getting lean: lessons from ‘the biggest loser’ for weight loss success

"The Biggest Loser" Weight loss programs Registered dietitian Sustainable lifestyle changes Rapid weight loss Psychological support Community building Metabolic adaptations Individualized care Aftercare program Nutrition and exercise Strength training Long-term success Health and fitness Sustainable maintenance Psychological factors Individual needs Resilience Overall well-being

Emily Field (00:00:03) – Welcome to Macros Made Easy, the podcast that takes the confusion out of tracking macros. I’m your host, Emily Field, a registered dietitian that specializes in a macros approach. In each episode, I help you learn how to eat in a way that supports your health, body composition, and athletic performance goals. We’ll cover the basics of macronutrients, how to track for various goals, the role of macros in your health, and how to make sustainable changes to your habits. I’ve helped hundreds of people experience more food freedom and flexibility while navigating their nutrition. So whether you’ve tried macros and it just didn’t stick or you just heard the word macros yesterday, I can’t wait to help you too. Welcome to episode 17 of the Macros Made Easy podcast, where I’ll be talking all about the hit show The Biggest Loser from both a fan and a dietitian perspective. This show was so fascinating to me, and might have even planted some seeds for a career in nutrition, if I’m being honest. I watched this show in the evenings with my family when I was in high school, caught it on the weekends while I was in college, and even used it for some sort of weird motivation while I went to the gym in grad school.


Emily Field (00:01:10) – In this episode, I plan to share a bit about the background of the show, in case you’re unfamiliar. Some problems I see with the format and techniques used, as well as make a case for doing things differently than we saw displayed on TV. Lastly, I’m going to talk through exactly what I would have done differently if I had the chance to work with any of the contestants after the show, because we all know that’s what really matters. It’s not simply achieving the results, but maintaining them as well. And many contestants had a really tough time maintaining the results they achieved. I want to be sure to highlight both positives and negatives about the show. I feel so sincerely proud of many of the contestants I watch. I mean, their vulnerability and their perseverance that was so publicly displayed on national television was really inspiring. But then again, I find it cringe worthy to think of some of the tactics that people of authority use to get results from the contestants I watched as a kid and also as an aspiring dietitian.


Emily Field (00:02:07) – I think the show really shaped how I decided I wanted to practice, which was with kindness and empathy rather than shame and fear. Okay. So let’s start with a little bit of background about The Biggest Loser show. The original US version of The Biggest Loser premiered in 2004 on NBC and continued for many seasons. The most popular version of the show really was from 2004 to 2016. There was about one season per year during that time, and typically the contestants would stay on the show for several months, which would be the duration of that season, but the exact length of time varied from season to season. Sometimes it was like three months. I think at the most it was more like 5 or 6 months. But typically the contestants would participate in weekly weigh-ins, challenges and training sessions, with a goal of achieving significant weight loss by the end of the season. Okay, so The Biggest Loser contestants are all provided with dietary guidelines, meal plans, and nutritional advice from experts, and it did include some registered dietitians and personal trainers that were employed by the show.


Emily Field (00:03:17) – The show did have health care professionals that oversaw the contestants diets to ensure their following safe and effective nutritional guidelines, but this is something that has been widely contested over time. Was it for the drama? Did the health care professionals oversee it, or was it more like the show producers oversaw the diet? You know what I mean? One has probably got the health of the contestant in mind, and maybe one has the drama in the ratings in mind, and that might influence recommendations for the contestants diet. I’ll just leave it at that. Now, while the contestants are guided and supported in their dietary choices, they are ultimately responsible for adhering to the recommended meal plans and making healthy food choices on their own. The show emphasizes education and empowerment, equipping contestants with the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions about their nutrition both during and after their time on the show. Now, for those unfamiliar with the show’s format, here’s a quick rundown. Contestants are selected from a diverse pool of applicants, and they are paired with trainers who guide them through rigorous workout routines and provide nutritional insights each week.


Emily Field (00:04:27) – So each show that I’m watching once a week, they’re going to be faced with challenges, testing their physical and mental fortitude. And of course, at the end of the show, there will always be a weekly weigh in. This was pivotal in determining who would continue their journey and who might face elimination. The goal for each contestant was to stay on the show as long as possible to earn the right to stay. Because they continue working with the trainers, they continue working with the health care team, the dietitians, with the ultimate goal of losing the most weight possible and winning a cash prize as well. Each season, we have a new pool of participants, which are often referred to as contestants, and they’re selected from a greater pool of applicants. These individuals typically have significant weight to lose and are looking for transformative experiences to improve their health and well-being. They come from many walks of life, but in general, they’re morbidly obese people. The trainers are more or less the same from season to season, but there were eras in which we had one trainer or another, or we had two competing trainers.


