Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
29 Sep

The Biggest Loser… Is the Audience

biggest hoax 320x240I 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.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. 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. :)

    Diana Renata wrote on September 29th, 2009
  2. P90x is greater then all. Tony Horton for president!!!

    Ryan McCurdy wrote on September 29th, 2009
  3. 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.

    Kim wrote on September 29th, 2009
  4. 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 lots of people who don’t read.

    Looking forward to the first episode of “The Healthiest Loser”!

    Mike Palmer wrote on September 29th, 2009
  5. 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 manageable. I actually like veggies. And after just two days, processed food started tasting horrible. I also lost two and half pounds in three days. Now that’s a lot for a short time frame, but I attribute most of that to water weight as well. I can run sprints and for a fat girl, I’m pretty fast. I can climb trees and play in the yard and move cinder blocks around. I can walk and ride a bike around for an hour a day. That’s cake. (Pardon the pun) Luckily, I continued to do martial arts and spring softball even in my fatness. I think it’s helped me to be able to handle the primal workouts better. It took me 18 years to get this fat. It’s gonna take at least one (if not two) to get down to where I ought to be. Evolution doesn’t lie. This works. See me in a year and I’ll be living proof.

    PJ wrote on September 29th, 2009
  6. 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.

    groquette wrote on September 29th, 2009
  7. 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.

    Andy wrote on September 29th, 2009
  8. 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?

    Trish wrote on September 29th, 2009
  9. 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 to be one of those lucky people who puts on muscle at the drop of a hat — instead of losing weight, I gained it! I was hitting the gym before work every day, sometimes after work, too – and eating nothing but salads.

    Not only did I end up gaining weight, but my allergies and asthma got worse, too. And I was exhausted all the time, with deep dark circles under my eyes.

    I can’t do that to myself any more. I’d like to do more physically active things, but that is hard to fit in around the crazy schedule of my new job.

    But until I can, I will keep eating paleo. And keep striving for primal.

    Halle wrote on September 29th, 2009
  10. Instead of killing myself for countless hours at the gym, I walk the dogs for an hour each morning. I go to the gym for two short, intense strength training sessions a week. About the only “conventional” thing about my diet is I do track calories in a food diary, although I’m a lot more concerned about the quality of nutrition, rather than quantity (as we paleos would define it….)

    Like the contestants on TBL, I started out huge – 374 lbs on 5/13/09 (6’3″ male). I weighed in this morning (day 140…20 weeks) at 293, for a loss to date of 81 lbs. I don’t think I’d care to trade places with the TBL contestants. I enjoy my food, I’m not in pain and I don’t have a trainer screaming at me & humiliating me.

    Thanks for all the great information Mark. I finally feel I can look forward to the future as being better than the past, healthwise.

    Chris wrote on September 29th, 2009
  11. I saw a clip where an aging contestant literally passed out. This is too much IMO

    Yavor

    Yavor Marichkov wrote on September 30th, 2009
  12. We haven´t had a TV for the last 7 years (our children are growing up without a TV), so I have no idea what you talking about. In any case, I wouldn´t waste anytime analyzing what is on TV, just spend your time convincing people to throw their tv sets away.

    dr. pierre debs wrote on September 30th, 2009
  13. I enjoy watching the Biggest Loser. Mind you, I’m a sociopathic silly billy. ;)

    Gordie Rogers wrote on September 30th, 2009
  14. Hi Mark:

    Why don’t you start a EF version of the biggest looser? The only problem is that it would have to be a mini series…the contestants on the EF version would take much less time to achieve their goals than those poor sods on “the biggest looser.” Ha ha!

    Olga wrote on September 30th, 2009
  15. i saw this show one time. I don’t have a t.v. and shows like this are one of the reasons for that. I was horrified at the way these people are treated. It truly is a recipe for eating disorders, guilt, and failure. Thanks so much for this post!

    jennifer wrote on September 30th, 2009
  16. So Mark, it seems that many agree you should develop a show with the PB as the basis! I think it would be a great success and help to shake up the CW world! Your site and book have completely changed my life forever, and it would be an excellent way to spread the good word about the simple logic behind it.

