Why Reality Weight Loss Shows Are Bad for You

Many people say that shows like Biggest Loser and Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition inspire them to lose weight and eat healthier.

I beg to differ.young woman doing crunches

As you can read here and here, the reality behind those weight loss shows is rather murky. Dehydrating your body in an extreme way or popping diet pills is not exactly something I would recommend to anyone.

Also, how are you going to feel when you realize you’re not going to be able to reach the kind of weight loss results that the show participants are deemed to lose?

I’m pretty sure you will be discouraged, not inspired or motivated. If you let these shows set your expectations, any results you will see in real life will be a big disappointment. Kai Hibbard told in the interview about meeting one woman who agonized over not being able to lose 12 lbs in one week like someone on the BL show purportedly did (not really!).

There is another reason I dislike the shows intensely.

They convey a very peculiar idea of exercise. Having a 300 lb woman work out until she pukes or passes out is what passes for exercise is these shows. I find it difficult to understand what purpose that kind of exercise serves. If I weighed 264 lbs (120 kg) and I got the notion that to in order to start exercising I need to go to a gym and exercise till I pass out, I would be very careful to avoid exercise at all cost.

Besides, most of the show participants probably suffer from binge eating disorder or compulsive eating and participating in an extreme weight loss show is not the treatment for any eating disorder.

Watching extreme weight loss shows is bad for  you. You might claim that you’re immune to the their influence because you know the shows are just fiction, but I think they probably have an insidious effect on your attitudes. There’s even some research to prove that watching the show affects your attitude toward severely overweight people.

I’ve also noticed that following a Finnish weight loss show made me feel uncertain about the way work out. Because I don’t usually like to exercise till I nearly pass out, I started feeling somehow inferior. I was only able to shrug off that feeling when a personal trainer remarked somewhere that it’s not the way he trains his clients at all.

I think it’s a better alternative to watching the weight loss shows. You’d be better off if you followed successful weight loss bloggers that have lost a lot of weight and managed to keep it away. Those bloggers usually lose their extra weight over several years (not months) and you get a much more realistic conception of the whole process than from television shows.

One of my favorite bloggers is Lori who blogs at Findingradiance.com (plus you need to see her cat Pixie!), another is Diane Carbonell from Fit to the Finish. 🙂


  1. Marion says:

    Hi Satu! Very good content in this post. I did look at the links. I don’t watch those shows either–for all of the reasons you describe so well in the post and from the links.

    I have lost my weight a pound per week or less at a time. I’d rather keep off a smaller amount of weight than lose and regain a larger amount.

    🙂 Marion

    • Satu says:

      I’m glad you liked the post, Marion! I used a different perspective than I used in my Finnish post.

  2. Aimee says:

    OK I’m guilty of watching in the past. I suppose I’ve always had the fantasy of walking into a room all transformed. However, I’ve lost weight so slowly no one really notices anymore. My transformation has been a healthy and realistic one, but by no means a shocking one. This is fine with me now because I know I’m on a path to healthy living for many years to come. I also know that I am very unlikely to put the weight back on. I agree with everything you wrote Satu. It’s so sad and irresponsible on the media’s part that many of us hang our hopes on being able to emulate the success of the contestants in these shows.

    • Satu says:

      There is something very hypnotic about those programs! I’ve followed a corresponding Finnish show this spring. The shows might be ok if they didn’t portray exercise and weight loss in such an unrealistic way (and treat the contestants like dirt).

  3. MIz says:

    reason 387438 Ive never watched ONE EPISODE.

    • Satu says:

      Well, I don’t think you’ve lost anything, Miz.

      Happiness set point – I used to torture myself with the notion of happiness set point!

  4. I am SO with you Satu. I don’t watch TV AT ALL, never mind shows like the ones you describe. Anything that induces a sense of desperation is usually not going to work long-term!

  5. I can’t watch TBL and similar shows. They make me feel guilty that I’m not pushing myself like that so I feel even worse about myself!


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