During the Finale Episode for Season 7 of The Biggest Loser we continued to watch the weight loss and transformations in awe. These contestants, who broke records on set starting with Day 1, lost a combined total of 2763 lbs in 18 weeks! On average, contestants lost 37.2% of their body weight, decreasing their risk of diabetes and heart disease. According to Dr. Huizenga (MD on set), each one of them added years to their lives.
The winner was selected based off of “percentage of body weight lost”. At age 63, Jerry was named the At-Home champion, after losing 47.97% of his body weight (177 lbs) – with only two weeks on the ranch! At age 48, Helen was the Season 7 WINNER, after shedding more than half of her body weight (54.47%, 140 lbs) and showing up at a mere 117 lbs.
I was shocked at that low weight. She looked tired to me and a little weak. But when she got on that scale and threw that number, I could not believe it. I ran to my BMI calculator to crunch the numbers… just as I suspected! Her BMI was only 18.9 — at risk of underweight (as in malnutrition underweight) – anything under 18.5 is underweight. Helen is dangerously close to that category… combined with her apparent weakness and lackluster energy, it looks like she went to unrealistic desperate measures at home to win some cash – a big letdown for me because I love the positive inspirations the show can provide. Turns out she hired three personal trainers, worked out 6 hours a day, ate meticulously and hid from friends until the finale. Yeah, not what I’d call normal by any stretch.
What if the contest was judged differently? What if it was based off of the change in each person’s Body Mass Index (BMI)?
Let’s take a look at some different numbers….
Contestant: Starting BMI* – Ending BMI (classification) = ____
*note that EVERY contestant’s (except Mandi and Estella) starting BMI falls under the category of Extreme/Morbird Obesity (+40).
Helen: 41.2 (Morbid Obesity Range)- 18.9 (Normal – at risk for underweight) = 22.3
Mike: 54.1 (Morbid Obesity Range) – 25.2 (Borderline-Overweight) = 28.9
Tara: 43.4 (Morbid Obesity Range) – 20.5 (Normal) = 22.9
Jerry: 46.1 (Morbid Obesity Range) – 24 (Normal) = 22.1
Kristin: 58.1 (Morbid Obesity Range) – 31.1 (Obesity, Class I Range) = 27
Nicole: 41.5 (Morbid Obesity Range)- 22.5 (Normal) = 19
Ron: 58.2 (Morbid Obesity Range)- 32.3 (Obesity, Class I Range) = 26
Sione: 50.4 (Morbid Obesity Range)- 30.6 (Obesity, Class I Range) = 19.8
Dane: 50.1 (Morbid Obesity Range)- 31.4 (Obesity, Class I Range) = 18.7
Filipe: 50.8 (Morbid Obesity Range) – 31.9 (Obesity, Class I Range) = 18.9
Damien: 53.1 (Morbid Obesity Range) – 34.2 (Obesity, Class I Range) = 18.9
Daniel: 69 (Morbid Obesity Range) – 44.5 (Morbid Obesity Range) = 24.5
Mandi: 38.8 (Obesity Class II Range) – 25.2 (Borderline-Overweightl) = 13.6
Estella: 36.8 (Obesity Class II Range) – 24.2 (Normal) = 12.6
Carla: 57.6 (Morbid Obesity Range)- 38.2 (Obesity, Class II Range) = 19.4
Shanon: 47.1 (Morbid Obesity Range)- 31.8 (Obesity, Class I Range) = 15.3
Cathy: 44.5 (Morbid Obesity Range)- 30.1 (Obesity, Class I Range) = 14.4
Blaine: 40.1 (Morbid Obesity Range)- 27.4 (Overweight) = 12.7
Laura: 42.1 (Morbid Obesity Range) – 29.4 (Overweight) = 12.7
Joelle: 47.7 (Morbid Obesity Range) – 35.2 (Obesity, Class II Range) = 12.4
Aubrey: 41.4 (Morbid Obesity Range) – 32.3 (Obesity, Class I Range) = 9.1
David: 53.3 (Morbid Obesity Range)- 47.5 (Morbid Obesity Range) = 5.8
**Helen’s new weight places her a mere 0.4 points away from being classified as Underweight.
Notice the three biggest changes – Mike, Ron, and Daniel! Followed by Tara, then Helen and Jerry. (Actually, Helen should get last place for getting so close to underweight… that is a polar opposite of unhealthy she was facing 16 weeks ago, but nevertheless it is still unhealthy.)
While using BMI is Not a fool-proof way to decide if someone is normal/overweight/obese, it does provide a representation of weight for height. In many institutions (including most hospitals), it is still used as the standard for weight classifications.
From a Dietitian’s perspective of the top 3 Finalists, Mike and Tara looked much healthier and stronger. According to NBC’s Biggest Loser website (Contestant Bios), this was the amount each finalist lost between leaving the ranch and returning for the Finale only 4 weeks later:
Tara: 20 lbs
Mike: 33 lbs
Helen: 30 lbs
Considering her much smaller frame and stature, Helen’s dramatic loss raises concern. As does her new BMI of 18.9. This is not to deter from her overall weight loss success, just to point out that the other end of the spectrum (not weighing enough) can also be harmful to your health!
In short, weight loss is more than just numbers and percentages. It’s much more than restricting a diet or putting in countless hours in a gym. Achieving a healthy weight through an active lifestyle and a diet full of nutrient-rich foods should be your goal. Keep your body at it’s best; this is a choice you can make every day.
There is no question that The Biggest Loser is a fantasy land. It is their full time job to exercise (6 hours a day) and learn how to eat healthy (calories determined by dietitian Cheryl Forberg). But I think that this shows that moderate reductions in total pounds can have a big impact on your health.
If you are one to get discouraged by the show, maybe this will help you look at it differently. As for Helen, I doubt she can maintain it. I hope people don’t encourge her to. She needs to get back into a normal routine and adjust to the real world. I think she had the chance to be a role model, but I think last night ruined that. The social media scence was abuzz saying she looked like “skeletor” (see:Entertainment Weekly). Hopefully she will let her body find a happy health point so she can enjoy a balanced, healthy life.