Emily Field (00:05:34) – Now contestants are paired with those trainers and they’re responsible for guiding them through their weight loss journey. These trainers provided personalized workout routines, nutritional advice, and motivational support throughout the competition. If we want to call it that, that was the goal. Motivational support throughout the competition each week. So every episode we would see contestants participate in physical or mental challenges that tested their endurance, strength, and determination. These challenges often offered rewards such as immunity from elimination, prizes, and other incentives. At the end of each episode, we had the highly anticipated weekly weigh in. Contestants had to weigh in each week in order to track their progress and the individual or sometimes team. Because we did this in teams, sometimes with the lowest percentage of weight loss faced elimination depending on the show’s format for that season. So it’s not about number of pounds lost because that would be technically unfair. Everybody has a different starting point and all that. It’s about lowest to highest percentage of weight loss. You take amount lost per week divided by your starting weight, and that’s what was used to figure out the loser or the winner for each week.


Emily Field (00:06:48) – So you can see where this is going. At the end of each episode, there was an elimination, and that’s when the contestants were not meeting their weight loss goals or had the lowest weight loss percentage were at risk for leaving the show. Now, at the very end of the season, we have a final weigh in and a huge finale. The season culminates with a final weigh in, where the remaining contestants weight loss achievements are revealed. Sometimes what they did was, you know you are off the ranch, you go home into your regular environment. You have to continue your weight loss journey alone without the help of your trainers and your dieticians, your health care team, all of that. So there’s a break in that momentum you might have gotten over the last several months. And then we come and we show up live for a finale to reveal who has lost the highest percentage of weight relative to their initial weight, and they are declared the biggest loser, and usually when a cash prize or other rewards.


Emily Field (00:07:46) – So I want to make the distinction that I don’t even think producers know who wins the show until the actual final weigh in. Usually there is a break from filming and then we come back to a live viewing, and there’s probably maybe several weeks or several months in between. The time where you end filming, you end your support, your end, your time on the ranch, and you show up for your final weigh in, which is on live TV. Now, if you’re going to look on the Biggest Loser website or synopsis of the show, you’re going to see a lot of talk about how they tried to encourage lifestyle changes. So on the surface, when you’re looking back on this show, you might think this is a drastic weight loss competition show. There’s no way that any of these people were able to practice or implement lifestyle changes, and that may or may not be true, varying from contestant to contestant. But I will say that from watching the show and being a fan, I did see contestants make sustainable lifestyle changes.


Emily Field (00:08:46) – They did start to learn about nutrition in a totally new way. They adopted healthier eating habits. They incorporated regular exercise into their routine. They often addressed underlying emotional and psychological factors related to their weight or why they gained so much weight. Okay, I also think that one of the coolest things about the show was the support and community. The Biggest Loser often emphasizes the importance of that support and community when it comes to losing a significant amount of weight. And I would agree, having support and finding community in like minded people who are going through something similar to you is powerful in your success and your ability to achieve success with major weight loss goals. We see contestants form, bonds with each other, share their experiences, challenges, and successes. And sometimes we see engagements or we see like long term friendships formed. And I think that’s so magical that people were brought together under under those circumstances and were able to form those bonds, you know, in order to have so many seasons. You know, we’re talking 12 seasons.


Emily Field (00:09:56) – We obviously had to have them. You know, we we obviously had to introduce twists, themes, modifications to that original format in order to keep the show engaging and relevant to the audience. But the core elements of the show weight loss, transformation, personal growth that was central to its premise over the years, The Biggest Loser showcased several contestants who achieved remarkable weight loss transformations and inspired viewers with their dedication and perseverance. Some of the more notable success stories from the show include Ali Vincent, who was the first female winner of Biggest Loser in season five. She lost a total of £112 during her time on the show, and has since gone on to become a advocate for health and wellness, and she does continue to work in this area, inspiring others with her journey. She has largely maintained that weight loss. Then we had Danny Cahill, who was the winner of season eight. He owns the record for most weight loss by any contestant on the show. He lost £239, and his transformation and subsequent efforts to maintain his weight loss have been inspirational to many.


Emily Field (00:11:05) – Now with Danny, it looks. As if he did not maintain his weight loss from what I could find, and I was a little unclear about what his weight is now. But we know he did not maintain that £239 loss. Next we have Rachel Frederickson. Rachel made headlines for her dramatic weight loss in season 15, where she lost £155 and won the title of The Biggest Loser because her transformation sparked discussions about the show’s weight loss methods and started to raise some questions about the balance between health and extreme weight loss. So she lost 60% of her body weight, and it looks as if she’s gained some weight back, but is mostly maintaining since the end of that show. And I specifically remember this finale. I remember watching this episode, and again, she was probably the most notably criticized for her weight loss. I remember being audibly shocked when I saw her come out from behind the curtain, and I think it was an important moment for me, because I found myself thinking about the concept of losing too much weight and this woman being criticized for being too fat and then being criticized for being too thin.


Emily Field (00:12:09) – Like, I remember having like a conversation in my head about this. So this is where the show really intersects for me from like a professional standpoint and a personal, like, aspirational standpoint. Lastly, I was just going to mention Eric Skupin. Eric is a winner of season three. He lost £214 during his time on the show. His is a story of weight loss regain and again weight loss. So he started at £407. He lost 214 on the show, ended up weighing £193 at the finale, but then he was back up to £368, but since 2010 has been reported back down to 245. So he has lost weight, gained it, lost weight again. So it appears as if Eric has not been able to maintain his weight loss easily. It’s been work. Now, anecdotally, I’m always curious about the where are they now stories. It doesn’t really matter if I’m watching Bar Rescue or a celebrity memoir and a true Hollywood story or something like that. I’m always googling or heading to Reddit to learn where people are after being filmed.


