- They haven’t proven that this extreme behavior is necessary. The Biggest Loser contestants admit that they haven’t been practicing healthy habits. I wonder what would happen if they just made a few healthy changes to their lives – ate in a nutritious way that supported their bodies about 80-90% of the time, did some kind of enjoyable movement 30 minutes about 5 days a week. What would their health look like at the end of 16 weeks? Until that show is on the air I fail to be impressed with a show that tortures people in the name of better health.
- Time and again I see people encouraged by “health professionals” to ignore their bodies signals on the show – signals like pain, injury, exhaustion, and hunger. I’ve written about this before and I’ll say it again – think about treating your body like a partner and friend instead of like a limitation to be overcome. Our bodies give us feedback for a reason and I’m guessing that we’ll be in much better health if we work with our bodies and listen to what they have to stay instead of just treating them like a nuisance.
- The contestants spend 16 weeks eating extremely restrictive diets and exercising 5 or more hours a day. Contestants have lost 100 pounds in seven weeks and 34 pounds in a single week. There was a time in my life that I behaved in exactly that same way. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder and given the opportunity to rethink my diet and exercise plan in the hospital. Not only didn’t I win $250,000, I had to go to meetings. Twelve step meetings. Now we glorify and reward behavior that can set these people up for a lifetime of disordered eating and a severely dysfunctional relationship with food and their bodies.
- Because it’s a game and there is a ton of money on the line, people do things that are really unhealthy and are often considered signs of disordered eating to win: Dehydrating to lose extra weight. Over-hydrating because they have immunity and they want to “save their weight loss” for the next week. Binge eating donuts are part of a challenge and then trying to burn all of those calories with compulsive exercise. The famous “last chance workout” where people push beyond all reasonable boundaries to lose that last bit of weight. Abusing gum in lieu of eating etc.
- The show perpetuates the idea that your self-esteem should come from fitting into the cultural idea of beauty. It seems to me to be unacceptable on the show for someone to like their body and just be on the show for health reasons. The end of my watching came when trainer (and self-proclaimed “life coach”) Jillian Michaels told a contestant that his weight made him miserable. He disagreed, telling her that he was happy, had a great wife, great kids and a great life and just wanted to be healthier. Jillian would not let that go, she started to berate him, telling him that he was killing his children, insisting that he was miserable, until he finally said that he was. Jillian was triumphant. Is this show about making people healthy or satisfying Jillian’s ego? She had an opportunity to leverage his already high self-esteem to help him through a difficult process and instead felt the need to try to break him down so that she could build him back up in her image. This behavior is utterly unacceptable for someone who claims to be a health professional and life coach.
- These people are being set up for a self-esteem crash. They are taught by the trainers that their self-esteem is contingent and not intrinsic. They are encouraged to believe that nobody will want to date them unless they are thin. They aren’t even encouraged to derive self-esteem from the accomplishment of finishing the program. They are taught that they should have self-esteem and that they are deserving of love only because they have become thin. What happens if they gain back their weight (as statistically a vast majority of them are likely to do)? Why can’t we tell people the truth – that they are inherently, intrinsically, worthy. That they should have high self-esteem because they are just awesome, without having to try at all.
- Hypocrisy. Ms. Michaels is the subject of at least three lawsuits for diet pills called “Jillian Michael’s Maximum Strength Calorie Control” The advertisement for the pills claims “”Two Capsules Before Main Meals and You Lose Weight. That’s It.”. If that’s the case, why not just put the contestants on your pills Jillian?
In fact, there are so many people who lose on this show, it’s hard to choose the biggest.
Is it the trainers who become egomaniacal trying to justify their existence through their clients suffering rather than nurture and assist them?
The contestants who put themselves through a human experiment the likes of which a researcher could NEVER get approval for?
The viewers who watch the show and buy into the idea that they can only have self-esteem and be worthy of love when they are thin?
The people who try to mimic the show and become frustrated when they don’t lose 100lbs in 7 weeks, or trigger an eating disorder trying?
There may only be one “biggest loser”, but in the end everybody loses with this show.
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