5 Real Fitness Lessons from the Biggest Loser

I have a confession to make.

I’ve been watching the Biggest Loser this season.

I blame Marie. Marie, a contestant on the show, is from my hometown of Springfield, Missouri. I tuned into the first episode out of curiosity. My first impression was she was going to go home early. I tuned in next week to see if my prediction was correct.  It wasn’t. So I continued to tune in every Wednesday afternoon (via the NBC app on my phone) while I did my treadmill intervals. Then I got hooked.

As a fitness professional, I am normally not a big fan of the Biggest Loser. I think it sets up unrealistic expectations for weight loss. There should be nothing disappointing about losing 4 pounds in a “week” (there is debate about how long the TV weeks are).  The show can also make my job harder because it may be the only impression potential clients have of personal trainers and their behavior. For the record, I have NEVER made anyone puke nor have I ever jumped on a client’s back. That may make good television but most people don’t respond well to it in real life.

As I watched each week’s workouts and weigh in, I did see that there are some redeeming qualities to the show. If you look past the shameless product placement there are some important lessons one can learn about getting fit in the Real World.

  1. You will lose a lot of weight in the first couple of weeks then hit the skids. 
    When you cut out the sugar and starch you will lose a lot of water. This accounts for the big numbers in the first couple of weeks. Then your weight loss will slow down. And that’s okay. Slow and steady may not help you win a game show but the weight is more likely to stay off if you keep your weekly loss between .5 -2 pounds per week.
  2. You have to find your WHY.
    Everyone has a different reason for being on the ranch. Everyone has something deep and personal pushing them through the intense workouts and separation from their families. This journey takes a lot of work. Changing a lifetime of habits is extremely hard. You need something driving you each day that really means something to you. Without your WHY you won’t make it very far.
  3. Your body will do what it wants, when it wants and how it wants.
    Hap and Tonya have both stood on the scale with baffled expressions when the numbers were “small”. Their trainers backed up their proclamations of hard work. Yet the numbers don’t reflect it. Fat loss is not a perfect science. Weight loss is not linear. Most importantly, fat loss and weight loss are also not the same. Their bodies are changing just not in a way that shows up on the scale. They shouldn’t be disappointed and neither should you when the scale doesn’t drop. Focus on how your pants fit or how much longer you can hold your plank.
  4. There is power in numbers.
    Having a support system is a huge secret to their weight loss. On the ranch they are surrounded by people on the same journey. They have experts at their disposal for food and fitness questions. They have a solid support system. Don’t be afraid to ask for help on your journey. Surround yourself with those who share your values of health and fitness.
  5. At the end of the day, the only person you can really depend on is yourself.
    In the last episode before the holiday hiatus the teams dissolved. Now it was time for each player to stand on his or her own. Eventually you too have to take responsibility for your journey and your actions. So what if someone brought donuts to work? It’s your choice if you eat them. So what if your workout partner canceled? You can still go to the gym or do a workout at home. All results are tied to the choices YOU make.

What do you think? Are you a Biggest Loser fan? What lessons have you learned from the show – good or bad?

  • Jody R. Goldenfield

    Some seasons really drove me crazy & I limited my watching.. this season is better – less back stabbing & no voting on who goes, it is just the lowest % weight loss.. in the past the voting was always strategic & trying to get rid of the competition… it is also 1 hour shorter – LIKE THAT!!! :)

  • http://www.thrivepersonalfitness.com/ Pamela Hernandez

    I didn’t even remember they voted. It’s been that long…

  • Sarah Kerner

    I have intentionally never watched this show because it seemed so exploitative of the contestants… but I’m glad you found a little good in it! Finding your WHY is so important in every facet of life.

  • http://www.thrivepersonalfitness.com/ Pamela Hernandez

    I have to remind myself they did choose to be there. At times it does feel a bit like public humiliation but at this point if you apply it’s not a secret what’s going to happen.

  • Glenneth Reed

    every year i say i am no longer going to watch the show, and then i watch. i think it has some great qualities – like what you mentioned above, but i hate when they get upset about ONLY losing 7 pounds. um, no – celebrate. but i also wonder how losing weight that rapidly can be safe. plus, they are not in the real world – their job for 4 months is to workout and eat healthy. anyone who only has that to focus on could lose weight.

  • http://www.thrivepersonalfitness.com/ Pamela Hernandez

    Me too! It’s not safe or sustainable.

  • Sprint2theTable

    I have friends that are addicted to this show! I don’t have TV, but it seems like a good way for people to see that anything is possible.

  • http://www.thrivepersonalfitness.com/ Pamela Hernandez

    Some of the stories can be inspiring.

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