My Issues With the Biggest Loser

After chatting with a co-worker about the Biggest Loser today, it reminded me of how concerned I am about this show.  A former Biggest Loser, Jeremy Britt, presented at the  Living Well Grand Rapids event this past weekend.  Although The Biggest Loser may bring about motivation for some people, I don’t watch this show for several reasons.

Safety & Professional Ethics
First of all, the show portrays exercise as something that is excruciating, not enjoyable.  I don’t think I need to say anything more beyond that.  As a professional whose ultimate goal is to improve the quality of others’ lives, my first and foremost concern is the safety of the individual I am working with.  I realize the show needs ratings, but, at whose expense?  I have had limited exposure to the show itself.  I watched it here and there several years ago, but one episode in particular turned me off to the show completely.  I was watching because my nephew said he was going to be in it.  They were visiting his high school because one of the contestants that season was a classmate of his.  I believe it was in the same episode that I remember witnessing them showing an older adult lose consciousness on a bike. That was it for me.  I’m sure the drama was every producers dream come true, but all I could think of was how unethical it was.   From the little bit I watched, there were several professional recommendations and guidelines that were being totally ignored, and I just couldn’t watch it anymore.

Media & The Obesity Epidemic
The issue of obesity in this country is extremely complex.  Many people believe it is simply a matter of people just being lazy and causing the problem themselves.  This is true for some people. But for many, the reasons are much more complicated.  A recent study published by researchers at Bowling Green State University,  illustrated that “anti-fat” attitudes increase after exposure to weight-loss reality television.  Another article published by J.H. Yoo at the University of Missouri-St. Louis titled, “No Clear Winner: Effects of The Biggest Loser on the Stigmatization of Obese Persons.” reinforced these findings.  I worry that this show minimizes the scope of the obesity epidemic, leading people to believe that it can be solved with two easy steps of eating right and exercising.   I certainly believe that these two factors are a part of the solution, however, it underestimates the need for systemic change.  It does not get to the heart of the American culture, which I believe to be the real culprit.  I have discussed this in my The Weight of the Nation and Unnatural Causes artcles.

So, as a professional, where do you stand with this show? I would love to hear if you agree, or disagree, and why.

4 thoughts

  1. I completely agree with what you have written. As a personal trainer I have actually heard people say they will not hire a trainer because they don’t want to be yelled at or pushed to hard like on that show. I feel it also sets unrealistic expectations on achieving weight loss goals. Yes these people have drastic changes but they are also confined away from the world on a diet I am sure is too few in calories and working out A LOT. I dislike how in the show they constant put the peoples trigger foods in front of them and tempt them purposely to fail. Can you imagine the outrage if this was a group of alcoholics and they did the same thing – well with the way tv is going these days maybe people would be entertained, such a shame. I vowed never to watch it again when they sent them on a long run their first day and had to call an ambulance for someone who became unconscious due to the stress to their heart (can’t remember if they had an actual heart attack or not).

  2. Laura, Met you on ACE Fitness’ Facebook page. Good article. I have been talking about this for several years. It’s so imperative that people understand how fitness is not the extreme, painful drudgery that the Biggest Loser portrays it to be. And although the drama makes good entertainment, there is a different reality.

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