I have watched The Biggest Loser since its inception. There are a lot of things about the show that I haven’t liked since the start, but I always liked it enough to keep watching. At the beginning of the last two seasons I said I wasn’t going to watch but I did anyway. I actually wasn’t sure I would ever totally stop watching. Until last night. Nothing (not even when Dane completely cheated and said he “ran” the marathon last year) has turned me off more from watching than what I saw last night. And it was the straw that broke my back.
Over the last few seasons, I have been growing steadily frustrated with their gimmicks and the way in which they humiliate their contestants, but last night…when they made them stand in front of all their friends and family for the first weigh-in, that did it for me. As if it isn’t difficult enough for them to see their weight (for some, it was the first time in years) they had to be publicly humiliated? To me, that is just wrong. Sure, everyone will see them on TV weigh in week to week, but at least then the contestants aren’t directly in front of them. To do it publicly…it is just not okay. And then…even worse, to get all of those people there, challenge them and then send the bottom four home right away. Get their hopes up and send them home before they even had a chance to begin. Seems me to the ones who came in last need it the most. And they call this inspirational? I call it heartless. Cold even. Not at all inspirational, actually. Sure, they told them later they would be brought back in 30 days but WHY??? Why even do that at all?? Like I said, gimmicks.
A few other things I have noted that bother me about the show:
- Rapid and extreme weight loss- And by rapid, I mean much too rapid. This is dangerous. End of story. Oh, and extreme dieting doesn’t work. Just ask Ryan Benson, winner of season one who admitted on his blog that he “starved himself” and by the night of the final weigh-in he “was peeing blood.” You can read even more here. And if this is what people are admitting imagine what they aren’t saying.
- Contestants are over-trained- Last night, on the very first night contestants had to bike 26.2 miles. Last year, on the first day they had to run a full mile. Prior to last year, the first challenge (which they didn’t even have the first couple of seasons) was always something like climbing or running up a hill for a prize. People typically train for this kind of workout. But not on the Biggest Loser. And even worse, they make it a competition. So let’s have these obese people who never exercise, compete to run a mile. Or bike 26. Or climb a mountain. Sooner or later they will have them participating in a triathlon on the first day. In addition to the welcome workout, the first few weeks are brutal. The contestants get thrown right in, doing workouts that no one in their right mind would consider beginner. Simply said, it is too much, too soon.
- Nothing like the real world- The Biggest Loser does not focus on real-life weight loss strategies or encourage realistic expectations. In other words, there is no relevance between the show and the real world. For starters, these contestants are brought to a family-free, work-free, fast food-free environment. They have complete access to gyms, refrigerators packed with low-fat and low-calorie food, personal trainers and group support. Oh, and something else, the biggie- something not one of us at home has…a chance to win a quarter million dollars. In short, the contestants are not given at-home, real world strategies for long-term weight loss. In an article here, winner of season three, Bill Germankos says he was “hungry all the time” and gained weight when he went back home because “all his demands were waiting for him.” Again, this is just what they tell us…think about what we don’t hear!
- There is so much yelling- Bob and Jillian maintain that they use the “hardcore trainer attitude” to motivate their contestants. I would agree that this was the case at least through the first few seasons. But then something changed…they got caught up in the hype. Now their idea of motivating the contestants is screaming in their faces and yelling “F-you.” That is not my idea of motivation. In fact, I would characterize it more along the lines of verbal abuse. I have had hardcore trainers and tough coaches in the past…and I want to be pushed hard, but I don’t want to be disrespected. You can be tough without being an asshole and over the last few seasons both trainers have become almost unbearable to watch.
The one lesson that is missing from The Biggest Loser is the lesson people need to learn the most: being thin does not equal being healthy. Being healthy means being smart about fitness, nutrition and overall health. In my opinion, The Biggest Loser does not play smart. They just play. The Biggest Loser has become laced with so many flaws, that they simply outweigh the good that it could offer. This show should be strictly about weight loss and changing people’s lives, not money and game-playing. The truth is, I really think this show could have been successful even without the prize money. But I guess that wouldn’t make for good TV, huh? I see this show now for what it really is…pure entertainment, where high ratings are what is most important. And because these are people’s lives we are talking about, it pisses me off!
In the beginning, the show had a purpose- focus on worldwide obesity and encourage people do something about it. But somewhere along the lines, it lost that purpose and went to gimmicky reality crap. I am aware of the shows successes and I know that it has inspired a nation. And I acknowledge those people who use the contestants as sources for inspiration, but I caution them not to use the show as a basis for their own weight loss program.
Please feel free to share your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree. I look forward to hearing your open and honest opinions. What I have found from talking about this show with others is that either you love it and defend it or you hate it and critique it. I used to think I fell in the middle but I think my side has been established.