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What The Biggest Loser Gets Wrong

Prioritizing our time for maximal health benefits

Dr Padma Garvey/Plant-Based Doctor Mom

What The Biggest Loser Gets Wrong

When The Biggest Loser first aired, I was intrigued.  I liked the general premise but was disappointed by the show’s emphasis on exercise over diet.  Episode after episode, I watched the contestants sweat it out for hours on end in the gym.  There were only brief segments of the show focused on diet, and unfortunately, the show propagated the erroneous “protein-centered” approach to diet.  As many follow up news articles have discussed, almost all the people on the Biggest Loser end up gaining all the weight back.   Most said that they simply couldn’t spend the same number of hours at the gym out in the real world.

It came as a big surprise to me when I heard that one of the fitness coaches from Biggest Loser suffered a heart attack last year at a young age.  He exercised a tremendous amount because that was his job. But he ate a diet rich in eggs, fish, and other animal protein.  Now he does commercials for the latest, greatest cholesterol-lowering drug.  Despite what we are led to believe by the fitness industry, exercise does not remove cholesterol plaques from your carotid arteries.  DIET DOES!  Despite what pharmaceutical companies tell us, cholesterol lowering drugs are not a guarantee of heart health.  They are 30-50% effective in preventing your first or second heart attack.  If I gave you a birth control pill that was 30-50% effective, you would ask “what’s the point?” .  Below is a link to an article in Science Daily discussing cholesterol lowering drugs.

If I were going to design the show, The Biggest Loser, I would make it fit around an average person’s day.  Most of us do not have 8 hours to spend at the gym.  Most of us struggle to get one hour a day of exercise.  Any weight loss program centered around hours and hours of physical activity is not sustainable unless you are a fitness trainer.  Moreover, one pound of fat has 3500 calories.  If you run 5 miles a day, you will burn about 700-1000 calories, depending on your pace.  So if you ran 5 miles a day for a week, you will lose one pound of fat at the end of that week.  If you gave up just one tablespoon of fat from your daily diet, like the amount in your salad dressing, you will lose one pound in a month.   If you cut out dairy, especially cheese, you would lose more.  If you picked plant proteins over animal proteins, you would cut out even more fat.  Looking at it this way, you can see how dietary changes are more sustainable and have a more profound effect on weight loss than exercise. 

I believe in physical activity.  Staying physically fit is good for our minds and bodies.  Getting out into the fresh air and sunshine makes us feel good.  Walking, hiking, yoga, running, tennis etc are all good.  We should make any and all efforts to incorporate more physical activity into our lives.  But the most important thing is diet.  We have so little time in our busy lives nowadays.  Your time, energy, and money are better spent on making as much of your food at home and eating a low oil, whole grain, plant-based diet.  After a nice, healthy dinner with your family, go out for a long walk.

Science Direct article


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