You’re familiar with The Biggest Loser — one of the most popular reality TV shows centering around rapid weight loss for its overweight participants. The show illustrates their weight-loss journeys from the very beginning. And by the end, you see the smiling face of one winner. The “Biggest Loser” walks away with $250,000, but more importantly, they gleam in the show lights with happiness at their profound weight loss. Sounds fantastic, right? No.
Here’s what the producers don’t show you and the lies you shouldn’t believe.
It’s totally safe to take supplements for weight loss
Weight loss supplements aren’t a miracle in a bottle. | Theevening/iStock/Getty Images
Here’s where the controversy begins. Rob Huizenga, the show’s resident doctor, told the New York Post that no one on the show is allowed to take weight-loss supplements. But several contestants have said trainers on the show, notably Bob Harper, have given them amphetamines or diuretics to aid in losing weight.
If you’re considering taking pills for weight loss, we highly advise you talk to a doctor first, as the risks can outweigh the benefits.
Extremely low-calorie diets are the right way to go
Add veggies and protein to your salad for the perfect hearty dinner. | wmaster890/Getty Images
Reducing your caloric intake is vital in weight loss — this is the truth. But on The Biggest Loser, contestants are encouraged to drop their calories to extreme levels. One 2008 contestant, Joelle Gwynn, alleges the trainers told her to eat just 800 calories a day, but to report she was eating up to 1,500 calories to avoid suspicion, Us Weekly reports. Whether this is true or not, we’ll never know. But we do know that to safely lose weight, you should cut no more than 500 calories a day from your diet.
Losing weight at an extreme rate doesn’t impact your metabolism
Let your body adjust to a new health lifestyle. | Halfpoint/iStock/Getty Images Plus
There’s a reason many of The Biggest Loser contestants have gone on to regain all the weight they lost after the show. It’s not because they suddenly lost their willpower or went back to their old unhealthy ways. A lot of it has to do with their metabolism getting destroyed. A study published in the journal Obesity studied 14 participants from the show and found the 30 week competition had altered their metabolism. And this lead to weight gain in many.
If you go on an extreme diet, you can expect your metabolism to go totally out of whack. Go for gradual weight loss so your body can adjust properly.
Rapid weight loss has no psychological effect
Rapid weight loss can be extremely stressful on your body and mind. | Bowdenimages/iStock/Getty Images
The last person standing on The Biggest Loser might look happy. But post-show reports find the contestants experienced severe psychological consequences. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff calls the show an “atrocity” to the New York Post, partly because of the physical stress on the body, but also because of how the participants were affected mentally. And Season 2 contestant Suzanne Mendonca says the show ruins lives “[m]entally, emotionally, financially — you come back a different person.”
Case in point: If you go to extremes for weight loss, don’t be surprised when your brain backfires on you.
Working out for hours is safe if it’s under a trainer’s guidance
The gym can be your happy place … but you don’t have to stay there all day. | Funduck/iStock/Getty Images Plus
The contestants on the show were all given trainers, but many report they were asked to do punishing workouts for hours at a time. The Guardian reports participants were doing approximately 10 times more exercise than the recommended daily amount. A good weekly goal is to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise in, or 75 minutes or rigorous activity.
If you gain weight back after losing it, it’s your fault
Don’t be hard on yourself when you see some weight gain — it’s normal! | Rostislav Sedlacek/iStock/Getty Images
As we stated before, losing weight has a severe affect on your metabolism. But that aside, there’s also something else to consider. When you lose a significant amount of weight, your body fights as hard as it can to gain it back. Business Insider explains studies suggest those who go through extreme weight loss produce less hormones that make you feel full and more hormones that make you feel hungry. This, combined with a slower metabolism, can lead to the weight creeping back. The Biggest Loser producers reject this notion and suggest it’s the participants’ bad habits that cause them to regain the weight. But research says otherwise.
Rapid weight loss has no long-term health consequences
Picking up healthy habits (like hitting a fitness class after work) will be better in the long run than rapid weight loss plans. | Guido De Bortoli/Getty Images
We know by now why the pounds might creep back on after losing a ton of weight quickly. But rapid weight loss can have even more severe consequences for your health. The New York Post reports Season 2 finalist Mark Yesitis had his gall bladder removed after having severe stomach pain. “I’d never had issues with my gall bladder before the rapid weight loss,” he said. And many other contestants left the show with bad knees and memory problems.
Rapid weight loss isn’t just unhealthy — it’s downright dangerous. If you want to lose a significant amount of weight, always speak to a doctor about the safest way to go about it.
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