    You’re not too far from Hollywood, don’t you have some connections? :)

    Sarah wrote on September 30th, 2009
  17. After reading your column I decided to watch it last night. What a horrible show. Two hours of close ups of surprised faces that would have put the Our Gang kids to shame. What a joke. Even Bill Shatner would have been embarrassed by the emoting going on in that show.

    And what’s up with Jillian? Two hours of being pissed off does not make her “the best in the business” of losing weight as she so modestly claimed.

    Thanks for ripping them a new one Mark. I’m annoying everyone who’s ever told me they love that show by sending them the link to this column. :-)

    DaveFish wrote on September 30th, 2009
    • When you ask whats up with Jillian, I must say, 2 hours of her screaming doesnt make her the best in the buisness, BUT.. what does, is the THOUSANDS of people who literly worship her, her products and her advice. She IS the top trainer in the COUNTRY, or world because she is top dog in australia too. Jillian claims to be the best in the business because simply she IS the BEST in the business. Im assuming, u really know NOTHING about Jillian Michaels, and just went off that one episode? There is more to her then The Biggest Loser. Shes all over. Shes so much more then a tv show. She is EVERY over weight girls hero! Whether they admit it or not!

      .... wrote on October 1st, 2009
      • I beg to differ and would appreciate it if you wouldn’t lump me in with “every over weight girl”. She’s not my hero. Vast generalizations are vastly inaccurate.

        PJ wrote on October 1st, 2009
        • if u met jillian u would think different. she is amazing. she may not be a hero, but she is someone who you wouldnt just walk passed if u were to see her in public. no, u would want to ask her a question or two. now the real question is.. would u take her advice OR simply just tell her shes NOT the best in the buisness and she knows nothing?? — thats y i said what i said. sorry.. didnt mean to offend u lol.. but then again, i am a jillian fan, maybe that is offensive? sorry.

          .... wrote on October 2nd, 2009
  18. Because I don’t watch TV, I’ve not seen the show, but have heard of it. I read about Jerry Lisenby in Bicycle magazine, a former contest on the show & at the time, the oldest at age 62. He was voted off, but he did indeed make positive changes in his life, since losing over 100# and biking across America for charity. See his blog: http://www.jerrylisenby.com/browse.asp?page=51&bid=88

    IreScotsWelsh wrote on September 30th, 2009
  19. Lots of good viewpoints here…not much I can add. But I will humbly admit I’ve watched the show and felt inspired by contestents’ new bodies and attitudes. But I realized it’s a hollow celebration.

    Sal, the best way to put this is that, simply ON THE SURFACE it appears they have succeeded.

    And the thing is, they ARE lighter, thinner and happier. Sure. And sometimes richer (because people, this is a GAME and a t.v. show above all else, right?)

    But the question remains…if you look deeper…at WHAT COST did this come?

    Finally, after all this time..with the help of the Eadeses and Mark, I am looking deeper within to what my body is doing, rather than simply what it looks like from the outside.

    Sadly, this show epitomizes the concept of being “shallow”. We need to remember that just because something looks like it’s working doesn’t mean it truly is in the most important ways. Thanks for calling attention to this, Mark!

    Lisa wrote on September 30th, 2009
  20. This show fails on many levels as Mark mentioned. I keep saying to my wife, it should be based on Bodyfat levels/percentage not weight loss. This would promote how to increase lean muscle, lose stored fat, obtain dominance on all levels of life (work, home, etc.). Show how you have time to enjoy smelling the roses each day.

    Work smarter not harder.

    Each week…

    60% bodyfat tested… 56% BF… 20%BF and the winner 4%BF or something like that… but it would have to be a gender based contest both male and female winners.

    Mark is the nutrition expert and commentator. Some one else the trainer on HIT sprinting and heavy lifting.

