Lessons learned from The Biggest Loser

I have a confession to make. I’m not proud of it and I hope you won’t think anything less of me because of it.


Every Tuesday evening I watch The Biggest Loser.

(Actually, I PVR it and watch on Wednesday afternoons when no one’s home to bear witness.)

I know. It’s a terrible show. I’m the first to agree. The list of things I hate about it is long and includes (but is not limited to):

  • Contestants doing too much, too soon (400 pound people should not be running; think of the impact on their joints)
  • Trainers who are verbally and physically abusive (did you see the one where Dolvett repeatedly dropped a medicine ball on John’s stomach to urge him to keep his abs engaged during a core exercise?)
  • Weekly challenges that involve eating a huge amount of some non-food (cupcakes, doughnuts, Halloween candy) in order to win a 1 lb advantage at the weigh-in (can you say irony?)
  • Weigh-ins where participants are made to feel like they’ve failed for only having lost 5 pounds in a week (double digit weight loss is the expectation, at least during the first few weeks of the season)
  • Stockholm syndrome-like attachment to their trainers (participants hug and profess to love those who were previously abusive to them)
  • Isolation from their family and friends, the same family and friends who will be their primary support system when they leave the ranch
  • Over-the-top theatricality and histrionics (Bonnie’s ability to cry at the drop of a hat was Oscar-worthy

Not to mention the long, drawn out pauses at the weigh-ins and the dramatic faces of the trainers as the cameras cut to commercial.


Why then do I subject myself to it weekly?

Because, despite all of it’s faults, I believe that watching it makes me a better personal trainer and healthy lifestyle coach.

Having never been overweight myself, it can be difficult for me to see things from the perspective of a client who needs to lose a lot of weight. Difficult to understand why food holds so much power over them. How physically challenging the basic movements of day to day living can be. How intimidating just entering a gym or fitness studio is.

BL teaches me to be compassionate, sensitive to my clients’ level of discomfort (of course, a bit of discomfort is required :)) and realistic in my expectations of their abilities.

Watching the trainers yell, swear and verbally de-moralize the contestants reminds me that we all need to be treated with respect. That dropping the F-bomb will not motivate a client to work harder. That making someone mad at me will undermine the trusting, supportive relationship we’ve worked hard to build. That forcing an emotional catharsis will not lead to an immediate change in attitude and behavior. That creating dependence on me will not equip my clients with the tools they need to reach their goals in my absence.

BL teaches me to motivate my clients with dignity and respect. It reminds me that I’m not a psychologist and that not everyone who needs to lose weight is a victim of some long ago trauma that must be uncovered before progress can be made. It illuminates the importance of education when making life style changes.


Seeing the transformations (both physical and emotional) of the participants reminds me why I love my job. Last season, I celebrated with sisters Olivia and Hannah, as they lost weight, learned to love themselves again and regained control of their lives. Being the instrument of positive change in people’s lives feels fantastic and inspires me to keep making healthy lifestyle choices for myself and my family.

BL reminds me of the importance of celebrating victories, both big and small. Often it’s the little victories that fuel the pathway to healthy living; doing a pushup for the first time, resisting dessert at a holiday dinner, regularly eating breakfast.

Most importantly, BL reinforces the message that weight is only a number on the scale. Sure, it feels great to see that number getting smaller, but it feels even better to love yourself and be the mother/father/husband/wife/friend that you were meant to be.

The 12th season of The Biggest Loser is quickly coming to an end. I know I’ll be impatiently waiting for season 13 to begin; impatient to watch the show I love to hate.

Do you watch The Biggest Loser?

Does seeing or reading weight loss success stories inspire and motivate you?

P.S. Recently, it’s come to my attention that some of you may not know how to leave a comment at the end of a post. WordPress doesn’t make it easy to find the ‘Leave a comment’ tab. At the bottom of each post you’ll see a footer. Notice the words ‘Leave a comment’ in the bottom line? Click on them and a comments box should pop up. Here, you’ll be able to see all the other comments (as well as my replies) and leave yours too!

Please comment well and often; that’s how we turn a blog post into a conversation!

Looking for an inexpensive way to jump-start your journey to fitness and health? Join my online Bootcamp today! Get more info by clicking the image below.

Looking for an inexpensive way to jump-start your journey to fitness and health? Join my online Bootcamp today! Get more info by clicking the image below.


  1. I have to admit that I saw every episode of the Biggest Loser up until last year sometime when I finally got fed up with the trainers for yelling and generally freaking out about a contestant ‘saving’ her meal calories for her dessert, of which she had about half of. I figured it was definitely not realistic to expect that the contestants, or anyone for that matter, should never again consume any sort of dessert or, dare I say it, comfort food.

    Though my days of watching this terrible/slightly brilliant show have come to an end, hearing about other individuals weight loss does inspire me! I’m currently on my own weight loss journey/neverending quest, as well as going to school in the hopes of being involved in obesity and weight management counselling. It’s heartening for me to hear that others have managed to beat their ‘addiction’ to food, and to drive past their body’s initial pushback and to realize what it takes to lead a healthy lifestyle. Everything in moderation, including moderation!

    Also, as a random side note, have you heard about the personal trainer who has gained 70+ pounds in 6 months, and is expecting to lose all that weight in the next 6 months?

    • I did hear about that trainer. I personally think it’s the wrong way to go about it all. Like that movie where the guy ate nothing but McDonalds for 30 days. Not worth ruining your health to prove a point!

  2. That’s exactly my thoughts as well. Though I agree with the point you made earlier about better understanding about the mental struggle that obese clients undergo on a daily basis, and clearly he’s taken it a bit too far. Even if he manages to shed all that weight gain, he most definitely will not have the same great health, not to mention his ‘ripped abs/body’ will never look quite the same with the increased adipose cell number and size after gaining that much weight so quickly.

  3. Nora Brown says:

    I do watch it on occasion. I used to watch it all the time. I find for me…seeing the transformations motivating. And when I have it on, it makes me want to exercise. Often I’ll jump on the treadmill while watching it. Too bad I don’t watch it 3-5 times a week.