counting every morsel, cutting fat wherever they can, they drill the math into the participants. “Burn 5000 calories a day doing our grueling workouts and account for the 2,000 per day calorie deficit from eating less and you’ll lose two pounds a day every day.”  I have heard reports that some weeks the contestants are limited to just 800 calories per day.  (Thank God for the low-cal gum sponsors or they’d be chewing their arms off!) That could theoretically be marginally safe (the 800 calories  – not the chewing your arm) if the diet were, say, zero carbs and amount of exercise they were doing were very limited. But in light of the fact that contestants are expected to burn thousands of calories each day, the simple math ceases to work for them. It becomes a multi-variate, non-linear algorithm.

Too much credit given to portion control. The show also obsesses on the “three meals and two snacks” concept, in a doomed attempt to ensure that contestants will never really go hungry. (Ziplock bags is their portion-control sponsor, as are some of the “100-calorie snack” purveyors). Unfortunately, those tiny low-fat meals not only don’t stave off hunger, they tend to promote insulin resistance. The only saving grace there is the fact that contestants are exercising so much, their muscles suck up every gram of carbohydrate.

Too dependent on exercising off the calories. Five, six hours a day in this case. Calories in calories out again…but what they don’t realize is that for a previously carb-dependant person to start exercising that hard and that much, especially on a low fat, low cal diet, is that a significant amount of lean mass will be allocated to fuel. You’ll actually burn precious muscle to keep stoking the carb-fueled exercise fire. Some weeks, after drastically reducing caloric intake and accumulating 15,000 or more total calories on the treadmill LCD, contestants still GAIN weight. How’s that for math? That’s because the body doesn’t know what it needs to do to achieve homeostasis, so it hoards fat, retains water and tears down muscle. We know from the PB that 80% of body composition is determined by diet, if you allow enough time (and the correct diet!). Exercise is a good thing, but too much can get in the way of successful long term weight loss. Notably, this season sees the return of Daniel, a very likable kid who started last season at 454 pounds and lost 142 (down to 312) between the start of the show and the season finale a few months later. Sadly, in the first episode this season, he weighed in at the same 312 despite his admission that he had been working out four hours a day in the months prior to the new season. Four hours of exercise a day got him NOWHERE. It’s all about the diet, folks. And NOT the diet espoused on The Biggest Loser.

Bottom line, if you like soap operas, train wrecks or movies about gladiators, TBL can be mildly entertaining. If you are looking for information on how to effectively lose weight, there’s probably better stuff on VH1.

So how about you? Weigh in today with your thoughts and let me know what you think about The Biggest Loser.

TAGS:  Hype, marketing

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178 Comments on "The Biggest Loser… Is the Audience"

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Peg
Peg
7 years 2 days ago

Mark: I stopped watching after last season’s finale. The $250,000 winner and the $100,000 both looked terribly unhealthy. And trainer Jillian has to go: is all that screaming and harrassment necessary??

Miss Kitty
Miss Kitty
7 years 1 day ago

I totally agree. I thought that Helen looks ghastly during the finale, and that she actually looked prettier and rosier when she was overweight! I was also thinking the same thing as Mark after watching them scream, “Calories In, Calories Out” during last week’s episode…and yes, poor Dan, working out for four hours a day and still struggling to lose weight. It seems that they have to work out for a living to maintain all fo that…and not have a regular life!

tracy
tracy
7 years 23 hours ago

I agree about those awful trainers. She reminds me of a mean middle school bully. I watched for the first time last night, and I think the product placement in the programs is shameless. The trainer suggests to a player to healthfully enjoy a yoplait light yogurt, “full of calcium and vit d.” He failed to mention the 18 grams of sugar and how it will effect her.

Hiit Mama
7 years 2 days ago

I have thought the same thing about the oversimplification of counting calories. I think one of Jillian Michaels’ book takes people through a complicated math exercise in tabulating calories needed to lose. Where’s the accounting for quality of calories? Health? Nutrition? Hormones, for God sake? I stopped watching after the first season.

Fallon
7 years 2 days ago

Mark I couldn’t agree more. I watch the show with my mother last season and couldn’t believe all the false and inaccurate information the show produces. I still continue to watch the show for entertainment purposes but I’m constantly correcting the false information to myself. I think I would probably die if I had to work out a grueling 6 hours and only get to eat 1,200 calories which consists of egg whites, green salad, fiber 1 cereal, and extra gum. Sigh.

