For a few years now I’ve been a pretty faithful Biggest Loser fan, but something always nagged at me about the show. While I admired the transformations these people were making in their lives, the method seemed a bit extreme. And watching their lives and bodies on display was uncomfortable at times.
But I let it go, because it was a game and it wasn’t hurting anyone. Plus, they were getting healthy! And motivating the country!
I’m not so sure anymore.
A debate has been going on since the recent finale, when 105 pound, 24-year-old Rachel Frederickson won the game with an incredible 60% loss of her starting body weight. Was she too thin? Did the show contribute to her developing an eating disorder? Will she gain some back now that she’s won the show and doesn’t need to maintain such a low weight anymore?
When I saw her walk out during the finale, my heart dropped a little bit. Her face looked gaunt. Her legs were stick thin. She just didn’t look healthy to me. Thinner, yes. Healthy, not to my eye.
But was it fair of me and everyone else to start forming these opinions about her new body? Plus, who are we to speculate about her health? It’s her body after all, not mine. And I don’t want people focusing on my body and health, so shouldn’t I extend the same courtesy to her? Well, yeah, except I didn’t go on a nationally televised weight loss show. She did. And discussion about the results needs to happen. Because people are watching these transformations as an example of how they should eat, exercise, and live. And I’m not sure the example of a woman who ate so little and exercised so much that she ended up underweight is one that needs to be broadcast to the world, at least not in a positive way.
Suddenly those nagging feelings about the show weren’t something I could ignore anymore, and I made the choice to stop watching. Here are the reasons The Biggest Loser will no longer find its way onto my TV lineup.
1. I don’t want to be entertained by other people’s mental and emotional issues. Many of the contestants come to the show with some serious baggage, which becomes a part of the “entertainment.” They go out of their way to expose these raw emotions, focus the camera on them, and wait for the waterworks. And we sit at home captivated by someone else’s pain. I don’t think it’s okay.
2. The weight loss depicted on the show isn’t realistic for the average person. The contestants are sequestered and their entire focus is weight loss. They don’t have jobs to go to, family to take care of, or even errands to run. Everything is taken care of for them so they can focus on the game. We’re expected to be motivated by huge weekly weight losses that we will never be able to achieve. And suddenly, even though we worked our butt’s off for it, the half a pound we lose in a week doesn’t seem to quite measure up. Isn’t this show supposed to be motivating? Yeah, it’s not.
3. At the end of the day, The Biggest Loser is a game. Both for the contestants and the producers. While they talk a good talk about the health aspects, ultimately it’s about that $250,000 prize and the millions in profits the show brings in. While I’m sure many of the contestants are happy to be there to lose weight, undergoing daily humiliation, and what seems like verbal abuse, has to take a toll. Suddenly it doesn’t seem at all like it’s about health and fitness, but more about using the stigma surrounding weight in this country in order to turn a profit. And we tune in very week to be reminded that fat is bad and thin is good. Thin is so good in fact, we’ll pay you to do dangerous things to get there. It’s sick.
I know there will be people who don’t agree with me, and that’s fine. I’d really like to open it up to you and find out how you feel about the show, especially after this recent finale. Did it change your mind about the show? Do you think what the contestants go through is worth it?
Let’s talk about it.