From The New York Times‘ article on The Biggest Loser today:
Doctors, nutritionists and physiologists not affiliated with “The Biggest Loser” express doubt about the program’s regimen of severe caloric restriction and up to six hours a day of strenuous exercise, which cause contestants to sometimes lose more than 15 pounds a week.
At least one other contestant has confessed to using dangerous weight-loss techniques, including self-induced dehydration. On the first episode of the current season, two contestants were sent to the hospital, one by airlift after collapsing from heat stroke during a one-mile race.
I don’t watch the show, so the fact that contestants ended up in hospital was news to me. I was pleased to see the Times got into a bit more detail on specific risks, stating that:
Rapid weight loss can cause many medical problems, including a weakening of the heart muscle, irregular heartbeat and dangerous reductions in potassium and electrolytes.
The Times also quotes the waiver contestants have to sign to be on the show, including that they believe themselves to be “in excellent physical, emotional, psychological and mental health.” If they really believe that, why do I hear the show showcases whining about “getting my life back” and “hating how I used to be”? Hello?
I also thought this was hysterical:
Getting contestants to talk openly about the environment of the program is difficult. Shortly after a reporter started contacting former contestants to interview them about their experiences, a talent producer on the series sent an e-mail message to many former contestants reminding them that “serious consequences” could ensue if they ever talked to a reporter without the show’s permission.
To do so could subject them to a fine of $100,000 or $1 million, depending on the timing of the interview, according to the e-mail message, which was obtained by The New York Times. The show’s producers did provide an opportunity to interview several former contestants, but the interviews were conducted with an NBC publicist listening in.
Way to come off as if NBC, the producers and medical advisor have something to hide!
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