Mike McGinley
Mike McGinley
7 years 2 days ago

“Bottom line, if you like soap operas, train wrecks or movies about gladiators, TBL can be mildly entertaining.”

Love it!

Dave, RN
Dave, RN
7 years 2 days ago

Hmmm.. just down the street from you? How about you contact them, and tell them that you will be a “guest trainer”. The stipulations should be that the show last 3 years. Do some pre loss labs (insulin levels, blood pressure, glucose tolerance and fasting).
Bet your charge wins!

marci
marci
7 years 1 day ago

I second that!

Karell
Karell
7 years 2 days ago

I’ve never seen the show but I like Jillian Michaels’ workout videos. They’re nice when you want something more structured and her personality makes them fun. They’re the only workout videos I can stand to watch and they generally coincide with my own fitness goals (not pure cardio- lots of dumbells, hiit, and body weight exercises).
I don’t know anything about her nutrition beliefs but I assume I wouldn’t really agree with them if they fall into the CW category.

DiabetesCanKissMyButt
DiabetesCanKissMyButt
7 years 2 days ago

Thank you for posting this! I hate that show- it is wrong on so many levels.

I like the above idea that you should appear as a guest trainer! I would watch that episode.

thecarla
thecarla
7 years 2 days ago
I would love to see a primal low carb version of the show. I am waiting for one of the contestants to drop dead from 5 hours a day exercising on 800 calories, it is astoundingly unhealthy. I only like the entertainment and I know its wrong, but it is funny. Last week the 476 pound girl with all of the emotional problems was mad at another 400 pound guy because she didn’t think he exercised enough according to Jillian’s pronouncement. (She was probably mad because those fat cells were screaming for some sugar or even food, but she couldn’t… Read more »
Heather
Heather
7 years 2 hours ago
Sorry to be negative, but getting entertainment from other peoples’ fights, agony and failure, not to mention the bad habits and info they are taking on, which will really mess with their heads, is like rubbernecking at a car crash hoping to see blood and guts. If it was YOUR mom or brother on that show or in that wrecked car, would you like the people slowing down to get a better look? The more people who watch, the longer this crappy show will continue. This is LIKE a soap opera, with all the drama, except that the people on… Read more »
Terri
5 years 5 months ago

I couldnt agree with you more. I use to weigh 305 pounds. I opted to have Gastric Bypass and lost 160 pounds. This is their lives and for people to actually laugh at their misery is pathetic!

Angela
Angela
6 years 8 months ago

I am sure that would get edited!! LOL

Ogg the Caveman
7 years 2 days ago

TBL embodies everything that’s wrong with the mainstream health and fitness industry. It tells the general population that, in order to become fit and healthy and achieve normal body composition, you must pulverize yourself to death with exercise. And the show perpetuates the idea that you must simply eat less of the food that still drives metabolic derangement and thus hunger.

TBL sets the mass up for failure. It ought to be a Hollywood crime scene.

Dave Reid
Dave Reid
7 years 2 days ago

There’s one here in Toronto that made me just as upset as TBL made you.Rice cakes and baked potatoes, hold the olive oil. All for $1800/year.

http://www.thestar.com/article/701670

Sample quote from one of the dieters:
“I went to The Keg the other day. I told the waiter I can’t eat oil. I told him that if I eat anything with oil he was going to have to take me out of the place in an ambulance.” A small lie, perhaps. But they did manage to find him a baked potato that hadn’t been brushed with olive oil.

Griff
Griff
7 years 2 days ago

My main problem with TBL is that it simply promotes laughing at the fat kids. It’s grade school behavior all over again. I won’t watch it, and I won’t patronize the sponsors, either. It is wrong on so many levels – not just the CW they are promoting, but the outright cruelty of making people who are already laboring under intense social stigma for being fat into the butt of abuse and jokes at their expense, on national television at that. Forget it. I won’t play that game.

Ailu
Ailu
7 years 2 days ago

I only watch this show when I have raging PMS (it’s the only time of the month I actually enjoy watching people being tortured). j/k

Seriously, has anyone ever tracked down some of the people who have been on this show? It would be interesting to hear what the the aftermath was, from suffering such abuse.

