And then I came across an article at Jezebel by Golda Poretsky, kind of a guru and big name in the Health at Every Size world, and I realized that I didn't have to make the arguments and points that were in my heart. She articulated them for me.
Biggest Loser lost me early on as a viewer because it was not motivational for me. I felt the fat shaming that the contestants went through. I saw how the trainers treated them. I also don't believe that any of it is sustainable or realistic outside of the show. It makes for entertaining tv, I guess, but as a huge person who wanted that kind of weight loss but felt that it would be an insurmountable task, the message I actually got from the show was that the only way to do it would be to quit my job, train for 8 hours a day, and be monitored closely so that I wouldn't eat anything. It was de-motivational, and didn't encourage a love of exercise or of eating. It skewed my idea of what a personal trainer is, could be, or should be. And it solidified the already deep beliefs that I held about how fat people are to blame for their lot in life and should therefore not be treated with respect or dignity. The show reinforced all the reasons I already had for hating myself and my body.
Not so entertaining, after all.
Some people say that they find the show inspirational and motivating. Studies show the opposite effect, that the show actually promotes weight bias and increases stigma towards fat people.
Whether you find Rachel's transformation positive or not, whether it's physically healthy and she achieved it "naturally" as she says, there's something missing in this equation. She did it so fast. She was able to lose the weight ... but did she change her mind and her thinking? I believe she might have actually formed new habits, ones she might be able to maintain on her own in the immediate future. But there's a reason she put on weight in the first place. I find it incredibly hard to believe that the thought processes have truly changed for her in such a short time.
There are so very many things wrong with this show. Tons.
Here. Let Golda break it down for you:
Freaked Out By Rachel Fredrickson’s Biggest Loser Win? Read This.
The Biggest Loser crowned a new winner, Rachel Fredrickson, who lost nearly 60% of her body weight. She went from 260 pounds to a gaunt 105 pounds to win the show. As is typical of the rhetoric around fat, weight, and women's bodies, Rachel was deemed "too thin" and "not healthy" by viewers and the media.
There's a fine line in the media between too fat, just right, and too thin. If Jennifer Lawrence is too fat and Rachel Frederickson is too thin, then I'm assuming the swing is a mere 15 pounds or so.
But to those who are decrying Rachel's weight loss as too much, I ask you, what did you think this show is about? Do you think The Biggest Loser is about health? Well-being? It's a show that promotes weight loss at any cost.
The winner is not the person who eats reasonably, exercises moderately, and makes time for family, friends, and fun.
The winner is the person who loses the largest percentage of body weight. It's that simple.
Lest you think that I am supporting the producers of The Biggest Loser, I am not. I am asking you, dear reader, to open your eyes to the reality of this show.
Here is what The Biggest Loser is NOT about:
Here is what The Biggest Loser IS about:
- Shaming fat people.
- Promoting diet products.
- Promoting other merchandise tie-ins.
- Manipulating viewers into thinking that their show is "saving lives."
- Ruining the physical and mental health of contestants season after season.
I could probably write a treatise on why The Biggest Loser should be taken off the air. But I'll share my top 3 reasons.
- The Biggest Loser Is Physically And Emotionally Dangerous For the Contestants. Just from watching The Biggest Loser you can glean some things about the way the contestants are treated. (In this one clip alone from Australia's Biggest Loser, you can see the emotional and physical duress the contestants are under, and the fact that they cannot even open a door to get fresh air.) About two and half years ago, I interviewed Season 3 finalist Kai Hibbard about her experiences on the "ranch." She talked about how contestants were encouraged and, I would say, brainwashed, into intense dehydration, overexercising (sometimes while injured), and eating disordered behavior.
- The Biggest Loser Reinforces The Idea That Thinness, At Any Cost, Is Healthy. Diets don't work, and that includes extreme diets. You won't hear about it in the media, because facts don't sell diets and weight loss drugs. And you also won't hear about Biggest Loser contestants who gain the weight back, not because it doesn't happen, but because they sign a huge contract without the benefit of counsel when they sign up for the show, and that contract includes a gag order with million dollar penalties. Even so, a few contestants have admitted to gaining all of the weight back, including Erik Chopin and Ryan C. Benson.
- The Biggest Loser Bolsters Fat Hatred And Stigma. More and more evidence is suggesting that the real danger of obesity has nothing to do with fat, and everything to do with the stigma of being fat. For 14 seasons in the US (and multiple seasons in over 20 countries around the world) The Biggest Loser has been reinforcing the stereotype that fat people are lazy and unhealthy and deserve to be berated, forced to exercise in pain and with injuries, and malnourished all for the sake of weight loss and entertainment. Millions of people watch this show every week and internalize this message. The show, in essence, makes "bullying for health" a viable and particularly dangerous concept, especially given the fact that fat kids are the most likely to get bullied.
Click here to read my other articles on The Biggest Loser.
Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.