Emily Field (00:13:15) – So any time there’s a follow up with contestants, I was probably watching it. And with Biggest Loser, it started to feel weird when these people had a complete change of environment, so much support and accountability built. But when the show ended, there was absolutely none of that. They were unable to kind of reinforce this environment that they had in the show, this this nice cushion. They’re plucked right out of their normal and typical daily life and put into an environment where their only focus was to lose weight. That was the only thing they had to work on. Former contestants are interviewed after the show, and there just seemed to be such a dark cloud of guilt and shame for gaining weight back, not being able to work out for hours a day, not being able to stick with the diet, whatever, whatever. And that piece really stuck with me in my teens. In my 20s, when I was watching the show. Along with its accolades, The Biggest Loser also faced its share of criticisms from concerns about rapid weight loss and potential health risks to debates about the show’s motivational tactics, it became evident that the journey to health and well-being was far from straightforward.


Emily Field (00:14:18) – The Biggest Loser is a show obviously centered around weight loss, and it’s garnered both praise and criticism since its inception. Most of the problems and criticisms associated with the show include the concept around rapid and extreme weight loss. The contestants of the show often lose significant amounts of weight in a short period of time, and that rapid weight loss can be unhealthy and unsustainable. It can also portray to the audience and the viewers that you know they have an unrealistic expectation for what’s possible in a week, and I got so much feedback from this on Instagram when I teased that I was going to do an episode about The Biggest Loser, I asked my followers, you know what stuck with you when you were watching this show? And while everyone can pretty much like note that it was unsustainable, they also were shaped by that. They also were shaped with thinking, well, if they can lose £6 in a week, I should be able to lose £6 in a week. So this, you know, even when you have the logic and the like, wherewithal to maybe convince yourself that this is unsustainable and that 100% of their life is about weight loss in these short few months, and yours may not be.


Emily Field (00:15:27) – It’s really hard to like, unravel that subconsciously when you’re stepping on the scale and you’re chasing your own weight loss goals as well. Now, as a professional, I know that rapid and extreme weight loss can lead to slower metabolisms. It makes it harder for participants to maintain that way, easier for them to regain that weight once the show ends. So let me just paint you an example. When someone’s coming into the show at their highest weight, their calories needed to maintain that weight are fairly high. Let’s just say it’s 5000 calories per day. If they eat anything under that for a. Consistent amount of time and start exercising. They should see weight loss. But in order to show extreme dramatic results and like very, very quick results in a short amount of time, they are eating far less than that. So maybe 1200, 1500. But then as the show went on, we could really see that contestants were consuming a thousand calories or less per day. Plus they’re exercising for hours upon hours per day.


Emily Field (00:16:31) – Okay, so what ends up happening is your metabolism adapts to the number of calories that you are eating. And in those extreme cases now the metabolism has adjusted and you have adapted to that lower calorie intake. It makes it extremely hard for you to re-enter a normal eating situation and be able to maintain those low, low, low calories. We’ll talk about what we would do differently. You know, if I were to take care of these contestants after the show instead of being dropped like a bad habit like they were. But essentially, I’m trying to portray the picture that going slow and a lot less dramatic and drastic with the number of calories eaten from the start. It’s going to be a better scenario after the show is over. Another criticism of the show is the overemphasis on physical transformation, and while the show focuses heavily on physical transformation, it may not adequately address the underlying psychological and emotional issues related to weight and body image. The emphasis on extreme weight loss often overshadowed the other important aspects of health and well-being.


Emily Field (00:17:34) – Having like a bigger, wider lens for what health and well-being really mean and really just focused on that physical aspect. And again, as an audience member, what does that tell you? How is that bleeding into your own psyche about how you think about yourself? If you can’t see change, is it even worth changing if you can’t show the world that you are losing weight and it’s not obvious, are you really changing? Do you really deserve accolades? I don’t know, these are just questions that really pop up for me, especially when I think about coaching people who have been in a similar spot. That overemphasis on physical transformation is tough, and it really does eat at your psyche when it comes to building a healthier lifestyle in general. Contestants reported engaging in extreme dieting, dehydration, and excessive exercise to achieve weight loss goals. So another critique that Biggest Loser often has is that there’s a lot of potential for dangerous practices. They’re harmful, may lead to other health complications, and we didn’t really see that as an audience member.


Emily Field (00:18:35) – It’s very possible. In the editing room, they cut a lot of the drama around dehydration, maybe cramping, extreme dieting practices. We saw people eating healthy, well-rounded meals, but we also didn’t really get an understanding of how many hours these people were exercising every single day and how little they were eating because we were not there with them the entire day. So recognizing that this is a show and that a lot gets left on the editing floor, I would say as an audience member, if you’re trying to use this as inspiration to lose a significant amount of weight, it’s quite possible that you learned it the very wrong way. Extreme dieting leading to dehydration, you know, really reinforcing the narrative that you need excessive amounts of exercise in order to achieve weight loss. It’s just not healthy. Like I said earlier, I think that the show really gave viewers an unrealistic expectation about weight loss and what’s achievable in a short period. It really created a distorted view of health and fitness, emphasized appearance over overall well-being.


