Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Love/Hate Relationship with The Biggest Loser

Yes I watch this show. And yes, I have watched every single season and probably will watch it until they take it off the air. Sometimes people are surprised to learn that about me because I am the poster girl for focusing on a holistic approach to health and I am constantly putting out the message that focusing on just weight loss is like thinking the puzzle is complete with huge pieces missing.

So why the heck have I never missed an episode of a show that is a weight loss competition that is notorious for such a huge focus on pulling big weight loss numbers each week to stay in the competition?  Main reason is that I have learned a lot from watching it. Not only things that have been important for my own journey, but I feel like by watching it I’m learning things I can use when I start training people as a Personal Trainer. Don’t worry I don’t plan on yelling obscenities like a crazy person like Bob & Jillian do! I believe you can be assertive without having to resort to this kind of behavior.  

When BL first aired I was heavier than most of the females that were on the show.  I sat and watched the first couple seasons dreaming about what it would be like to drop all the excess weight I was carrying, yet I was on a yo-yo roller-coaster during most of that time. Even though I found the show to be inspiring at times, I also found it intimidating because when ever I would attempt to work on my weight I never would come close to loosing those big numbers you see on the show. This is one of the negative influences I think that this show has because it creates pretty unrealistic expectations for it’s viewers about weight loss. Just took me a while to realize that what you see on the show is pretty hard to replicate in real life unless you plan on putting life on hold and do nothing but workout for hours a day. I know that, as I start training clients, that there are going to be some who are fans of the show who are going to have these unrealistic expectations about working with a trainer. I plan on talking about having realistic expectations right up front to try and avoid having them fall into the trap of feeling like failures if they aren’t seeing “Biggest Loser” results.

Once I got on my own path to better health I continued to watch and found it inspiring but not because of the numbers on the scale that I saw the contestants pulling. I found inspiration through watching them complete the physical challenges, workout like machines, and watching them make emotional breakthroughs. The emotional breakthroughs where very interesting and very important to my own understanding that there are big emotional components to why I put on excess weight. As I watched each season, I found myself relating to the contestants because I was making some very similar breakthroughs myself. I watched how the trainers would push the contestants to confront their emotional demons and help them over the hurdles that came with opening up. My dream about wanting to be a Personal Trainer started to grow because of watching these moments. Let me just put it out there that I question some of the training tactics I have seen and in no way want to be just like Bob or Jillian. They both have some good qualities as trainers but there are just some things I personally don’t agree with.

Now that I’m in the weight maintenance portion of my health journey I really find myself getting more emotional when the seasons come down to the last couple of episodes. For example, the episode from this week the contestants each sat down and watched a video that was of clips of their journey so far, including a message each one of them taped for themselves when they first started out. I’ll be honest I cried through most of that. Why? Because, just like them, it is pretty overwhelming to recognize just how much hard work you have to put into changing your life like that. I get very reflective on my own journey watching those moments and I cry not because I’m sad but because I am so proud of myself that the emotions just flood out of my body as tears.    

As my fitness has improved over the years I have also used the show to steal some of the workout exercises that you see contestants using. Now granted I research them before trying them so I learn what the proper form is so I didn’t injure myself.  Mostly, things you see them doing with free weights and little equipment since I don’t use a gym to work out in.  I also have a couple of the workout DVD’s that have the Biggest Loser title on them as well as a number of Jillian Michaels' titles.

There are plenty of things I hate about the show as well. Here is a list of some of them.
  • The concept of the game where the faster you loose the more you are rewarded by getting to stay on the show. Yeah I do realize it is the main focus on the show, doesn’t mean I have to like it. I think it almost encourages doing some really questionable things to drop weight fast both with contestants and to the at home viewer. 
  • The whole game play drama that occurs between contestants.
  • The way they cut to commercials to try and create short cliff hanger drama. Thank you DVR for helping me just skip this!
  • Product placements
  • The temptations where eating crap could potentially earn you a reward
  • The way that the trainers yell obscenities in an effort to be assertive
  • Lack of coverage on the nutrition plans that the contestants are following
  • Not addressing how they are training these individuals without causing over-training syndrome. I suspect that many of them suffer from over-training problems and we aren’t informed about it. There are signs though because I think back to some who have suffered from injuries over the years.
Questions for You
Do you watch BL? If so what are your thoughts on it?
If you don’t watch it are you not watching it because of some of the reasons I hate it?

