Monday, May 02, 2016

The Lasting Damage of The Biggest Loser (Part I)

I've written a great deal about The Biggest Loser over the years - none of it good. Today you're bound to read a lot of headlines about The Biggest Loser and its dramatic, devastating, and likely permanent damage to contestants' metabolisms (more on that from the author of the recent study in a few days), but that's not what I'm writing about today. Today I want to talk to you about a different sort of lasting Biggest Loser damage, and to illustrate, the story of Ali Vincent.

Vincent is The Biggest Loser's first female "winner". Back in Season 5 she lost 110lbs, and now they're back, and so is Vincent - she's been on a media tear and she's joined Weight Watchers in a bid to again lose weight.

Now Vincent regaining really isn't that much of a story. If your weight loss methods are not only a misery, but a misery that trashes your metabolism, go figure there's a good chance you'll regain. The story here is that apparently The Biggest Loser's brainwashing is so great that "once burned, twice shy" doesn't seem to apply.

And I'm not talking here about putting herself out there. While I do think it opens a person up to incredible scrutiny to lose weight publicly, that's clearly a personal choice, it's likely motivating while it's happening, and I've little doubt that in Vincent's case, it'll directly or indirectly earn her some modicum of further fame and or fortune. But where Vincent doesn't seem shy is to be once again adopting The Biggest Loser's competitive suffering to lose narrative.

Vincent has joined up with a website called DietBet, whereby she's leading online challenges that have people put up cash as part of a weight loss pledge that in turn allows them to win it back if they lose 4% of their weight in 4 weeks.

4% in 4 weeks is certainly doable. For a woman Vincent's age, height, and weight, it would probably require her to consume in the neighbourhood of a tightly controlled 1,000-1,200 calories daily. What's not doable though is living an enjoyable and normal life on 1,000 calories, and by the contest's very nature, no doubt the competition and prize money will inspire people to adopt non-sustainable approaches.

Pretty sure Vincent has some experience with what happens in the long run when you undertake a non-sustainable approach.

The Biggest Loser's philosophy embodies the very worst of modern day weight loss efforts. It teaches viewers that suffering is crucial, that you're a failure if you don't want to suffer forever, and that scales measure health and happiness. And sadly it would seem, while weight lost by way of The Biggest Loser doesn't seem to last, those toxic lessons do.

[Thanks to Nutrition Wonk for letting me know about Vincent's competitions on DietBet]