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What I Hate about The Biggest Loser

by on May 05, 2016

In the wake of the recent Biggest Loser study, which was just misinterpreted by the New York Times, I wanted to share this Facebook post I wrote in 2012:

Let’s just start with the name, The Biggest Loser. I suppose the creators thought the name was cute because it has multiple meanings. One meaning is the crowning of the person who loses the most weight. BUT the other meaning is that the person is the biggest loser, as in a loser in life because they are overweight.

The whole approach of the show has an undertone that suggests that the contestants are fat, lazy and deserve their place in life. We are constantly bombarded by images of skin and bones trainers screaming at these poor people in an extremely paternalistic manner, and setting up a subconscious recognition of the skinnier person as superior to the overweight subordinates.

And if that is not enough, they are then forced to stand on a scale, their ultimate nemesis, throughout their entire lives, and sit in judgment before these skinny parent figures, and the whole country. To make matters worse they have to stand up before America nearly naked. I am sure the producers are thinking that the more disgusting and shocking this experience the better the ratings.

The sad thing about The Biggest Loser is they have a fantastic opportunity to actually educate America. Instead they continuously reinforce many erroneous stereotypes. They suggest that obesity is the person’s fault and that they have chosen this path in life.

In fact, the scientific data is very clear that there is a genetic component to obesity. A Dutch study looking at twins separated at birth and growing up in separate environments had very high correlation in weight. If one was obese, regardless of upbringing, the other twin would also be obese.

Weight turned out to be one of the most inherited genes we have. Overweight people have stronger hunger cravings and slower metabolism and that is just the cards they were dealt.

It is unfair for Bob or Gillian to look at these people and say you should just be like me.

Secondly, they put people through ridiculous exercise programs.

I will tell you right now, if a program is that brutal there is no way anybody will stay on that program long term. It basically just becomes torture.

I will also tell you that very strenuous exercise actually increases cortisol which in turn can be counterproductive to weight loss. Studies show just walking daily and enjoying outdoor activities is more effective.

Of course, that doesn’t make good TV.

Finally, the producers offer very little to no dietary advice. When they do, it is wrong, such as eat more protein. Most of the time it is just heavily advertising driven recommendations. For instance, I was watching an episode where Bob was going to teach the contestants how to eliminate snack cravings. His ground breaking idea, chew Wrigley’s gum!

The Biggest Loser perpetuates hurtful stereotypes and proposes inappropriate solutions that will leave people feeling like failures. I really hate this show.



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