Being “Overweight” is better for your Health

I love talk shows and watch just about any of em’! Last night I caught the Joy Behar show on HLN.  She and her guest panelists talked about if being “fit” and “a little over weight” is more healthy than those trying to be too “thin” or those who are obese (that’s obvious).

Here is a short clip with guest panelists Jackie Warner (personal trainer on the show “Workout”) Dr. Ian Smith (Celebrity Fit Club), and the hot doctor from the show “The Doctors” (side note: I wish my doctor looked like that! ow ow!)

Jackie Warner

Dr. Ian Smith

Dr. Travis

**What do you think? **

Do you think it’s true that being 10-15lbs overweight is healthier than being thin?

**Note: I assume being “overweight” is based on the BMI scale, so your body weight in relation to your height.

You can calculate your BMI here

I personally think it is true, that being 10-15 lbs over weight is more healthy than being too “thin”.

I define being too thin as being at a weight that it is inappropriate for your body.  If it you have to be too rigid with your diet and restrict your intake to maintain a certain weight, than your probably not at the right weight for your body and may in fact be “too thin”.

I wish they showed the beginning of the segment because they also discussed how unhealthy the show the “Biggest Loser” is in terms of their extreme and drastic measures to lose the most amount of weight in such a short period of time. I did find this article though, that discusses this:

Long-Term Weight Loss?

What The Biggest Loser hasn’t been so successful at showing us is how to maintain this weight loss in the long run.

A recent article in The New York Times discussed the difficulties of maintaining long-term weight loss: Dieting alone is rarely successful, moderate exercise isn’t enough and willpower has nothing to do with weight loss.

“Scientists recently have come to understand that the brain exerts astonishing control over body composition and how much individuals eat. There are physiological mechanisms that keep us from losing weight,” said Dr. Matthew W. Gilman, the director of the obesity prevention program at Harvard Medical School/Pilgrim Health Care.

“Scientists now believe that each individual has a genetically determined weight range spanning perhaps 30 pounds.”

This isn’t to say that lasting weight loss is impossible. But The Biggest Loser glosses over the idea of “long-term.” Instead, the show promotes the idea that shedding a substantial amount of weight rapidly makes for a healthy lifestyle.

So is The Biggest Loser shelling out fantasy and false hope?

Blogger “Weetabix” at Elastic Waste refers to the show as “a carefully contrived fiction” and “an experiment in social conditioning.” She writes:

“If you give people enough money and put them into team environments, you can get them to do anything, even things that are painful and potentially harmful to their metabolisms. You can scream at them and walk on their legs and they will do it, even when you make them cry 14 times a day, they will do it. And you can trot out past winners and say, ‘Look, it works. See? It totally works.’”

Does The Biggest Loser work? We see the contestants lose a lot of weight and seemingly adopt healthier habits. Real, right?

Well, that depends. Take the final weigh-in. Though many contestants probably take the healthy approach, some go to great lengths to achieve impressive numbers on the scale.

Season 1 winner Ryan Benson discussed the drastic measures he took on this Myspace blog:

“I wanted to win so bad that the last ten days before the final weigh-in I didn’t eat one piece of solid food! If you’ve heard of “The Master Cleanse” that’s what I did. Its basically drinking lemonade made with water, fresh squeezed lemon juice, pure maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. The rules of the show said we couldn’t use any weight-loss drugs, well I didn’t take any drugs, I just starved myself! Twenty-four hours before the final weigh-in I stopped putting ANYTHING in my body, liquid or solid, then I started using some old high school wrestling tricks. I wore a rubber suit while jogging on the treadmill, and then spent a lot of time in the steam room. In the final 24 hours I probably dropped 10-13 lbs in just pure water weight. By the time of the final weigh-in I was peeing blood.”

Season 3 contestant Kai Hibbard also blogged about the risky measures she took for the finale. The New York Times reports:

“She recently wrote on a blog that in the two weeks before the finale she severely dehydrated herself using asparagus (a diuretic), colonics and six-hour stretches of hopping in and out of a sauna. She lost 19 pounds, which as she joked, rebounded to her rear end almost immediately.’”

