As many of us resolve to drop holiday weight, one of my favorite reality shows, The Biggest Loser, begins. As a long time fan of the show, I can say that over the years the challenges have gotten more difficult and the contestants have become more overweight. Being somewhat of a fitness fanatic myself, I watch in awe every week as the contestants drop upwards of 10 and 20 pounds from week to week. According to the Mayo Clinic, realistically most people should expect to lose only 1 to 2 pounds a week. This begs the question: Are the contestants on The Biggest Loser reaching their weight loss goals in a healthy way?

A recent article in the NY Times asks this very question. According to the article, the show’s contestants exercise up to six hours a day and restrict their caloric intake. Despite the fact that viewers of the show have witnessed contestants get hospitalized and suffer from stress fractures, people still come to their doctors seeking clearance to engage in similar routines. Doctors quoted in the Times article say that they advise their patients against such strenuous exercise regimes, warning that such rapid weight loss can cause “many medical problems, including a weakening of the heart muscle, irregular heartbeat and dangerous reductions in potassium and electrolytes.” Dr. Burant, a medical school professor at the University of Michigan went on to say, “I’m waiting on the first person to have a heart attack.” Former contestants have also admitted to engaging in dangerous activities like starvation and dehydration prior to weigh-ins. The winner of season one of The Biggest Loser admitted that “he dropped some of the weight by fasting and dehydrating himself to the point that he was urinating blood.”

The legally inclined may then ask, “who will be the first to sue The Biggest Loser?” Prior to taping, contestants are required–of course–to sign a lengthy release that states: “no warranty, representation or guarantee has been made as to the qualifications or credentials of the medical professionals who examine me or perform any procedures on me in connection with my participation in the series, or their ability to diagnose medical conditions that may affect my fitness to participate in the series.” Additionally, the release asks contestants to certify that they believe themselves to be “in excellent physical, emotional, psychological and mental health” even though they may weigh more than 400 pounds. Contestants who wish to sue may try to argue that the release is unenforceable. Additionally, according to a lawyer-blogger, “potential plaintiffs may have a claim if they can show gross negligence. Normally, this is a high bar, but if the medical community is so concerned about The Biggest Loser, there could be more than a fat chance of a future lawsuit.”

Megan Bibb

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2 Responses to Biggest Losers Putting Themselves in Big Danger?

  1. Anonymous says:

    “somewhat of a fitness fanatic”