Biggest Loser Diet


The Biggest Loser diet is a weight loss and exercise plan based on the NBC television show of the same name. It emphasizes healthy eating and regular exercise.


The Biggest Loser diet was based on the NBC television program The Biggest Loser, which aired from 2004–2016. On the television show, morbidly obese individuals competed to see who could lose the most weight by the end of the season, often losing more than 100 lb. (45 kg) each. The winner received a prize of $250,000.

The Biggest Loser became extremely popular very quickly, with millions of viewers tuning into each episode. Although the show began in the United States, it was syndicated in more than 20 other countries, including India, Germany, and Sweden.

The first Biggest Loser diet book, The Biggest Loser: The Weight Loss Program to Transform Your Body, Health, and Life, was published in 2005. Since then, more than 14 additional Biggest Loser books have been released, including Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start, and a wide variety of cookbooks.

The Biggest Loser diet program was developed by the experts who worked on the television show, along with Michael Dansinger, MD, an obesity specialist from Tufts University; Cheryl Forberg, RD, a chef and registered dietitian; and two trainers from the show, Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels.


The Biggest Loser diet is a twelve-week eating plan and exercise program designed to help individuals lose weight, get in shape, and eat nutritious foods. It combines both food and exercise recommendations, along with motivation, advice, and success stories to help encourage dieters.


Before beginning the Biggest Loser diet, dieters must determine the daily calorie level that is right for them. The diet suggests that individuals multiply their current weight by seven to get the correct number of daily calories. For example, a 200-lb. (91 kg) individual should aim for 1,400 calories per day.

The core of the Biggest Loser food program is the Biggest Loser 4-3-2-1 pyramid. This pyramid represents the amount of food that should be eaten each day: four servings of fruits and vegetables, three servings of lean proteins, two servings of healthy whole grains, and one serving of a treat such as sweets or alcohol.

The Biggest Loser diet provides a variety of recipes and sample menus for different target calorie levels. Aside from this, however, it is up to the dieter to monitor calorie intake. Using suggested rules of thumb for correct portion sizes can be helpful for individuals who do not want to spend time counting every calorie. The diet emphasizes eating smaller meals, containing filling and fresh foods, more frequently to help combat hunger and cravings.


Regular exercise is a core part of the Biggest Loser diet. The diet's message is that good health cannot exist without both a healthy, well-balanced diet and regular aerobic and strength training exercises. The Biggest Loser diet provides both extensive aerobic and strength training routines, and more are available from additional DVDs, books, and various Biggest Loser websites. At the beginning of the diet, 30 minutes of exercise daily is required. This amount is increased to 60 minutes daily after a few weeks. It is important to note that contestants on the Biggest Loser television show performed well with this amount of exercise. The contestants were closely monitored, and the intense levels of exercise on the show were not recommended for the average person.

Cardiovascular diseases—
Conditions that affect the structures or function of the heart.
A waxy, fat-like substance found in all cells in the body. The body generates all the cholesterol it needs to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help digest food. High levels in the blood may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
High blood pressure—
A blood pressure reading of 140/90 or higher.
Irreversible damage to the brain caused by insufficient blood flow to the brain as the result of a blocked artery. Damage can include loss of speech or vision, paralysis, cognitive impairment, and death.
Type 2 diabetes—
Formerly called adult-onset diabetes. In this form of diabetes, the pancreas either does not make enough insulin or cells become insulin resistant and does not use insulin efficiently.


The Biggest Loser diet provides dieters with guidelines for healthy eating that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein. It is a calorie-limited diet, which when combined with the exercises suggested by the plan, helps to produce steady weight loss. The emphasis on eating frequent, small meals full of fresh, wholesome ingredients was designed so that dieters do not feel hungry or deprived, helping them stay on the plan successfully. The Biggest Loser diet can easily be modified to help dieters maintain their weight loss once they have reached their goal weight.


There are a wide variety of benefits to weight loss, regular exercise, and eating a healthy and well-balanced diet. Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and some types of cancer. Eating a diet with a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other high fiber foods can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Getting regular exercise reduces the risk of a range of diseases and can also improve mood, flexibility, and cognitive function.


Before beginning a new diet or exercise program, individuals should always consult a doctor or other medical professional. Beginning an intense exercise regime after a period of inactivity can increase the risk of muscle strains and sprains, stroke, heart attack, and even sudden death. The contestants on The Biggest Loser were closely monitored by medical professionals during the show. Individuals at home should not exercise to the extremes that the contestants did without medical supervision and should not expect weight loss to occur as quickly as it did for contestants participating in the television show.


The risks to following the Biggest Loser diet are relatively low. The recommended food plan is similar to what is generally recommended for good health and is designed to provide a variety of vitamins and minerals each day. Dieters should be sure to eat the recommended number of calories each day for their weight, and not eat less in an attempt to lose weight more quickly. Eating fewer calories than recommended can cause dieters to eliminate vital nutrients and vitamins needed for good health. There are always some risks to exercise, including muscle sprains and strains. To reduce these risks, dieters should be sure to take the time to warm up before and cool down after each workout.

Research and general acceptance

The Biggest Loser diet has not been scientifically studied for its safety or effectiveness. It does provide guidelines for daily eating that are generally considered healthy for most adults. Its emphasis on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins is similar to what is recommended in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's dietary guidelines. Many registered dietitians and other health professionals who have reviewed the diet find it to be a reasonable diet for most healthy adults, although some recommend taking a vitamin or dietary supplement while following the diet.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all adults get 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week, along with strength-training exercises on at least two days weekly. The exercise suggestions of the Biggest Loser diet exceed these recommendations.

See also Bob Greene's diet ; Jillian Michaels diet ; Obesity .



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Forberg, Cheryl, Melissa Roberson, and Lisa Wheeler. The Biggest Loser: 6 Weeks to a Healthier You. Emmaus, PA: Rodale, 2010.

Gandy, Joan, Angela Madden, and Michelle Holdsworth, editors. Oxford Handbook of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.


Klos, Lori A., Christy Greenleaf, Natalie Paly, et al. “Losing Weight on Reality TV: A Content Analysis of the Weight Loss Behaviors and Practices Portrayed on The Biggest Loser” Journal of Health Communication 20, no. 6 (April 19, 2015): 639–46.

Hall, Kevin D. “Diet Versus Exercise in The Biggest Loser Weight Loss Competition.” Obesity 21, no. 5 (May 2013): 957–9.

Neve, Melinda J., Clare E. Collins, and Phillip P. Morgan. “Dropout, Nonusage Attrition, and Pretreatment Predictors of Nonusage Attrition in a Commercial Web-Based Weight Loss Program.” Journal of Medical Internet Research 12, no. 4 (December 14, 2010): e69.


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Mayo Clinic staff. “Weight Loss: Choosing a Diet That's Right for You.” . (accessed April 15, 2018).

U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015–2020. (accessed April 15, 2018).

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Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 120 S. Riverside Plaza, Ste. 2190, Chicago, IL, 60606-6995, (312) 899-0040, (800) 877-1600, .

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, 5001 Campus Dr., HFS-009, College Park, MD, 20740-3835, (888) 723-3366, .

Tish Davidson, AM
Revised by Jeanie Simoncic

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.