Sunday, March 05, 2006

Australian 'Biggest Loser' Accused Of Promoting Poor Diet, 'Humuliating' Obese

"Biggest Loser" Australia contestant Harry Kantzidis at the weigh-in

Well, it didn't take too long for the Australian version of the hit reality TV show "The Biggest Loser" to become controversial.

This Mercury news story is just about the most ridiculous thing I have read in a long time, but I've noticed the health establishment in Australia is even more screwed up than the one we have firmly planted in the United States if you can believe that!

The crux of the criticism of Australia's "Biggest Loser" is the fact that some people think it is actually causing more harm than good since the contestants are being pushed to what they believe are unhealthy limits.

A personal trainer in the story said that most of the contestants on the show "aren't fit enough to cope with that kind of boot camp exercise and give up after a few sessions, hating exercise even more."

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While I have previously blogged about my opinion that "The Biggest Loser" show can create unreasonable weight loss expectations for the people watching at home, I don't think we need to throw the baby out with the bath water inasmuch as the show is STILL providing a lot of encouragement for people to do something about their weight.

Even if they do not choose to lose weight on "The Biggest Loser" diet plan, this show just might give them the gentle push that they need to get up off their butt and lose weight this time. Why is this a bad thing?! We should be celebrating the fact that a show like this is even on the air and getting such high ratings because it means people WANT to hear about people becoming successful at weight loss.

But then you have complete numbskulls like this personal trainer blasting away at Bob Harper for wanting to eliminate fruit from the contestant's diet during the first week, describing it as a "dangerous -- and ridiculous -- message" to send.

"Eating fruit isn't why we are getting more obese. No one sits on the couch and pigs out on eight oranges."

Uh, no, they sure aren't. But what Harper is trying to teach these contestants is discipline about what is good for them to put in their mouths. In my exclusive interview with Bob Harper last Fall, he noted that sugar addiction is a big reason why there is such an obesity problem.

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While we all think fruit is supposed to be somehow virtuous to consume, the fact is it is LOADED with tons of sugar that is just not healthy for you to consume early on in your weight loss phase. Most people who are fat got that way from OVERCONSUMING on sugar which is why you need to eliminate it from your diet when losing weight. Then after you have gotten your weight under control, some of these fruits that you avoided because of the sugar in them can be added back.

I am so proud of Harper for applying a basic principle of livin' la vida low-carb in his experience with these contestants. Getting them to think about the foods they put in their mouth, even the so-called healthy ones like fruit. Despite the moans and groans of this personal trainer in Australia, Harper's recommendations seem to be right on the money.

But wait, there's more. Yet another personal trainer said "The Biggest Loser" Australia version is "alarming" because some of the contestants have worked out so hard they threw up.

"His heart rate would have been way above his fat-burning and aerobic training zone. Is he continuing? Most wouldn't."

Yes, he's continuing because he has a monetary incentive to keep him going. Nevertheless, I think anyone dedicated to making weight loss happen for themselves would continue no matter what happened to them physically.

I experienced that during my 180-pound weight loss experience on the low-carb lifestyle. While the eating was great, the workouts got rather grueling after a few months. While I was on my own pace and was not obligated to push myself like I did, I chose to go at it hard so I could reap the rewards of doing that. But I developed blisters, rashes, and pain like I have never experienced before in my life. I wrote all about how I got through that growing experience to become the dedicated exercise buff I am today in my book.

The bottom line is "The Biggest Loser" is nothing more than a public showcasing of what life is like for a group of overweight and obese people ready to change their lives forever. They CHOSE this path for themselves because they knew it was something they needed. While winning $200,000 would be nice, most would tell you they'd settle for being thin.

Australia's obesity rate mirrors that of the U.S. and is expected to reach 50 percent of their population by the year 2020 according to lawmakers there. Debate is ongoing there just as it is here about how to properly treat it before it gets any further out of hand.

There is one very open and outspoken voice of opposition to "The Biggest Loser" in Australia: Dr. David Bishop.

Dr. Bishop is the president of the Australian Association for Exercise and Sports Science and believes shows like "The Biggest Loser" are dangerous both physically and psychologically to the contestants and home viewers.

"The humiliating dress-downs subjected to by the contestants can have a permanent and adverse effect on the individual's self-confidence," he noted. "We don't need to add to the complexity of self-image dilemmas young people are already experiencing."

Who died and made Dr. Bishop the keeper of all knowledge of what's right in the world?! "Humiliating?" "Adverse effect on the individual's self-confidence?" What in the world is this guy talking about?

These contestants WILLINGLY put themselves in front of those viewers for a chance at fame and fortune. They're not humiliated, but are THRILLED to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Why else are scenes like THIS unfolding in America with people desperately trying to be on "The Biggest Loser" show?

This show is inspiring people and touching them right where they are because weight loss triumph is a feeling like none other. People always ask me to put into words the difference it has made in my life and I just can't ever seem to put my finger on it. It's an incredibly unbelievable feeling like none other I have ever experienced in my entire life and I really do feel like a brand new man from the one I used to be. What's funny is I barely even remember weighing over 400 pounds now! Isn't that weird?

To people like Dr. Bishop, all I have to say is look at the results. Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels are giving these contestants as well as the viewers at home the tools they need to become the weight loss success they want and need to be. It really will be up to those contestants to apply what they have learned and make the necessary lifestyle changes for themselves to keep the weight loss off long after the cameras have stopped rolling.

That is the real challenge. Maintaining that weight loss is the neverending battle for some people and the key is to find something that will work for you from now until the good Lord comes to take you home.

If you feel "The Biggest Loser" has made an impact on your life for the better and/or motivated you to try to lose weight, then e-mail you comments to Dr. David Bishop at He needs to know that lives ARE being changed and nobody is being harmed by this show. Tell him to start supporting efforts to get people healthy and in shape and stop whining about hurting people's feelings. No wonder obesity isn't getting solved in Australia!

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