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The Biggest Loser Starts Tonight And Criticism Begins

The Biggest Loser starts tonight on TEN which means it is that time for the article by an academic saying how damaging it is.

Of course it turned up in the SMH today. Let’s break it down:

I am not the first to criticise The Biggest Loser: Google can introduce you to my fellow travellers. Personal trainers, dieticians, weight-loss doctors, contestants and former employees of the show have critiqued its methods, its motives and its outcomes. And their criticisms suggest deep ethical problems. RR note: In the past I have criticised it myself however after years of watching it my view on it has changed. The people go on this show as a last resort it is not for the person who just wants to lose 10 kilos, the majority of the contestants are entrenched in their obsesity and lifestyle. They are desperate. Former employees she means former host Ajay Rochester who slammed the show once her hosting contract was up. Also former contestants who have put on weight have been critical about the lack of follow up support once the show has finished filming. Clearly the writer managed the avoid on Google the articles from ex-contestants who praised the show for the change in their life.

The simplest is this: the show is likely to harm contestants and unlikely to benefit them. They are rewarded not for improving their health, but for decreasing their weight. Before weigh-ins they reportedly starve themselves, go without fluids and take long saunas to temporarily shed kilos. They are sometimes trained to the point of physical breakdown (“Who can take the pain?”). Medical emergencies are just more drama for the storyline. Most contestants regain their weight after the show because they lost it too quickly, and because the show’s environment is so unlike normal life changes can’t be sustained. RR note: Most of the contestant’s health issues are related to their weight therefore it would be logical if they lose weight it would mean their health will improve. Sure I don’t agree with the strategies undertaken before weigh in, nor when they were saying the contestants had lost weight in one week when in fact weigh ins occurred over a longer period of time. However the statement the show is likely to harm contestants and unlikely to benefit them is a bit hysterical, maybe the author might want read this article in today’s Sunday Telegraph. Winner Sam Rouen appears to have changed is life in a fantastic way and achieved his goal of getting a job as a fire fighter. King Richard has managed to get a younger woman (inject sarcasm) and Lara is now married with a baby. Sure some of the contestants put back on the weight which is is in line with studies that show that the majority of people that lose weight will put it back on within three years.

The show likes to imply it benefits its audience by inspiring them to lose weight. But this is also improbable. Yes, contestants’ stories can be inspiring. But they are harnessed to unrealistic weight loss expectations that, if anything, will undermine people’s real-life efforts. Maybe we all understand that reality television has nothing to do with reality. But frankly, if The Biggest Loser was going to inspire Australia thin it should have worked by now. RR note: The show is nicely timed at the beginning of the year where a lot of peoples resolutions is to lose weight. Does it inspire some people I suspect it does others just watch it for the entertainment of the reality TV show. Also most people who watch the show know that they are not going to lose 5 kilos in a week they are savvier then that. However I am sure Michelle Bridges gets a huge sign up on her 12 week weight loss plan. A person I know did it and it worked for her.

And this leads to the biggest problem, for individual contestants and for us collectively. The Biggest Loser tells us, episode after episode, that heavy people are entirely responsible for their own weight and until they fix it they don’t deserve our respect. Like a lot of reality TV, it is built on antagonism, individualism and ritual humiliation. Trainers scream abuse, contestants strip down for weigh-ins (reinforcing the freak-show vibe), and everyone but The Biggest Loser is, well, a loser. RR’s note: Um for adults your weight is your own responsibility as I shove another french fry in my mouth. Most people start a diet because they are not feeling great about themselves or their body image. 

Yes, our weight is partly a product of our own actions, but it exists in a context: a market and a society. And in the past 50 years, we have built a society in which it’s easier to be fat than thin. RR notes: It would have been interesting if the writer had elaborated on this point. Is it because we are now in less physical labourious jobs, marketing of products, fat acceptance and it is cheaper and easier to buy unhealthy food?

Sure The Biggest Loser is not perfect and uses the smoke and mirrors of a reality TV show including the ritual humiliation of the first episode and the tears and alliances that occur. Each season we also see peoples lives transformed not just for the time they are on the show but for years after. Excess Baggage tried to show “responsible weight loss” but it did not work either as a show or as a diet.

The Biggest Loser on TEN Sunday nights at 6.30pm and 7.00pm on weeknights.

 

5 comments

1 brain dead dave { 01.19.14 at 8:57 am }

Clearly for some contestants ,it’s about the not insubstantial prizemoney on offer,as well. Hence we’ve seen the fatties cheat, sabotage and collude while they’re “doing it for the kids”.

I don’t buy the “last resort” rationale, either.

Sam Rouen might be on a roll, but then the show tends to favour younger males .Whatever happened to Alison Braun, then?

As an aside I saw the svelte runner up from The Bachelor Australia, Rochelle doing an ad for a fat shake last night.

2 Sandii { 01.19.14 at 9:13 am }

I must say that young Lara was my favorite contestant of all time. I am glad that she is now happy with a baby. She was a gorgeous, lovely girl. I wonder what the guy (someone Westren) is doing now. He lost a heap of weight and then turned into a big tosser. His loss, pun intended.

3 brain dead dave { 01.19.14 at 9:56 am }

Leigh Westren. He was always punching above his weight with Lara.

He made some bad choices after the show:

http://www.realityravings.com/?s=westren+biggest+loser

4 Littlepetal { 01.19.14 at 12:23 pm }
5 Littlepetal { 01.19.14 at 12:23 pm }