Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Biggest Loser?

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The Biggest Loser. A television series title and not a question. Or should it be?

Series 2 has just started in Australia. By Episode 2, one person has already been taken to hospital with chest pains (luckily of no significance), another has already quit the program.

Obese people desperate to lose weight and, while you can only commend them for that, you have to ask is participating in The Biggest Loser a sensible approach?

There's the humilation element. Presenting contestants with a 'last supper', filming them stuffing their faces, trying to swallow down yardarm measures of Cheetos, drinking whole group sized bowls of custard dessert. One contestant ate so much he vomited in the meal setting. All good for the viewing figures I guess.

Not wanting to take away from some of the huges losses that past contestants have achieved, The Biggest Loser is so far removed from the real world. How many people can lay claim to a team of personal trainers, a continual supply of only healthy food (tempations aside) and the motivating factor of a large sum of money?

The focus is on rapid weight loss through extreme exercise and modified eating habits. It stuns me how people who admit to a below zero level of fitness can go into such a full on exercise regimen and not suffer dire consequences. Any physician would recommend a gradual buildup of exercise and a slower drop in weight to minimise regain.

What concerns me is most who is addressing the psychological aspects of weight gain? What led the contestants to their circumstances? There seems to be no focus on such issues on this show. Apart from the motivational coaching provided by trainers Bob and Jillian, there seems little on offer. The contestant who walked away from the program was very distressed. The sole response of trainer Jillian? 'Let her go', as she walked away in disgust, leaving the Australian trainer to pick up the pieces.

It would be interesting to revisit where all the past contestants are these days in terms of their weight loss. Hopefully, they've managed to maintain it in the stresses and realities of life outside The Biggest Loser house. While we hear about the success stories, the cynic in me would say we're never going to hear about anyone who regains the weight.

Monash University's Dr Samantha Thomas asked obese people what they think of The Biggest Loser. She found far from helping obese people lead healthier lives, The Biggest Loser could reinforce negative feelings and stereotypes about bigger people.

The Biggest Loser. Sheer voyeurism or inspirational?

7 comments:

Fat Doctor said...

The first two seasons, I was inspired. Now I'm bored with it.

By the way, love your new look!

SeaSpray said...

I never cared for the show. Maybe I didn't give it a chance but just didn't like it.

I also agree with you regarding the psychological issues (for various reasons)and long term consequences of putting themselves out there like that.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Shows like this do more harm than good imo.

Flea said...

It's probably a lot of things: voyeurism, schadenfraude, fascination with abomination (the program, not the contestants).

best,

Flea

HP said...

Hey FD,
Agreed. I, like you, will stick with good old WW.

Hi Seapspray,
I think it's where it goes 'pear shape', it gets really concerning. I've seen all sorts of nasty, judgemental comments online on the person who left...yet it's a high pressure environment and not everyone is equipped to handle that.

Hi Deborah,
We nearly always agree!!!

Hi Flea,
Thanks for visiting...
schadenfreude...love that word.

mckay said...

figure out the impetus - figure out the cure. hollow spots in my soul, stress, etc all come into play. this tv show doesn't tackle that aspect, so the contestants will likely gain it back if they can't conquer their mental demons.

HP said...

Hi McKay,
I guess we don't know what goes on 'behind the scenes' but even if they get some help in that way, not showing it gives viewers a false perception of what it takes.