Emily Field (00:19:33) – And so when it comes to one of the bigger critiques about The Biggest Loser, I’d say that one’s pretty overarching for me. Next, I’d say that there’s pretty questionable motivational tactics, and some critics argue that the show uses shaming and humiliation as motivational tactics. I saw it, I mean, we all did, and that can absolutely be counterproductive and damaging to the contestants self-esteem. What I know from coaching clients for years and years is that we need to have grace and kindness and empathy for ourselves. We have to love ourselves through change, not hate ourselves through change. Nobody that I’ve worked with who has achieved really significant results like major transformation, has ever done it by hating their way through the process or hating themselves through the process. So I would say if anyone was learning how or getting inspiration for how to lose weight from the show, it’s quite possible they were doing it through tactics that we know through research don’t even work. Shame and humiliation do not work as motivational tactics. When you really look at the literature.


Emily Field (00:20:35) – As I’ve already highlighted, another critique of the show is that many contestants regained weight after the show, and it raised questions about the sustainability of the weight loss methods promoted in the show. Since we didn’t really see a lot of follow up of the large majority of the contestants, it really left a lot of questions in the viewer’s mind about the importance of adopting healthy and maintainable lifestyle changes. There were no examples of this. The only examples that we had were the extreme version of that. So it incorrectly maybe put that in people’s. That that’s what’s required and you just have to stick to the plan. You just have to hate yourself through it. You just have to shame yourself more. You know, you have to be more strict. You have to be more diligent in order to be successful. So there was really no example of, you know, healthy and manageable lifestyle changes. Instead, it was solely focused on the short term weight loss outcomes. I will lastly say that when it comes to critiquing the show, many people have said that the show lacks diversity in its casting and often featured contestants who fit a specific mold or narrative, and that can be problematic because it can perpetuate stereotypes and limit representation of diverse body types and backgrounds and all that.


Emily Field (00:21:46) – So when I was watching the show, I didn’t really have an understanding of this because I was young. But now that I’ve worked with a large range of people in my own career, I can see how that would have been a huge problem. People are not seeing themselves represented in a show, they’re not seeing their specific issues represented in a show. And so they think they’re odd or different or not going to be successful with the weight loss methods or even the lessons. Even in the good stuff of the show, they’re not going to be successful here. The Biggest Loser show has become one of my favorite ways to case study. What not to do if this is not become extremely obvious so far, there’s a huge lack of long term success, and that’s what people really want. They do not want to lose weight and then just to have to chase it a few years later doing something similar or even more extreme. So it has become a great case study in what not to do. So I’m going to share here some of the reasons why that is, and why there really is a lack of long term success.


Emily Field (00:22:49) – Obviously, the struggle to main weight loss after participating in a program like The Biggest Loser is complex. It’s a complex issue, influenced by a lot of different factors. And while contestants on the show often achieve remarkable weight loss and transformation, maintaining results long term is a whole different ballgame. So here are some of the main reasons why people may struggle to keep weight off after The Biggest Loser or similar weight loss programs. When I say similar weight loss programs, it’s weight loss at all cost. Drastic and dramatic calorie deficits, extreme exercise tactics, things like that. So has elements of The Biggest Loser, even if it’s not in the framework of The Biggest Loser. So one of the biggest reasons I think people did not see long term weight loss success, they were not able to maintain their weight long term is because of the rapid and significant weight loss which led to metabolic adaptations and a decrease in their resting metabolic rate. This means that after losing weight, individuals required far fewer calories than before to maintain that new weight, and it made weight regain very, very easily.


Emily Field (00:23:58) – So essentially, they dropped their metabolic rate so drastically, their body had to make several adaptations to the limited amount of calories it was receiving. And so that adaptation made it so hard that when they re-entered the real world and they were faced with regular portions or portions that they were used to before it was all controlled for them while at the ranch, it made weight regain really, really easy. If they ate anything over that low, low, low calorie requirement that they now had, they could see some body fat gain. Now some people use the term starvation mode. That’s not what this is. In fact, there’s no such thing as starvation mode. You cannot gain weight by eating far, far, far less than what you need. What can happen. And it’s more likely to happen when you have a very dramatic calorie deficit. You’re eating far, far, far fewer calories. And you actually need your deficit is to drastic or it goes on too long, you know, that sort of thing. What can happen is metabolic adaptation.


Emily Field (00:25:01) – So your body adjusts the metabolic rate to accommodate the amount of calories that you’re consuming. And so eating over that amount can cause some body fat gain. What’s really happening here, usually with dramatic weight loss attempts, is you’re losing a lot of lean body mass. And you’ve heard me talk about this in several podcast episodes, but one of your main goals when you’re trying to lose weight is to maintain as much lean muscle as you possibly can, if not gain more, because that lean muscle is what really drives our metabolic rate. So imagine these people that are in the £300 starting the Biggest Loser. They have more muscle mass on their frame than they do at the very end of the show, because in the course of several months, or maybe just a few months, they have lost over £100. A lot of that was fat, but a lot of that was muscle tissue as well. So their metabolic rate has shifted down. They have not paid much attention to macros, I’m sure, and they are in a worse off metabolic position than they were when they even started the show.


