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Biggest Loser Show
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Michael_Dansinger_MD posted:
The Biggest Loser show started it's 9th season today. Participants lose large amounts of excess body weight and get their lives back under control by working hard in the gym and correcting their eating. Diabetes and other heart disease risk factors are reversed, and participants learn how to maintain and extend the weight loss at home. The average weight loss is 90 pounds, and the majority of participants maintain most of the weight loss for many years.

However, the Biggest Loser show is controversial. Participants lose the weight rapidly rather than gradually, they take off the pounds under idealized rather than realistic conditions, and some participants regain most of the weight.

I am the nutrition doctor for this show. If you watch the show I'd like to hear your feedback--both positive and negative. What do you and don't you like about the show? Does it inspire you or irritate you?

Michael Dansinger, MD
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merski responded:
it would inspire me more if I too could give myself over to someone for months at a time and have them make the decisions for me on what to eat and how much to exercise. But alas, I cannot give over any of that to anyone else but myself. So keeping oneself motivated is alot different than having someone doing it all for you.
 
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teddybear200 responded:
I live for the show. Look out everyone because I have watched all 8 seasons and tonight was the start of season 9.

Yes we don't see the behind the scenes or what they really go through, just what they put on TV. But I am awed by what I do see.

Before my blood clots and everything that happened to me in Oct. 07. I tried everything I could to apply what they taught on the show exercise wise. I'd be on my stair stepper at every commercial or jumping rope during the breaks. Now I get up and walk around my living room during the breaks.

The food plans I still follow. I have not gained weight even though I can't exercise at the present time.

The transformations totally get to me. I wish however that all the people would continue the process when they get home, some do but others don't and that bugs the day light out of me, they worked so hard for what to quit?
 
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DianeR01 responded:
Hi Dr. D,

I watch the show occcasionally but get very frustrated by it. I am glad the participants are able to change their lives and make some amazing transformations but the setting is not realistic. If I left my family and job for 12 weeks I could lose my job, my home and probably my marriage. The thing I need to remember is the drama of the show is what makes it marketable.

I think the fact these people lose such huge amounts of weight every week sets unrealistic expectations for those of us who do need to lose weight. I got pretty frustrated with only losing 5 lbs in one month instead of proud of a very realistic and sustainable accomplishment.

I think the show could talk to the viewers more if they discussed more about nutrition and some of the adaptations which are needed by the participants to help them overcome physical issues such as back or knee problems which seem to plague the overweight.

my thoughts

di
 
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phototaker responded:
Dr. Dansinger, I absolutely love watching "The Biggest Loser". The problem is that it's on when other shows I love to watch are on, too. I often flip channels, so I don't miss anything.

For awhile, I would get upset at the female trainer, as I felt she was very hard on contestants. I didn't like when she climbed on their backs, or had them pull her with things around their waists. Even though doctors are watching their health, I'm concerned about someone getting a heart attack during these extreme workouts.

I DO feel it's necessary to exercise strongly. I feel having younger people, whose skin will bounce back more easily from being stretched so far when they are overweight is better. After people lose the weight, they sometimes have to have operations for all the excess skin hanging over.

I feel my own motivation, but it IS very inspirational to see people who never had a date before, lose weight, fall in love, have hope, have children, and motivate other people in their towns and all around the world to lose weight, too. People have to "want" to do it. The program helps people stay in there. There was the older woman from this last season that wanted to go home, but was convinced to stay. She was so happy she did.

I don't feel that "quick" weight loss is the answer. I feel people have to be SELF motivated, or they will gain it back. Many are ready emotionally to do it. It would be helpful to have "emotional" help(therapy) for some of these people to deal with what is "eating THEM". For me, therapy helped me to stop my emotional eating. I did it to soothe myself. Some people do that with drink, some with sex additions...but mine was food and work. I kept myself really busy. Learning about "why" I ate, helped me to heal inside. By healing inside, I learned to value myself. I no longer wanted to be heavier. That and getting diabetes were the turning point for eating healthier and exercising more. It has to be in your HEAD first, or it won't work. Julian and Bob try to help with that. They're not therapists though, but I've seen some of the contestants break down and open up "why" they were eating so much to hide the pain.

I do love the final weigh ins at the end of each show. It's disappointing for some who worked really hard all week long and ate well. Everyone is different in how their bodies lose the weight. Some people are able to build more muscle which burns more fat.

For me...I feel happy seeing "them" learning to love themselves more. So...mostly, the show is something I enjoy. I feel the show HAS inspired people to lose weight, but it is unrealistic to think you can lose that much weight each week, and might discourage some people who try to do things on their own.
 
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Gypsy12345 responded:
I'm still waiting for the Home Edition to come out so we can play along with those on TV
 
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DavidHueben responded:
For the record, I have only watched one episode of the show and that was a couple of years ago. It neither inspired me nor irritated me. It is just not the kind of thing I enjoy watching.

