Is The Biggest Loser, the Biggest User?

6 Jan

I am a huge fan of the TV show, The Biggest Loser. I’ve watched it for years both when I was fat, hoping one day to lose weight and now thin rooting for them to lose weight. The show has been such a success, it’s spawned company weight loss contests and raised awareness for fitness and health in general. The Biggest Loser has meal plans to order, exercise equipment, a game for the Wii, a fitness resort and numerous cookbooks.

Yet, despite the immense success of the show and the contestants on it, there has always been controversy surrounding it. How many people have gained the weight back? Are the methods they use on the show healthy? Can losing that much weight so quickly be good for you?

Over the last few years, it’s begun to creep out that several of the season finale winners have gained all their weight back like season one winner Ryan Benson and season three winner Erik Chopin. Matt and Suzy Hoover have been very public about their struggles to keep the weight off. Despite finishing the Ironman in Kona, Matt is still quite far from his finale weight. It seems like the contestants who go back to normal lives that aren’t associated with the fitness industry struggle greatly with keeping the weight off. Others, who have pursued a career in fitness, tend to fare better.

I always assumed the show and the trainers somehow kept up with the alumni. I thought they at least checked in with them and tried to help as they adjusted back to normal life. But, it turns out they really kind of don’t get any help. The contestants themselves are a huge network with each other and consider themselves a family. I’ve seen via Twitter and Facebook how much they all work to encourage each other and help out. But I find it appalling that the show itself doesn’t do anything.

My heart broke the other day when I saw this blog post from season 8 fan favorite, Shay. She was the heaviest female contestant on the show and had lost over 200 pounds. She was brought back at later finales and signed deals with Subway to get $1000 for every additional pound she lost. She also made a deal with them to run the NY Marathon. She ended up getting injured and falling back to her old habits.

Yet, I was even more upset to read that the show more or less abandoned her. They wear Body Bugg devices on the show to accurately track their calorie intake and burn. The device itself is around $200 plus a monthly subscription fee of $9.99. The show provides it when they are on the show, but takes it away afterward. Seriously? All the money they make and they can’t provide that for their contestants. Would it really hurt them to check in on the contestants or provide them with a year gym membership after they leave to help them adjust?

I am not saying that weight gain is entirely the show’s fault. Not at all. People make their own decisions and struggling with weight is one of the hardest battles there is. Shay wasn’t trying to blame the show either. She knows she made her own mistakes. However, I just feel that with all the money the show makes and how those people at thrust into the spotlight, it is their responsibility to help them out for the first year.

They need to get used to not working out 6 hours a day and maintaining a healthy life on a normal workout schedule of maybe an hour a day while balancing family, a job, social life. They need help in learning how to eat a normal amount of food instead of the extreme dieting rumored to be going on on the show. And I think their trainer from the show needs to check in on them from time to time.

Losing weight is horribly difficult, but it’s so much harder to keep it off. I lost my weight gradually over 14 months. I had time to adjust and slowly change my life so it wasn’t scary or too much too quickly. These contestants literally drop hundreds of pounds in a matter of months. That’s horribly difficult for anyone to adjust to much less without the pressure of TV fame.

So I will continue watching the show for sure. I do think in the long run, it does much more good than harm. But the rose colored glasses have faded a bit and it makes me sad.

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