I have spoken candidly with a few people about my feelings about the show The Biggest Loser but it was an interview by show’s co-creator Dave Broome with People Magazine that sparked a public discussion. The show has always been under heavy fire for putting ratings before the health and safety of the contestants. My biggest concern with the show and has been since the beginning, is that it makes weight loss and healthy living seem like an endeavour that takes 40+ hours a week, when in fact it doesn’t even have to be a quarter of that for some people.
Dr. Huizenga [The Biggest Loser’s physician] states that “long-term health was the real goal, not winning a game show”. We don’t have to look much farther than the name of the show to see that the goal isn’t long term sustainability it’s about losing the most weight. But let’s face it, I wouldn’t be writing an article about a show called The Longest Health Nut because it wouldn’t get past the first season. TV is about extremes, especially reality TV. The contestants are cast so that you might talk about what silly thing they did the night before at the water cooler the next day. I don’t watch much reality TV and admittedly have only watched a handful of episodes of The Biggest Loser. With the risk of sounding holier than thou, I like to live my own life not watch others live theirs.
Coming back to Dr. Huizenga’s statement that it’s about long-term health, losing 10+lbs a week is not healthy. If you do the math losing weight at a rate of 520lbs a year is very dangerous. Your body doesn’t have the time to accommodate these changes, you’ll see skin that doesn’t spring back, you’ll see vitamin and mineral deficiencies along with a whole myriad of other problems. Weight loss shouldn’t be considered a sprint, it should be more of a long term plan. Don’t let that discourage you, if you were to lose the 2lbs a week recommended maximum, that’s still 104lbs in a single year. A huge accomplishment by any standard. It is important to shift the thought process, it isn’t about being the smallest number on the scale, it’s about being healthy. And part of that is having a healthy body composition. Which means you need to consider bone density, muscle mass, really everything that you’re made of has to be considered when looking at a “healthy weight”. It is important to recognize that “healthy weight” is a relative term, relative to everyone!
Let’s jump around to another concern, which I have already touched on, if you’ve spent any time reading our blog you’ll see that I am adamant that weight is not an indicator of health. It is a part of it, but it is relative to many other factors. Back in 2013 The Huffington Post had a post about Howard Schatz’s book Athlete. Schatz took pictures of a series of female Olympians and below their photo their sport, height and weight. What we see is a group of ladies who are all at the top of their respective sport and who come in a range of shapes and sizes. Athletes are usually regarded as being healthy individuals, in fact if we look at the range of weights between these elite athletes we see a difference of 212lbs. It’s worth noting the difference we see between these athletes is twice that of the final weight of Season 15 winner Rachel Frederickson, who finished at 105lbs. Health comes in all shapes and sizes, and fortunately shape and size isn’t how we define it.
For some contestants it has been a very positive experience, and I’m sure for many home viewers it has been the catalyst for change. For that I am in awe of how many people’s lives have been changed. My concern is that to change lives for the good and for the long term you can’t push terms like “weight loss” and “skinny”. Your vernacular has to shift to words like “healthy”, “fit” and “active”. Your sights should be set on being happy in your skin, enjoying being active not being skinny. I want to leave you with a snippet from an email I got earlier this week from a long-time client. She has turned that corner and now realises that skinny isn’t a goal, healthy is the goal.
I started with you over two years ago with a picture in my head and goal in mind of being “skinny” – something I had always struggled with – and somewhere along the way that turned to wanting to be strong, wanting to run faster, wanting to improve on my cardio, wanting to be healthy.Melissa – 2015