This morning on my way home from yoga I walked past the personal training studio I used to train at. They have a new promotion going on right now called, “The Biggest Loser” of all things.
According to the BIG SIGN on the front window with your typical dramatic before-and-after pair of photos, they are starting a 12-week weight loss competition. It’s depressing that this type of competition probably does bring in business for them. After all, from its popularity, I’d venture to say that people are attracted to the whole “Biggest Loser” concept.
Apart from the fat-shaming and abuse that characterizes the Biggest Loser (let’s hope that’s not part of what people who enter this competition will be paying for!), the whole idea of a weight loss competition just makes my skin crawl. Why? Here are a few reasons, not to be taken as an exhaustive list:
1. Hello! Different people lose weight at different rates, so over a 12-week period, the amount of weight various people lose won’t necessarily track effort.
2. Hello again! Weight loss is not the only measure that we should be attending to, people. For one thing, it’s possible to improve fitness without losing weight, even with gaining weight. If your body composition changes, then you may experience no weight loss at all yet be stronger and even leaner. And you don’t even have to change your body composition to benefit from activity.
3. It’s just sad to pit people against one another like this over weight loss. I remember that horror of weigh-ins at that training studio. Despite my many attempts to explain that I didn’t want to focus on weight loss, my trainer (who I liked a lot in other respects) insisted on them. It was demoralizing most of the time and I wasn’t even competing against anyone.
4. There is no way in the world that the woman in the photo made those changes in just 12 weeks, so it’s just plain misleading to use her before-and-after to advertise the 12-week competition.
5. If weight loss is the focus of this competition, you can be sure that diet is going to play at least as important a role as the workouts. They’ll be recommending all sorts of restrictions. Let’s call them “diets.” And the jury’s back on that whole issue: diets don’t work.
6. The focus on weight-loss just sucks the joy out of it all. I’ve spent lots of my life focused on weight loss, gearing my activities and food choices towards that goal. The result: varying success in losing weight (sometimes brilliant, other times not so much, but regardless, the weight eventually crept back). It’s all so instrumental when these things can be pleasurable in themselves.
7. The focus on weight loss can, if not done responsibly, have a damaging affect on your metabolism. Yet metabolic health is more important than the number on the scale.
I am really glad I don’t go to that studio anymore and that my perspective on what counts has evolved (drastically) since those days. But though the idea of entering a competition to see how much weight you can lose might seem motivating and exciting at first, I feel kind of demoralized about the very existence of this sort of thing.
I know, I know. It’s the reality of our time that people want to lose weight, will pay big bucks to do it. But still and all, weight loss competitions are just a bad idea.