Celebrity fitness trainer Harley Pasternak is not a fan of reality TV weight-loss shows because they glorify short-term weight loss over long-term lifestyle changes.
While extreme weight-loss shows such as "The Biggest Loser" and "Extreme Weight Loss" make for good TV, Pasternak says they're sending the wrong message that ultimately won't help contestants or viewers maintain their weight loss in real life.
"The boot-camp atmosphere of these shows teaches us how to lose weight quickly, not how to keep it off," Pasternak blogged on People Oct. 2. "Weight management involves making a long-term commitment, as well as implementing changes to our everyday lives."
Pasternak, whose clients include Megan Fox, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Jessica Simpson, admits he finds TV weight-loss programs entertaining, but says participants lose weight unhealthily, by following starvation diets and working out nonstop — a surefire recipe for rebound weight gain.
"Most of these shows involve a 'boot camp' or 'retreat' atmosphere where contestants leave their lives and jobs and families behind to immerse themselves in 24/7 weight-loss conditioning," he said. "Their meals are prescribed and monitored. When they're not sleeping, they're working out.
"Now I ask you: How in any way does this help us lose weight in real life? Most of the people I know can barely manage to carve out 20 minutes, much less 10 hours. This time commitment to exercise makes for great entertainment but, I think, ultimately conveys a warped sense of reality."
Harley also noted that 85% to 90% of contestants regain all their weight after leaving the show because they never learned how to maintain their weight loss in real-life conditions. [The same thing happens on other TV shows such as "Survivor," which aren't weight loss-focused.]
One notable example is Erik Chopin, winner of season three of "The Biggest Loser." In 2006, Chopin won "The Biggest Loser" after shedding 214 pounds in eight months on the hit reality-TV competition. Chopin, who once weighed 407 pounds, then regained most of the weight shortly after the media frenzy died off.
The former deli employee later confessed that maintaining the weight loss was more difficult than losing it in the first place because he hadn't conquered his longtime emotional-overeating issues. Chopin, 43, admitted he also felt lost and purposeless once he was on his own.
"I came from such a high of winning, then the reality sets in of not being on the show and not being accountable," he said. "Then I went into the real world and it all started up again."
The best way to lose weight and maintain it is through lifestyle changes, says Pasternak, and not through short-term fixes such as drastic low-calorie diets and long, rigorous daily workouts that are ultimately unsustainable.
"I realize that 'The Biggest Loser: The Lifespan Challenge' wouldn't be compelling TV, but it would make for the better lesson," he said. "We need to be patient with ourselves and learn how to make little sustainable changes in our lives, which, in turn, will make the long-term difference."