TV’s “The Biggest Loser” drives me crazy. Why? I guess the humiliation is a good place to start. Everything is embarrassing. Failure to succeed at working out. Being half-naked at the weigh-in. Getting “bad” numbers. But aren’t they already winners for being there and taking these steps toward better health?
I watched a 345 pound man get on the scale last week. His trainer testified that the client had worked especially hard and expectations were high. After much fanfare, he had “only” lost 5 pounds. Immediately, his trainer swore to him that he’d figure out “what went wrong” and fix it for next week.
What went wrong? Nothing. In fact, a lot went right for this client. I’ll tell you more about that in a minute.
Here’s my biggest problem with this program: the messages.
The loudest message each week is you must do vomit-inducing workouts that require someone screaming at you to get them done. Truth is, if your workout makes you nauseous, you’re dehydrated. And yelling? Really?
Another screwed up message is that weight is all that matters.
Weight doesn’t matter at all. The show’s biggest message should be that losing FAT is what matters. Gaining MUSCLE is what matters. Creating the correct RATIO between body fat and lean mass is what matters. The resulting change in your METABOLISM is what matters. Take the 345 pound man. Assuming he challenged his body and fueled it correctly, he lost 10 pounds of fat that week. He used up 10 pounds of dangerous fat to build 5 pounds of lean, metabolically active muscle tissue. That’s why the scale would only showed a 5 pound loss. But he incinerated 10 POUNDS OF FAT! What an accomplishment! By gaining 5 pounds of muscle, he has increased his metabolically active tissue and gained some strength and energy as well. This new muscle strength will make his next workouts safer and easier. The new muscle tissue will also continue to burn fat for him, even while he’s sitting down. Shouldn’t he be celebrating that accomplishment?
The other problem with the show is that we see very, very little about what the clients eat. So the message, “Work-out till you cry” is the formula. Well, it couldn’t be more wrong. If all you do is hard workouts, you’ll end up in worse shape than when you started, on several levels. If you fail to eat in a supportive way, your endocrine system, your metabolism, the mitochondria in your cells and the telomeres on the ends of your DNA will suffer.
Here’s a platform that millions of people pay attention to and the messages are all wrong. It’s such a valuable opportunity to teach us how the body works and to celebrate positive efforts. Instead, it dramatizes false information and promotes shame.
Who’s the biggest loser? We are!