I’m probably one of the few people on the planet that doesn’t watch The Biggest Loser. In fact, I’ve never seen the program; except that one night when I watched for about 10 minutes, but that doesn’t count.
There are a couple of reasons why I haven’t seen it. First, I really don’t watch much television. If I decide to watch something, the Food Network always wins. Second, I’m a nutrition therapist/dietitian and a personal trainer. Especially after a long day counseling eating disorder, weight management, and emotional eating clients, I need to flip that switch off. Watching The Biggest Loser at the end of a counseling day is like a judge coming home and tuning in Court TV (or trutv as it’s now known).
But I don’t live under a rock, and I do pride myself on my grasp and unique mental filing system of the pop culture-related information I have stored away (some of which is completely useless but stays firmly entrenched in my brain, regardless).
So, I get what the show is about. I know that there is a very serious personal trainer named Jillian Michaels in charge of the participants’ physical condition. I know (from the commercial snippets I occasionally catch) that people cry on the show. A lot. I know (from reading People magazine at the hair salon) that previous contestants have a strong tendency to regain some (or all) of the weight they’ve lost (People magazine occasionally profiles them). I know the food they’re fed, the exercises they perform, and the entire process of the show is contained, controlled, and managed while the contestant’s real life is put on hold.
I consider myself extremely well-versed in the area of weight loss – I don’t like to use the word “expert” because that means I know everything, and clearly, I don’t. I served as a reviewer for the American Dietetic Association’s position paper on weight management. I attend regular workshops and seminars on weight management and obesity. I read the research. I talk to other weight management experts. I can connect the dots surrounding the emotional component of excess weight or an emotional eating issue – my graduate work in health psychology consistently focused on those topics. I also know that a large majority of people who lose weight DO regain it. While it’s not inevitable, maintaining the loss requires focus, discipline, and yes, work.
All of that being said, I’d like to share what one of my weight loss clients repeatedly tells me. First, a little background. She set out to create her own personal Biggest Loser environment, without putting her life on hold. She juggles an extremely stressful, full-time job and realized that she would need a team. She found me, as well as her personal trainer through a referral from a friend. With her “team” in place, she jumped right in.
She and I are working through the reasons behind her overeating, how the “junk” that she carries from childhood and early adolescent experiences prompts her to use food as a band-aid, soother, or reward instead of fuel, and she’s learning how to manage uncomfortable feelings while regaining the power of choice and intention. She’s lost 10 pounds, and on a regular basis says, “This is what you won’t learn on The Biggest Loser, but THIS is what we need.” She’s well on her way to becoming a biggest loser, and she’s making it happen in real life.