I have been a fan of the show The Biggest Loser for some time now. Although I disagree with much of it, I still tune in. I become invested in the contestants story and their struggle. The transformation these people make, both physically and emotionally, is astounding. It can be inspiring. However, it is achieved in some unrealistic ways. I continue to watch, with this understanding in mind.
There Is A Reason
One area I think the show does fairly well is focusing on the reasons many people are overweight. Much of the time the reason is not overeating itself… overeating or bad eating habits become the reaction or a symptom of a bigger issue. If this causes people to work on ‘their issues’ while they are losing weight, their habits and outlook can change for good. There are Biggest Losers from early on that struggle post-ranch and are unable to keep the weight off, possibly because they are ill equipped to deal with (or even recognize) issues and and went back to life as usual. I did not watch the first few seasons, but imagine the focus back then was much more on weight loss. (I could be wrong – but I have seen the evolution of the approach the trainers and doctors take – over time they have been addressing more than weight).
Drama and Product, or Pay No Attention To What’s Behind The Curtain
What is this show all about? It is essentially a reality program with drama created from trainers yelling and people falling down. Outside of the “trainer tip” on the way to and from commercial breaks, and the cooking lessons and segments that sometimes are commercials themselves, the home audience does not get much information to follow along. We never see a daily meal plan (purposefully?), nor do they broadcast that the contestants work out for MANY hours in a day. Working out 6 to 8 hours each day is not a reality for most people, nor will it be the reality when the contestants return home to “real life”. Outlining a realistic meal plan would go a long way in home viewers getting something out of the show. It can’t be a mistake we do not see much beyond their bodybugg monitors and mentions of calorie ratios to lose daily pounds. 800 calories is not enough for a day, especially to sustain a full day of workouts.
You hear of contestants “finally making it” on the show… what they see as the only thing to help them. Prior years have been spent sitting on the couch, watching the show and eating chips and ice cream, but now they are here and shall be saved! We have seen contestants (and this season’s opener, hopefuls) who collapse from overworking their systems – last season one contestant was hospitalized for at least a week after attempting to run the mile the first day. This cannot be a positive message, and most likely serves as an excuse for many to NOT work out.
The Big Winner
If you are lucky, savvy and game-playing enough to “win” The Biggest Loser, you win a quarter of a million dollars. Along the way there are many incentives, cash and otherwise, that can lure some contestants away from the real goal, getting healthy. Someone takes the attractive lure, a “lesson” at their expense follows.
I disagree with many ideas the show promotes:
losing only five pounds in a week is bad,
exercise is ineffective if it is not painful, doesn’t make you physically sick or pass out.
exercising with injury is okay,
you can lose 100+ pounds in a 12 week period.