Biggest Loser-style weight-loss approach has limited application for
majority of Americans who struggle with weight
San Diego, Calif. (Mar. 14, 2013) — As NBC prepares to conclude season 14 of its primetime reality show, “The Biggest Loser®,” American Council on Exercise (ACE) warns viewers and fitness professionals to resist the temptation to emulate a Biggest Loser-style weight loss mentality while still embracing the show’s emphasis on lifestyle modification.
“On the positive side, ‘The Biggest Loser’ inspires many weight-loss intenders to begin an activity program,” said pediatrician, registered dietitian and ACE Senior Health Strategist Dr. Natalie Digate-Muth. “ACE encourages the fitness community to use this as an opportunity to educate and engage more people in the pursuit of a healthy, physically active lifestyle while at the same rejecting the harmful and hurtful tactics sometimes used in the show.”
“The Biggest Loser,” which first aired in 2004, aims to jumpstart weight loss in the most severely obese individuals through an intensive fitness, nutrition and behavioral re-conditioning program under the supervision of physicians, registered dietitians and professional fitness trainers. Varying approaches are used to motivate, inspire, and sometimes embarrass and shame participants into pushing through grueling workouts, oftentimes lasting up to a reported four hours per day.
“Some of the techniques used on ‘The Biggest Loser’ are unsafe, ineffective and downright demotivating for many, without carefully controlled supervision,” said Michael Mantell, Ph.D., ACE senior fitness consultant for behavioral sciences. “The reality is that the show is not reality and does not represent a weight-loss program as it should be or can be pursued by the vast majority of people who are categorized as overweight or obese. That includes two-thirds of adults and one-third of children and adolescents in the United States.”
ACE, the world’s largest fitness certification and education organization, offers the following recommendations for the fitness community when it comes to talking with clients about “The Biggest Loser” weight-loss model:
- Acknowledge that “The Biggest Loser” may inspire weight-loss intenders to begin physical activity programs.
- Applaud the opportunity created by “The Biggest Loser” to engage more people in the pursuit of healthy, physically-active lifestyles while also setting realistic expectations for weight loss such as recommended weight loss not to exceed 1 to 2 pounds per week.
- Emphasize that weight-loss and physical activity programs should be designed and supervised by certified, NCCA-accredited professionals and should adhere to industry and physiological guidelines for safe and effective program design and progression.
- Advise clients to resist the temptation to emulate a Biggest Loser-style weight loss mentality which can be unsafe, ineffective and demotivating for many people.
- Warn clients that programs and products sponsored by shows like “The Biggest Loser” might not be effective or right for them.
- Reinforce for clients that weight-loss maintenance is much more difficult than weight loss, and making permanent lifestyle change will be key to their successes.
- Embrace individuals who struggle with their weight and have expressed an interest in beginning or escalating a physical-activity regimen while being sensitive to the effects of weight-based stigmatization.
- Teach clients that many factors determine a person’s body weight and shape and that the most successful strategies for weight loss combine physical activity, nutrition and behavioral change with a supportive social network and larger-scale efforts to improve community health.
- Support positive messages offered on “The Biggest Loser” such as the importance of social support and a family approach to change while, at the same time, taking a stand against potentially harmful and hurtful tactics such as embarrassing participants and testing them with hard-to-resist rewards in exchange for harmful behavior.
- Include a certified, NCCA-accredited personal trainer or health coach on your personal health-care team to support sustained healthy lifestyle choices and to fully embrace mind, body and spirit.
For a copy of the complete statement from ACE regarding NBC’s “The Biggest Loser®,” visit ACEfitness.org.
Since 1985, American Council on Exercise (ACE) has evolved from a small nonprofit dedicated to educating people about proper fitness to a 50,000-strong network of certified Personal Trainers, Group Fitness Instructors, Health Coaches, and Advanced Health and Fitness Specialists. As the largest NCCA-accredited nonprofit fitness certification organization in the world, ACE provides quality continuing education to professionals and conducts independent science-based research to protect all Americans from unsafe and ineffective products. Our goal is to inspire people to live their most fit lives through free fitness resources including workouts, nutrition information and expert advice. For more information, call (800) 825-3636 or visit ACEfitness.org. AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EXERCISE, ACE and ACE logos are Registered Trademarks of American Council on Exercise.