Kitty
Kitty
7 years 20 hours ago
you can look up Biggest Looser previous contestants, or Biggest looser where are they now and find out how they’re doing. SOme have gained back nearly all the weight, but most have kept a good portion off. It’s interesting. I like the show cause I’m a sedentary person. I prefer to sit, all my favorite things to do are done sitting, Reading, sewing, crafts, and surfing the net. I have to push myself every day to do something and the Biggest looser inspires me to move. They’re bigger than me and they do more than I do, so I should… Read more »
kathleen
kathleen
6 years 9 months ago

i agree with kitty it is inspirational and i wonder about all the negative comments and i wonder if any of u could do what they r it takes guts to go on that show at least there making a attempt at working on this country’s weight problem

PJ
PJ
6 years 9 months ago
The negative comments have to do with the unhealthy manner in which they are going about it. They say one thing on the show, but if you do a little research you see that what makes the show and what gets edited out are vastly different. Many contestants dehydrate themselves before weigh-ins. Did you watch the catch-up show. So many of them had gained the weight back. I wouldn’t go on that show for ten bucks, much less a quarter of a million. And it’s not about courage. It’s about what is safe and healthy for me long term. The… Read more »
shan
shan
6 years 11 months ago
If anyone watching BL actually thinks they are going to have the same weight loss as the contestants in the same amount of time, they are ignorant and need a smack to the back of the head. of course they lose weight–all they are required to do is eat, drink water, sleep and exercise. they don’t have to do their day to day regular activities. I know that when I watch it. Like another person said, I look to it for inspiration. If a person who weighs 200-300 pounds more than me can run on a treadmill, I sure as… Read more »
Cerebus
Cerebus
7 years 2 days ago
While I understand Mark’s criticism of ‘calorie in, calorie out’ (CICO) weight-loss methodology, it nevertheless yields predictable, sustainable results as long as reasonable expectations are set. Long-term losses above 3 lb/week are simply not a legitimate expectation. While yes, calories have context (research on rats back this up–rats eating softer foods gain weight faster than rats eating the same mass of harder foods), in the end you’re modifying the *rate* of gain or loss, not the overall trend. For example, a person with a adjusted basal metabolic rate of 2500 kcal/day who eats 5000 kcal/day of nothing but meat isn’t… Read more »
Mark Sisson
Mark Sisson
7 years 2 days ago
Cerebus, congrats on your success so far. There is far more to the CICO than simple math, as I alluded here. In other words, it’s not just about gross numbers of calories. Yes, in order to burn off stored fat you have to create a deficit rather than keep feeding the fuel from outside. But as I also said, you can lose weight that is NOT fat by creating a deficit beyond the capacity of your body to extract most of its energy from stored fat. Or by focusing on the wrong macronutrients. That’s why these people lose 5-25 pounds… Read more »
Jon
Jon
7 years 7 hours ago
I watch the show on a regular basis and I am always amazed at what I see. Amazed in a horified way. I work as a personal trainer and I would never do that to my clients. Not only would the clients not come back after getting yelled at, but they would kill over if I worked them that long. And I am not after some publicity, I want my people to succeed. We training professionals need to get this show off of the air and get these 2 nutjobs away from the public. They are doing nothing for those… Read more »
Chica
Chica
4 years 10 months ago
Cerebus wrote: For example, a person with a adjusted basal metabolic rate of 2500 kcal/day who eats 5000 kcal/day of nothing but meat isn’t going to lose weight no matter what his nutritional ideology is. The error in that thinking is that metabolic rate not a fixed number: it IS affected by nutritional ideology and the resulting food and lifestyle choices. To get to a healthy weight AND increase our fitness, we need to start by giving our bodies what they need to crank up the metabolic rate: relatively more muscle and less fat. How do you get there? Not… Read more »
JamieBelle
JamieBelle
7 years 2 days ago

quote from above:
“Consider; after fats, the largest proportion of an average person’s caloric intake is in the form of simple carbohydrates.”

I think you’re on the wrong website. 😉

Garth
7 years 2 days ago
Awesome post Mark! It couldn’t be more timely. We eliminated grains and, for the most part, sugar from our household 3 months back. It took my 3 daughters some time to adjust but a bit of financial incentive seemed to do the trick. I’ve become an enemy to conventional wisdom and ‘sell’ The Primal Blueprint to everyone I meet. Recently, my wife’s friend was over visiting, purveyor extraordinaire of conventional wisdom. She mentioned that she’d recently watched ‘The Biggest Loser’ and thought it was a great show that taught people how to lose weight. Needless to say, my extreme exasperation… Read more »
Cerebus
Cerebus
7 years 2 days ago

@JamieBelle: I hardly think the sampling of humanity represented by Mark’s readers qualifies as ‘average.’ Mark’s own railing about the CW in this very post should be indicative of that. 🙂

Grok
7 years 2 days ago

They could put the contestants on Meth. It’s probably just as healthy.

eero
eero
7 years 1 day ago

I wish we could ‘upvote’ comments like on Reddit.

