So if you’re like me and millions of other Americans, you’ve seen at least a few episodes (or seasons) of The Biggest Loser and drawn some parallels to your own situation. For me, this has ranged from “thank God I’m not that big” to “well damn, food does have an emotional hold on me.” Pre-Paleo I used to watch the show while gorging on a few slices of pizza as if to gloat the fact that I didn’t weigh 300+ pounds. But the truth is, I had the same mindset as a lot of the folks on the show: struggling with weight loss and being unable to break free from body image issues. Now that I’m eating right, training smart and getting plenty of sleep (still working on quality), I’ve have a few more critiques of a show I used to enjoy so much.
The show is an amazing motivational tool. Obesity is a rapidly growing epidemic in this country and world-wide and I would still put The Biggest Loser in the “trying to help” category. It’s good to see not only the people in the show taking an interest in their health, but also all the folks who watch the show. The trainers also do a great job of tackling the emotional problems surrounding food and body image.
Everything comes down to calories and weight. As Gary Taubes taught us in Good Calories, Bad Calories, not all calories are created equal and those coming from sugars and starches are damaging compared to those coming from good fat and lean protein. The entire Calories In – Calories Out hypothesis for losing fat is inadequate for describing what actually happens in the body. If 3500 calories equals one pound of fat then it should be super easy to eat 500 fewer calories every day and easily lose a pound a week. Or eat the same and exercise to burn those 500 calories. But how many of you have tried that to minimal or no success? I know I have. You body is far more complicated than that, and fat loss comes down to food intake, metabolism, and most important of all, hormones.
No fast food advertising during commercial breaks. Did you even notice this one? Probably not since you all have TiVo’s or watch the show online, but NBC doesn’t allow any “unhealthy” fast food advertising (Subway excluded). With the inundation of Double-Downs, $5 pizzas and beer commercials, it’s refreshing to see a network actually put some thought in the content that is reaching viewers.
Contestants come out over-trained, under-fed and stressed out. In the quest for fat loss, the Biggest Loser system falls victim to the traditional bad science that we’ve been bombarded with over the decades. In addition to the Calories in-Calories out hypothesis, there are the false assumptions that: whole grains are an important and beneficial part of a balanced diet; the more time you spend doing cardio, the more fat you will lose; multiple small meals a day are better than a few large ones; or that you can completely restrict calories without adverse side effects. These are all just plain wrong and it hurts me to see that the show is delivering the message that the only way people can lose large amounts of fat is to prescribe to these inane ideals.
If you watched Season 10, you saw Adam Hurtado lose some serious weight in not a lot of time. He came off the show completely beat up, eating only 800 calories a day, not sleeping enough and doing 4+ hours of cardio. He reached out to LEAF Fitness to help him lose the rest of his weight before returning for the final weigh-in, and they did some pretty amazing stuff that is totally in line with what I recommend here. You can read the full story here but the short version is that he went Paleo, (giving up Jillian’s beloved whole grains and Bob’s vegan fake meat), exercise a few times a week for no more than an hour each session, and SLEPT! It’s not surprising that food and sleep affect your body composition more than the work you put in the gym – after all there are 23 other hours in a day that you aren’t working out.
Here’s a video about Adam’s story:
Dude lost 33 pounds in 35 days. That is on par with Biggest Loser results.
Focus on paying it forward. I don’t like to end with hate, so I’ll admit that even though the show gives out a lot of really bad info, they are trying to do the right thing by spreading the message of fitness and health. It’s hard to find fault with that and while I continue to cringe, I understand what they’re trying to accomplish.
So what should you do differently than these folks if you want to have you own Biggest Loser reveal? It’s not too difficult actually.
Image courtesy of: http://www.thebiggestloser.info/img/the-biggest-loser.gif