Biggest Loser’s Dangerously Wackadoodle Fantasy Land

Think of the childrenI told you last week that Joanne Dolgoff, the doctor in charge of the kids on this season of The Biggest Loser, had reached out and offered to have a telephone call with me about my concerns with having kids on TBL this season.  A couple hours before the scheduled call she cancelled with an e-mail that said:

Something has come up at work and I am unable to do this phone call today.  But in thinking about it further, I think the show itself is the best evidence of our intentions and approach. So I think it’s best if you can tune in to “The Biggest Loser” on January 6 to see that the kid participants on the show will follow an age-appropriate program that emphasizes getting healthy rather than numbers on a scale.  As you’ll see, the kids are handled with great care, support and encouragement to help them live a healthier lifestyle.  Thank you.

It turns out that she had offered to have calls with a number of people who had similar concerns, which she also cancelled.  It also turns out that her e-mail to me is just a copy and paste of the public statement that TBL made about the concerns regarding the kids.  She deleted all of her Twitter exchanges with those who have concerns.  My guess is that she is has so thoroughly drank the “this is a good idea Kool-Aid” that she honestly could not believe there was a backlash.   I do find it disconcerting that, despite a number of people asking, she never produced any evidence for her intervention’s safety or efficacy, even though that she repeatedly claims in the media that her program has a “proven 96 percent success rate”  Marketing people throw the word “proven” around a lot, of course one would hope that no person of science, for example a medical doctor, would do so, especially when kids’ health is at stake. People trust medical doctors and so when they toss around words like “proven” people tend to assume that they are speaking as a scientist, and not a PR and marketing firm.  Maybe I just missed the statistically significant, replicated studies printed in a peer-reviewed journal?  I don’t know because, like every other request for evidence that people made to her,  Joanna failed to produce anything.

What isn’t in her e-mail is that they are trying to call their inclusion of kids on the show “bravery” for talking “about something that nobody else is talking about”.  Executive producer Lisa Hennessy called it a necessary first step in starting a national dialogue about childhood obesity.  So I have to ask, how pissed off is Michelle Obama right now?  She has made her entire stint as First Lady about focusing on the weight of children, even unbelievably. calling Biggest Loser contestants good role models for kids, and here comes TBL taking credit like nobody has ever put the words childhood and obesity together before.

And not for nothing but is Lisa Hennessy the Executive Producer of Fantasy Land?  I just Googled childhood obesity and got  “about 9,990,000 results in 0.25 seconds”.  Let’s review:  they have a self-described “childhood obesity specialist” who refuses to share proof of efficacy and safety for an intervention being used on kids, and meanwhile is absolutely shocked that there is a backlash against putting kids on a show where people dehydrate themselves to the point of urinating blood to lose weight so that they can win money; and we have an Executive Producer who doesn’t know that she got scooped 9,990,000 times and wants credit for being brave and starting a discussion about a subject that nobody can shut up about.  Yes, these are people with whom we should entrust children.  (Sarcasm meter is a 10 out of 10 here)

This would be hilarious if it wasn’t tragic because, don’t forget, they put freaking KIDS on a show where people dehydrate themselves to the point of urinating blood to lose weight so that they can win money, while their trainers emotionally abuse them and insist that they ignore the advice of doctors and dieticians (another reason why I don’t think having a doctor on the show for the kids means that they are safe.)  Not to worry they tell us, they would NEVER treat kids the way they treat adults.  And if that’s the case, shouldn’t it give us pause? I would wager that, given the laws for working with animals, they wouldn’t treat a group of dogs like the treat the adults – because it would be against the law to treat animals that way.

They also tell us that, for the kids, is just about healthy habits and not weight loss.  The pictures of the kids wearing “The Biggest Loser” shirts with tape measures on them makes me think that this is unlikely.  Also, it’s not just these three kids I’m worried about.  It’s the fact that no matter how they treat the kids, if you want to see them you have to watch the rest of the show.  A show which, in the first 30 minutes of  the season premiere, had contestants vomiting, falling off the treadmill, and one requiring paramedics, while so-called trainers shrieked at them that they are weak and need to keep going.  Quick honey, come in here and bring the kids – we don’t want them to miss these role models for health (and the sarcasm just keeps on coming.)

Does anyone remember Lisa Simpsons “Just Don’t Look” campaign to get the scary homicidal advertising mascots to stop.  Yeah, that’s an option here:  Stop watching The Biggest Loser.  Stop patronizing their sponsors.  Stop being part of this problem.  You can click here to see the list of sponsors and sign the petition to boycott The Biggest Loser.

