Can The Biggest Loser Just Go Away Now?

Despite the harsh title of this article, I used to be a huge fan of The Biggest Loser. Before becoming a nutrition coach myself, I was pulled in by the excitement of the competition and the dramatic physical transformations. It was inspirational that the contestants so quickly learned how to change their old habits and start down the path to lifelong health and happiness. After earning my nutrition degree, though, I see the radical measures used by The Biggest Loser as unrealistic, unsustainable, and downright dangerous for the millions of people watching at home who want to emulate the contestants' extreme weight loss.

A quick Google search uncovers story after story from prior contestants who gained back some, if not all, of the weight they lost on the show. It's not surprising when you realize that the circumstances in which they lost the weight are a far cry from what most of us consider the real world.

Contestants report five-, six-, even seven-hour workouts and 1,000-calorie-a-day diets, all while living on a "ranch" where they have little contact with the outside world and few responsibilities. Add to that the pressure of an intense competition (hey, there is $50,000 at stake . . . I'd be tempted to skip a meal, too) and you have a recipe for disaster. When contestants do return to the real world, they are not able to sustain these long workouts and restrictive diets while holding down a job and caring for their families. Then, little by little, the weight creeps back on.

This isn't the only indicator that Biggest Loser-style crash diets and intense workouts aren't the healthiest way to lose weight. A recent study revealed that past contestants of The Biggest Loser experienced continued metabolic slowing, even as much as six years after the show. A slow metabolism is simply no good for weight loss. You have to eat less and move more just to maintain your weight, and losing weight can be nearly impossible.

So, what exactly can we learn from The Biggest Loser? The real lesson here is that slow and steady wins the race. There is no quick fix. There is no magic pill. Yet, somehow, we just can't give up our quest for "the next big thing." I've seen it all . . . low fat, low carb, fasting, diet shakes, you name it. And I've seen these extreme tactics fail again and again because — Diets. Don't. Work. When you take extreme measures to lose weight, you have to fight even harder to keep the pounds off. Slow weight loss is healthy weight loss because it doesn't require drastic lifestyle changes, making it more realistic in the long run.

I have experienced firsthand which weight-loss methods actually do work, and they do not involve starvation or hours of exercise. It's actually much simpler. Eat real food from high-quality sources (you know, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, meat, and dairy). Be mindful of what you eat and how much. Move your body daily. Get some sleep. Laugh a little. And don't forget to eat a piece of cake on your birthday!