I’ve worked with obese people for years. My biggest client weighed almost 650 pounds, so I am sensitive to the plight of people who are morbidly obese. But I just can’t get into the Biggest Loser television show and here is why.
1) I’ve never worked with an obese person and yelled at him or her. In real life, I can’t imagine what this does to a person’s self-esteem that is already fragile. It bothers me to hear and see it.
2) We want people to learn to enjoy exercise so that they can sustain it as a lifestyle. Exercising until you vomit or are injured will not endure people to exercise. In fact, I just wrote a blog on how over exertion can lead to a person hating exercise.
3) It bothers me to see people on a scale, half dressed, waiting to see a number that defines their success. This doesn’t work for me, so I can’t imagine how it would for these people. Part of counseling people with weight problems is helping them understand that they are more than a number on a scale. This show only reinforces the opposite.
4) The journal, Obesity, published a study that concluded that people, especially thin people, who watch The Biggest Loser tend to judge the obese more harshly. You would think that people would be more sympathetic towards the contestants seeing them work hard and connecting to their lives. Researchers think the negativity is because the show leads people to believe that losing weight is completely in the control of the obese. Rebecca Puhl, PhD, director of research at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. told WebMD this, “The real reality is that significant, sustainable weight loss is not achievable for most people.” Rudd was not a part of the study but knows from her research that most people sustain about 10% of their body weight in weight loss.
5) Years later, most of these people regain the weight. Remove the trainers, the diet control and all the support, and weight loss maintenance remains the toughest thing for obese people to do.
So while The Biggest Loser might provide entertainment for many, it’s too bothersome for me.
Source: Domoff, S. Obesity, Jan. 12, 2012.Miller, C. “The Impact of Viewing the Reality TV show ‘The Biggest Loser’ on Attitudes Towards Obese People.” National Obesity Summit, Montreal PQ, April 2011.