Kara Ghiringhelli, Department of Public Health
Kara is a Nutrition Education Specialist at DPH.
With the coming of spring, everyone around me seems to be on a mission to lose the winter pounds they gained between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. It’s everywhere: on the subway, I see ads for gym memberships, on TV I see commercials for Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, and in magazines, I see articles about “losing the weight for good,” or “the bikini diet.” Nowhere is this sentiment more apparent than on NBC’s popular reality TV show, the ‘Biggest Loser’. While I am a ‘Biggest Loser’ viewer, I have conflicting feelings about the show.
On the one hand the show promotes healthy eating and physical activity as essential strategies for achieving weight loss. It is an inspiring show for many viewers, especially for those who have a large amount of weight to lose. Throughout each episode, the show motivates viewers to make better food choices and get off the couch to move more. In addition, the show sheds light on how obesity and its many associated health conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, etc) are affecting our population.
On the other hand, I feel that the show gives viewers unrealistic expectations about weight loss. I have seen weigh-ins on the show where contestants are devastated to have lost ‘only’ 7 pounds in one week, when in reality, a recommend healthy rate of weight loss is between 1-2 pounds per week. On the show contestants live in an isolated environment absent of food temptations. Their full-time job is to lose weight, with no other obligations. They use a private gym and have daily personal training sessions. How realistic is this? If each of us had an opportunity to be in such an environment, I’m sure we would all be fit and trim.
Are you a ‘Biggest Loser’ fan? If so, what are your feelings about the show’s messages? Do they inspire you? We’d love to hear from you!