Emily Field (00:26:02) – Even at £300, they’re at a worse off position at £155. Let’s just say because of that loss in lean muscle mass and the extreme dieting tactics they took to get there, the next reason why I think people were not super successful with maintaining those weight loss results is because of lifestyle changes. It seems pretty obvious, and I think most people watching the where are they now versions of this show probably thought, you know, they just weren’t able to maintain the rigid exercise schedule or the diet. You know, that’s why people gained weight. You know, they adopted healthier habits during the show. But maintaining those changes long term was probably challenging for many. They had to balance a busy schedule, managing a family or household. They had added stressors when they got back home. Maybe personal responsibilities in general just made it really difficult to sustain that same level of commitment to diet and exercise. I’ve said this before, but it really was their only job. Their only job at their ranch was to try to lose weight.


Emily Field (00:26:59) – So all of their focus could go into that. And when they came home and they’re in their regular, normal life, it was a lot more difficult to do that. I mean, it’s to be expected. Along with this, I would say you have more influences on your eating and. Your physical activity habits when you’re at home. That environment completely changed. So we’ve got, you know, the availability of unhealthy food options. We’ve got social pressures, we’ve got cultural norms that make it more challenging to maintain healthy behaviours consistently. And when you’re out of that, you’re off of the ranch, you’re back home and you have people and places and temptations that are just far different than what you had at the ranch. It would probably be fairly easy to eat over your needs and gain weight. Now, I think this is huge, but weight loss and maintenance are not only physical challenges, but also psychological ones. And I would say that the show did a really poor job of addressing emotional eating, body image issues, stress, maybe underlying psychological conditions that contributed to not being able to maintain weight.


Emily Field (00:28:01) – You can ignore a lot of that stuff in a short term stint at the ranch. You can ignore that and you can really focus on, you know, the next week and the next weigh in, and you’re staying so busy with exercise and dieting that you probably don’t even have to think about that stuff. You’ve got people barking in your ear. You’ve got people doing the same thing as you that is your soul and only focus. But once you’re at home and you’re trying to maintain this weight loss or maybe even lose more weight because keep in mind, a very limited number of people actually went the whole time at the ranch and participated the whole time in the season. A lot of people dropped off week to week. Every single week we’re eliminating a contestant and they’re right back in their home environment after that week, that weekly weigh in that they didn’t succeed at or they didn’t show the biggest loss at. So if they’re even feeling inspired to change from their like their couple of weeks at the ranch, it’s probably really difficult to continue that change when you haven’t actually addressed the factors that are most meaningful.


Emily Field (00:29:00) – And I would say for somebody who has that much weight to lose, who is that morbidly obese? There are absolutely psychological factors at play here. This is not simply an issue of overeating your needs because you can’t put your fork down or you can’t push the plate away. There is usually something emotional or psychological going on here, and it requires a bigger and more diverse care team to really get that under control. Next, I think one of the biggest issues with, you know, people not being able to maintain their results is the lack of like finding exercises that people actually liked when they’re at their ranch. It really, truly seemed like people were forced to exercise, or they were doing it out of the sheer motivation that they wanted that cash prize. They wanted the biggest transformation. But when it comes to the real world, when you’re back at home, you need to find exercise that is enjoyable and sustainable, that it will fit into your real life, it’ll fit into your lifestyle. And I really saw this as a huge problem on the show.


Emily Field (00:30:02) – When you really think about it, the physical activity that they were doing did not look enjoyable, and if that’s the first time that that person is exercising on a regular basis, that’s not going to instill any sort of long term habit for them ever. So yeah, I thought that was a huge miss on the show’s part. And as a viewer, when you’re thinking about like the where are they now? I mean, it makes total sense if the show were to better able address what the person liked and was able to think about their regular life and how it might fit in, or who would want to participate and who could be your support and accountability partner, things like that. It could have made physical activity an enjoyable experience, something that they would have participated in far longer than just being at the ranch. So to summarize, I think some of the main reasons why there was a real lack of long term success for the majority of the contestants. It really boils down to metabolic adaptation, lifestyle changes.


Emily Field (00:30:55) – They weren’t able to incorporate the major habits they were trying to develop at the ranch back into their normal life may or may not be related to environment and social influence as well. There’s probably some psychological factors at play when it comes to weight gain, weight loss, weight maintenance, and maybe there was no support around that at the ranch. There likely was not, especially for the large majority of participants who didn’t go the full season. And then lastly, physical activity was made out to feel like a punishment. There was a lot of shame tactics used there. That’s not going to instill a healthy relationship with exercise. And so it’s quite possible that people fell off once they came back home. They wanted nothing to do with that piece of it. So it makes sense if they stopped being active altogether. Okay, so for my final portion of this episode, I’m going to talk through what I would do differently if I had the opportunity to work with any of the contestants after the show. I feel very strongly about this because I pride myself with even my clients here, you know, clients on my caseload.


