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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Does The Biggest Loser Lie About Important Weight Loss Information?

Posted by on Wed, May 14, 2014 at 2:54 PM

This Cracked article by Evan V Symon, headlined "5 Details They Cut from My Season of The Biggest Loser," deserves to be read by a bigger audience. Symon tells the story of Biggest Loser runner-up Kai Hibbard, and it's more horrifying than you'd think. Everyone knows that reality shows are total bullshit, but the amount of bullshit that goes into a season of The Biggest Loser in this account is truly remarkable. Here's just one example:

My season made a big deal of showing us all drinking our milk to prove how nutritious it was. But as soon as "cut" was yelled, the trainers made us spit it out. Calories do not trump calcium, apparently. They claim the weigh-ins you see are weekly, but that's a straight-up lie. When people exclaimed "I lost 12 pounds in a week!" that wasn't always the case. It's all based on filming schedules. Sometimes the real period between weigh-ins was over three weeks, and you got liked like a rock star for losing so much weight so quickly. Other times it was only five days, and the audience thought you were phoning it in that week — after which you probably hung up and dialed for a pizza, you lazy cheese-beast.

It seems like if you're going to make a reality show about losing weight, you have a responsibility to be honest about the facts, so that viewers can try to replicate the results at home. But if this account is true, they lie about everything: The food contestants eat, how long the process takes, and how much they have to work out to see results. This is incredibly irresponsible, and could easily harm the health of viewers who are trying to lose weight along with contestants on the show. This is above and beyond the usual irresponsibility of reality shows, which routinely edit footage of human beings to make them look like cartoonish villains. If this report is true, this is a new level of despicable.


Comments (29) RSS

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unknown_entity 1
I read that article yesterday and it was really horrifying, almost "cigarettes don't cause cancer" noxious.
Posted by unknown_entity on May 14, 2014 at 3:02 PM · Report this
fletc3her 2
I shudder when I see reality shows about serious topics like alcohol rehab.

Even the benign shows are completely artificial. On the renovation shows the hosts and homeowners generally don't do any work other than a little play acting for the camera. Everything is done by the crew on a timeline that is completely different than how it is portrayed onscreen.
Posted by fletc3her on May 14, 2014 at 3:05 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 3

Since when has television ever been responsible about anything?
Posted by Urgutha Forka on May 14, 2014 at 3:08 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 4
Regarding the fact that the women are forced to wear sports bras and the men are allowed to wear real clothes, it always bugged me that the men were allowed to take their shirts off when they weighed in. Why were they allowed that advantage over the women? A good-quality sports bra is actually pretty heavy, pretty comparable to the weight of a normal t-shirt.

I remember one season, they also had a male contestant who had perfectly rounded manboobs; I seriously felt they should have applied a censor blur whenever he took his shirt off.
Posted by keshmeshi on May 14, 2014 at 3:14 PM · Report this
Neither reality shows nor Cracked articles are a good and reliable source of information.
Posted by GermanSausage on May 14, 2014 at 3:31 PM · Report this
Another aspect of rapid weight loss that the show (and this article, unfortunately) overlook is the fact that skin doesn't shrink right along with the weight loss, usually resulting in loose unsightly extra skin around the midsection, arms, neck, etc. You never see this addressed in most weight loss articles or shows, for obvious reasons- It's a lot harder to hate on a fat person if the hurdle to being 'attractive' isn't just exercise and diet, but also costly plastic surgery.

Posted by UNPAID COMMENTER on May 14, 2014 at 3:31 PM · Report this
Eastpike 7
@4 I think the contest is for how much they *Lost* which makes any clothing irrelevant so long as they weighed in with the same clothing before and after.
Posted by Eastpike on May 14, 2014 at 3:31 PM · Report this
I've never watched an episode because I don't really want to replace my television and I'm fairly certain that any and all nearby projectiles would find their way through my screen in very little time. That said everything that I have ever heard about that show is a TOTAL CROCK OF SHIT. It makes me angry.
Posted by -J on May 14, 2014 at 3:53 PM · Report this

The Biggest Loser Diet

You’ll eat small, frequent meals. Most of your food is lean protein, low-fat dairy or soy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts.…

Grain Brain

If you can limit carb intake to a range that is absolutely necessary (the details of which are in chapter 10) and make up the difference with delicious fats and protein, you can literally reprogram your genes back to the factory setting you had at birth.…
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on May 14, 2014 at 3:54 PM · Report this
Dougsf 10
I get the scheduling and TV magic stuff, I get advertising, and I get massaging drama out of random footage; but using product tie-ins disguised as nutritional advice is despicable. [Same goes for Dr. Oz and his bullshit vitamin and supplement peddling.]