    Contest is 1 year long, no one gets kicked off each week/month.

    Side note: I would rather be 210lbs at 6% BF than 160lbs at 6% BF.

    adam wrote on September 30th, 2009
  21. One of my favorite shows on TV!

    chris wrote on September 30th, 2009
  22. Loren wrote on September 30th, 2009
  23. Mark,

    I’ve been a big fan of your site for a while now and I am thoroughly enjoying your new book. I found you through a web search I did a while back for “man’s original diet”. I’ve been eating and exercising the paleo/primal way for three years now and life is good. My brother and his fiancee, after peppering me for several months about the paleo/primal way, have taken the plunge and are well on their way to healthier bodies and minds. I am happy to be a witness to their transformation.

    I felt compelled to comment on this particular post in order to add my voice to the chorus of readers urging you to do a paleo/primal version of TBL. I firmly believe that this type of visual program is the next thing needed to more effectively challenge the CW paradigm that is so entrenched today. To be sure, sites like yours and Richard Nikoley’s freetheanimal.com are effectively chipping away at CW, but a TELEVISED VISUAL PROGRAM would have even greater impact when viewers see the easy, steady results that are attainable with a switch to the paleo/primal way of life. Think “sledgehammer” vs. “chip away”.

    Here’s how I picture it:

    THE VOLUNTEERS
    Eight or so Volunteers (not contestants) sign on to reinvent themselves over the course of 3-6 months through a shift away from CW and an embrace of the paleo/primal way of living. They are people of various shapes and sizes. Some are overweight. Some have a few stubborn pounds to lose. Some are “skinny-fat”. All have much to gain by being involved. Everyone goes home at the end of each day to their family and friends instead of being isolated in a swanky spa.

    EXERCISE
    The Volunteers learn sane, brief exercise sessions based on intermittent lifting of heavy things, plus once or twice weekly sprints without any trainers yelling, belittling or otherwise demoralizing them. The concept of brief, restorative napping is introduced as well as the joy of unstructured play like frisbee and catch.

    EATING PLANS
    No shame or blame for the current conditions the Volunteers find themselves in, but rather, educational lectures on how CW conflicts with the proper way our primal bodies were designed to be fueled and fed. After each lecture, group meals of delicious meats and veggies, all drizzled with sauces and/or melted butter. Looks of amazement from the Volunteers rediscovering the joy of bacon and the realization that FAT IS GOOD. Extra bonus: introduce the Volunteers to the important concept of intermittent fasting.

    SUPPORT
    Therapists of various disciplines help any Volunteers through setbacks and roadblocks.

    WEIGH-INS
    Lots of support for each and every Volunteer on their journey to optimal weight. Weigh-ins include test results that show fat lost, muscles gained, improved lipid profiles, shrinking bodyfat percentages, etc. to show improvements from the inside out. Plenty of clapping and praise from one and all. Nobody gets voted off the program. Nobody looks undernourished and spaced out at the finale. Everybody wins.

    THE MEDIUM
    I believe the best medium for transmission of this type of program is YouTube. This will take care of any sponsorship issues: no sponsors, no conflicts. Brief 9-10 minute episodes.

    THE IMPACT
    Such a show would turn heads. The visual impact of seeing the Volunteers easily, steadily and consistently losing fat and building muscle while eating plenty of meat, fish, eggs, roast chicken with the crispy skin, delicious veggies with melted butter and sauces and actually having fun while exercising more effectively and without being tortured will do wonders. IF YOU SHOW THEM, THEY WILL COME. And it could well be the tipping point of a tremendous shift in this country. I urge you to make it happen. How can I help?

    Sincerely,

    Paul

    Paul wrote on September 30th, 2009
    • Paul, great ideas. I am very well connected in LA and Hollywood and have pitched this sort of concept for a decade. As my friend Mark Burnett (producer of Survivor, Apprentice, 5th Grader, etc) says, if it’s not “salacious” it simply won’t sell – the program directors won’t buy it. That’s the sad part about TV today, but it’s the truth. The PB experience is better suited to a movie documentary that follows the participants on a 90-day journey. That’s still a viable option for me, but one that has significant hurdles and costs in order for it to be worthwhile. In fact, it was my failed attempt at my own health-talk TV show “Responsible Health”, which aired daily on Travel Channel for several weeks, that led to me starting up MDA, where producing content is inexpensive and distribution is free.

