Biggest Loser: Will You Watch?

As I have mentioned in the past, I have always been a fan of the Biggest Loser television show. I've watched almost every season, almost every episode. I've always been inspired by the transformations made by the contestants who lose up to, and sometimes even more than, half their body weight in fat. And they lose the weight through diet and exercise, without drugs or dangerous surgeries.

So why on earth would I ever consider NOT tuning in?

Well, if pressed, I would always have confessed that the show had its problems. And some of those were, and will continue to be, quite serious. I've listed a few:

1) No more Jillian. Jillian Michaels may not be perfect, but you must agree she is gorgeous and intelligent. She clearly cared deeply about her on-show clients, at times even breaking down in tears. She left the show, came back for the last season, but has now quit again. Yes, Bob is still there. And he is a very sweet piece of eye-candy himself.

2) Almost total focus on exercise and close to zero focus on diet and nutrition. If you have ever tried to lose weight by exercising while continuing to overeat and consume empty calories, then you will have learned that this is a path to failure. The clients who appear on the show make no secret of the fact that their diets and relationships to food are broken. That they are addicted to junk food. That they overeat to soothe emotional pain. Exercise is an awesome addition to fixing the diet, but it can never SUBSTITUTE for fixing the underlying problem.

3) Product placement. If you were an alien from another planet who beamed down to earth to analyze our weight loss programs, after watching the show you might conclude that your planet simply lacks enough Subway restaurants. As if this might be the answer to everyone's dietary issues!!! Just visit your local Subway several times a day, chew a few sticks of Extra gum, and enjoy a Jello-brand snack cup and BOOM! Instant weight loss. It is a sad shame that most of the show's food focus goes toward blatant advertising.

4) The ranch. Yes, without the ranch you wouldn't have the same show at all. But removing contestants from their homes and families, from their natural environments, makes weight loss much, much easier. The pantries at the ranch are not stocked with cases of soda, chips, cookies, and candy. There is nothing to do on the ranch besides work out. No job, no kids, no school, no responsibilities beyond the weight loss. Is it really a big surprise that many of these contestants regain some or all of the weight once they get back home?

5) The temptations. For people who are morbidly obese, who have let their addiction to food ruin their bodies, their health, and their lives, putting them in a room filled with junk food and then encouraging them to break their resolve and eat in order to win a prize is BEYOND CRUEL. This is sick torture. If it was heroin or alcohol, would we watch? Where do we draw the line?

6) Last but not least: the prize money. This is truly my biggest beef with the show. Over the summer, I've been watching Extreme Weight Loss Makeover with Chris Powell. I believe this show does many things better than Biggest Loser. And there is no cash prize at the end of the year-long journey because WEIGHT LOSS IS THE PRIZE! Transforming your body, your health, your relationship to food, and your entire life is the prize. And this prize is PRICELESS. Offering an enormous cash reward simply puts the focus where it does not belong and encourages contestants to lose an UNHEALTHY amount of weight, losing muscle as well as fat, and putting their health in jeopardy.

There. I think my rant is finished now.

To be perfectly honest, I'll probably watch the show despite what I consider to be serious problems. I'll watch because I admire the contestants who are willing to work hard and be vulnerable in order to make their transformations. I'll get excited for them and cheer them on. And I'll complain about everything the show does wrong. If you're not my husband, you won't have to put up with any more of that, though!