3 Reasons I Hate the Ever Popular “Biggest Loser” Challenges

So here we are are…the last day of January.  By this time, people who set New Year’s Resolutions are either firmly set in their new habits (which I hope is the case) or they have already given up.    I consider myself a very goal oriented person but I’m not one to wait until the new year to set them.  I tend to be continually setting and working towards my goals.  But for a lot of people setting New Year’s Resolutions is a tradition.  One the absolute most popular New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight. Additionally, its super popular to run “Biggest Loser” themed challenges in the workplace or among friends and family.  Basically, each person puts up the designated amount of money and the individual with the greatest weight loss wins the pool of money.

I have a friend whom I work with, let’s call him Tom for the sake of this example.  Tom is a actually a super nice guy but has been struggling with his weight and mindset surrounding weight loss for a while.  A couple of weeks ago he explained to me that he and some of his friends and family are doing a Biggest Loser challenge. And while I’m super excited for him to be getting back on track with his nutrition and fitness, I have to be honest.  I’m not a fan of the method.  Here are three reasons I think these challenges absolutely suck!

  1. Perpetuates unhealthy, unsustainable habits

So here’s the thing.  My friend had been struggling with being consistent with his eating habits and exercise prior to this contest.  However, week 1 of the contest and you know much weight he lost?  A whopping 10 pounds! Yes, you read that correctly…10 pounds.  Now mind you some of that was just water weight, but the fact of the matter is he had huge results.  Now, I am totally and completely against anyone losing 10 pounds in a week.  I don’t consider that healthy at all.  A healthy weight loss rate is anywhere from .5lb-2lbs per week.  I would never advise someone lose more than that.  Of course I asked my friend how he accomplished this and he went on to tell me about food restrictions, sugar restrictions, dramatically lowering calories, etc.  Can we be honest for a minute?  Is putting more restrictions on yourself really the way to create a long-term healthy relationship with food and obtain weight maintenance?  Sorry, but I think not

2. Emphasizes winning money as the motivating factor

I delved a little farther with my friend to try to understand his mindset regarding his success with weight loss this week.  And would you like to guess what his motivating factor was?  Winning the money of course.  But what about when the contest if over and the money is gone?  What was going to keep him on track then?  Tom didn’t have an answer to this question.  He hadn’t thought it through yet.  He was only focusing on losing the weight now and winning the contest.  The problem with this mindset is that if money is what motivates to eat healthier and work out, you will never be able to sustain that over the long haul.  This is one of my biggest issue with these contests and the actual TV show.  The majority of people don’t have long term success.  

3. Sets you up for rebounding and continued yo-yo dieting

So here’s the thing, the more drastic and extreme your weight loss, the more likely you are to rebound.  When you think about it, it makes total sense.  If you go to extreme measures to drop weight quickly, how long can you keep that up?  How long before you give up on your efforts because you can’t keep up with the restrictions you have put on yourself.   The more you restrict, the more you crave these things you “can’t have.”  What usually ends up happening is you finally give into your craving and end up bingeing on a whole carton of ice cream or a family size bag of chips or a whole bag of fun-sized snickers.  It just doesn’t work because it leads to an all or nothing approach.

So now that I’ve told you why I despise these challenges.  What’s a better approach?  Well, I have several thoughts on this.  There’s something to be said about making taking small, consistent action every day to accomplish our goals.  Over time, these consistent actions compound and lead us in the direction of our ideal selves.  If you want to lose weight and get healthier, how about setting a goal to get active for 30 minutes, 2 to 3 days a week to start.  How about cutting out a few hundred calories a day without making it painful.  For instance, instead of having your normal 20 ounce coke with lunch, have water.   It will increase your water intake and eliminate about 250 calories.  Instead of coming home and reaching for the chips, how about replacing that with a protein packed snack that will satisfy your hunger and keep you fuller for longer.  Let’s say make some small, gradual changes and begin losing .5lb per week.  That may seem insignificant but in one year from now, you will have lost 26 pounds.  And it didn’t require any crazy restrictions.  Most importantly, it’s sustainable.  Just remember, the tortoise always beats the hare EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

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