Yesterday’s post was all about the things I hate about The Biggest Loser. Like some 8 million viewers per week, I do find the show compelling, no matter how much I hate some of the portrayals of the trainers and the contestants. Today I’d like to look at what there is to love about the show.
- It showcases the national obesity epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 34% of Americans are obese and another 34% are overweight. That leaves only 32% of adults in the US at a healthy body weight. The Biggest Loser chooses contestants at the extreme end of the obesity spectrum, but in doing so it helps shine a spotlight on the health risks and emotional damage caused by excessive weight. If more people see themselves as overweight and are inspired to do something about it because of the show, then it has served a valuable purpose.
- Inspiring stories of determination. By the end of the season many of the contestants, including some of the ones voted off early, will have inspiring stories of dramatic weight loss and personal growth. I take issue with the safety and sustainability of the rapid weight loss these contestants undergo, but it is truly inspiring to see the dramatic physical and mental change in the contestants by the end of the season.
- Combination of diet and exercise. Although I question the extreme nature of both sides of The Biggest Loser’s weight loss equation, I wholeheartedly encourage a combination of both diet and exercise for permanent weight loss. Calorie restriction is a must for beginning to lose weight, but if you want to keep it off long-term and maintain a healthy metabolism for life, you must include physical activity. When diet and exercise are combined, 2+2=5.
- Seeing the real contestants emerge. For many of these contestants, the added weight has become a shield or a mask that they hide behind. It is incredibly dramatic and inspiring to see them lose so much weight that their features are once again visible in their faces. It’s almost like watching a butterfly emerge from its cocoon.
- Online community. I’m happy to see the show creators leverage the power of their soapbox by providing online tools and community for the viewers to get involved. Those who are motivated by the show to make changes in their own lives will find helpful tools and a supportive community online.
- Pound for Pound Challenge. By teaming up with Feeding America, a network of over 200 food banks, The Biggest Loser addresses the perverse irony of a nation so rich in resources that 68% of our population is overweight while approximately 15% of the population still lives in poverty and food insecurity. The challenge allows show viewers to pledge to lose weight, and for every pound they lose, corporate partners will donate enough money to buy a pound of food for families in need.
I was raised to see that every issue has two sides, so I can find reasons to love and hate shows like The Biggest Loser. I’m not opposed to good old-fashioned entertainment, and I hope that everyone who watches shows like these can appreciate the positive inspiration they provide AND can understand that the negative portrayals and techniques are designed for dramatic storytelling and capturing ratings. What do you think about The Biggest Loser and similar shows? Love them? Hate them? Share your comments below!
(photo credit: tiarescott)