The Biggest Loser Debate Continues

Fitness Forum:

I would like to commend author Amanda Vogel, MA, on her article “Weighing in on The Biggest Loser” [September IDEA Fitness Journal]. The article was informative, and she did a good job of presenting both sides of the story. I, on the other hand, don’t need to be so diplomatic. I think there should be a disclaimer at the beginning of the show that states: “This show is for entertainment purposes only. Both the participants and the personal trainers depicted are not real.”

I disagree that the show has been wonderful for our industry and has “given personal training more exposure.” Un- professional, uneducated and negligent behavior might be entertaining, and the show might purport to promote health and fitness, but it is not the portrayal of personal trainers we need to gain legitimate respect in the healthcare profession.

It was also very interesting to see how AFAA evaded the certification validation issue. They are a business and know free advertising when they see it. I would love to question either of the [show’s] trainers on anatomy, biomechanics, physiology or joint structure and function. It’s a shame the program chose personal trainers with very little education or experience when there are so many deserving fitness professionals. Don’t get me wrong. It is not the trainers’ fault. They are merely taking advantage of a great financial opportunity.

I’ve always contended that The Biggest Loser insulted and intimidated the exact demographic it intended to inspire. The Australian study included in one of the article’s sidebars confirmed my suspicions. I’ve always felt empathetic or embarrassed for the contestants as they were forced to stand bare-chested or in a sports bra before a national audience and then be voted off the show!

Anything that appears on television is somewhat glorified or accepted. The Biggest Loser plays into this type of mentality. In my opinion, this show lowers the benchmark as to what is acceptable in our society. With the current healthcare system dragging us into economic ruin, the benchmark should be raised, not lowered. We should be spotlighting people who, despite life’s trials and tribulations, have managed to keep a healthy body weight and fitness regimen, not people who have consistently made bad health decisions!

How far will the entertainment media go in order to caricaturize personal trainers just for the sake of TV ratings, and what does it say about the American public to be amused by such unrealistic situations? I like to watch Spiderman and Batman, but I know they are not real. The public needs to know The Biggest Loser is not real; and although it is frustrating, sometimes it is up to us to enlighten them.

John Platero
Director of Education, The National
Council for Certified Personal Trainers
Newbury Park, California

Really? An entire article on The Biggest Loser?

No matter how you justify, slice or dice it, it’s not realistic. It’s not how the great trainers work, and it’s made for TV ratings! Please…Inspiring? Maybe. Realistic or long lasting? Not in the slightest. Research where all the winners are and you’ll find most, if not all, are right back where they were before being sequestered, starved and getting the stuffing pummeled out of them in the name of “fitness.” I’m still waiting for a show called The Smartest Loser. 

Nancy L. Jerominski
Owner, NLJ Fitness and
Wellness Consulting
SeaTac, Washington

I have been a certified personal trainer since 1991, trying to educate my clients on lifestyle change one step at a time. In the last year, I’ve had so many clients ask me about the exercises that Jillian Michaels gives her clients. Some have subscribed to get exercises off [Michaels’] website. Many of these exercises are unsafe for the general population. If [home viewers] are not in a regular workout routine and they see the double-digit weekly weight loss on the show, they want the magic of the moment—a quick fix. But, as we’ve witnessed, even Oprah—who has a personal chef and a personal trainer, and went to a “fitness farm” to lose weight—is still having a hard time keeping the long-term routine and weight loss.

Theresa Merz, MES
Owner, Fitness Works Personal Training
Penn Valley, California

The Future of Pilates

I had the pleasure of being on a panel of distinguished colleagues, moderated by Kathy Corey, at the 2008 Inner IDEA® Conference. Having read “The Future of Pilates” edited by Rosalind Gray Davis, in the July–August issue of IDEA Fitness Journal, and subsequently viewing the DVD of this panel discussion, I have a strong need to offer more depth to one of my responses, from which I unintentionally omitted an important aspect.

The question related to having an umbrella organization overseeing and representing our industry. My answer expressed my support for this concept and did speak to the difficulties of such an endeavor plus of having personally been involved in several initiatives to create such a body. I did not, however, mention the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) specifically (although I did mention it later in one of my answers to an audience question). I owe the PMA, and the many devoted individuals involved, a sincere and heartfelt apology for this oversight. I was a founding board member of the PMA and I have supported the idea since before the inception of the organization. Despite the inevitable differences of opinion along the way, I still strongly support the PMA.

Rael Isacowitz
Founder & Director, BASI Pilates
Costa Mesa, California

2009 IDEA World Fitness Convention Whirlwind

I hope all of you at IDEA are recovering! I just wanted to send major kudos to all of you. I don’t know how you outdo yourselves every year, but you do! The opening keynote was a ton of fun! My sessions and delegates were a blast! It seemed like everyone was super appreciative this year—it must be that we were all just so thankful to be able to be there, considering this year’s tough economy. I went to some awesome sessions, too! I just want you to know how much I and so many people appreciate all your hard work and everything you all do! You embody professionalism, and that inspires all of us to reach for excellence, too! 