Kent Cowgill
7 years 2 days ago

I always wondered what the real explanation was for the phenomenon of dramatic weight loss in week 1 followed by hardly any or even negative progress on the second week.

That makes a lot of sense, but I have to wonder how they ‘defeated’ the dreaded plateau effect for week 2 on this season. But I’m sure we can all predict how they’re going to perform on week 3.

(Maybe my wife and I should just stop watching!)

Ginger
Ginger
7 years 2 days ago
Last year’s winner looked absolutely horrible in the end — that starved, aged look typical of a low-fat diet. I think Jillian’s personal diet is telling: The only carbs she eats are during breakfast; her lunch and dinner have virtually zero carbs. My main issue with the show is that they focus very little on emotional/psychological health, which is so very important in coming to grips with morbid obesity. Many of those people have Binge Eating Disorder, and they receive no help for this. Is it any wonder that a significant portion of them regain all the weight?
FlyNavyWife
6 years 11 months ago

I didn’t know that about Jillian’s personal diet, but I had been wondering if she was low-carb. She talks a lot about how she hates to work out (especially cardio), too.

Funny thing – Jillian’s book “Making the Cut” has a quiz in it with random questions (do you sleep on your back? side? stomach? Do you typically feel too hot or too cold? Are your fingernails brittle or bendy?) and then it tells you what foods you should be eating (magic?).
The quiz told me I should be low-carb. Just sayin’. She ain’t all bad.

4dpslfmn
4dpslfmn
7 years 2 days ago

Well said Mark!!! Happened to have a day home yesterday nursing a bad ankle injury (no five fingers for a couple weeks…sh$%t!!!) and watched as the “Dr’s” on the daytime show “Dr’s” had Jillian on as their guest to glorify their efforts in spreading more bunk CW. Maybe we could all rally to get you on the show and debate them.

MK
7 years 2 days ago

Thanks, Mark, for telling it like it is.

Mikeythehealthycaveman
7 years 2 days ago

Mark, maybe this is an opportunity to start your own show! “Worlds’ biggest winner”. The show could focus on the Primal Diet and long term results. I’m sure people would love to watch contestants hurl rocks, and climb trees for workouts. Instead of 12 weeks it could last 36 weeks, and the winner will be the one with the most positive life changes.

Michael Bender
Michael Bender
7 years 2 days ago
Great post Mark – I too watched in horror for the past two weeks. It is like a train wreck – I can’t look…but at the same time I can’t stop looking. Two things jump out at me: The first is that the show reinforces the theme that fat people are fat because they are lazy. I think Gary Taubes put that one to rest, but TBL hasn’t caught on yet. The other is the calorie differential. If my ears and mind serve me well, the contestents were told to eat “1200” calories and told to expend “8000”, which is… Read more »
brian p
brian p
7 years 2 days ago
Just for some background from TBL book. Diet is layed out like this: 7 calories per pound of Bodyweight At least 4 servings fruit/veggies, always eat more veggies than fruit. 3 servings Protein foods spread throughout day. (Protein at every meal) Less than 2 servings of Grains 200 calories of “Extras” such as oil, butter, dressing, etc. Exercise plan is: Start at 4-5 days/wk of 30-60min cardio at 80% max HR. Increase over 4 weeks to 6 days/wk of 60min steady cardio and strength training every other day. Eventually “interval” training is introduced finishing at week 12 with 1 days/wk… Read more »
Mike OD - Fitness Spotlight
7 years 2 days ago

Always hated this show….time had a good write up on the extremes that they go to (not eating for days, diuretics, etc): http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1626795_1627112_1626456,00.html

Motivation is one thing….false hopes, questionable nutritional advice and untold full stories for ratings is another.

People know how to lose weight…the equation is not hard. Most out there are confused and not thinking for themselves anymore. Just need to shut off all the TV shows and throw out all the fitness magazines that are too distracting with the “latest” craze and master the basics….move more, eat less crap, eat real foods.