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64 thoughts on “Biggest Loser’s Dangerously Wackadoodle Fantasy Land

    1. It’s been proven time and time again that the obesity epidemic has been exaggerated beyond the imaginable but no one seems to actually introduce that to the public. I don’t know what kind of profit they’re getting from telling the world let’s get rid of fat people. That goes against the freedom of man, and the diverse planet we’re aiming for.

  1. In a funny way, the fact that she abruptly cancelled could be a good sign – it sounds like the PR people yanked the communications, which is what they’d do if they were getting negative reactions. Which they clearly didn’t expect or they wouldn’t have given her the go ahead to talk to the media/bloggers in the first place.

    1. I thought the same thing: that the doctor really believes that kids need intervention. Since this is the first season with kids on it, perhaps she is new to the show, too. If she is, she may not have realized that Biggest Loser is a money making concern not at all about the participant’s health.

      The contestants are handled, managed and brain-washed. Perhaps the doctor is being handled, too. I’m sure she signed contractsts with stipulations in them. If she truly is concerned with the kids, she will soon see just what a horror show she’s become part of. Maybe the experience will open her eyes a bit.

  2. When I was 11 I was on a “physician” approved diet of 800 calories a day……they upped it from 700 because of my age. Idiots. No wonder eating disorders are rampant in our society.

  3. Last night I was watching the run down on Facebook of the companies who aired commercials during the show… Some are total no-brainers like Weight Watchers, but it angers me that companies like AT&T, Verizon and Microsoft also aired commercials! Thus far only the three above, Charmin and Quaker Oats are on the list of companies from whom I purchase products regularly…

    I have to discuss boycotting them with my hubby, for he may get cranky if I turn off our phones, FIOS, computers and change out his TP. I’m the only one in the house really affected by the oatmeal. Anyone have a suggestion for a TP that is similar to Charmin Ultra Strong?? Replacing the computers and phone/internet/tv services might be a bit too much to swallow in one lump sum…

    I’m searching for alternatives that I can swallow right now and think a first step may be to write them all letters, telling them I am upset and currently shopping for alternatives to their products. Do you think that would have some sway? Maybe if we all got together and wrote letters to all of the companies? Or at least the companies from whom we currently have products/service agreements that we would like to sway to withdraw their support of such a horrible TV show?

    Thoughts? I’m totally up for suggestions here.

    1. I use purex 3ply and it is similar. As for oatmeal I just buy the store brand. So for example I shop at Safeway, I buy that companies brand.

      1. Thanks! I’m cool with Oatmeal alternatives… will have to look at the TP. It’s the big ticket items like AT&T, FIOS and Microsoft that have me concerned the most.

        1. I live in Canada so AT&T and FIOS don’t effect me since we don’t have them but it makes me wonder about Telus and Shaw… As for Microsoft, I can see the concern since most of our computers are PC but my tablet is Apple.

          But as I do see it, we will always in the end be supporting something (most times unknowingly) we don’t want to 😦

          I support the Body Shop’s cruelty free program and their no animal testing policies, yet their parent company L’orel Paris does support animal testing… (total example but the same logic applies)

          1. It would be very difficult for the average person to trace down all the nuances of agreements between the various companies and their practices/whom they support. I think I’ll just start with sending emails to all the companies I am aware of that support TBL and let them know I disapprove.

            I will try to look into alternatives to those companies for my home use… but if I do transition I do plan on trying to look into my “new” companies for associations I do not wish to support.

    2. My local Walmart has a store brand of Charmin that is pretty close. Anyway, it has worked well for us the times I buy it.

  4. I was surprised that she was going to talk, was responding to Twitter, etc, and, as Bodycrimes said, it probably is a good sign that the show is becoming aware that they have a problem. It might be a small problem in their eyes, it may be that they still think “any publicity is good publicity”, but I’m beginning to doubt it.

    Oh, and I can’t even play Words with Friends (free edition) without seeing commercials for this Roman Coliseum “entertainment”. They started running commercials there!

  5. Ragen: Could you edit the following sentence? My guess is that she is has so thoroughly drank the “the is a good idea Kool-Aid” that she honestly could not believe there was a backlash.

    I think you meant: “The Biggest Loser is a good idea Kool-Aid” …

    Just asking since I just reposted this and want it to be as strong as possible. Didn’t see any other errors. (Copyediting is one thing I do for a living, so my “eye” is always on. No criticism is meant.)

