With our awareness about obesity and the health issues surrounding it, staying fit and remaining in a healthy weight range is on top of everyone’s mind.
Naturally, when we hear about dramatic weight loss achievements or about methods which work well, we all take notice.
The Biggest Loser, an NBC reality show targets this huge audience. The winner is the person who loses the maximum weight during the competition.
Normally, this type of show should win the appreciation of doctors and health experts, but surprisingly that is not really the case and for very valid reasons.
The show provides trainers who help the participants achieve remarkable weight loss.
The participants do long hours of hard grueling workouts combined with a limited calorie diet to achieve as much weight loss as they can in the shortest time possible.
As a result, they lose an insane amount of weight thanks to the lure of the $250,000 prize money and TV fame that the winner gets.
Twenty-four year old Rachel Frederickson weighed 260 pounds when she entered the competition and her weight was just 105 pounds when she was declared the winner.
Health experts, trainers and the audience were astonished by the Rachel’s weight loss and many are wondering whether her worst health problems have only just begun.
Some are also wondering if she is suffering from two weight related disorders, anorexia and bulimia.
It even had NBC re-thinking about their format and it is rumored that they are planning to make some changes.
Frankly almost everything: the motivation, the way in which the results are achieved, the impact on the public, the impact it has on the health of the participants, and the fact that it is almost impossible to emulate and so of very limited utility for ordinary people.
Let us take a closer look at each of these aspects.
Amid concerns that she is suffering from Anorexia, Rachel said that she did about 6 hours a day of workouts in the three months preceding the competition while limiting her daily calorie intake to just 1600.
The executive director of California’s Eating Recovery Center, Jennifer Lombardi, sums it up neatly. She says the show “puts people in the bubble” of constant supervision and grueling workouts to win a prize.
When you are under a microscope, trainers keep a check on almost everything you do and you have nothing else to do, this type of result is possible.
Kai Hibbard, one of the finalists of Season 3 says she was in tears when she saw Rachel’s winning photo because she knew what Rachel had possibly gone through to achieve this.
Kai recollects how she and the other contestants did some of the most unhealthy things at the ranch.
For a day before the finals, she says that people dehydrated themselves through excessive workouts in warm clothes, drank coffee to get rid of as much water as possible and almost starved themselves.
All this to weigh as less as possible on the final day. Kai’s fellow contestant was of the opinion that it is going to be tough for NBC to present Rachel’s feat as a health achievement to the public.
Director of Renfrew Center of New York, Dr. Connie Quinn, is of the opinion that this type of contest around such a common health issue can be dangerous.
,”It really puts people who are extremely vulnerable emotionally and physically at high risk. You’ve got cardiac issues, physical injury, extreme weight loss.”
Other experts believe the Biggest Loser should also focus on the health of the contestants rather than just the amount of weight they lose.
The producers of the show are considering significant tweaks to the competition after the concerns about Rachel’s health.
Jennifer J. Thomas, who is an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and also a co-director of the Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, believes that NBC’s reality show is teaching the participants and its audience all the wrong things about weight loss.
According to her, the pattern of exercise and diet that these contestants go through is similar to someone who has an eating disorder.
Ms. Thomas has co-authored the book ‘Almost Anorexic‘, which is about eating disorders and the relationship between obesity and anorexia and is an expert on the subject.
She says that although there is no evidence to suggest that Rachel is ill, there is plenty of reason to be worried about that possibility.
She also expressed her concern about the impact of the show on people who are suffering from eating disorders. It might make their case worse.
Julie Holland, an eating disorder specialist at the Denver branch of the Eating Recovery Center, also believes that the show should pay more attention to healthy weight loss and not just weight loss. Clearly, this is not a safe way to lose weight even if anyone could emulate it.
Rachel’s condition was not as bad when she left the Biggest Loser ranch. At that time she weighed 150 pounds, which was in the healthy range for her height.
However, when she turned up on the stage, she had lost another 45 pounds in the few months when she was at home.
This has started serious discussions about what happens to these contestants after their grueling training at the ranch. Her weight and figure on the day of the final did not elicit the responses of admiration from the audience, earlier contestants or her trainers.
Instead, it was an expression of shock. Her body had changed and she was just a shadow of the healthy figure that she was when she left the ranch.
For her height of five feet four inches, her weight on the day of the finals of 105 pounds clearly makes her underweight and way below the healthy BMI range.
Rachel’s thin figure and overall appearance was not anywhere close to someone who was healthy. Her appearance immediately had people worried that she was suffering from an eating disorder.
Kai Hibbard put out her concerns very frankly. She said:
“Rachel doesn’t know what damage she has done to her body and her mind, and sadly she won’t until the spotlight goes away.”
Kai herself had lost 118 pounds when she participated in the contest and she is wondering if she did a total disservice to the public by participating in the show.
“I’m sad, and I’m sick from being on this show”, she said recalling that her hair had begun falling out from a vitamin deficiency.
“I should have walked off the set. The only difference between Rachel and me is she looked on the outside the way I was feeling on the inside, totally unhealthy.”
Dolvett Quince, her trainer, said that it is a bit unfair to label Rachel as suffering from an eating disorder and people should focus on all aspects of the show including the effort she put in and the commitment that she showed.
However, he agreed that he was concerned about her health and that Rachel’s journey to good health is far from over.
This comes in the wake of the situation in the “Second Chances” season, when two contestants who participated in a one mile foot race had to be hospitalized.
After that, the produces began to monitor the body temperature of contestants during workouts to be on the safer side. It is evident that the current risks to health are worrying even the producers and trainers of the show.
So it is definitely not advisable for ordinary people to even think about trying this kind of weight loss.
Rachel’s figure on the day of the finals naturally did not make anyone feel like celebrating. Instead, most people thought that some boundaries are essential about what can be done or achieved at the contest.
Although Rachel insists that she never felt better, few are taking it at face value. As one fan on her Facebook page put it, “Rachel, I love you, but please, for us, get medical help.” Many other fans echoed similar sentiments.
For those of us who wish to lose weight in a healthy manner, it is best to pay careful attention to the disclaimer played by NBC before each episode:
“Our contestants were supervised by doctors while participating in the show, and their diet and exercise regimen was tailored to their medical status and their specific needs. Consult with your own doctor before embarking on any diet or exercise program.”
The real takeaway is that while it is OK to use the show as a motivational tool, don’t put your physical and mental health at risk by trying anything similar.
As Bob Harper, one of the trainers at the contest, put it: “People can never try to compete with the numbers they see on ‘The Biggest Loser’. It’s not a real situation. It’s reality TV on steroids.
Everything is so enhanced. You use the show as a motivational tool, but not as a way to compete from home.”
If you really want to lose weight fast, going to extremes of diet and exercise is neither practical nor the right solution.
After all, the idea is to become more healthy and active and not to be malnourished, underweight or even worse be injured, suffer from a deficiency or have a mental disorder.
Understandably, diet and exercise alone takes too long to produce acceptable results unless you go to the extremely unhealthy methods used by these competitors.
This kind of regime is almost impossible to follow for ordinary people without the motivation provided by the lure of reality show fame and the prize money at the end of the competition.
If you really want to accelerate weight loss beyond what moderate levels of exercise and healthy diets can do, use the best healthy weight loss solution – Garcinia Cambogia extract.
You will experience significant and healthy weight loss, but we can assure you that you will not burn yourself down like Rachel did.
You will not need close medical supervision either and weight loss with Garcinia is very practical and easy. That is the main take away from this year’s Biggest Loser.
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