A writer publishing under the pseudonym Your Fat Friend once discussed the TV show, The Biggest Loser, which Childhood Obesity News has also reflected on before. Apparently, the contestants were verbally abused a lot, but such people as Army drill sergeants swear that it is very motivational, and they should know. Also in the name of motivation, but with much more potential to cause serious injury, one trainer was criticized for removing the seats of stationary bikes used by the contestants.
Other serious assertions were made, for instance, that contestants were fed caffeine pills without medical oversight. One had to be airlifted to a hospital, while another was allegedly forced to run with fractured feet, and another “stopped eating altogether and urinated blood.” A woman lost 118 pounds in three months, which is not recommended, and developed a serious eating disorder. According to one weight expert, it was miraculous that no one had died.
Your Fat Friend wrote,
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health conducted a longitudinal study that analyzed 14 former contestants for six years following their appearances on the show. Of those 14 participants, 13 regained significant amounts of weight. Not only had their weight increased, but their metabolism also appeared to be permanently slowed.
This of course means that the body will not burn calories with anywhere near the efficiency it needs to, so the person goes back to piling on the pounds.
And what is the point? This type of show is for entertainment, so viewers can gloat over their own relative slenderness and engage in an orgy of fat-shaming that their victims probably will never hear — although at the same time they are very aware, in a general way, of the public scorn they attract. This type of programming is about exposure, so advertisers can sell products.
Every media production can don the protective cloak of Raising Awareness, because the makers of television believe they have a sacred duty to show the public where overeating can lead, or so we are told. In that version of reality, it is the task of television to shake its head ruefully and wag its scolding finger, admonishing the ignorant to change their ways. To justify exhibiting the obese grownups and exposing them to ridicule, media giants can sanctimoniously claim that they are only fulfilling their responsibility to prevent childhood obesity.
Is the trauma worthwhile?
Of what does a TV show like this really make us aware? What it should do, in the opinion of another expert, is make us aware that if even these winners, these best-of-show dieters, these champion weight-losers, get messed-up metabolisms, then how can we ordinary slobs ever find redemption?
Are such programs educational and inspirational, or detrimental? What type of awareness is actually raised? Where does awareness end, and something else begin — something that seems, in the eyes of many viewers, akin to obesity porn?
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “‘The Biggest Loser’ Is One of the Most Harmful Reality Shows on Television,” Medium.com, 01/12/20
Image by Camilo Salazar Patiño/Public Domain