  6. I signed the petition on day one, but I cannot find the sponsor list. If anyone can point that one out, I’d be much obliged.

    1. It’s in the second paragraph of the update – Let’s up the stakes – sign the petition and Boycott the Biggest Loser. In his blog, Weighty Matters, ( Dr. Yoni Freedhoff has also suggested a boycott of their sponsors as well including Quaker Oats, Brita water filters, Wrigley’s Extra gum, Yoplait yogurt. Subway, Jennie-O meats. Bodymedia (they make FIT exercise trackers), Cybex exercise equipment, Planet Fitness, Weight Watchers, Sprint, Ford



  7. Lol. Bravery for talking about something no one is talking about? Ha ha ha ha ha. Right. No one is talking about this. Keep living in that fantasy world.

  8. Partial list of sponsors from the petition page:
    Quaker Oats, Brita water filters, Wrigley’s Extra gum, Yoplait yogurt. Subway, Jennie-O meats. Bodymedia (they make FIT exercise trackers), Cybex exercise equipment, Planet Fitness, Weight Watchers, Sprint, Ford

    Last night someone on the Rolls not Trolls page had a running dialogue of the commercials aired during the show. I cannot access Facebook from my current location, so I cannot update that information. 🙂

    1. Hi Tara,

      That might have been me (Dyanna F.).

      Since I posted a list of all the commercials that appeared while I watched (whew / ugh), a friend gently pointed out to me elsewhere that not all commercials that appear during a show are direct sponsors. Apparently some advertisers sign up for commercials which are then placed at the network’s discretion, so not all the companies whose commercials appeared are necessarily directly sponsoring TBL. (insert rant about protecting those poor, poor sponsors from having to deal with nasty offended potential customers like us…)

      I plan to start by writing the sponsors listed on Weighty Matters, since I cannot find a place on NBC’s website which lists TBL’s direct sponsors.

      Also sharing link to the petition…

  9. Thanks for addressing this. Your commentary is totally spot on. It’s going to be seriously detrimental to these kids both emotionally and physically to go through this kind of unhealthy rapid weight loss.

    I just hope that they have continued support when the show is over. . . although given what I’ve read about the lack of support offered to TBL alumni post-filming, I doubt it.

  10. Here’s an email I received back from General Mills:

    Thank you for your email.

    We have advertised on The Biggest Loser in past seasons. In our view, this program has had a solid track record of handling weight loss and obesity in an inspirational and responsible manner. This season, we understand the program will attempt to address the complex issue of childhood obesity with three teen participants, while continuing to also address adult obesity with adult participants. We have been assured that the production team has gone and will go to great lengths to sensitively address the complex issue of childhood obesity, working with leading experts in the field. Based on the track record of The Biggest Loser, we would not expect this program to deal with these issues inappropriately. But we will continue to monitor programming as it airs, and would adjust our advertising if warranted.

    Thank you again for your email.


    General Mills Consumer Services

    I’m not quite sure how yelling at people until they cry and encouraging people to hurt themselves counts as “inspirational” or “responsible”…

    1. Wow… just… wow.

      And suddenly all I can think of is a song Flanders and Swann used to sing about an ostrich who decided everything was just fine as long as he kept his head firmly buried in the sand… on a nuclear testing ground.

      There is nothing responsible or inspirational about destroying people’s physical and emotional well-being in the name of making them thin.

      Oh, which, by the by, VIRTUALLY NEVER WORKS.

      Well, I guess General Mills is off my table for the foreseeable future.

    2. OMG,
      I plan on sending them an email as well, but I must say it sounds like Quaker is no longer gonna be consumed in my house.

      Crud–it’s been my “back up” at work when I don’t have time for breakfast at home!

    3. Them seem to think it’s “responsible” because that’s how you’re supposed to treat fat people, all of whom are fat because they’re irresponsible. It’s “inspirational” because it’s perfectly fine to inspire fat people to hate themselves, just like other bullies do. If you encourage people to hurt themselves, it’s OK if they’re fat. That’s the message.

      Disgusting. I haven’t bought General Mills products in a long time, and I’m not starting now. Steel cut oats for me – they’re better anyway.

    4. Hm…somehow I think I’m not going to be chowing down on General Mills products in the near future.

    5. Content Note: eating disorder

      In our view, this program has had a solid track record of handling weight loss and obesity in an inspirational and responsible manner.

      I subjected myself to a few episodes of The Biggest Loser a few years ago while I was staying with my parents (who watch it religiously). It triggered the most impressive relapse of my eating disorder in ten years.