I think the show is controversial because, as you say, people lose weight "under idealized rather than realistic conditions". There are also some people who believe that there is an exploitative nature to the program, because morbidly obese people are "used" for the entertainment of others. I wouldn't go that far, because I assume the participants are there on their own free will.

David
 
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betaquartz responded:
I don't watch any of the "reality" shows, the races, the escapes etc. They are so unrealistic, almost like watching an episode of "lord of the flies" or "animal farm". This from the standpoint of several people grouped together in a situation directed at a goal, with outsiders looking in. Doesn't work for me, I've got my own life and don't need someone elses drama. Just a personal opinion.
 
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flutetooter responded:
Amen to BQ! I have breakfast dishes to do, and then finish reading "Reading Lolita in Tehran" by book discussion group tonight (which can also be a bit of painful togetherness).

Somehow the old idea of "delayed gratification" , in this case concerning eating to solve problems, along with the blatant feel good advertising, has eroded our personal goal-seeking skills. This seems to be more of a psychological issue that a measuring and cheering issue.
 
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auriga1 responded:
I go back and forth. As you say, the conditions are idealized rather than realistic. Most cannot achieve those results in the real world.

Because the show is set up for drawing in the most viewers, nutrition is on the back burner. They don't speak enough about it. There were a few times when the participants were in the kitchen learning how to cook healthy meals. But Jillian Michaels with her "routine" draws the viewers in.

It boggles my mind that people eat and eat and eat and know they are doing wrong. Does one not see that if you gain a few pounds, you might stop there? Try and lose those few you gained rather than keep eating like you are?
 
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DavidHueben responded:
Auriga:

Why people continue to overeat, even when they are obviously obese and have medical complications, is certainly an intriguing question.

I believe that in many situations there are deeply rooted psychological issues that need to be dealt with before people can adopt newer and healthier lifestyles. I think that was my case when I was diagnosed five years ago with diabetes. I had gotten up to 265 pounds by making lots of poor food choices over many years. I think I reached a point where I just adopted a "what the hell" attitude.

My doctor made me go see a psychologist after my diabetes diagnosis. I had a dozen sessions with the psychologist, where I learned some behavior modification techniques and improved goal setting skills. That was a huge help for me.

David
 
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Louise_WebMD_Staff responded:
There is a Biggest Loser game for the Wii that is like a home version I hear. The books are also good. I have read several that I got at the library.
 
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flutetooter responded:
Wow, Dr. D, you've certainly hit an interesting topic with informative responses.

Even thought I don't watch the show, I think that you are absolutely the right person to be the nutrition guide and wish you well in that endeavor. I hope you can somehow direct some of the watchers toward to diabetic issues and prevention. Thank you for all your hard work.
 
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DavidHueben responded:
I found this article and Q&A from NBC to be interesting:

www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9880085/

Q: How do the contestants on "The Biggest Loser" lose that much weight in one week? It just doesn't seem humanly possible to lose 17-25 lbs. in a week and then do the same thing a few weeks later! ?Kristi, Atlanta

A: We get a lot of questions like these. Even viewers who enjoy watching contestants drop pound after pound on "The Biggest Loser" are sometimes skeptical about how that's actually possible.

I talked to Dr. Michael Dansinger, a consultant on "The Biggest Loser 2" and a physician at Tufts New England Medical Center, who explained that the "people in the show are in a fantasy, unrealistic environment where everything is optimized for weight loss." He notes that everything from working with a trainer to having absolutely nothing else to do makes it possible for contestants to completely reconfigure their diet and exercise routine.

Dansinger says that "50 to 60 percent of [contestants?> weight-loss success comes from dietary change." They're used to consuming around 3000 calories a day, but on the show consume about 1500 calories a day. As he says, "few people are really in a position to cut their calories by 1500 a day, but that's what these people are able to do." He says there's "nothing controversial" about the diet, nor are the contestants given pills or other shortcuts.

The other 40 to 50 percent of weight loss comes from the three hours of exercise the contestants do every day: an hour of strength training and two hours of cardio. That helps them burn an additional 1200 to 1500 calories, Dansinger says. "It's hard to do by yourself, but on the show it's easy to do," he said. "When people allow themselves to be put in that kind of environment ... when you pull out all the barriers to weight loss, that's when the weight loss can come very quickly."

While Dansinger consulted daily with the producers over the phone and via email during production about diets, fitness, and other issues, there was another physician on set with the show who was responsible for patient care and monitoring contestants' physical fitness. That doctor also had the ability to veto challenges or pull a contestant from a challenge if he felt that it was unsafe.

David
 
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gjac413 responded:
My wife and I watch this show. I too would love to be able to be on this show but their is no way I could take that much time off from work. I have a family to support. I think it is a great show and I am happy for the people it helps. I have fought a weight problem most of my life and am now a diabetic. My wife and I try very hard to do the right things but it is very difficult. I used to be 400 pounds and am now at 325. I have been stuck at 325 for over a year. It is very frustrating and at times I feel like just giving up. Thanks for listening.


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