Monday, November 09, 2009

More on TBL

I may have said it before, but I'll say it again, I hate The Biggest Loser. While I'm all for encouraging healthy eating and exercise, this is not the goal of the show. Instead, contestants are put on low calorie diets and required to engage in extreme exercise, a combination that is simply unsustainable. A recent issue of Us magazine profiles three former contestants:

1) Hollie Self: Self is reported to eat 1,200 calories a day, run four times a week (up to 20 miles per run) and engage in strength training three times a week. Self completed the NYC marathon (5:08) and is training for a Half Ironman next year. For the uninitiated, that's a 1.2 mile swim, a 56-mile bike, and a 13.1 mile run (yes, all in one day). But, on a 1,200 calorie/day diet?

2) Alexandra White: It's reported that White eats 1,300 calories a day and works out for four hours a day, six times a week. This type of overtraining is likely to lead her to burnout and injuries and again, isn't sustainable on 1,300 calories a day.

3) Nicole Brewer: Brewer reportedly eats 1,600 calories a day, as she trains for the Philadelphia Marathon and teaches spinning and strength training classes.

My concern about these lifestyles is that they're unrealistic--the general public is led to believe that it's possible a) to function long-term on low calorie diets b) and to do that while engaging in frequent, rigorous endurance exercise. For most people, it's a set-up, at best, for failure and low self-esteem (If they can do it, why can't I?), and at worst, for illness and malnutrition.

11 comments:

Rachel said...

I can only think of two words:
Exercise anorexia.

And this is seriously disturbing.

Kristin said...

Hi there - I'm a long time reader.

I don't know why I always watch this show, and I'm certainly not going to defend it. I just - in some ways I do admire the hard work people put in, but it is really disturbing at times.

Jillian Michaels screams at the contestants, calling them failures, basically telling them she's going to make them vomit or bleed, and then insists that the reason she does it is to create uncomfortable situations that she can engineer to have a positive outcome, so that when the contestants face uncomfortable situations outside of the competition, they will know what it is like to work through them and succeed. But it is borderline abuse.

Last week one of the male contestants broke the record for the most weight loss in the shortest time - he lost 101 pounds in 7 weeks. The first thing he said, "This just shows you that anyone can do this - maybe not in 7 weeks but you can lose 100 pounds in 7 months if you really work hard at it." Is that even sustainable? I know it must be possible, but is that really responsible for them to be letting him claim?

Every time someone argues with this logic, Jillian calls them excuse makers who are fat because of these excuses and that they will never amount to anything.

For a while it was about overcoming obstacles for me, which I find admirable, but some of these scenes are increasingly disturbing to watch.

sadchubbie said...

Kristin:
Most weight loss doctors will tell patients to aim for one to two pounds a week. Anything more, they say, is unhealthy. Seven months is 28 weeks, which means that people looking to lose weight in a "healthy" manner should be aiming for 28-56 pounds. Of course, purposely losing weight isn't really healthy in the first place, but even for the people who think it is, 100lbs in 7 months, much less seven weeks, is ridiculously unhealthy.

Plus that kind of weight loss will probably make their body panic, go into starvation mode, and do everything it can to gain the weight back and then some.

It really disgusts me how unabashedly unhealthy the Biggest Loser is.

Erin said...

This sickens me that they are publishing information like this, as if it is a normal and healthy way to lose weight! I am currently in therapy right now for this kind of behavior (restricting/exercise bulimia). It's an extremely hard and unhealthy cycle to get out of.

M said...

Shows like this make me feel like a total failure, yet I'm completely addicted to them. It stresses me out so much when I lose a pound a week, and they have contestants losing 10+ lbs a week on a regular basis.

It's very frustrating to say the least, when the contestants start out weighing twice-three times what I do, yet by the end they weigh 40 lbs less...I mean, when they weight the same amount that I do, and still lose 7 lbs in a week, I feel like a complete failure. It's brutal.

justjuliebean said...

That show annoys me to no end. I sometimes watch it for a few minutes, before I turn it off in disgust. And this 1200 calorie thing is insane, I burn more than that sleeping.

BTW, M, I'm thrilled if I lose a pound in a week. It's slow, but very comfortable lifestyle, not diety at all.

zipdang22 said...

I thought I was the only one on earth who despised that show. It makes me feel horrible...the way they treat those poor people.

Forcing them to stand up there in their bra tops...so everyone watching can see how superior they are to them ("well, at least I'm not as fat as her!").

It's humiliating and I can't imagine why anyone would sign up for weekly humiliation.

I can't imagine why anyone finds that entertaining either. It just makes me feel sad inside. It's not nice. It's just wrong.

azusmom said...

I also admit to tuning it once in a while. But 100 pounds in 7 WEEKS?!?!?! I'm surprised the AMA hasn't tried to get this crud knocked off the air. But I suppose that anything that makes money these days is inviolable. I'm gonna stick with "So You Think You Can Dance" from now on.

I guess there's a really good reason most of the contestants gain back the weight once the show has ended.

Villamor family said...

i have never liked the show either. I can understand how the contestants are at their breaking point and will do anything to lose the pounds but the humiliation of standing up there half-naked while getting weighed and then being compared to everyone...that breeds disordered thinking! i can't believe they published that either. hopefully the show helps more people than it hurts.

April said...

Wow, those numbers are insane with that level of activity.

I feel overwhelmed by the need to run to my yoga class where everyone is supportive and hugs. Just thinking about how starved those muscles must be doing all that exercise on that little food makes me need a hug.

And a cup of cottage cheese.

april

Fi said...

Every time I catch an exercise challenge on this show, I always end up cringing at the thought of the (probably) inevitable muscle damage, ligament damage ending up requiring joint replacement surgery, and my personal hell, plantar fasciitis. Ouch.