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Lessons from The Biggest Loser

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The Biggest Loser winner Emma Duncan photo from

Yes I admit it. I was hooked on this series of Channel 1o’s The Biggest Loser.

I never watched the show in the past and couldn’t understand the attraction. But the children, particularly my tween Chloe, relish a dose of ‘reality’ tv before bed, and so we greedily lapped up TBL once Masterchef had finished.

We cried out in horror when the contestants were first introduced at their starting weights. We felt nauseous and faintly superior as we saw the food consumed on a daily basis, like buckets of ice-cream for breakfast.

Over 12 weeks we saw four families shed massive amounts of weight – the 2011 winner Emma Duncan shed 46% of her body weight. Several other contestants also lost over 40% of their body weight.

But I can’t help but feel a little cheated by what Channel 10 served up with the show.

Firstly, the question of diet. Yes, we knew the contestants were changing their diets. But apart from occasional questions about nutrition during competitions, I struggle to remember any episodes where we saw the trainers handing out nutritional advice.

We certainly saw lots of wonderful footage of the trainers egging on their charges with calls like “It’s time to man up Leigh”, or vintage Commando telling the Moon girls to “Suck it in”.

It seemed the contestants were exercising around six or more hours a day, most if not all, days of the week. But even those of us with basic weight loss knowledge know you need both diet and exercise to lose weight.

Or did contestants survive on a diet of TBL endorsed products such as the meal replacement supplements advertised during the show? Which I have additional concerns about –  where is the nutritional value in replacing a meal of say, lean fish and leafy vegetables, with a chocolate milkshake?

Sourced from

My other main question was, what about injuries?

I cannot believe that 12 morbidly obese people who suddenly commenced exercising several hours a day, did not suffer any injuries. But again, there seemed to be little mention of injuries apart from when Sharlene hurt her back slipping on the yacht.

Still I did learn things from all my hours glued to the TV. I learnt how important it is to change mentally in order to be able to change physically.

And I learnt alcohol is B-A-D when you are trying to live healthily. Or rather, this fact I regularly try to ignore, was reinforced on the show.

So I did my own research and have uncovered some other interesting lessons you might not have learnt from TBL.

  1. My gym recommends  “Keep your body lean and fit by exercising 3‐4 times a week”.
  2.  Michelle Bridges says “It’s best to do both strength training and cardio for health, weight loss and weight management”.
  3. You should make wise decisions about calorie intake. For the same number of calories in a Magnum ice-cream, you can have three glasses of red wine. Which as we all know, is good for the heart.*

Cheers to that,


* I am not in any way shape or form a health professional, and I do not mean to imply you should consume vast amounts of alcohol. Because even a non-professional knows vast amounts of alcohol are B-A-D. Here’s just one article if you need reminding.


2 responses »

  1. Danielle Bendall

    I agree with your comments about the TBL products Ali. I’ve only watched 2 TBL episodes in my life, but was horrified to see the TBL frozen meals advertised. Having experience working in the frozen meals industry, I know they are pretty much lacking in any nutritional value, even if they are low in fat. But this just serves to remind us of the world we live in. Most of these TV shows are a barely concealed ad for something and product placement is now a virtual industry. Give me freshly cooked vegies any day. Oh, and on your topic of alcohol…did you hear the reports this week about the link between alcohol and cancer?

    • Yes I heard about the reports Dani, in fact the Cancer Council have been running a scary ad campaign on the subject. But then I also noticed there are some claims (being lead by the winemaking industry I believe) that the Cancer Council’s statements are misleading. So once again – the science does not seem settled! But as a minimum I think we can agree that too much alcohol is never good for your health for many reasons.


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