According to Time, the show has strict rules against these kinds of tactics and even tests the contestants:

“The show tries to prevent unhealthy behavior by making contestants keep food journals (to make sure they’re not starving themselves) and threatening penalties if tests show they are too dehydrated (although an executive producer says no violations have been uncovered yet).”

That’s interesting because you’d think Benson and Hibbard’s dangerous strategies would’ve shown up on some test, especially one that evaluates dehydration.

If it isn’t crash diets and plain starvation before the finale weigh-in, then it’s intensive exercise afterward. For instance, to maintain her weight loss, season 1 contestant Kelly Minner works out one to four hours a day, six days a week.

An Unhealthy Approach

Not surprisingly, many experts believe The Biggest Loser approaches weight loss in an unhealthy way. Here are some quotes from various weight-loss and nutrition experts:

  • Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, director of nutrition for WebMD Health and the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic, writes: “The Biggest Loser competition might indeed result in big losses, but it defies all the professional wisdom about safe and effective weight loss. That’s because the contestants are not addressing lifestyle behaviors and eating habits that they need to change permanently, not just during a nine-week race. This approach is similar to a fad diet, and we all know about them: You can lose weight on just about any diet, but when it’s over you gain the weight right back — unless you’ve changed your behaviors.”
  • According to the New York Times : “Most medical professionals say dieters should lose weight slowly. Not only are they more likely to keep it off that way, but shedding more than 10 pounds weekly, as some contestants routinely do, is dangerous. ‘Whether it’s gallbladder disease, hair falling out, skin getting dry,’ said Karen Kovach, the chief scientific officer at Weight Watchers, ‘the more rapid the weight loss, the greater the risk.’ She added: ‘You get above a kilogram a week, the risk really shoots up.’”The article also states “a responsible viewer who wanted to engage in a weight-loss blitz under medical supervision would be hard-pressed to find a doctor willing to sign on. ‘What would I advise someone who wants to engage in a program associated with increased risks of gallstones, cardiac arrhythmias and electrolyte abnormalities, and that has been shown to be less likely to lead to long-term success in maintenance of a reduced body weight than losing weight more slowly?’ asks Dr. Michael Rosenbaum, a doctor at Columbia University who has spent over 20 years studying the physiology of weight loss. ‘I would advise them not to do it.’”

Myriad Myths

Aside from the harm the show brings its own contestants when they engage in drastic measures, The Biggest Loser can also shape viewers’ ideas about weight loss, perpetuating harmful myths and leading viewers to compare their results to the contestants’. In essence, The Biggest Loser shows that:

  • Rapid weight-loss works
  • If you aren’t dropping double-digits each week, you’re somehow failing
  • The number on the scale is first and foremost
  • Eating well means depriving yourself (this resembles the crash diet mentality, something that isn’t realistic for your entire life)
  • Willpower is the answer to weight loss

For many, The Biggest Loser serves as incredible inspiration to lead a healthier lifestyle, but as with anything on TV, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. Instant weight loss doesn’t equal lifetime health. As “Weetabix” of the Elastic Waist explains: “…in reality, it’s about what you can do, how you can move, and being the best version of yourself that you can be.”


**What do you think of the Biggest Loser? While the show is entertaining, I do not agree with their methods of training and dieting nor do I agree with the message they are sending.

**Do you watch this show? I have only watched the show a few times.

**If you have ever dieted before and maintained your weight loss, what was key to your success?

I have only dieted one time  and I can tell you that success has little to do with will power.  I had all the will power in the world…but I was on a rigid diet that as soon as I was off of it, I rebounded.

I personally think they key to a successful and sustainable weight loss is really committing to a lifestyle change.  You can not just diet for 12 weeks and then go back to your old habits after the diet is over.

It really is a lifestyle, so it’s important to start habits and change personal behaviors that will stick with you for life.  So if you decide to cut out all carbs for 12 weeks to lose 30lbs, don’t expect to be able to eat all the carbs you want after the 12 weeks is over.  It does not work like that.  That’s why fad diets fail.