      Mark Sisson wrote on September 30th, 2009
      • This is unfortunate because there is a population base that is craving for intellectual programing, whether is it a health and food tv show, or one based on scientific knowledge (not diluted down for the generic public) but went into specifics. We could then all learn as we watch TV, instead of being easily mind dead.

        I think what Mark is doing is more than diet/health advice, it is providing a spiritual awakening inside us. To lead the future generations down the correct path, focus on spiritual/intellectual growth to make life easier. Time for everyone to wake up!!!!

        adam wrote on September 30th, 2009
      • It sounds like an episode of Made on MTV. They only do one 17-20 year old at a time, but it’s generally supportive, and they could totally take a kid to primal lifestyle.

        Annimal wrote on October 1st, 2009
      • Mark,

        Thanks for your reply. I admire your dedication. I’m impressed that you’ve been pitching a primal/paleo version of TBL for a decade, but it doesn’t surprise me in the least that not a single television producer or network will touch it because it’s not salacious enough. That’s one of the reasons why I suggested a YouTube version of a paleo/primal TBL. In order to change the paradigm of CW to primal/paleo, it may require bypassing entirely the TV networks and sponsors who are resisting the common sense approach to diet and nutrition. For this reason, I believe that change will have to come initially from the outside in. YouTube is the perfect medium to start that fire. It will accomplish two things: (1) showing viewers that the paleo/primal lifestyle changes are doable and sustainable and (2) showing the television producers and networks that there is an instant audience for such a series once they put their eyeballs back into their heads after seeing the number of hits each segment is generating. IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME.

        All the best. Grok On!

        Paul

        PS – I want to encourage fellow Grokkers and Grokkettes to post their success stories on YouTube. Show where your started from, how you changed your diet, record your Grokkin’ workouts, post pictures of your consistently toning physiques, etc. More fuel for the fire. Be the change you want to see in the world.

        Paul wrote on October 2nd, 2009
  24. I agree with all you wrote and would like to add something else. I’m a certified Russian kettlebell instructor (RKC) and what Jillian Michaels is teaching with the kettlebell is unsafe and a travesty. Her technique and form aren’t even close to what would be considered good practice and yet with her devotees in the millions she is considered an expert, as you so clearly spell out. The show is a joke in all ways but it isn’t funny.

    Sandy Sommer, RKC wrote on September 30th, 2009
  25. Hm, fat people watch VH1 — “I did not know this”…. :-|

    Mick wrote on September 30th, 2009
  26. When going through UDT/SEAL training the instructors do nothing but yell at you. This is to weed out people who should not be there. And to keep you from getting killed. You learn little though. If you make it through, the instructors start to talk to you. And that is when you learn. Screaming at people just scares the shit of them, but does not increase their information base, which is what these folks need.

    Chris wrote on September 30th, 2009
  27. I train folks hard all day and ask a lot of them. I WOULD NEVER yell or show disrespect.

    Sandy Sommer, RKC wrote on September 30th, 2009
    • That is because simply… YOU cant! Your a personal trainer maybe but your not on TV for entertainment. Jillian isnt really like that, shes all heart! Ive met her! You personal trainers who work for a BOSS, can not yell at your clients, or they will not come back. DUH! dont compare yourself to the #1 TOP TRAINER IN THE WORLD! Literly, you may not admit it, but you KNOW shes more experienced then you, and you KNOW she has more knowlage then you, so until you do, and until you have millions of dollars and fans, stop comparing yourself to Jillian Michaels!

