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    In The News: Behind the Scenes of “The Biggest Loser”

    biggest-loserI never understood the popularity of NBC’s weight-loss reality show The Biggest Loser.

    Actually, let me backtrack.  I get why The Biggest Loser is a hit — it appeals to our interest in makeovers, weight-loss, and cheering for the underdog.

    What I don’t understand is how a show that humiliates obese people (the sight of publicity-obsessed Jillian Michaels berating an obese person panting on a treadmill doesn’t scream “empowering” to me) and condones unhealthy weight-loss practices (i.e.: six hours of a day of exercise, extreme caloric restriction) was so welcomed by millions of television viewers.

    Today’s New York Times features a much-needed article on just how dangerous this show’s diet and exercise guidelines can be.

    Of course, the show’s producers attempt to justify their reality circus by giving lip service to America’s “obesity crisis” and inspiring people to be the best they can.  Blah, blah, blah.

    Not surprisingly, medical and nutrition consultants to the show have nothing but praise and positive comments for the show they are employed by!

    I wholeheartedly agree with many of the statements made by Dr. Charles Burant, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System director of the Michigan Metabolomics and Obesity Center:

    “I’m waiting for the first person to have a heart attack.  I think the show is so exploitative. They are taking poor people who have severe weight problems whose real focus is trying to win the quarter-million dollar [grand prize].”

    Meanwhile, how much longer do I have to put up with those heinous commercials for Jillian Michaels’ various pills, supplements, and “fat burners”?  Enough is enough.

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    4 Comments

    1. Mary said on November 26th, 2009

      I watched the show once and that was enough. I am fat and much as I want to lose weight, humiliating myself on TV is not an option I would choose – not even for a million dollars. I would be interested to what percentage of these so called losers manage to keep all the weight off once they no longer have Jillian and the show’s staff around to monitor and harangue them.

      I also agree that how they are going about losing weight on the show is not healthy. It has taken me four years to lose 150lbs and this was from participating in in-house bariatric program that taught us about the importance of nutrition, exercise and losing weight slowly so as to get/stay healthy and to be more successful in keeping it off long term. I still have a ways to go but since graduating out of the program ten months ago and going it on my own, I have managed to continue losing weight.

    2. Andy Bellatti said on November 26th, 2009

      Mary,

      First of all — congratulations on your weight loss. Not only for achieving consistent weight loss throughout the years, but especially for doing it in a healthy manner. I have no doubt your future progress will be just as successful.

      You raise a very good point about what happened to the “losers” from this show after they don’t have Jillian and company around. Earlier this week I saw a commercial for “The Biggest Loser” where one of the trainers/coaches went to the house of a former contestant who apparently gained all the weight back (100+ pounds).

      The commercial showed this coach vehemently stating: “He needs to be responsible for his actions!” Meanwhile, I’m thinking about the unrealistic expectations they set up for this man with the extreme caloric restriction and the HOURS of physical activity each and every day.

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