Weight-loss TV shows are misleading, especially if you want to get genuinely healthy

The TV show Operation Transformation came to a close recently and the ratings figures will probably deem it a success. But I feel that the show sends out the wrong message on what improving your health is all about.

The show never determined whether the ‘team leaders’ lost muscle weight or fat. They were paraded each week to be publicly weighed in and their habits scrutinised.

It makes great TV viewing but the show’s experts never made crucial clarifications in body composition.

It reminds me of that other TV programme, The Biggest Loser. On that show/ weight-loss contest, people drop ridiculous amounts of weight — like 15 or 20lbs in a week, and 150 or 200lbs by the time the show is over.


In Australia’s version of it, contestants were allegedly encouraged to dehydrate themselves to record greater weight losses.

The message, on these ‘health shows’, seems to be that it’s all about weight loss.

Previous studies have shown that even if you lose weight, it doesn’t mean that you are losing crucial fat from around your organs known as visceral fat. This visceral fat is associated with increased risk of heart disease, stroke and other life-threatening diseases.

Experts have warned that rapid weight loss could be life-threatening. Humans burn fat at a rate of about one to two kgs a week, says Jenny O’Dea, an associate professor of health and nutrition education at the University of Sydney. Any more than that and the body is eating its own muscle mass, water, bone density and liver glycogen.

“You are risking heart failure, heart attack and kidney failure,” she says.

Dr O’Dea also criticised a recent episode of Australia’s Biggest Loser where contestants, most still morbidly obese, were made to run 10km in the summer heat. Endocrinologist Diana Schwarzbein has said that the worst method of training for diabetics (which these morbidly obese probably would be) is aerobic training. She recommends weight training as it builds more fat-burning muscle.

Artie Rocke, who starred in the first series of Australia’s Biggest Loser in 2006, said trainers encouraged contestants not to drink water before a weigh-in.


Doctors told Rocke his 40kg weight loss over 12 weeks was to blame for his collapse two days after filming ended. He was rushed to hospital to have his gall bladder removed.

Deborah Waterhouse, in her book Outsmarting the Female Fat Cell, said that when women diet they increase their fat cells while decreasing their fat-burning cells. This is why, after every diet, it becomes harder and harder to lose weight.

The phrase ‘weight loss’ should be rebranded as ‘fat loss’ if you want to get genuinely healthy, and it is a journey, not a TV game. It is about increasing self-awareness, knowledge of nutrition and changing your lifestyle habits.

You need to make health a part of your life. Nobody gains 40kg in 12 weeks so why would you lose it in that period of time? You need to start looking at fat and muscle weight differently. Think about it — if contestants on Operation Transformation or The Biggest Loser gain muscle they get penalised, right?

Penalise someone for gaining muscle? Considering that Tufts University confirmed that muscle is a leading marker for longevity, does that make sense to you?

Contestants who gain muscle should be rewarded, not penalised. It sends out the wrong message.

I totally disapprove of these shows. Instead, the winner should be the person who best transforms their body, not the person who loses the most weight.

If you want to transform your body you must initiate a training, nutrition and lifestyle plan that gives you fat loss that stays lost!

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