      .... wrote on October 1st, 2009
  28. Mark’s reply to the request that he do a primal tbl is why I don’t have a tv, haven’t had one for years and won’t have one anytime soon. I don’t want to sound like a self satisfied puke… (blah!) but I can’t watch shows like that. Too depressing.

    I was primal before I found this wonderful site – but only because I’m a freak for research and it’s all out their for anyone who digs deeply enough. But, Survivor for obese people?

    Instead of TBL, (or TV period) read Girard’s Mimtiic Theory: http://ionparadox.homestead.com/girardiantheory.html and you’ll understand why none of us should watch the worst in human behaviour as a form of entertainment. His work “The Scapegoat” on human violence is awesome too.
    His theory (one of them) Focus on what you want to become…you will mimic it.

    Or watch TBL and tell yourself you’re different than those sorry folks…

    janice wrote on September 30th, 2009
  29. I really take umbrage at the way contestants are treated. If telling fat people how lazy and disgusting they are were really effective, we’d have way fewer fat people in this country.

    It also bothers me how much they reinforce stereotypes about fat people–stereotypes that are often not true.

    SOME people are fat because they binge eat, but MOST are not–it’s WHAT they eat, not HOW MUCH that is usual the cause of the fat, and also other factors (genetics, etc.).

    Also, while I agree that inactivity is widespread, and a contributing factor to fat, there are plenty of fat people who get exercise. I know this, because the trail that I bike/run/walk on 5 days a week is used by fat people that I’ve seen on a regular basis, over time. Some are exercising pretty strenuously (ie, running, biking quickly) and some merely strolling, but it seems that many of them are exercising more than the “average American”. And consistently. But they are still fat.

    So “The Biggest Loser” reinforces that tired myth that fat people can’t lose weight because they haven’t/aren’t trying or not trying hard enough. Which is not true and not helpful.

    Thanks for posting this, Mark.

    Ruth wrote on September 30th, 2009
  30. OK..I agree with all of you, and have done every diet known to man (though never as extreme as TBL)…then my friend who has MS went on the Paelo eating plan and in 3 months was off her meds and became pregnant which she thought was impossible..soooooo
    I went on it 2 months ago, no wheat, no sugar, no dairy..and my IBS is gone, I lost 15 pounds effortlessly, cook every day (I never did before) and want to shout it in the streets when I see large people eating fast foods.
    I have more energy, walk 2 miles a day and am starting to lift weights..oh and I am 69 years old, 5’3, 128 lbs now.

    Carole wrote on September 30th, 2009
  31. While I cannot disagree that the way they do things on the show do NOT work for people off of the show and they should NOT try to do it. However, it is a TV show for severely obese people. Anyone who has half a brain cell knows that. You also need to remember that many people around the country do their own “Biggest Loser” competitions where they follow REAL guidelines like you lay out. I lost 26 pounds in 8 weeks doing that very thing. The problem is, as with any kind of diet, that you must keep that lifestyle – eating healthy and working out. Not that easy when you have a full life as it is. Appreciate your daily apple!

    Chris wrote on September 30th, 2009
  32. I don’t watch tv, so I had no idea about this show, though I’m not really surprised about what passes for “entertainment” these days. How about next season, I bring on my 200lb self, hire Mark as my personal trainer. We’ll show clips of me hiking in the woods and climbing trees, going to the local playground where they have a rock wall and climb that, doing bike sprints, walking on the beach and making spears out of sticks for fake kills, stalking through bushes, chasing things, swimming and playing tennis.

    Then we’ll have clips of me catching a nap in a hammock in the sunshine interspersed with other contestants slaving away in the gym. Then some meagre portions of broccoli and rice while I have baked salmon for breakfast, butter on a bison steak with salad for lunch, eggs scrambled with pepper, onions and chives for dinner and a chunk of dark chocolate for dessert.

    I’ll lose weight slowly and steadily like I’m doing now, but in five years you won’t have me on an expose that the biggest loser didn’t gain it all back.

    paleo_piper wrote on September 30th, 2009
  33. Yeah VH1!