Emily Field (00:31:55) – Now, if we are able to achieve significant fat loss results or physical transformation, there are so many things that we want to do in order to keep those results. It makes no sense to guide you on a journey and get you to a point, and then drop you off and never address the hardships that come with maintaining. It’s a whole different ballgame. Maintaining what you did to accomplish those weight loss or fat loss goals isn’t the same thing that you’ll do to maintain those results, and that is something that we often forget or don’t talk about. There’s really not a lot of consideration for that, especially in the dieting world. So if I were to work for The Biggest Loser or NBC, I propose a very strong, comprehensive aftercare program that focused on individualized approaches, sustainable lifestyle changes, psychological support, and community building. This could all be instrumental in enhancing the long term success, in my opinion. So the biggest thing I would do again is that comprehensive aftercare program that was largely missing from The Biggest Loser show.


Emily Field (00:33:00) – There’s really no follow up after the show ended, and this is the biggest thing that we have opportunity to change or I would have opportunity to change. We would include support, resources, guidance to contestants after the show ends. This would probably include regular check ins, access to health care professionals, continued education on nutrition, exercise and behavioral strategies. I would say that reverse dieting and a comprehensive plan about reverse dieting and how to reverse diet be really, really helpful here. This is a term that you may have heard me use in my content, but essentially reverse dieting is the diet after the diet. It is the bridge phase between your dieting calories, your diet, eating less than what you need for the purpose of weight loss and fat loss. Bridging that gap to maintenance. Okay, we can’t just simply go back to our old habits that we were engaging in before we dieted. That would be a recipe for weight regain. And so if we’re in the business of helping people maintain the results they’ve achieved, we need to go slow.


Emily Field (00:34:03) – We need to bridge that gap by increasing calories, slowly, getting people psychologically and physically ready to eat more food because we cannot stay in a diet forever. And that becomes the temptation, right? If we are starting to see the scale tick up after a major transformation, we’ve seen significant weight loss. It can be really nerve wracking and scary. So we’re like, well, I can’t eat anything. I can’t eat anymore. I must just eat like this now. I must live hungry and hangry and low energy and with poor thyroid and all this stuff. And that’s absolutely not the answer. But unfortunately, we don’t really see a lot of people talking about the diet after the diet, which in our world is called reverse dieting. So I think reverse dieting would be extremely helpful here where it would really address that metabolic adaptation problem. We’ve gone from high calories at, you know, 200 and £300 to lower calories to lose weight. And now we need to bridge that gap back up slightly. Now you’re at a new weight.


Emily Field (00:35:02) – You’ve lost significant mass, so there’s less of you to feed. But it’s still more than a thousand calories. It’s still more than those dieting calories. The calories it took for you to lose weight are not the calories that you need to maintain your weight. Okay, so bridging that gap is called reverse dieting. And that is really what can help address that metabolic adaptation that we saw happen with The Biggest Loser contestants. Now obviously the Biggest Loser contestants and the whole program really lacked individualized care. So if we recognize that each contestant’s journey is unique, we could probably adopt a more individualized approach to weight loss and maintenance. So we would take into account factors like genetics. Taoism, lifestyle preferences, maybe psychological needs, dieting, history, medical history, things like that. So if we tailor the strategies and support to each contestant’s specific circumstances, we probably can enhance their ability to maintain the results long term. So from a diet perspective, I propose that we would absolutely take a macros approach. We would ensure that the eating pattern on the show and then after the show was high in protein, we had a sensible deficit in the show to achieve weight loss.


Emily Field (00:36:13) – Not so drastic as we saw evidenced. Maybe we would start with 20% deficit, maybe even a 25% deficit, because we can typically see people who are obese do better on that kind of deficit than maybe someone that’s leaner. But then when we hit a plateau, we would adjust again, it’s not about if we plateau in our weight loss journey. It’s about when we plateau in that weight loss journey and what we do to get over it. So for these people, for The Biggest Loser contestants, again, I would say a macros approach is essential because we can really manipulate the protein, fat and carb to fit for different health conditions and food preferences and lifestyle. And that, in my opinion, helps address a lot of what was lacking on the show, which was a very cookie cutter diet. We really whitewashed the diets of these people, taking into no consideration maybe their cultural preferences or food preferences in general. And with a macros approach, I like to say it’s like bumpers at a bowling alley. You have the freedom to eat and the autonomy to eat whatever you want, as long as it adds up or meets those macronutrient targets.


Emily Field (00:37:20) – And that, I think, is what’s necessary if you want to maintain results long term because it feels less like dieting and more just like bumpers, it feels more like parameters on your eating and makes a lot more sense for people long term. Look, I think you probably knew this was coming, but one of the biggest change I think I would make if I were to work with people after The Biggest Loser after their time, and the biggest Loser would be to strength train to build muscle as a foundation of their exercise time per week, but also try to incorporate ways to make exercise more fun. There’s a lot of ways that we can incorporate strength training in someone’s routine. We got to make it fun. We got to make it something that they want to participate in every single week. It’s about doing exercise forever. It’s not just about doing exercise for the sole purpose of losing weight. And I think, unfortunately, this is the imagery that we got growing up. I know I got it growing up that the only reason for exercise was to control my weight, or the only reason for exercise was to shame myself or to feel guilty to undo what I ate.