Wendy
7 years 2 days ago

This was a great post and I can’t agree with you more. I have never watched The Biggest Loser as the premise for it is truly frightening — and this is not ‘reality’ tv. It is abusive, oppressive, mean-spirited, misleading, downright dangerous, and it preys on misery in a culture in which the ‘confessional’ has become a sad stand-in for compassion and personal accountability. Oh, I could go on, but I shan’t. Thanks again for taking the time to put this post together.

Jessica
7 years 2 days ago
Very well said, Mark. I think it would be just as interesting for viewers if the contestants traded their long gym workouts for briefer but more varied and intense CrossFit-style workouts. I bet viewers would be more motivated themselves if the working out didn’t seem so time-consuming or complicated (I’m an athlete and have never monitored my own heart rate!). The extra time contestants would gain each day could be spent sleeping (okay, not so exciting for viewers but maybe educational) and getting counseling for their emotional issues (lots of potential for great TV drama here). I concur with the… Read more »
nessa
nessa
7 years 1 day ago

jessica, i think that is a really great alternative plan. it would be like diet/fitness rehab.

christian
christian
7 years 1 day ago

I can’t stop watching it. I don’t agree with anything about the show in terms of their weight loss/health tactics, but I must admit that the producers know what draws people to watch. I get a weird sensation when i watch it to go do some sit ups… but my wife gets urges to go eat.. go figure.

Dan
Dan
7 years 1 day ago
Like other commenters, I cannot stand the advice given on the show, but cannot also stop watching, which admittedly will just encourage them to keep producing the show. I think last season’s contestant, Ron, presents TBL producers with a contradiction and conundrum that they have simply swept under the rug, rather than to try and explain it. Namely, with Ron’s physical limitations, he wasn’t able to work out at the strenuous level of the other contestants, yet, somehow, he managed to keep his weight loss on par with the other contestants. Seems to me that sends a huge contradictory message… Read more »
Sarah Speier
Sarah Speier
7 years 1 day ago

I’ve been watching it for the past few seasons (don’t hurt me, I’ve only been enlightened for a couple months now) and I own all their books, etc. Never worked and I lost little to nothing and gave up pretty quickly. Since I’ve switched over to Low-Carb (July 30, 2009) I have lost 26 lbs and feel amazing, unlike the sluggish, starved feeling I felt while following TBL formats (diet only, I haven’t been exercising other than walking on either WOE). For me, that’s enough.

Sal
Sal
7 years 1 day ago
No matter what you say about the methods used on the show, the bottom line is that they work. Maybe there are other ways that would work better, but these people get their lives back. They have been obese for decades, if not their entire lives, and have tried everything. Whether their previous efforts were for lack of information, lack of motivation, or extrenal issues, the bottom line is they are placed in an environment where they can lose weight. Sure some gain it back, but most don’t. It is not as if these people do not know what they… Read more »
Cherie
Cherie
7 years 1 day ago

The sad reality for many of these contestents is that they gain much of the weight back after they’re off the show….not very many people can keep up a regime like that for an extended period. I have lost 14 lbs since mid-July with the primal lifestyle and have never been hungry or felt deprived. The exercise has been tolerable with NO INJURIES and I’ve been able to stick with it.

garthola
7 years 1 day ago
Sal, they’re being given bad advice that ultimately harms their health and the show panders this information to their viewers. My sister is seriously overweight and has paid to see a licensed nutritionist for this same type of conventional wisdom garbage. You don’t have to be hungry and kill yourself in the gym to lose weight. Eat meat and vegetables to your hearts content and you will lose weight and feel a whole lot better in the long run! It’s proven – you can find numerous examples in the people that follow this blog. I’ve seen the results with my… Read more »
rachel allen
7 years 1 day ago
The show legitimizes and glorifies the lie that you can spike insulin levels in metabolically challenged people with six feedings a day, and not suffer the autophagy of precious tissues. With circulating insulin, the muscle and even organ aminos become fare game for the extreme over training (self abuse). It strengthens the already entrenched notion in insulin resistance people that they are fat because they are simply lazy and self indulgent. Oh, and don’t get me started on the poor, fat starved people that ache all day long on the six meal a day, low fat dieting. I paid a… Read more »
erica
erica
7 years 1 day ago

I’m sure someone else had to have seen Jillian’s horrific kettlebell demonstration last week. There are blogs and videos all about how poor her form was and how she missed a great opportunity to provide proper training instruction to a national audience. Epic fail!

