Not Down With The Biggest Loser

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?

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7 thoughts on “Not Down With The Biggest Loser

  1. I’m a fan. Sadly, I admit it. Now, I will say that I agree on some of your points, but I also see where it’s a double-edged sword. For TV, and to make this show successful, they have to push these people extremely hard to have a substantial weight loss in such a short time period. I can see where that’s entirely unrealistic for the population at large. But, I can see where it’s improved (and saved?) some of the contestants’ lives in the past. Many of them have kept up good habits and some of gained a few pounds back (their healthy weight) but continue to stay active and motivate others. I guess, in my book, that’s the upside of the hoopla. Reality TV is always questionable/debatable but I do see some of the benefits of this show.

    All that said, I get where you’re coming from and sometimes I’m the jerk no one wants to eat around.

  2. I totally see what you mean about it being reality TV … I just have trouble separating that fact from what it does to the psyche … I do think there are plenty of positive outcomes from the show (including sustainable losses and behavior modification) but it still nags at me how it can warp their thinking. And you are NOT a jerk!

  3. I watch the show. I don’t think it necessarily aims to come across badly, but to me it does. It isn’t healthy for someone to lose 10 pounds in a week, consistently every week. Yet this is what the contestants are being taught to do. They cry if they only lose 3 pounds. I would be thrilled to lose 3 pounds in a week. On Weight Watchers we are taught to lose 1-2 in a week. So, I worry about their long term health with this. On the other hand, the show does open the conversation about getting healthy, especially this season with the focus being on children. It’s a double edged sword I guess.

    1. I couldn’t agree more; the losses are sensationalistic and not at all realistic. While it’s good it inspires people to move and eat well, it’s not OK … Def. a double-edged sword.

  4. I think it can be motivational, showing with a good coach and a good plan you can lose weight. It gives you, it they can do it I can do it. I think it can help people to get started.

    As for the large losses of weight, it is probably easier for them to loss a lot because they are so heavy to begin with.

    1. That is true–those with more to lose might find it more realistic but I still think there is some truth to how over-trained these people are … I def. see how it can be motivating … but I also think it can be dangerous depending on who is watching.

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