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Hi all!

So this will be a rant about that TV show that I’m guessing MANY of us on here (including me!!) used to watch: The Biggest Loser. After going through VSG and learning so much about how weight loss works and how a healthy body disposes of fat and heals itself after years of obesity, I feel the need to chime in here.

While the premise of the show was noble and dare I say even inspiring (to have a cohort of morbidly obese people with inspiring life stories and paths that led them to obesity take an allegedly doctor supervised and approved weight loss journey for the world to see), the execution was exploitative, embarrassing for the contestants involved, toxic to their body image, and most importantly, the competition aspect was rooted in MEDICALLY UNSOUND principles.

Let me just quickly run through my accusations-

Exploitative: Many contestants had extremely painful stories that ultimately led them to being Obese. The show runners and even the “trusted” trainers frequently used those stories to “motivate” (publically humiliate) contestants into working out harder, eating less, and losing more weight each week. My major problem with this is that not only does it exploit these people’s painful experiences for views and money, it promotes an association between not eating/extreme exercise and “getting over” past pain. As many of our doctors on here have drilled into us, WEIGHT LOSS IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELLING. And transfer of addiction is definitely a thing when it comes to weight loss, and that could easily transition one into an exercise addiction or even an eating disorder.

Embarrassing: Trainers treated their clients on the show like whiny children. Screaming, yelling, calling them names and accusing them of being lazy and useless. Obese people are not children. Obese people are not all obese because we are lazy. Obese people are mothers and fathers, hardworking employees, people with numerous responsibilities, etc. Just because running is harder for someone that weighs 300lbs than it is for 100lb Jillian Michaels, doesn’t mean that she is any better a person, or worth more than the obese person she is training.

Body Image: This one is simple— contestants were forced to strip down to their skivvies each week for weigh in, showcasing their bodies to millions of viewers. In a few seasons, contestants were reduced to tears before the first weigh in at the thought of having to remove their shirts. Actual medical professionals who specialize in weight loss and WLS often tell patients to not even step on the scale or look too hard in the mirror for weeks, even months after starting their journey, for fear that stagnant numbers or lack of perceived physical results will discourage and depress them. Being forced each week to confront your body and the amount of weight you have lost in front of millions creates an unhealthy, adversarial relationship with one’s body, which is the opposite goal of actual medical professionals.

And finally, Medically Unsound: Everyone on this website knows about the concept of a “stall” or more accurately, a plateau. We all know that the graph of long term weight loss looks more like a staircase than a downward slope. A healthy plateau can be for dozens of reasons, including muscle growth, more efficient liver function, an adjustment in your body’s metabolism, redistribution of fat, and so so many other perfectly normal, healthy things. These plateaus can last for days, weeks, even over a month in some cases, and that is perfectly normal. The Biggest Loser’s largest fault is that they demonized that natural process of plateauing. They instructed their contestants that every single week, they should see the scale drop, and if it didn’t, or they lost less than a pound or oh God forbid GAINED a pound?? Oh no, they had failed that week, and would likely be sent home and punished for this absolutely normal and NECESARRY part of weight loss. In fact, I worry more about those contestants that never plateaued, whose highlight reels at the end of the season had nothing but jumping for joy and over 2+ pounds lost every week, as those contestants likely lost more muscle mass and retained more fat than that contestant sent home in week 4 in the middle of a plateau, who continued her journey at home and healthily lost weight slowly. Also: where is the mention of the need to maintain healthy macros, Vitamin levels, heart healthy fats— all of their “doctor’s visits” were basically just “your heart isn’t healthy enough for this competition” or “congrats you don’t have diabetes anymore” or “here’s what the fat you were eating before looks like in sticks of lard,” there were never actual depictions of realistic medical issues associated with major weight loss.

I definitely didn’t hit on everything, so please let me know what you guys think. Do you agree, disagree, have more to add, and why? I’d love to hear what other people’s experiences with this show are.

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Amen! I agree! It was just another horrible reality show that took advantage of people who were really looking (and really in need) of help! I've read a couple articles on past participants, many who have gained some or all of their weight back. While I realize it can happen to me if I am not diligent I don't know that the show gave these contestants long term support to maintain the losses. I mean, seriously, how many people can go back to their daily lives and work out the amount of hours they did?

Also, did you notice how after a few seasons they added personal conflicts amongst the participants. Obviously the show was worried the weight loss component wouldn't hold people's attention so they made you root for some and hate others by creating drama between the contestants. Sure there were probably true conflicts but I bet a lot of it was done in the editing room.

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I understand the rant. I'm not a fan of this show either.

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Agreed.
I only liked the instant gratification I found from watching the last episode so I know, self reflectively, how problematic it was for me to continue to watch. And the double entendre of the name is enough.


[emoji738]

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I won't watch it. It's disgusting and exploitative, making millions off the suffering of obese people and actually making them more unhealthy, miserable and metabolically resistant in the process. Shameful.

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It’s like a lot of TV these days. Total rubbish, manufactured drama, cheap to produce and appeals to the masses. I hate it, I wish the networks would go back to producing good quality dramas

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I refused to watch it, I felt it was degrading to contestants and not something that was realistic to keep up long term. I have read that most have gained their weight back and more.

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I don't watch that show or anything like it, humiliating people, even in the guise of "it's for their own good", is just wrong! I can't EVEN with Jillian Michaels!

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Posted (edited)

I never watched it because I just felt bad for them, but I know Jillian Michaels left the show because she thought that those people losing that much weight in such a short period of time (without WLS) was very unhealthy and obviously one of the reasons for their rebound weight gain. She spoke out against the show later on.

Edited by mousecat88

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Having never seen the show, now that I've read your analysis, I'm glad I never saw it.

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I have not watched this show in YEARS but it is important to remember that these contestants volunteer and compete for a spot on the show and the chance for the rewards. They know (or should know) exactly what they are getting into but I honestly think all the drama that occurred was created and encouraged by the show. That said, it all seemed way too contrived and fake to me...

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