Biggest Loser’s rapid weight loss demoralizes fat people, increases risks

The rapid weight loss seen on The Biggest Loser may not be good for one’s health–and it also apparently depresses some fat people because they can’t lose weight as fast.

“Whether it’s gallbladder disease, hair falling out, skin getting dry, the more rapid the weight loss, the greater the risk. You get above a kilogram a week, the risk really shoots up,” Weight Watchers scientist Karen Kovach told the New York Times. Columbia’s Dr. Michael Rosenbaum agrees. “What would I advise someone who wants to engage in a program associated with increased risks of gallstones, cardiac arrhythmias and electrolyte abnormalities, and that has been shown to be less likely to lead to long-term success in maintenance of a reduced body weight than losing weight more slowly? I would advise them not to do it,” he said.

The Times notes that “much of the radical weight loss seen on ‘The Biggest Loser’ is a natural consequence of the contestants’ conditions; many start out morbidly obese. The sheer size of their bodies increases the number of calories required each day, so restricting their calorie intake has a more pronounced effect,” and that leads to “frustration for viewers.” The weight loss is also due to the regiment that contestants undergo, which the paper details:

“For those still living on the show’s campus, female team members eat 1,100 to 1,500 calories a day, and male contestants eat 1,500 to 2,300 calories a day, with meals like salmon and wild rice. And everybody spends an hour or two on weight or resistance training, an hour on a high-intensity cardiovascular exercise, and up to three hours walking on the treadmill, using the elliptical trainer or riding a stationary bike.”

But some people complain to the paper that they can’t do all of that so they don’t lose weight. Well, duh. “You watch it because you want to know the secret. But the reality is, you can’t. So why bother? Everybody in the real world seems to have the same consensus: nobody has that much time to dedicate to losing weight,” Renee Peters says. She’s the host of a discussion board called the Fatfighters, and says, “I find myself in the beginning of every season raring to go. But then they’ve lost 70 pounds and I’ve only lost 5 in the same time frame, and I find myself eating ice cream.”

Watching TV and eating ice cream instead of exercising, or a reality TV show: I wonder which one is actually to blame for her lack of weight loss.

Big Losers, but Can Viewers Keep the Pace? [New York Times]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.