What can the TV Show “The Biggest Loser” Teach us about Change

TV Show-“The Biggest Loser”


“The Biggest Loser” is an American reality TV show.  The show features overweight contestants who compete with each other to lose the most weight (as a percentage of their original body weight). The participants work with fitness trainers who coach them in exercise and nutrition, in order to lose the maximum weight possible during the 3 months time period.  Contestants lose upwards of 10 pounds per week. The winner takes home a prize kitty that is upwards of $100,000.


Weight Loss of 120 pounds in 3 Months!


In 2004, Ryan Benson was one of the contestants with a starting weight of 330 pounds.  At the end of the season, Ryan weighed 208 pounds and had lost a staggering 122 pounds.  He won the contest by losing 37% of his body weight in about 3 month’s time.  To say this was an impressive accomplishment would be an understatement!  Most of us are inspired by such stories of massive change in such a short time.


In the United States, it is estimated that that two-thirds of the adult population is either overweight or obese. It may not be a surprise that “The Biggest Loser” is quite popular.  The show is now in its 18th season and has a viewership of more than 7 million.  Over the years it has spawned similar shows around the world.  In the United States alone, the weight loss industry is estimated to be more than $20 billion a year.


Weight Gain from 208 pounds to 345 pounds!


After the show was over, Ryan Benson went home and was unable to maintain the weight loss.  He kept gaining weight until at one point he weighed 345 pounds – 15 pounds more than what he weighed entering the “The Biggest Loser” contest!  According to Ryan’s own admission, ” I inadvertently returned to my old bad habits and did not realize how much his bad habits would affect me.”  Several other contestants have reported regaining most or all of their weight back upon returning home.


What can “The Biggest Loser” Teach us about Change


Besides the health risks of such rapid weight loss, here are a couple of points that Ryan’s story from “The Biggest Loser” can teach us about change -\

  1. Any change that happens in an external environment and does not include things that you can do on a daily basis – in other words, your daily routine and habits – is often unsustainable. When you return to your “natural environment” you will revert you your old habits.
  2. Any change that happens rapidly often does not allow the brain to form habits that can be sustained. Without sustainable new habits, old habits would creep in.


The Myth of “Overnight Success”


The popularity of TV shows like “The Biggest Loser” tells us a lot about our human nature.  We want to believe in the myth of “overnight success”.   This human tendency sends people searching for the latest fad in diet or exercise that would help them lose weight fast.  Or the latest “program” that will make them a millionaire, or help them quit smoking, or any other version of becoming an overnight success!


Rather than trying to make rapid changes, we should instead make small changes that fit our daily routine.


What do you think?  Share your thoughts in the comments section.


Please read my articles on small vs. big changes and how to form habits.







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I am a coach, consultant, and a trainer. I sincerely believe that people have a lot more potential than their current life conditions reflect, and with the right coaching and tools, we all can grow and transform our lives beyond our own beliefs. My hobbies include reading, writing, traveling, and connecting with people from all walks of life.

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