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January 25, 2015

I Can't Watch "The Biggest Loser" Anymore

I'm not the biggest TV show watcher. I'll admit that. Very few shows have captured my interest enough that I will set aside time to sit down and watch regularly. Of course with DVR and Netflix, I don't have to make time other than the time I actually HAVE, but even then...when I have down time, the first thing I plan to do is not usually watch a TV show.

That being said, over the years, some shows HAVE captured my interest on occasion and one of them a couple of years ago was The Biggest Loser. First I have to say that my woman-crush on Jillian Michaels most likely played a part as I really like her. I wish I could have her train me a few times, just to go through the experience. I like her intensity and I like the fact that she shows how much she cares. I know not everyone is into her style. That's okay, just my own preference. And...it was why I started watching the show at all.

The first season I watched was whenever a young woman named Danni from Chicago area won. I LOVED that season. I never felt put off by the challenges they put the contestants through (at least that season, nothing bothered me) and I loved seeing that young woman's determination and competitive spirit. I thought she looked fabulous at the finale. When she came out, she looked buff, not anorexic, and just full of life. I think she weighed in around 135 which is within the healthy weight range for her height (she is my height if I remember correctly, and while 135 would be on the low end of the healthy range, it was still within that range).

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When that season caught my eye, my family was watching one evening and the group was running a 5K. It seemed that perhaps they weren't yet ready for such a challenge, but they all persevered one way or another. It was so neat to see them walk/run or do whatever they needed to in order to finish and I was hooked after that episode.

The first time I was truly disappointed in the show was last year when the woman won who got down to like 105 pounds. She looked anorexic on TV, and Jillian Michaels' reaction to her is all I needed to see to know that it was as bad as it looked. All accounts state that she put on 20 pounds soon after the weigh-in at the finale and I'm glad because she did NOT look healthy. 

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And I had damage control with my 13-year-old at the time who now weighs 123 pounds and is almost 5'5" tall. She is NOT fat and the last thing I wanted her to think was she somehow needed to weigh 105 pounds. But, I gave the show a chance again this past fall and began watching this current season.

I lost interest in this current season at some point. I was trying to figure out just what about it was bothering me. With this season, they have a bunch of people who had been athletes at the highest levels (olympians, professionals) in their younger years, but they were now obese. Honestly, this crew was something that should have kept my interest. I have been an athlete all my life. I played basketball and volleyball in high school. I was a swimmer. I was a rower in college. And I, too, became obese as an adult and have turned a corner and gotten my health under control in the last couple of years. So I wondered why I wasn't more interested in watching this show.

Dani and Helen enjoy this show and they recorded it each week to watch on the weekend. They asked me every weekend whether they should save it after they watched it and I finally told them to stop saving it...just delete when they were done because I most likely would not watch it. 

And then I realized I was a bit concerned that they were watching it.

This season, perhaps it was 6 episodes in...or maybe it was 8, I am not sure, but they had a "Temptations" episode. Basically, they were going to be putting the contestants into a room full of unhealthy, tempting foods for a period of time. This, alone, might not have bothered me so much. I mean, as someone who has overcome obesity and many food issues, I recognize that I am going to be in the vicinity of unhealthy foods -- trigger foods! -- and I need to be able to make the best choice for me...sometimes that is going to be indulging a little bit, sometimes it might be avoiding it altogether, and all the time deciding the right thing to do will be hard.

However, they "tempted" the contestants with the fact that if they chose to eat something in this room, the contestant who ate the most (calorie-wise? I can't remember how they measured it) would receive a 1-pound advantage on the scale. So basically, if you were going to break down and cheat on your diet...you better go whole-hog on it and try to get the 1-pound advantage on the scale...never mind the fact that a measly 1-pound advantage is SO not worth derailing your lifestyle changes.

I think this is cruel. I would think it was cruel if I was a contestant and I can't stand to watch it. These people are only WEEKS into this immersion of healthy changes and you're going to basically encourage them to sabotage all they have worked for. That episode, I kid you not, I was CRYING because I couldn't bear to watch these people who had worked so hard for the past few weeks throw it all away simply to receive a 1-pound advantage at the weigh-in. These people have placed their trust in this program, the trainers, the producers, the "game makers" so to speak -- and the people in whom they have placed their trust BETRAY them by tempting them unfairly and in one of the most cruel ways imaginable.

Maybe I feel this way because I know how hard it is to stick to a plan without outrageous "temptations" and contests thrown at you. Perhaps the show and the viewers feel it is justified because of the $250,000 prize at the end. But, what about the people who don't win? What about their psyches and the fact that you're toying with them in a very vulnerable spot. I suppose people might say, "Oh well, they signed up for it..." And, I guess they did, but even if they signed up to have their weight loss journey picked apart by the whole world, that sort of "temptation" could be crushing. These people have already succumbed to gluttony in their lives...why would you encourage them to do that, simply to "stay alive" so to speak in the contest for another week?

So, I cannot watch "The Biggest Loser" anymore. Dani and Helen have continued to watch it, but I have let them know why I object. I think that at their ages, they just want to see who wins in the end. Sarah hasn't shown that much interest since I stopped showing interest. 

I guess if I were to watch any Reality TV show regularly, I might come to the conclusion that I don't want to watch it anymore because of something along these lines. What is it about our culture that helps this sort of thing succeed? Is it the fact that SOMEONE wins the temptation challenge, even though the majority lose? Are we happy to see SOMEONE overcome the odds and not give in regardless of the temptation of getting a 1-pound advantage on the scale? Or are we just wallowing in our own filth, so to speak, happy to see that most everyone else fails the way we would? I don't know.

But I do know that I won't be watching in order to find out anymore.


  1. I dropped The Biggest Loser as well. The thing that got me was the emotional manipulation they put the contestants through. The challenges where the reward was a phone call or letter from home. The people who didn't win the challenge were CRUSHED to not be able to hear from their loved ones. It made me sick.

  2. I haven't watched TBL in a few years, though I used to enjoy it. Then I realized that it was making me think that for me to gain control of my eating / health / weight I would need some kind of drastic intervention and expensive trainers and hoursandhoursandhoursandhours at the gym. It was the exact opposite of motivational since non of that can fit in my life right now.

    YOU, however, you are motivational. :)

  3. There have been a couple of reasons that I have been having problems with this show lately. I love the way that some people discover a whole new world of things that they can do, but my biggest problem is some of the truly terrible form that I see on there. World class trainers should do a better job of training, and if they're just too tired, then they're at risk of injury.


Thank you for reading. I enjoy reading other perspectives, please feel free to share yours. :)