The Biggest Loser Diet- Does it Work?

One of the popular reality shows on TV, “The Biggest Loser” is on its 8th season now, and the popularity of it seems to keep growing. If you haven’t seen it, several overweight people live together and compete to see who can lose the most weight in a certain length of time.

The show has gone international and a new diet has come out of it, equipped with specific diet plans and it’s own nutritional products.

No question, there have been some unbelievable and inspirational stories on the show over the years, and a lot of just plain successful weight loss goals being met.

Is this diet and exercise prescription the way to go? Could there be other factors at play here?

At, we have discussed the notion of exercise being far too much the focus of many people looking to get to their perfect weight. One certainly can lose weight on an exercise-focused program, but it is very difficult to make significant body fat losses, and more importantly, to keep them off by following the caloric theory of weight loss.

In an environment like The Biggest Loser, one thing that must be considered when looking at the effectiveness of the plan they are using is the competitiveness of the situation. Just like in using the caloric theory of weight loss, competition on the show to win will certainly lead to candidates using will power during their time on the show in the attempt to win. (for example, when I saw Season 2 Biggest Loser winner Matt Hoover give a talk about his experience, he said that his last 15-20 pounds were lost in the days leading up to the final weighing in, using techniques he learned in his wrestling days, where most of it was water weight that he gained right back within 48 hours of the show ending).

Let’s look at the basics of the Biggest Loser diet and fitness plan:

The book includes one-week sample meal plans for 1,200-, 1,500- and 1,800-calorie diets, along with some recipes. 45% of the total calories come from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 25% from fat.

The 4-3-2-1 Biggest Loser Pyramid sets the stage for number of servings from each of the food groups:

  • 4 servings of fruits and vegetables
  • 3 servings of protein — lean, vegetarian, or low-fat dairy
  • 2 servings of whole grains
  • 1 extra of fats, oils, sweets, alcohol, or your choice, equivalent to 200 calories

This diet is not bad. But, there are problems that will get in the way of someone looking for permanent weight loss and maintaining ideal weight:

1. They are including “fats” with alcohol and sweets! As we have shown in our podcast and book, eating dietary fat is an important aspect to achieving a fit body.

2. It is a restrictive diet where you are supposed to count calories. This goes against our plan and will not likely work long term for people who have not done either sentence stems (such as our 7-day plan in the Healthy Mind Fit Body Book), counseling, or at minimum, a two-week plan of getting rid of any carbohydrate addictions (also in the book). The problem here is the reliance on will power, not an effective strategy in achieving permanent weight loss.

3. The book also says:

“Dieters should choose whole grains that are less refined and have at least 2 grams of fiber per serving of bread or 5 grams of fiber per serving of cereal, with no more than 5 grams of sugar. Protein choices include lean meat or fish, vegetarian protein, or low-fat dairy. Your calorie level determines portion sizes and your protein options.
Still hungry? You can eat more than four servings a day of fruits and vegetables.”

This advice, while reasonable, is going to be difficult for most people to follow. The reason? More calorie counting! It is a great idea to cut back sugars and processed foods, and add in more protein from meat and fish. However, instead of encouraging extra servings of vegetables and fruits, a better way to burn fat would be to add more olive oil to your veggies or slap some almond butter on your apples!

Although the Biggest Loser Diet and meal plan people talk a lot about avoiding the word “diet”, what they are recommending is a low-calorie, highly restrictive diet. Just like in other diets we have reviewed here, there are some solid nuggets of advice that are good to follow, but overall, they are offering a very difficult path to achieving your perfect body.

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