Emily Field (00:38:22) – And this show really reinforced that. I mean, that narrative was everywhere, but the show really reinforced that. So strength training would obviously address, again, the metabolic adaptation that we saw or that we see from these contestants. It’s probably going to help with some of those psychological factors that really play into success with weight loss and maintenance, because strength training can be a really big form of stress management, but it can also be a self-esteem booster, a self-efficacy booster. There’s a lot of benefits that can come from strength training outside of like it being a calorie burn. If anything, that’s probably the lowest thing on the list as far as benefits go from a strength training perspective. But just to make myself abundantly clear, if you’re somebody who does have major transformation goals, major weight loss goals, strength training is going to be so crucial for your ability to maintain that weight that you lose. The more drastic your transformation, probably the more muscle mass you’re losing. And that is a bad thing. So while you are getting that reinforcement that the scale is going down, maybe even going down very rapidly, the faster that that’s happening, the quicker that you’re doing that is so problematic.


Emily Field (00:39:31) – So I really, really ask you to pump the brakes on that. Consider going much slower and with much more slight of a deficit, not as drastic as a deficit. And then get into that strength training as soon as possible, 3 to 4 days per week with a structured, progressive, overload based program. It’s going to really help build muscle mass, which protects your metabolism. We want to keep that muscle mass because it will drive our metabolism and keep it high so that we don’t plateau as easily, and it’s not as hard to maintain our weight after we’ve lost a significant amount of mass. One thing that might be a surprise to you, but if I was to work with the contestants after the show, I’d say that implementing a regular monitoring and feedback protocol would be really helpful for long term success, because we know that people who have a pulse on their progress and a pulse on how they’re doing in general, is just going to make things a lot easier. It’s going to be easy to identify a potential challenge.


Emily Field (00:40:26) – It’s going to be helpful for adjusting the plan if we need to. We don’t let so much time go by that we’re suddenly surprised that things have changed very significantly. Right? So maybe we figure out a way for them to track their progress in a meaningful way. We have a regular check. In process, where they’re identifying potential challenges that are coming down the pipeline. Maybe we are anticipating adjustments that need to happen to accommodate new goals that come along. But again, providing ongoing guidance, encouragement, constructive feedback that can all empower a contestant to stay on track with their goals far beyond being at the ranch, and might be something that they can continue on their own without outside support. My very best hope for people like this would be that, you know, once you’ve gotten used to a check in process with a coach or another professional or somebody outside yourself, you have that accountability. You learn to become accountable to yourself. And you can do this monitoring on your own, and you can ask yourself for feedback and make adjustments on your own.


Emily Field (00:41:25) – Lastly, if we could foster a supportive community among the contestants, the alumni, to create a sense of belonging and shared experience, I think this would be highly beneficial for ensuring long term success. I think encouraging ongoing connections, communication, collaboration can be helpful for support, motivation, accountability, and maintaining weight loss efforts. And that’s why in my own practice, I think having a community and peer support is so important. I’ve done one on one coaching, but now I’ve largely moved to group coaching for this particular reason. People that are going through something significant together almost always do better than if they were going at it alone. So there you have it. That is my comprehensive aftercare program that I would absolutely love to implement with any of the contestants after the show if I had the opportunity. Let’s say I worked for Biggest Loser. Unfortunately, I think it’s one of the most missed opportunities and it really was a tragedy. It was like we did such a disservice to these people. We uprooted their lives, we took them out of their home and we put them on a ranch, and we shamed them and bullied them and gave them pieces of education.


Emily Field (00:42:34) – But then we’re really not good at helping them reincorporate back into their normal everyday life. So if I was on the show, this comprehensive aftercare program would absolutely include regular check ins, access to health care professionals, continued education on nutrition and exercise, and behavioral strategies. Reverse dieting from their dieting eating habits to more maintenance would be crucial here. I would make a more individualized approach. We’d probably focus on macros with higher protein, a sensible deficit backup to maintenance. If they were done dieting, I would recommend strength training to build muscle and try to help people find ways to make exercise fun. We also look at sustainable lifestyle changes, so we’re looking at what they were doing at their ranch and trying to figure out how we can incorporate it into their daily life and continue doing it in a way that is realistic, because it is most likely not realistic that you’re exercising for hours per day. I would say that, you know, addressing the psychological factors so people can learn how to build resilience and cope with challenges and develop a healthy relationship with food and their bodies would be absolutely imperative to long term success as well.


Emily Field (00:43:43) – I think this was majorly lacking in the show, and so if we could do that in an aftercare program, that would be amazing. Community and peer support, like I mentioned, and regular monitoring and feedback would also be important for a major transformation like success in maintaining a major transformation here. So, in conclusion, examining the journey of weight loss through the lens of The Biggest Loser provides us with valuable insights into the complexities and challenges individuals face in their pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. While the show has celebrated remarkable transformations, it has also faced criticism for its approach in the sustainability of the results. On this episode, we talked about the positive aspects of the show, acknowledging the show’s intentions to educate and empower contestants to make healthier choices. The emphasis on support, community, and the transformative power of dedicated trainers has undoubtedly contributed to the inspiring stories of weight loss success, and there are many. However, we also addressed the show’s pitfalls and the criticisms it has received from concerns about rapid and extreme weight loss to questions about the effectiveness of its motivational tactics.