Sherri McMillan, MSc
Northwest Personal Training
& Northwest Women’s Fitness Club
Vancouver, Washington

Sincerest thanks for recognizing our industry contributions with the IDEA World Fitness Awards Ceremony. I view my recognition [as a] finalist to be a huge honor, a privilege and a responsibility. I can imagine that to win Fitness Instructor of the Year is quite amazing, but I do want you to realize how very excited and appreciative I am to be recognized as a finalist for a second year. It is incredibly encouraging to be acknowledged and supported by such a top-notch organization as IDEA. All of the finalists set the bar high with their amazing accomplishment. Through such works of greatness, we are all elevated. I remain humble and proud to be affiliated.

Carol Murphy
Rochester, New York

Words cannot express the tremendous exhilaration and honor I felt as I accepted the 2009 IDEA Program Director of the Year award at IDEA World Fitness. Although my stay was brief, this experience continued to confirm the exceptional job you guys do in providing top-notch education to our industry worldwide. Talk about being WOWED! From the bottom of my heart, I am so thankful for the opportunity to represent the industry.

Debi Pillarella, MEd
Exercise Program Manager, The
Community Hospital Fitness Pointe
Munster, Indiana

A small note to say a big thank-you and congratulations on a fantastic IDEA World Fitness Convention. I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with you all; it really felt like reconnecting with old friends. I experienced the opening ceremony through the eyes of a first-timer (my wife, Jacqui), and the excitement and passion were truly inspiring. I feel honored to have been a finalist for the program director award. I will look forward to next year’s event in Los Angeles!

Darren Jacobson
Head of Product, Virgin Active 
South Africa 
Cape Town, South Africa

Once again, the IDEA convention was filled with new information and products.

From Sue Hitzmann’s presentations about connective tissue to the fun Kangoo Jumps booth in the Fitness & Wellness Expo, new and inventive programs abounded. I am always energized by the presenters and have renewed enthusiasm when I return to our facility.

I heard [keynote speaker] Matt Weinstein many years ago at an IDEA convention, and it was a pleasure to hear him speak again. Congratulations on another inspirational year for fitness professionals.

Mary Ann Smith
Wellness Director, Almaden Valley
Athletic Club
San Jose, California

What an amazing event! I brought my eight group fitness coordinators with me to experience IDEA World Fitness this year; it was their first time. They were blown away. They have not stopped texting me about all of the exciting things they learned and how they want to begin implementing changes right away. I know that the Pure Fitness Clubs of Phoenix will benefit greatly from our experience at the 2009 IDEA World Fitness Convention.

Christi Taylor
Pure Fitness Clubs
Phoenix, Arizona

Well, you superseded my expectations this year. What a fantastic convention. The set-up, organization, presenters and expo were better than ever. Everything ran so smoothly. It was nice to have people [provide] room directions; session printout directions; and plenty of water for participants. Above all, [I appreciated] the number of people assigned per session, so that each session was not too overloaded, allowing all of the participants to have equipment and get plenty of attention.

Norma Shechtman, MEd, MA
Irvine, California

I am still singing “Row, row, row, your boat” and am excited and inspired to turn my attention to the challenges of the future of fitness. It is always such a shot in the arm to present at the IDEA World Fitness Convention. You host the premium fitness event of the year, unparalleled by any other. Top-rate staff, presenters, venues, and, of course, attendees! The attendees are always so eager to learn, question and then apply what they have learned when they return home. I always come away feeling I have learned so much from them. Thank you and keep inspiring all of us to Inspire the World to Fitness®.

Zoey Trap
Avon, Connecticut

What a wonderful convention and gathering. We all appreciate this great effort to provide such a welcoming environment to grow in the direction we are meant to. Thank you!

Michelle Bond
Los Angeles, California

Congratulations on a great convention and trade show this year! You should all be proud of having such a successful event in the midst of this tough economy. From a presenter’s perspective, there was a good “buzz”; the overall attendance looked good; and I think the attendees had a really great time. A couple of highlights for me were the opening ceremony (as usual) and the Club Intrigue Party, where everyone was dancing up a storm! I also thought the programming this year was great. I just want to say congrats and thanks for letting me be a part of this! Looking forward to Los Angeles next year!

Fred Hoffman, MEd
Director of International Services, The
Club & Spa Synergy Group
Paris, France 

Congratulations on another great convention! I wish I could have been there.

The Clubs for the Cure team made some great contacts that will ensure our future fundraising success. I truly appreciate you showing the video and giving us the booth space. The awareness will certainly help us continue the quest for a cure. I am lucky to have IDEA by my side while I fight this battle. Thanks again for your continued support and generosity!

Augie Nieto
Founder, Augie’s Quest and Clubs for the Cure

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November 2009

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