Oh and before I let you go don’t forget about my ‘Don't Drink ___, Drink WAT-AAH!’ Giveaway. You have until tomorrow @ 11:59pm to enter.

Quote of the Day: “All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching?” ~ Nicholas Johnson


  1. I do watch TBL. I also have a love hate relationship with it. I love it because it it shows everyone that it is possible. It shows that htey have to work for it though. HOWEVER, I feel that it gives the viewer such unrealistic expectations about weight loss. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone be upset becasuse they only lost 2 or 3 pounds for the week.'s not healthy to lose more than 2 pounds average a week! But these same people are seeing the contestants on tv dropping 10-15 pounds (or more).

    I would like to follow the contestants more when they got home to see how they handle the long term affects of their new journey. Thank heavens to Erik for having the guts to come back on and talk about how difficult it really is and to share his struggles!

  2. I have a love/hate relationship with TBL too. I even wrote a post about it way back when. Even though I don't think it's realistic I still get inspired by the contestants changing their lives. You can check out my old love/hate post at

  3. I too have a love/hate relationship with BL. In the past I have actually found it to be discouraging because I thought it would never be possible for me to loose anything, and I often found myself craving ice cream after watching a show.

    Now that I am on my own weight loss journey to a healthier me, I do feel connected to the show in a different way.

    I am currently working out to the Biggest Loser Vol. 1, and I personally like this dvd, because it is nice to have "real" people work out once in a while.

    The Fit & Frugal Challenge

  4. wow!! Ive been meaning to write a blog on this for the longest time!! Mine is definately a dislike but since you've been to my blog you know it's going to be all "feely feely" lol.

    BTW TY so much for your encouraging words to me. I work with a personal trainer and at the gym they all call her a mini jillian.. She doesn't scream though, she just smiles really big and repeats directions until you do it lol.. after a while you sigh and get on with it!!

    Im so glad you stopped by to see me!! I will definantely be watching whats going on with you!!

    You've even encouraged me to begin blogging my workouts again.. well im going to try!! Theyre pretty intense and im usually too tired to breathe let alone retype everything i did!!

  5. Erica, thanks for stopping by CoachYourMind!

    I absolutely love this blog, and will definitely be following. I also have mixed feeling about BL, but I find anyone willing to go to such great lengths to change their lives very inspiring.

    I'm of the opinion that we should fight as hard as we can to get what we want... no matter anyone's opinion. It can't be hard to go on that show... so for all the negatives, at least people are "punching back" and taking control.


  6. Edit... "It can't be EASY to go on that show."

  7. I am in love with that show! :)

    However, there are some things that annoy me. For instance, the very first challenge of season 8 where they had to run a mile down a hot and sandy beach. For some of them, it had been awhile since they put forth that much physical effort. I was seriously worried about the contestants. If I remember correctly both Coach Moe and Tracy sustained injuries from that challenge. Tracy's injuries kept her from the gym for most of the time on the ranch I believe.

    I have no unrealistic expectations about weight loss from The Biggest Loser but that's probably because I lost a great deal of weight before the show ever premiered. So I knew what was possible and what wasn't possible for my own body.

    Like you said though... what expectations do others have for their own bodies and journeys because of the show?

    If anything, the show has shown me that it is totally possible to lose a great deal of weight (100+ pounds) without surgery.

    Great post!! :)


  8. I have watched TBL faithfully since the first season and agree with your thoughts - it is inspiring but the weight loss and training methods are extreme - especially the past couple seasons where more than one contestant has been hospitalized. The thing that keeps me coming back over and over is that I get so wrapped up in watching the contestants become so much more confident and happy as they drop the weight. Some of them make such huge breakthroughs during the show and towards the end of each season I usually find myself getting teary-eyed at least once or twice per episode. This season has honestly been my favorite one to date and I can't wait to see Shay at the finale :)

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