      Dear General Mills: Imagine how I feel when I see you refer to a show that I associate with anxiety, fainting, pain, and hospitals as “inspirational and responsible.” Pretty easy for me to take my shopping elsewhere, isn’t it? Yes. It is.

  11. I just did a little poking around to see if any of the adult contestants had regained weight. Here is the article I looked at:

    Yes, some had lost weight. I only looked at a few from the first couple of seasons and none of the ones I saw had regained it all, and some had maintained. Some felt guilty for regaining weight.

    I don’t know if any fully maintained whatever weight-loss and exercise routine they left with, or if any person actually could do that. I did notice that some of them had made major commitments to exercising. Does this make the rest of us ‘bad’ because we don’t want to exercise for an hour or more every day? Or get up at 5 am to do it?

    Nothing was said about blood pressure, diabetes or anything else, so I don’t know how healthy any of them were.

    I notice that nobody talks much about the regainers. If they do, it’s usually that person’s ‘fault’ for not maintaining the eating/exercise regimen. Also no discussion on whether a given regimen is actually realistic. People are just expected to toe the line and ignore the fact that some skinny people can eat ‘bad’ food and never gain weight.

    The whole thing about weight-loss is annoying me. Several of my friends are on diets or joined weight watchers. I don’t think a single one has read any of the articles I posted on facebook about how weight loss doesn’t work long term.

      1. that woman’s story made me cry. I never watched the biggest loser, it just seemed to good to be true and the few bits I did see just disgusted me. I honestly can’t believe it’s still on TV and that people keep signing up for it.

        1. I Watched the beginning of this season (only made it 30 min in) and they did some sort of pseudo Price Is Right announcement for the contestants this time? I watched part of another season for research once and they didn’t do that. It makes me wonder when there will be a lottery where people are forced to sign up and be tortured into losing weight, not disimilar to The Hunger Games.

      2. That is …
        I can’t really come up with an appropriate word, but if you did that to prisoners, you’d be up on some sort of charges.

        We might as well put on a real gladiator show where people fight to the death.

      3. Sounds like a god damn concentration camp. Wouldn’t be surprised if the devils at the helm of this monstrous show are communicating via Ouija board with their idol, a fellow by the name of Adolf.

    1. Of course the show keeps actual results secret, you really have to read behind the lines to get any idea of what their true results might be. Ex-trainer Bob was on Leno once, he said they had a 50% success rate but of course he didn’t define what “success” meant to them. At least two of the shows’ winners have regained. It’s hard to say how many because of course they wouldn’t want to show too many regainers, that might cast doubt on the efficacy of their fantastic, inspirational program! I have noticed a common factor in those contestants who do manage to keep their weight off, however. They seem to be the ones who make a new career out of coaching/training people in weightloss. So they literally make weight control the focus of their lives. Pretty sad if you ask me.

  12. I’m guessing that she didn’t “drink the Kool-aide” but that the network’s lawyers put a kabosh on anything that was not vetted through the PR department. And, how in hell are they claiming that they are even the first reality TV show to address “childhood obesity.” I can think or at least 2 without doing any sort of serious research.

  13. I have a Facebook friend that is a friend of one of this season’s contestants. I was poking around her Facebook page out of curiosity and saw she has a young son. I thought “what kind of example is this setting for her child?” And then I realized that the majority of our fat hating culture would ask that question of her before she went on the show. I see things that my friend likes and comments on. A status update where the contestant said something about this being a “ME journey ” and I couldn’t help think there are so many better things she could do for herself. I have the same feelings watching my friend who had gastric bypass. She also has a preteen daughter.

    It all just boggles my mind. How is abuse and mutilation in anybody’s best interest? How can this show possibly set a good example for children alongside such flagrant mistreatment?

  14. Personally, I believe that my obesity began with dieting to lose “those extra 10 pounds” by being put on a severely restricted diet by Weight Watchers. Every time I dieted, I gained double the weight back (or more). Has anyone ever done a study to find out the percentage of dieters who end up gaining weight? I am concerned that these children, either the ones on the show or the ones being put on diets by well-meaning parents, will end up on the repetitive cycle of diet and weight-gain, and will eventually end up severely obese, and emotionally destroyed.

  15. I really love your blog and I’ve been very inspired by many things you’ve written here. I’ve also benefited greatly from the Fit Fatties Forum.