15 responses to “Being “Overweight” is better for your Health

  1. I loved this post today 🙂
    I do watch the Biggest Loser (b/c I love Jillian Michaels & find it entertaining) but I have never agreed with their training methods. It gives people the impression that with two workouts a day they can lose a TON of weight, like on the show. I read how the contestants actually workout like 10 hours a DAY!! (yes- insane!) in order to lose all of the weight. Mind you, it’s not like running 10 hours a day, but any form of exercise. And they aren’t having to deal with REAL life situations when they are on there- like having a job, lack of time, etc. So I do not think it gives people watching the show who want to lose weight the right impression.
    As for dieting…well, you know that story 😉 it didn’t work out too well for me…it was actually scary. I agree- I think it’s all about lifestyle- eating right (& occassional treats are TOTALLY OK!!), and exercising 🙂
    Thanks for a great blog Lindsey 🙂

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  3. I think it is healthier to be overweight by 10-15 pounds than a) being underweight , or b) be miserable trying to maintain some ideal.
    I watch BL here or there….i am a “channel – flicker”!

  4. The Biggest Loser should emphasize how the contestants’ quality of life improves from the good eating habits and more frequent exercise. It is about having a balance of healthy eating and exercise, not about rigid dieting and over exercising, which is what many people have to do to maintain a very thin body. So I agree, being a little “overweight” is so much better that wearing your body out by overtraining and undereating. Awesome post.

  5. I HATE that show! Seriously with a passion. I do NOT think it teaches good values. I agree that losing weight needs to be a decision that takes dedication and commitment but I think this show is completely UNREALISTIC and forces normal people to make harmful decisions to their body. I also knew someone who worked on the show (they quit after a few seasons) and after hearing the “behind the scene” stories I will NEVER SUPPORT that show. It breeds eating disorders and does not go about losing weight in a healthy, normal, sustainable and realistic way! Okay rant over…sorry!

  6. I just found your blog, and I think it’s great!
    This post makes a great point- I watch the show for the entertainment but I think the message it sends is unhealthy. I never understood how they can judge the contestants by weight alone- doesn’t working out build muscle, which weighs more than fat? Plus, there are always a couple of contestants who, by the middle of the show, barely even seem overweight, yet they are still working out at a crazy intensity and dieting. Add that to the maintenance problems you mentioned, and it seems very problematic!

  7. It is a reality TV show and what they are doing is truly impossible to replicate at home. I enjoy watching it for seeing how the mentality of contestants changes. I don’t believe that people just become overweight / obese. There are always some serious reasons behind it all. And seeing how those people are starting to discover them / face them / challenge them is why I am watching this show. I agree that it sometimes sends dangerous messages and can give a lot of people some unrealistic expectations.

  8. This post is great and really shows all of the issues I am having with the Biggest Loser. I do still think the show helps people who would otherwise not get help to make any changes, but the show could definitely go about it in a better manner. And show more about how to make these changes work for life.

    • And oh! I definitely agree that being 10-15 lbs overweight is better than being too thin. I know I’m healthier now at a larger size than I was on my competition day. No doubt about that. So heavier can definitely be healthier.

  9. Great post, Linds…

    I watch the show strictly for entertainment value. I am/was very loyal to my (former) trainer and dietitian. What they prescribed for me worked for me–BUT-I had to make lifestyle changes, as you stated. My point–no matter what I watch on the show, it will not influence what I do in my personal life. However, those of us who workout consistently and eat healthy are the minority…I can see where the show gives the wrong message-about rapid weight loss, unrealistic time spent on exercise, and double-digit losses.

    I am also not swayed by the experts who voice their opinions (some facts) on the show, because like I said–it’s a show, I watch for entertainment when I do watch, and I am not easily swayed. These experts are not on the ranch to see what really happens–they’re just spewing stuff out.

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. We don’t know what exactly these people are learning at the ranch–but when people want to win a contest, they will do what they want to do, regardless of what they have learned.

    Anywho…great post 🙂

  10. AWESOME post! I love research-y things.

    Totally agree about The Biggest Loser. As if Americans aren’t confused enough about dieting – geez!

    Linking to this!

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  12. I watch biggest loser, mostly because I love Jillian Michaels. And it is great to see the contestants who really do change their lives. It seems like they do make some effort to teach the contestants how to manage in the real world. I’ve seen challenges that have to do with going back to everyday life. I do agree with you though that a lot of what goes on seems unhealthy and a bit unrealistic. It does send the message that rapid huge weight loss is not only okay, but good.

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