"Biggest Loser" weight loss questioned

Former contestants, some experts suggest it promotes unsafe weight loss

More than 40 former contestants from “The Biggest Loser” are getting together for a reunion special, but one important person won’t be there: Ryan C. Benson, who lost 122 of his 330-pound starting weight, and went on to win the program’s first season, the New York Times reports. Now weighing in at over 300 pounds, Benson says he was shunned by the show because he admitted he lost some weight by fasting, even dehydrating himself until he urinated blood. “The Biggest Loser” is now in its eighth season, and is one of NBC’s most watched shows. But doctors, nutritionists and physiologists who don’t work on the show have expressed doubt about its regimen of strict diet and up to six hours a day of exercise, in which contestants sometimes lose over 15 pounds per week. (Experts recommend losing two pounds per week for healthy weight loss.) Season 3 contestant Kai Hibbard, who lost 118 pounds, has written on her blog that she and other contestants would drink as little water as possible before weigh-in. After the show ended, she added 31 pounds in two weeks, she says, mostly just by drinking water. The winners of the first four seasons have each added back at least 20 per cent of their weight since the show ended. On the first episode of this season, two contestants were sent to hospital, yet new contestants are entering the show even more out of shape than the ones before. “I’m waiting for the first person to have a heart attack,” Dr. Charles Burant, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, told the newspaper, calling the show “exploitative.” But Dr. Rob Huizenga, the medical consultant to “The Biggest Loser” and an associate clinical professor of medicine at UCLA, said it’s safe. “This is not only a major amount of weight loss, it is a totally different kind of weight loss compared with surgery or starvation diets,” he said. Yet, when talking about the recent one-mile race that sent two contestants to hospital, Huizenga admitted that “if we had it to do over, we wouldn’t do it.”

New York Times

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