    I was very inspired by a past blog posting of yours that has moved me to speak up when I feel strongly about something. I’m still finding my footing, so please forgive any awkward wording and I welcome feedback, but I seek to put an end to the “drink the kool-aid” phrase. The massacre at Jonestown cost of the lives of over 900 people, including over 200 children. I think people in general have lost sight of where that phrase came from and I’d like to find a new phrase that shares the same thought that doesn’t have such a gruesome source.

  16. I overheard a woman at a coffee shop the other day telling her friends about her new year’s resolution to lose weight. She said,”I’ve lost 100lbs twice.” and apparently was going for three. They were so impressed. I wanted to sit down next to her and ask “have you thought about looking at weight and health in a different way instead of taking of 100 lbs for a third time?” I didn’t, but I wonder how effective that approach would be to get patients when I open my practice? 🙂

    1. I would love to have a medical professional who never brought up my weight. My doctor, while not a huge a-hole, does bring it up sometimes. I always tell him the same thing, I’m fine, and can we focus on the lab results. He does stick a sock in it about the weight at that point, so we’re good.
      Weight gain raises red flags when someone gains a bunch of weight quickly, which can indicate water retention, which can indicate serious issues such as kidney dysfunction. It shouldn’t be used as a yard stick to shame people.
      I’m a nurse, and I get sooooo tired of the same old same old blame and shame. Even the elderly people that I work with are still trying to achieve that impossible standard. It’s sad.

  17. Having a throw down on my facebook over this with a friend of a friend who thinks he has all the answers and that the woman who spoke out should just shut up about it because she agreed to it. His argument is basically that she didn’t die, therefore it’s all good. His logic is not my logic.

  18. This just breaks my heart. I already signed the petition when the original news broke. I saw one episode of “The Biggest Loser” back when it debuted. I immediately hated the show, and have never watched it since. After I had signed the petition, I listened to an interview that Golda Poretsky did with Kai Hibbard, one of the season finalists, and my heart broke even more.

    The first part of that is here, if anyone is interested:

    A show that puts adults through that much pain and shame certainly won’t be kinder to younger contestants, who are struggling with self-esteem. They’re going to saddle these kids with so many problems…I just imagine my sister when she was that age, and all the stupid shit that she endured in regular life and it makes me start to tear up. What are their parents thinking?!

  19. I find this show to be a mockey of weight loss period. I do not understand why kids are sucked in to a culture of bullying and abuse by the adults worse off the trainers. their attitudes are cruel and after bullying from both trainers and contestants, me and my friends and family will boycott. I was bullied in school and this show brings nasty flashbacks to me. Oh and the ad in which Jillian verbally abuses someoe else-totally uncalled for. Shame on NBC for not thinking about the kids- worse everyone.

  20. I find it wrong to expose kids to an environment of bullying by the adults and even the trainers. There needs to be a stoppage to abusive behavior and adults need to be better role modes. Boycott the show and take a stand against bullying.

  21. I think that the show has lost its true meaning with the adults bullying each other especially the one girl from last season forgot her name. Now that kids are a target of childish behavior, it hurts me to see how they’re going to cope with immaturity of so called adults. My childhood stunk because I was teased for wearing glasses and having a weight issue. the kids will now be getting the wrong message of having to be the best rather than learning how to work together and keep weight off. shame on tbl!

    1. You mentioned the “true meaning” of the show. I think the true meaning is “let’s make a buck, no matter the consequences.” This is entertainment TV, not inspiration. Most of the folks in this group think that TBL is a lousy show for kids AND adults because it teaches folks to demonize fat. What if these kids and adults do “work together” and STILL can’t “keep weight off”?

      I’m sorry you were bullied as a kid. That’s lousy. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but the only solution I found to that that really works for me is to accept myself as is, including every pound of fat on my frame. It was a major paradigm shift for me, but one I’m thankful for every day.

      We don’t advocate weight loss in this space. In fact, we don’t advocate any kind of weight-related measures here. We advocate making choices for ourselves based on our own priorities and leaving our weight to sort itself out.

      1. I always thought the foundation of TBL was “Fat-Bashing for Fun and Profit.” If the show was really about inspiration and health, it’d never make it past the first season or two. It’s why there are so many scenes of crying, yelling, falling, fainting and puking. Sanctimonious viewers can sit on the couch and get their jollies watching the fatties suffer for their sins.

  22. I want to DO something about this. I want to stop them. I hate this. This is wrong and these kids don’t know what they’re getting themselves into– in fact, neither do their parents. This show is disgusting and I will fight in every way I can to educate people about it.

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