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Can shows like The Biggest Loser provide healthy motivation?

The question: I am curious about your take on The Biggest Loser controversy last month. Everyone was saying the winner lost too much weight. There was so much backlash against her. I tend to like the show and find it motivating, but the whole thing made me second guess my opinion.

The answer: Adopting a healthier lifestyle can feel overwhelming and frustrating. I am in favour of anything that makes the process easier. If watching a show like The Biggest Loser motivates you, watch away!

That said, personally, weight-loss shows irritate rather than motivate me.

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I dislike the judgmental, aesthetic-based health discourse that permeates much of the fitness industry, including shows like The Biggest Loser.

Too often magazines, TV shows and health professionals fixate on extreme self-discipline and the necessity of reaching a pre-determined weight. Within this mentality, "health" becomes synonymous with thinness and body perfection.

Since this discourse is so omnipresent, I feel the contestants on these reality shows can never truly win. If a contestant loses weight, the media will simply criticize them if they gain the weight back. If a contestant doesn't lose weight, they are usually deemed lazy. I hate that judging people's bodies is thought of as okay. It isn't.

The controversy around the most recent winner of The Biggest Loser - Rachel Fredrickson - was especially frustrating. It was just plain hypocritical. The same magazines that regularly claim to teach readers how to "lose weight quickly" wrote articles damning Fredrickson's dramatic weight loss. Don't get me wrong, I don't think the amount of weight she lost was ideal, but I also don't think those who trumpet quick fix "health" solutions have the right to be critical.

I believe adopting a healthier lifestyle should make people feel empowered, energetic and strong, not judged and insecure.

Instead of relying on miracle diets and weight loss tricks, we all need to take the time to change our health habits, in part by addressing our emotional relationship to food and our bodies. Adopting a healthier lifestyle is not just about changing what we eat. It is about learning both why we eat and why we have developed current health habits.

Instead of wasting time judging other people, we all need to use that energy to reflect on our own health choices.

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Trainer's Tip: Remember my favourite "Kathleenism": "Adopting a healthier lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint." Don't rely on quick fixes, simply aim to have more healthy habits this month than you did last month.

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is

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