Most Popular Weight Loss Shows

The granddaddy of weight loss shows is easily The Biggest Loser. However, several other popular shows have aired during the past few decades. They include Extreme Weight Loss, which shares the experiences of obese participants who have an in-house trainer for three months. These TV shows are popular because they feature ultra-fast weight loss.

woman sitting holding the temples of her head

The global weight-loss industry is now worth over $70 billion (2018). It’s not surprising since nearly 30% of the world’s population is now overweight or obese. That’s resulted in a wide range of diet programs including Weight Watchers, Atkins, and Keto. You can also buy products like supplements, books, and apps. So, it’s not surprising how many weight loss shows have aired in the 2010s. That includes The Biggest Loser, which is easily the most well-known show. It’s already aired nearly 250 episodes and will get a reboot next year. These reality shows have different formats like one person’s weight-loss journey or contests to lose the most weight.

The granddaddy of weight loss shows is easily The Biggest Loser. However, several other popular shows have aired during the past few decades. They include Extreme Weight Loss, which shares the experiences of obese participants who have an in-house trainer for three months. These TV shows are popular because they feature ultra-fast weight loss. It’s worth noting though that some health/fitness experts oppose the approach of rapid weight loss. For example, dropping pounds quickly can cause possible issues like muscle loss. However, there’s no question that some of the weight-loss TV shows have become very popular.

The Biggest Loser

The most famous and popular weight loss-focused TV show is easily The Biggest Loser. It’s aired for 17 seasons between 2004 and 2016. This year it was announced that in 2020 the popular show will get a reboot on the USA Network.

The competition reality show features overweight/obese people who compete to win a cash prize by losing the highest percentage of their original body weight. The Biggest Loser was one of the Top 50 TV shows in the US from 2004-2005 and then again from 2009-2011.

This show has also been popular worldwide. It’s resulted in 30+ international versions and some of them are still aired on TV.

In all fairness, the show has also received some criticism. That’s mostly due to the way the contestants achieve rapid weight loss. There have also been claims that contestants have been dehydrated, overworked, or asked to take weight loss pills.

In fact, while the show has become ultra-popular, many health experts have argued the competitive reality show has made entertainment more of a priority over health.

Kai Hibbard who won Season 3 has publicly criticized the show even though she faced legal action from NBC.

She’s made various claims about the show. They include doing workouts while injured and dehydration before weigh-ins. Hibbard also claims that competing on the show caused her to form an eating disorder. 

TBL’s Season 3 winner also claims that the contestants were told to ignore advice from the show’s dietician. The contestants were allegedly told to only listen to their trainers.

Probably the biggest revelation Hibbard made was trainers reportedly told the contestants not to take an electrolyte solution provided by doctors. The trainers reportedly told the contestants not to take the solution.

The bottom line is The Biggest Loser was very popular yet also controversial.

Other Popular Weight Loss Shows

My Diet Is Better Than Yours

This reality show aired for one season in 2016. The format involved five contestants. They picked a trainer and the kind of diet they thought would be best suited for them. Then during the elimination process, the contestants ditch their trainers if they don’t get the results they wanted.

Extreme Weight Loss

This weight-loss TV show that aired on ABC for five seasons from 2011 to 2015.  The show’s format was different from The Biggest Loser. That’s because it showed volunteers getting guidance from trainers Chris and Heidi Powell. In a sense, the show was a spin-off of the show Extreme Makeover.

Extreme Weight Loss was like The Biggest Loser in that it focused on extreme weight loss. The volunteers lost huge amounts of weight for one year. The trainers also reportedly lived with the volunteers for three months.

Extreme Weight Loss racked up 7+ million viewers during Season 1.

Fit to Fat to Fit

This show is based on the idea that super-fit trainers can’t fully understand obese patients. That’s because they’ve never been in their shoes.

This weight loss show has an interesting twist. That’s because the trainers have to gain lots of weight for 4 months. Then they start losing weight with the new client.

It’s interesting to see how the trainers’ bodies and brains change when they gain weight. Things like their energy levels and self-esteem plummet as they start gaining weight.

For example, even their food choices change significantly. For example, they see how easy it is to eat junk food/fast food and can easily become addicted to them.

As the trainers lose weight with their clients it’s easier for them to understand the experience of obese/overweight people. This benefits both the trainers and clients since the trainers have experienced what their customers have gone through.

Risks of Rapid Weight Loss

Risks of rapid weight loss

This is one of the main criticisms of weight-loss TV shows. Here are some of the possible risks involved:

Weight Loss Pills

The “problem” with these pills is they often contain strong/dangerous chemicals. In 2009 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported it had found 70+ over the counter (OTC) weight loss products that might be unhealthy.

In fact, some of the products even included ingredients in prescription drugs. That included a drug that the US hasn’t even approved. These drugs could cause side-effects that include strokes, heart attacks, and seizures.


This is an ingredient found in popular diet bills. However, in 2004 the US FDA banned the substance after it discovered it increased a person’s risk of heart attacks and strokes. The problem is some products with ephedra could still be sold on the black market.

In fact, many diet pill ingredients still haven’t been tested by the FDA. So, it’s unknown whether or not they’re safe. It’s wise to avoid products with ingredients that have question marks. You also might want to stay on the safe side and avoid all diet pills.


Several conditions are linked to fast weight loss including:

  1. Malnutrition
  2. Electrolyte imbalance
  3. Dehydration
  4. Fatigue
  5. Headaches
  6. Constipation
  7. Gallbladder stones
  8. Dizziness
  9. Muscle loss

This doesn’t mean you’ll experience all of these side-effects if you lose weight quickly. However, they’re possible side-effects due in part because of the body being shocked during the process.

Health/fitness experts often point out that people should lose weight as they gained it. They didn’t become overweight/obese quickly so they shouldn’t lose weight quickly. When you use extreme measures, it can cause health conditions and sometimes even serious ones. 

It’s important to contact your doctor ASAP if you experience such symptoms during a weight loss program. You can then get medical help like contestants on weight loss shows.

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