I’ve never been a Biggest Loser addict … I get the whole premise of the show and why so many of my friends dig it, but to me, it has always screamed of extreme dieting/restriction, disordered eating (and thinking) and over-exercising. Considering my history, it’s not surprising I’d feel this way. But I know I’m not alone; a lot of other critics have come out and said similar things.
Tonight I happened to flip the channel to NBC and the contestants had apparently gone home for a short time (maybe a weekend? I missed how long). Watching them sitting there with their families at restaurants agonizing over every single calorie and food choice reminded me of my ugly past … and also why I have a problem with the show.
That’s because I’m at a place now where I can love food and enjoy it, without being afraid of it. I know if I want to indulge a little tonight, I’ll need to clean up my diet (literal sense) tomorrow or work out a little harder to balance the equilibrium. But the years of punishing double workouts and agonizing, obsessive thoughts (or ugly actions) are ancient history. There’s just no place in my life for that kind of guilt and I won’t ever let food hold power over me again.
Which is why watching the show was so painful to me. Not triggering, but painful. Painful and sad. Because while intended to change lifestyles, teach portion control and good nutrition, and cultivate a love of fitness … I feel The Biggest Loser also creates unnecessary food obsessions and an unhealthy addiction to exercise … trading one “vice” for another. (The irony is, exercise is good for you … to a point. Anything in excess isn’t healthy).
Watching the woman near-tears because her Mexican dish was doused in cheese made me sad. There was a time in my life I’d send the whole dish back and make a big-to-do, freaking out loud about the extra calories that might cross my lips. Now, I would probably just quietly remove the cheese (if I didn’t want it) and move on or just box half the meal.
[Note: I'm not saying patrons should never send things back or take control of their health/be their best advocate; I still food journal and order dressing on the side and try to make meals healthy as possible when dining out ... But there's inherent risk in eating outside the home -- something I accept. I'm also years ahead of where these contestants are, and so while I "get" their freak-outs ... it just made me sad to see them go through so much distress just to eat a single meal.]
Food isn’t the enemy; contrary to what they are picking up on the show … and my hope is that each of them will get to the place when food is enjoyment; fun; a part of life but not ALL of life. I just don’t see how — under the premise of the show — they can. I’d be interested to hear a psychologist’s take on the show. (Anyone, anyone!?)
And if I am being totally honest, I guess the real reason it hit me so hard was because I saw glimpses of my past self in these contestants and know now what my family and friends must have felt like, going out to eat with me … it couldn’t have been fun for anyone. I can’t take back the past, but will do everything in my power to never go down that path again.
While it’s great these contestants are learning how to live healthier lives, I hope that they can do it without becoming disordered eaters, because all the signs and symptoms are there.
How about you? Do you find The Biggest Loser motivational or discouraging? Do you think it creates an unhealthy obsession with food and fitness?