Emily Field (00:44:49) – The Biggest Loser show has sparked important conversations about the broader landscape of health and wellbeing. The discussion around post-show challenges faced by contestants sheds light on the complexities of maintaining weight loss in the long term. Factors like metabolic adaptations, lifestyle changes in the psychological considerations all play pivotal roles, emphasizing the need for a holistic and individualized approach to weight management. As we consider the lessons learned from The Biggest Loser, we advocate for a shift towards sustainable practices and a more personalized approach to weight loss. I’ve proposed a comprehensive aftercare program focusing on individual needs, psychological support, and community building to enhance the long term success of participants. Ultimately, the journey of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight involves more than just shedding pounds quickly. It requires a nuanced understanding of individual needs, a supportive community, and a commitment to sustainable lifestyle changes by learning from the experiences of those who participated in The Biggest Loser. We can shape a narrative that prioritizes overall well-being, resilience, and lasting success on a path to a healthier life. Thank you so much for listening to the Macros Made Easy podcast.


Emily Field (00:46:02) – If you enjoyed this episode, take a screenshot of the one you’re listening to right now to share it on your Instagram Stories, and tag me @emilyfieldrd so that more people can find this podcast and learn how to use a macros approach in a stress free way. If you love the podcast, head over to iTunes and leave me a rating and a review. Remember, you can always find more free health and nutrition content on Instagram and on my website at Thanks for listening and I’ll catch you on the next episode.

Ever wondered about the long-term impact of extreme weight loss TV shows like ‘The Biggest Loser’?

The popular TV show ‘The Biggest Loser’, is a program that has captivated millions with its dramatic physical transformations. As a dietitian and viewer of the show, I fully understand the allure. Yes, it is inspiring to watch the contestants’ transformations, but rapid weight changes can lead to serious health risks. Plus, the emphasis on quick physical transformations often overshadows the psychological challenges that come with such drastic lifestyle shifts. In fact, the show really shaped how I decided I wanted to practice, which was with kindness and empathy rather than shame and fear.

In this episode, I’m diving deep into ‘The Biggest Loser’ from the unique perspectives of both a die-hard fan and a registered dietitian. Let’s unpack the reality of “The Biggest Loser” and what it can teach us about sustainable weight loss.

the allure of ‘the biggest loser’

‘The Biggest Loser’ is more than just a TV show; it’s a cultural phenomenon that has brought the struggle of weight loss into the living rooms of viewers worldwide. The premise is simple: contestants compete to lose the most weight and win a cash prize. With trainers pushing them to their limits and weekly weigh-ins adding to the drama, the show has no shortage of motivation and suspense.

As a dietitian, I appreciate the sense of community and support the show fosters among contestants. It’s also heartening to see the educational segments on nutrition and exercise, which can empower viewers to make healthier choices. The success stories are undeniably moving, with some contestants achieving life-changing weight loss.

the dark side of rapid weight loss on ‘the biggest loser’

However, the show is not without its criticisms, and as a health professional, I can’t overlook them. The extreme weight loss methods used on ‘The Biggest Loser’ can pose serious health risks. Rapid weight loss can lead to metabolic adaptations, where the body’s resting metabolic rate decreases, making it all too easy to regain weight. This is a critical issue that the show doesn’t address adequately.

Plus, the show’s focus on physical transformation often overshadows the psychological and emotional issues tied to weight and body image. The use of shaming and humiliation as motivational tactics is questionable at best and harmful at worst. And, let’s not forget the lack of diversity among contestants, which fails to represent the full spectrum of individuals struggling with weight loss.

the reality of weight maintenance post-show

One of the biggest challenges contestants face is maintaining their weight loss after the cameras stop rolling. Without a comprehensive aftercare program, many revert to old habits and regain the weight. This is where I believe ‘The Biggest Loser’ misses the mark. It’s not just about losing weight; it’s about keeping it off and creating sustainable lifestyle changes for better overall health.

crafting a comprehensive aftercare program following ‘the biggest loser’

If I was a member of ‘The Biggest Loser’ care team, I would propose a comprehensive aftercare program that focuses on individualized care, sustainable lifestyle changes, and psychological support. Regular check-ins and access to healthcare professionals are essential. Education on nutrition and exercise should continue, with a particular emphasis on reverse dieting to transition from weight loss to maintenance.

Strength training is another key component, as it helps build muscle and can make exercise more enjoyable. A regular monitoring and feedback protocol, along with a supportive community, can create a sense of belonging and shared experience that’s crucial for long-term success.

the bigger picture of ‘the biggest loser’

While “The Biggest Loser” has its positive aspects, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. The show’s portrayal of weight loss has significant implications for viewers’ understanding of health and fitness. It’s not just about shedding pounds quickly; it’s about making sustainable lifestyle changes that prioritize overall well-being and resilience.

Reflecting on ‘The Biggest Loser’, it’s clear there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to health. My hope is that this episode helps to shift the focus from dramatic weight loss to embracing individual journeys toward well-being. Each person’s path is unique, and recognizing this helps us foster resilience and lasting success.


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