Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Biggest Loser

I am totally obsessed with all forms of weight loss, make over and surgery reality shows. My perfect show would start with someone losing 100 lbs, then having plastic surgery to remove the excess skin and then have a fabulous style and life makeover to fit their new healthy body. When the Biggest Loser first came out I was obsessed with the show. But, like most things, I have found that I don't enjoy it any more and the show has definitely lost its purpose.

What I don't understand is why people have to be kicked off these shows. What would be so terrible about letting everyone stay in the house and benefit from the expert advice for as long as they can? You have a better chance of teaching these people how to lead healthy lives if you have them for 12 weeks rather than 1 weeks. Then they can take what they've learned home to their families. If I got kicked off the first week on the show and still had 100 lbs to lose I would feel like I was no better off then when I first started. What had they taught me? That I wasn't fit or popular enough as the other fat kids so I needed to go home? Well that's a great self esteem boost. These people know they are a mess. That's why they come to the show. And you just confirm that they are not good enough by kicking them off and telling them to go it on their own. Well if they could go it on their own they wouldn't have needed to sign up for the show!!

If no one got kicked off, the show would still reward the person with the most significant weight loss but it would get rid of the popularity factor. Alliances are formed every season and people are often kicked off the show because people don't like them or are threatened by them. These are people who have been ridiculed for most of their lives and feel horrible about themselves and all this show does is turn contestants into the same jerks that used to ridicule them. I find myself routing against many of the contestants by the end of the show because they have become such miserable people.

I remember in the earlier seasons that everyone was pulling for the success of all of the participants. Yes, it was still a competition but more importantly it was about not being morbidly obese and taking control of your life. Even the trainers have turned into children, forming cliques with certain contestants, talking about other contestants behind their backs. It is just sad. And the overly staged product placement is completely out of hand. Clearly you are making a ton of money off endorsements. You don't have to shove it in our faces so shamelessly.

And why isn't there a therapist on this show? No one gets to be morbidly obese and doesn't have any emotional issues that caused it. By treating the symptom (being fat) and not the cause you are just setting that person up for failure long term. I remember seeing an Oprah Show several years back about people who had developed new addictions after having gastric bypass surgery. There were sex addicts, alcoholics, compulsive gamblers, etc. The bottom line was that whatever had caused their food addiction or emotional eating in the first place had not been cured. I've heard that you're not ready to tackle any diet plan unless you can truthfully answer these three questions: Why are you overweight? Why do you want to lose weight? and Why haven't you been able to maintain weight loss in the past? Without showing the contestants and the viewers at home that losing weight is more than just starving yourself and working out they are setting everyone up for failure.

The saddest part of all of this is that many of the former winners and contestants who lost a lot of weight have gained the weight back. Because the show didn't teach them how to maintain a healthy diet and exercise program for life. It taught them how to eat much less most normal people eat and then has them work out for 4-8 hours a day. There is no job, no family, no responsibilities to schedule your eating and workouts around. No taste of any of the factors that derail us in the real world. They don't talk about these failures on the show. They just keep bringing back the successful losers to motivate the current losers with the illusion that what they are doing at the Biggest Loser ranch will translate to real life. It's not much of a reality show at this point.

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