    Martin P wrote on September 30th, 2009
  34. I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately we have our own version of TBL here in Australia and I’m sure it’s a clone of yours. I know a couple of overweight people who take great pleasure in watching it all the time thinking to themselves “at least I’m not THAT fat” and thereby giving themselves permission to continue to overeat etc. I’ve never been much interested in “train wrecks” either.

    Alan wrote on September 30th, 2009
  35. No amount of ridicule,or humiliation, will help these contestants lose weight any faster. I think compassion and an understanding of what it is like to be obese goes a longer way in helping them, than cursing,swearing,and dragging them through the mud so to speak.

    The amounts of weight loss that is lost from week to week is not good for the heart. How can you tell me 25 lbs in one week is possibly healthy?

    They do not concentrate on food intake and a healthier lifestyle after they leave the ranch. They keep pushing snacks that are usually loaded with sugar. In my opinion they are setting themselves up for weight gain.

    One more thing that I find exceptionally interesting, is when a contestant is hurt during a workout and has to sit out training, why is it that they tend to lose more weight than anybody else who is killing themselves in they gym? Go figure.

    Cheryl Diamond wrote on September 30th, 2009
  36. I think the biggest problem with the show is that the calorie counting and obscene amounts of cardio WORKS! The winner DOES drop 100+ pounds each season. Thus continuing the belief in Conventional Wisdom. It’s sad. Because it’s COMPLETELY not sustainable. The only way any of them can do it is to put their lives completely on hold and go to fat-camp where their day job now becomes working out. NO WAY you could live that lifestyle and hold down a day job. Never mind how difficult – nay impossible – it is to stick to a low fat/low calorie diet.

    If ONLY THEY KNEW how EASY it is when you go primal. I’ve been primal since March and I’m down 38 POUNDS! A respectable, sustainable, 1-2 pounds a week. And I’m doing virtually NO cardio. I surf on occassion, I lift weights, but ZERO regimented X-amount of hours on a treadmill nonsense.

    My roommate on the other hand is killing himself in the gym, eating low fat/ low calorie, until his willpower cracks and he carb binges, and he has virtually NOTHING to show for it in the same 6 month period. He’s within 5 pounds of his starting weight. Meanwhile I’m down 38 pounds. Like the sham-wow guy says, “I don’t know, it kinda’ sells itself!”

    Fixed gear wrote on October 1st, 2009
  37. Many of these posts still show the one big issue…The scale….IT DOESN’T TELL THE WHOLE STORY.

    Go back to May 2009…I weighed 181 pounds. Now I weigh 192.

    The rest of the story is that I was 16% fatty tissue in May and am 11% now. So I’ve gained 19 pounds of lean tissue and lost 8 pounds of fat. I’m 48, male, lift heavy stuff, play tennis and golf, do lots of heavy lifting as well as kettlebells and bodyweight. I follow the Paleo Diet for Athletes. And the scale, as I show you, means nada

    Sandy Sommer, RKC wrote on October 1st, 2009
  38. I watched a couple of episodes last season but those two “trainers” wore me out. If anyone got in my face like that they would eat a knuckle sandwich.

    JAMES HOWELL wrote on October 1st, 2009
  39. I have nothing good to say about this show. I have a dear friend that became so obsessed with this show, she actually did try out to be on this show, and didn’t get picked. She would of been away for many months from her job and her husband, and would of went thru abuse. I told her to count her blessings she did NOT go, that she would of been getting herself into misery and pure Kaos! NOW she is working out WITH her husband…together not apart, still has her job, and she’s NOT under “pressure” @ TBL Ranch to be forced to lose weight in a dangerous way. It’s just NOT reality to lose weight this way. These contestants are pushed past their limitations, it’s just not worth it!!

    Donna wrote on October 1st, 2009
  40. I used to watch this (not on my own free will) at the gym, as it was usually on in the afternoon. If anything, it certainly made me more angry and made my training session more intense :)

    mrd232 wrote on October 1st, 2009

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