Kim Birch, Nutrition & Weight Loss Coach

Mark, I stopped watching this show after the very first episode of the first season. That’s when the male coach (who I assume was Bob, but I’m not sure if it was someone else back then) told a guy who had a “really big gut” that the only way to get rid of it (and they said this in unison) was “lots and lots of crunches.” After I picked my jaw off the floor, I turned the television off. I just couldn’t watch.

eero
eero
7 years 1 day ago

This is the best post title ever.

Alcinda Moore
7 years 1 day ago

I watched the first episode because of another blog entry about it and lasted about only until the poor woman collapsed….and that was with lots of fast forwarding! I was appalled!

Personally, I’d like to see someone haul off and punch one of the “trainers”!!

Rafi Bar-Lev at Passionate Fitness

They need as show like this except with Mark Sisson as the trainer. Now there’s something I would get behind.

-Rafi

Diana Renata
7 years 1 day ago

I really can’t add anything. Most of my opinions have been covered.

I feel so sorry for the contestants, stuck in the CW, along with the countless others who are overweight and obese. I do think it would be amazing to have a Primal show geared toward re-teaching people.

Great post, Mark. 🙂

Ryan McCurdy
Ryan McCurdy
7 years 1 day ago

P90x is greater then all. Tony Horton for president!!!

Kim
Kim
7 years 1 day ago

Because of this post I went over and tried to watch the first episode on Hulu…fortunately it was too horrible to go on past the beginning montage.

The trainers’ opening tirade at the audience annoyed me but also made me a bit smug: I’ve been losing weight and getting stronger year over year for the last several years…guess I’m not the target audience.

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Mike Palmer
Mike Palmer
7 years 1 day ago
Hi Mark, I’m not sure if you’re already planning to do this, but thanks to Youtube, you could produce a show that would be watched by thousands / millions. On the show, you could select a couple people and explain the principles of the Primal lifestyle. Weekly episodes would demonstrate slow but steady weight loss and increases in vitality, emotional stability. It might not be as delightfully schadenfreude as TBL, but it would show true results and true health benefits. It would be great promotion for your lifestyle and book and being a video would be much more palatable to… Read more »
PJ
PJ
7 years 1 day ago
As someone who has about 100 lbs to lose, I’ve been compelled to watch TBL ever since the second season. I used to watch it in hopes that I would somehow be motivated to get my butt off the couch. So far it hasn’t worked. I still watch the show, but now more out of pity for those poor people. I know how they feel. I’m also amazed at the product placement for such garbage, processed nastiness. I’d be mortified if I had to hauk that crap. I’m a new convert to the primal lifestyle. I like it because it’s… Read more »
groquette
groquette
7 years 1 day ago

I would LOVE to see ‘Grok Saves America’.

Have BBQs on beach, gourmet guest chefs, all sorts of (optional) training and games (primal and otherwise), spa treatments, invite motivational speakers and have professional photographers for before and after pictures; get professional stylists to help with wardrobe makeovers; celebrity hairdressers; sponsorship from spas, and from grass fed beef/bison outlets, etc.

Someone said it might be boring? I doubt it, there is a lot of room for drama, all with a positive spin.

Andy
7 years 1 day ago

Mark,

As other people have mentioned, TBL is not only flawed, but not sustainable. It would be interesting if there was a third trainer (Let’s call him Mark S.) who advocated a primal / paleo slant.

Trish
Trish
7 years 1 day ago

TBL is definitely “laugh at the fat kids” hour. This is evidenced by the number of people I know who watch the show–while eating ice cream, cookies and other junk food. It’s almost a badge of honor–what’s the biggest pile of crap you can shovel in while watching the fatties sweat and puke from overexercise?

Halle
Halle
7 years 1 day ago
I don’t like TBL. It’s abusive and demeaning to the participants. I don’t watch it. My husband lost over 50 lbs this year since January. We have been eating paleo, and he has taken a job which is a lot more physically active than his old job. That’s it. I have not had the stellar weight loss he has, but I have a few other health issues on my plate, and I don’t do heavy lifting at work five days a week. A few years ago, I tried the CICO/OverExercisingTM “TBL” style of “conventional weight loss wisdom” and I happen… Read more »
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