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The truth about The Biggest Loser

The weight-loss show The Biggest Loser still has a large audience. Walk around the gym at 8pm on a Wednesday and you will see it playing on at least a dozen treadmill TV's. People are fascinated by life-changing events. People are also very interested in losing weight.

Boston's Andrea Baptiste, a contestant on the 2004 show, has kept her weight off and now works for Healthworks Fitness Centers for Women. But not all of the stories coming from The Biggest Loser camp are happy ones.

Many in the health and fitness profession have frowned upon the methods used on the show. An article in the NY Times from November '09 highlighted these issues, and some of the awful results that followed.

A few of the glaring problems include dehydration methods, over-taxing already unhealthy hearts and unsustainable rates of weight-loss. Contestants have dehydrated to the point of urinating blood in order to "make weight" for the contest. Others have been carted to the hospital for heat exhaustion. The most consistently misunderstood aspect of the show involves the high expectation for weekly rates of losing weight. Doctors and most fitness professionals agree that a healthy, sustainable rate of weight-loss is 1-2 lbs per week. But contestants on the show are expected to lose a minimum of 5 lbs per week, and often much more than that.

Those who have hit the gym for New Year's resolutions should keep these facts in mind. Do yourself a favor and get a good personal trainer who can set up a reasonable, personalized fitness plan. Spare yourself the high expectations (and risks) you see in an extreme show that is designed for entertainment rather than education.

Think of it this way: in order to achieve and maintain a healthy, desirable weight, you need to change your mindset and daily habits. This cannot be forced on you - even by Jillian Michaels - and in fact works better if it is done gradually over time. Patience and persistence are the name of the game.

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