The nonsense that passes for nutrition and exercise advice on the NBC Challenge show “The Biggest Loser” causes more problems than it solves.

Now in its fifth season, “The Biggest Loser” challenge has been one of the most popular reality shows on television since it hit the airwaves.  The show is a testament to everything that is wrong with the way that too many people view diet and exercise, and what it can and should do for you; yet the show has spawned a legion of loyal viewers and consumers willing to purchase an array of “The Biggest Loser” challenge merchandise.

From the over-emphasis on the scale, to a frightening approach towards fat burning exercises, “The Biggest Loser” challenge sends the wrong messages, messages that provide textbook examples of how some personal trainers can actually promote unhealthy habits and eating disorders.  Whether on the web site or the television show, “The Biggest Loser” challenge constantly invokes the wrong-headed and now dis-proven notion that low fat, low-calorie, low-anything food is preferable to the real thing.

On “The Biggest Loser” challenge’s web site, the show’s chef tell us, “I had food issues growing up (and) I started dieting when I was 7, and I proceeded to start every diet on the planet.”  This isn’t somebody who has ever had a good relationship with food and now is an adult in the position of an “expert.”  People like this make what should be a joyful occasion – eating a hamburger – an exercise in drudgery, where you obsess about calories, portion size and grams of fat.

Despite the pretense of how great all of this is, “The Biggest Loser” challenge is a joyless one.  Joyless eating, joyless fat burning exercise and a life in which your every thought and action revolve around your snacks, meals and exercises to lose weight.  Snacks of fat-free and sugar-free food substitutes, and the concept of saving calories for the evening because that’s when you get hungry, are just some of the examples of the disordered eating-based nutrition advice promoted by “The Biggest Loser” challenge website.

Nonsense abounds when it comes to nutritional strategy.  Who cares how many calories are in a spear of asparagus, a cup of greens or snow peas?  This info isn’t useful; it just screws with people’s minds and makes things more confusing.

When it comes to exercise, “The Biggest Loser” challenge tells us that exercise is a matter of burning calories and fat. While exercise does burn calories – all activity does, even sitting on the couch – burning calories or fat should not be the goal of exercise.  Getting exercise should be the goal of exercise.  A philosophy of using exercise for losing weight is a fatally flawed philosophy.  I’ll repeat this point to make it clear; you should never use exercise as a means to lose or manage your weight.

This thought process of exercising to lose weight leads to people making unhealthy connections between eating and exercising.  You’ve heard this kind of thing before, “Oh I ate that piece of cake and now I have to go on the treadmill.”  Wrong.

Here’s another myth exploded: eating desert doesn’t cause people to gain weight.  Consistent non-hunger eating makes people gain weight, consistent dieting makes people gain weight, using exercises for losing weight will contribute to weight gain, avoiding certain foods or food groups can help you to gain weight. These are all practices that are endorsed – in one way or another – through “The Biggest Loser” challenge.

The fact that a handful of people lose weight because of fat burning exercise and change their appearance doesn’t speak to “The Biggest Loser” challenge’s efficacy as a show or as an overall approach to eating and exercising.  All the show is well-publicized anecdotal evidence.  There’s no difference between the show and the advertisements for dietary supplements where you can read the disclaimer that tells you, “Results Not Typical.”

“The Biggest Loser” challenge embraces almost every outdated and ineffectual concept in regard to diet and exercise.  From the emphasis on a person’s appearance (and changing it), the scale, fat burning exercises for losing weight and an externally motivated eating system “The Biggest Loser” challenge does more harm than good.


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