Fitness Pros Weigh in on The Biggest Loser

Sep 24, 2009

Whether you enjoy watching The Biggest Loser or you find it offensive, you have to admit that this primetime TV program has been effective in showcasing health and fitness to millions of people around the world. Last month, IDEA published “Weighing in on The Biggest Loser,” an in-depth feature story on the topic. The article brings into extreme focus the passionate—and widely divergent—viewpoints of the show’s producers, its contestants and one of its personal trainers (Bob Harper), as well as those of fitness professionals looking in from the outside.

Here are some of the topics covered in the feature story:

  • The Progression of Workout Scenes as Shown on the Show. Are the basic principles of exercise progression and weight loss missing, or is the seeming lack of progression and program design due to postproduction editing?
  • The Safety of the Exercises. Contestants are overweight and sedentary when they begin training. Are they enduring too much work too soon? Is it really advisable for them to do plyometric jumps or piggyback a trainer as they hustle across the room? Would “everyday” trainers ever ask their clients to do such things?
  • The Safety and Sustainability of Contestants’ Dramatic and Rapid Weight Loss. Is this a dangerous, unrealistic message to give to the viewing public?
  • The Training Certifications of the Show’s Celebrity Trainers, Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels. Are these trainers currently certified? By whom? How much continuing education have they pursued?
  • All the Yelling the Trainers Do. Is this really necessary, or is all this drama just for ratings? How does this behavior compare with what occurs in a standard training session?
  • The Fitness Industry’s Responsibility. Where does this lie? Whether or not fitness industry professionals agree with the approach of The Biggest Loser, how can they use positive momentum from it as an opportunity to reach out to prospects and clients who need sound fitness/weight loss advice and guidance?

“We are extremely proud of this article and of the work that author Amanda Vogel, MA, did to create a fair, balanced view between what the The Biggest Loser representatives feel makes good television and what everyday personal trainers feel is realistic for their own clients,” said Kathie Davis, IDEA executive director. “We hope this piece helps educate fitness professionals—but especially the consumer public—about the ‘reality’ of reality television.”

To read the entire article, please see “Weighing in on The Biggest Loser” in September 2009 IDEA Fitness Journal or read the article online in the IDEA Library.

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