Next thing you know we'll wonder if having television producers recruit your neighbors to completely rebuild the homes they'll live in for the next 30 years in a matter of days—a job that would take a regular crew 3 months—isn't a bad idea.
Posted by Dougsf on May 14, 2014 at 4:03 PM · Report this
Dougsf 11
@9 - that writing.. ugh. We literally have factory settings?
Posted by Dougsf on May 14, 2014 at 4:04 PM · Report this
some of this is new info, but *anyone* who watches a season of this show with any thoughtfulness catches on pretty dang quick that the weigh-ins aren't weekly. I don't even think they've claimed that in the ones I saw. It may be heavily implied, but again, it's quite obvious that they vary in length.
Posted by haberdasher on May 14, 2014 at 4:10 PM · Report this
@4: It's a percentage of weight loss, so if an individual is wearing the same clothing at every weigh-in it doesn't matter.
Posted by bigyaz on May 14, 2014 at 4:11 PM · Report this
treacle 14
@3 - Since COSMOS.
Posted by treacle on May 14, 2014 at 4:22 PM · Report this
Every reality show lies about basically everything. The shows about people making decisions about what house to buy? The house is already bought, and usually the options aren't even ones they considered. Biggest Loser refuses to show obese people falling for each other, because "who wants to see that?" as well as lying about timeframe and everything they do. Why are we surprised anymore? The only "reality" on these shows is that they're real people, not CGI composites... for now.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on May 14, 2014 at 4:33 PM · Report this
Every time I read these types of articles, my only reaction is that nobody forces anyone to go on a reality show.

Also, we don't need another story telling us how fake "reality" TV is.
Posted by Chali2Na on May 14, 2014 at 4:33 PM · Report this
venomlash 17
@9, 11: There is such a thing as "epigenetics", where genes are activated/deactivated by chemical 'tagging' (methylation and sometimes ethylation, among others) of nucleotides near the promoter region of those genes (where transcription proteins attach). There's a certain amount of epigenetic regulation you inherit from your parents (some genes are "imprinted", meaning that you only get a functional copy from a certain parent and the copy from the other parent stays inactivated) and a pretty large amount that can change over the course of your life. Epigenetics seems to be responsible for, among other things, children having more efficient metabolisms if their mother was undernourished while pregnant.
But NO, it is NOT possible to, through diet alone, magically reset your epigenetic markers relating to metabolism to how they were at birth. JBITSMFOTP and Dr. Perlmutter is blowing smoke.
Posted by venomlash on May 14, 2014 at 5:09 PM · Report this
venomlash 18
@13: (x2+c)/(x1+c) ≠ (x2)/(x1) ∀ c≠0
Posted by venomlash on May 14, 2014 at 5:13 PM · Report this
@18: Yes, but if c is a constant, they can just subtract c to get the person's weight without the clothes. Given that they lie about what the scale the use looks like, I'm betting they lie about the weights in that way too.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on May 14, 2014 at 5:15 PM · Report this
McJulie 20
@9 Yes, I'm sure that's right. Grains, which humans have been eating for something like 10,000 years, are clearly the culprit responsible for negative health changes observed for the last 50 years or so.
Posted by McJulie on May 14, 2014 at 5:46 PM · Report this
@18: I knew there would be a pedant that would point out that there would be a minuscule difference, but the formula deserves extra credit. So thanks for that.
Posted by bigyaz on May 14, 2014 at 5:48 PM · Report this
Let's remember this contestant was from season 3. They are now on season 25 or something. I'm sure much has changed due to public outcry since then. Also, many many many of the contestants from that show still, to this day, say it was the best and most important decisions of their life to go on the show.
Posted by Eckstein on May 14, 2014 at 6:10 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 23
@22- And thousands of abused children say their parents beat them because they were bad.

Crash weight loss is bad. It's a show about crash weight loss. The majority of contestants have probably gained the weight back within a year. Some are permanently damaged. A few might have managed to keep the weight down, not suffer kidney failure, etc.... I'm sure those few are very happy and vocal.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on May 14, 2014 at 7:16 PM · Report this
Sandiai 24
@17, I'm thinking severe caloric restriction diets probably reset some epigenetic markers in beneficial ways, but that's not so much the "what" but rather the "how much."

I read the first chapter and the table of contents. ('Cause there's no way I'm buying that thing). The book is a poorly-cited hodgepodge of competing theories about gluten and inflammation and how they makes your brain age faster, or something. He may very well be right about inflammation and the brain. But you know: "aspirin/exercise/sleep/caloric restriction" is just too simple conceptually to write a whole book about.
Posted by Sandiai on May 14, 2014 at 8:16 PM · Report this
The av club did a longer piece:…

Also did anyone see this week's Ink Master? I was impressed, they did tattoos on breast cancer survivors and Spike didn't censor the scars/breasts....SpikeTv has more common sense then the Seattle Parks and Rec department :(
Posted by j2patter on May 14, 2014 at 8:16 PM · Report this
Say it with me--reality TV is *entertainment* not journalism.
Posted by decidedlyodd on May 14, 2014 at 10:59 PM · Report this
venomlash 27
@24: Extremely low-calorie diets might influence epigenetic gene tweaking metabolism to be more efficient and reduce losses. That would make it even HARDER to lose weight. That is why crash diets don't work. The best way to lose weight is to eat just enough to maintain your resting metabolism and work out a lot.
Posted by venomlash on May 15, 2014 at 11:20 AM · Report this
There is no doubt that people presenting facts in reality show programs are doubly sure that they have got their facts right. After all, many people take these shows seriously.
Posted by parthavi on May 15, 2014 at 11:54 PM · Report this
Dougsf 29
@17 That's interesting stuff, thanks.

Maybe I should let idioms off the hook, but I really only protested to the use of "literally" since humans aren't created in factories.
Posted by Dougsf on May 16, 2014 at 2:12 PM · Report this

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