In the wide, wide world of ridiculous diet and weight loss BS, The Biggest Loser’s ‘weekly’ weigh-ins take the cake. If you’re familiar with the TV show then you know it’s not uncommon to see the contestants lose 12 to 20 lbs a week from their exercise and diet efforts. The first time I saw this, I couldn’t believe it. I’ve been researching, practicing, teaching and writing about health, weight-loss, and fitness for over 25 years and I’ve never seen weight come off that fast. It’s something that I get countless, continuous questions about, from my students, clients, and even doctors.
“How on earth are The Biggest Loser participants losing so much weight so fast?” That’s the question that is so often asked. As it turns out, the answer is: “They aren’t.” Let me explain…
You might be surprised to discover that there is a closely guarded secret to those sensational results. You see, a week on The Biggest Loser TV show does not equal a week on the calendar you and I follow. In this case, there’s a big difference between ‘reality TV’ and what’s real. Former contestants have revealed that the length of time between ‘weekly’ weigh-ins can be as much as 25 days, which makes it look like people are losing weight a lot faster than they actually are.
Andrew ‘Cosi’ Costello is one of the former Biggest Loser contestants who has spoken out. He explains, “In my series, a weekly weigh-in was NEVER filmed after just one week of working out. In fact, the gap between one weigh-in to the next was up to three and a half weeks. That’s 25 days between weigh-ins, not 7. I had to stand on the scale and was asked to say the line, ‘WOW, it’s a great result… I’ve worked really hard this week!’ The producers made sure that we never gave the secret away because if we did it created a nightmare for them in editing. The shortest gap from weigh-in to weigh-in during my series was 16 days. That’s a fact.”
How does the show get away with something so deceptive and misleading? Simple… it is a fictional TV show and despite the fact that it fits into this new category of ‘reality’ programming, it is not at all required to present factual information. It’s not a documentary; it’s not a news broadcast; it’s not really real.
Kai Hibbard was a Biggest Loser Finalist in Season 3. She recalls, “The meaning of a ‘week’ on The Biggest Loser varied. It could mean 14 days.” Kai goes on to explain that the way the show was edited made it appear that she was losing 12 lbs a week but she says, “Sue me if you want to, NBC, but I’m telling people I didn’t lose 12 lbs in a week. It didn’t happen. After the show aired I’ve had people come up to me crying, telling me how hard they workout and how strict they are with their food and they want to know why they can’t lose 12 lbs a week. I have to explain that it wasn’t a week. And even when it looks like I lost 12 lbs in a week… I was so severely dehydrated at the weigh-ins that it was completely unhealthy.”
Make no mistake, I am always inspired and excited to see people making healthy changes in their lives. Losing weight, overcoming unhealthy habits, starting with and sticking to an intense exercise program… I know from firsthand experience, it’s a lot of work and requires determination, effort, and courage. I commend the participants in these shows for making the bold decision to make a change and for the inner strength that they put into being successful. I have nothing but respect for each and every one of these Biggest Loser contestants. (I think they should be called ‘Winners’ by the way.)
The problem is NOT with the people featured on the show. The problem is
the system behind the scenes. The producers, not medical experts, control how the show goes during taping, editing, and what is packaged and delivered to the networks. The producers’ job is to deliver a program that the TV networks can promote and broadcast to draw big ratings from. The TV networks job is to attract the most viewers possible to maximize the advertisers’ financial investment. That’s simply how the entertainment business works.
Unfortunately, millions of viewers who watch shows like The Biggest Loser are unaware that what they are seeing is at least in part, make believe. If I hadn’t worked in the industry myself (producing documentary films, videos, TV specials) I would probably take what I see on these shows at face value also. But, through my experience, and hearing from TV weight loss show contestants themselves, I know that there’s some very misleading, and even dangerous information being presented.
As I see it, the unrealistic and untrue depiction of exaggerated weight-loss results on shows like The Biggest Loser is creating a big problem. These shows, which have the potential to do so much good, are ultimately doing a disservice to their viewers by misleading them.
What I do like about TV shows like The Biggest Loser is that it brings attention to the incredible ability we each have to make stunning changes in our bodies and lives. This gets many viewers motivated and moving. Getting someone started is just the first step though. Keeping them going and helping them stick with a good exercise and nutrition program long enough to personally experience positive and healthy results is the biggest challenge. And the key to keeping people going strong is mostly about mindset — we have to help them stay positive and feel good about their progress and results.
In the real world, burning off 2 lbs of unhealthy bodyfat a week is something you should be very proud to accomplish. But for millions of viewers of weight-loss TV shows, 2 lbs of fat loss a week seems like a failure and reinforces the false belief that far too many have, which is that they can’t be successful at transforming their health. But the fact, they CAN! Just because it doesn’t happen at the pace you see on weight-loss TV shows, doesn’t mean it’s not working for you and that you’re not on your way to an incredible transformation.
At my Transformation Center in Colorado, we’ve helped dozens of people become over 100 lbs lighter in less than a year. The average weight-loss for someone who is getting great results from their exercise and healthy eating program is 8 to 12 lbs per month (not per week!). I like to see my clients reducing their overall weight by 1% to 1.25% per week until we hit a healthy goal weight. Losing weight faster than that almost certainly means that your body is sacrificing muscle mass (and also bone density). When we lose muscle, the metabolism goes down and we become less efficient at burning calories and producing energy. It takes a smart plan, followed consistently, to lose bodyfat while strengthening muscles and improving energy.
I’ve written about this topic in my books Body-for-LIFE and Eating for Life and regularly discuss it in my blog at BillPhillipsNews.com and on Facebook at ‘Bill Phillips Transformation.’
It’s an unfortunate ‘reality’ that so much of what is published in magazines, broadcast on television, and written on the internet is complete and utter bullsh*t when it comes to diet, exercise, and fitness. In 25+ years as an author, teacher, and coach, I’ve seen countless fads and frauds come and go. What I’ve been able to conclude — what stands out as the fundamental facts to me — is that each of us have an incredible, God-given ability to restore our health, rebuild our bodies, and renew our lives that can’t be bought, can’t be sold, and can never be taken away.
Even if you’ve neglected your health for years, even decades, that power to change your health — the power to transform your life — is still right there where it’s always been… within you.
Yes, you need accurate information, scientific facts, and a knowledgeable coach, trainer, or mentor who can point you in the right direction and help you steer clear of the nonsense, pitfalls, and obstacles. And yes, reclaiming the healthy body and life that you were meant to have all along will take sacrifice, effort, and determination… but the rewards you’ll earn, no matter how long it takes, will be more than worth it!