The Biggest Loser? So What?

Since its’ inception The Biggest Loser has been a source of controversy, not only in the fitness world but across the internet and blogoverse for the extreme way that they approach weight loss and “health”.  Most recently this all came to a head when at the finale the winner revealed a 60% loss of weight, losing 45 pounds in just over a month to win $250,000.  The thing everyone freaked out about is that at the finale she looked incredibly skinny and was classified as “dangerously underweight”.

People, let’s have a reality check along with this “reality” show.  If someone told me that I’d win $250,000 if I just got on a scale lighter than two other people I wouldn’t give a care as to what I looked like when it happened.  I’m quite sure that immediately after that taped the contestant simply rehydrated, carbed back up and gained 15 pounds in a couple of weeks (if not days).  In the fitness competition world it is quite common for men and women to drop 8-10 pounds of water in a day.  Is it healthy?  Of course not.  Would I do it to win $250,000?  You’re damned right I would.  Professional fighters do it before almost every fight.  For $250,000  you would be surprised what I would do.

On Season 7 Helen Philips lost 55% of her body weight and 30 pounds between the final episode and finale.  She looked really, really unhealthy and her BMI was 18.9.  Nobody freaked out.  Did I mention that she was 47 years old?  At least the contestant who did it this season was a former athlete and in her 20’s.  She lost 45 pounds between the final episode and finale.  The guy who came in 2nd in this controversial season dropped 57 pounds in the same time frame – nobody mentions that though, because he lost.  These people are doing what it takes to win money.  Period.

That all under the bridge, this show has never been anything to do with proper health and weight loss.  Contestants regularly get injured doing workouts that they have no business doing.  It gives a complete false impression of what healthy exercise and eating is (along with lots of product shout outs for marketing dollars).  When one of your main sponsors is Subway, which has been proven over and over again to be almost as bad as many other fast food places for health then you really don’t have a leg to stand on.  Showing people who are obese getting put through exercise that makes them pass out, throw up and hurt themselves is totally irresponsible, but it gets ratings, right?  The “trainers” (and I put Jillian Michaels well into this category as a quotation mark “trainer”) spend barely any time with the contestants beyond shooting the puff pieces used for television.  The contestants are contractually obligated to work out for several hours a day and eat mandated amounts of calories.  This is about as far from “reality” as you can get, which is also why many of them gain weight back once they leave the show.  Surprisingly enough, more often than not the ones who do well and get sponsorships and more promotional deals stay motivated to keep the weight off.

The show is about losing scale weight.  For some reason, many people are obsessed with this concept.  Athletes don’t generally give any consideration to their weight unless their sport involves weight classes like powerlifting or boxing.  They care about what they can do with the body they have and how it performs.  In an ideal world, we would all just accept our individual bodies, treat them with respect and focus on what they can do and what we want to do with them, not what a number on a machine says about you.  For some sports, like cycling and running if you are lighter it does mean you will be faster, but smart people know that if it means your performance suffers then it isn’t worth it.  Let’s focus more on what we can do, not what we look like.

Be healthy.  Be strong.  Be whatever you want to be without obsessing about a number because the media tells you you’re “too” anything, be it big, small, short or tall.  Just get out there and stay active, do it responsibly and respect your body.  And please, please don’t take this “reality” show as anything you should aspire to.

Leave a Reply