In Defense of The Biggest Loser

 

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Most people who know me know that I don’t have a TV. I feel that I don’t even have enough time to do the things I love to do, (read, write, play music, exercise) let alone watch other people enjoy things. But you may not know that I do have an Achilles’ heel when it comes to the tube: I love The Biggest Loser.

 

I regularly hang out with a mix of liberal hippies and conservative Catholics (and love them all) but many of my friends either don’t understand my infatuation with this show or downright disagree with it. Yes, I know that some of the contestants have gone on to gain weight. I know that a competition isn’t necessarily the best way to make a long-term lifestyle change for an individual. I’ve heard horror stories about some contestants not eating anything the day of the final weigh-in, but I really think these have nothing to do with the show and everything to do with individuals. After watching the finale on Tuesday, I’ve got five reasons why TBL is good for all of us:

 

1.)  It starts the conversation about obesity.

Some conversations are difficult to have. Topics like race, religion, gender roles, and more with someone who doesn’t share your views can often breed miscommunication, but that’s not a reason to stay silent on these matters. Without TBL, it’d be more difficult to have a nation-wide conversation about food addiction and internal issues that lead to weight gain. Child and adulthood obesity is a sticky topic and can lead to feelings of inferiority and oppression, but it can also lead to empowerment, empathy, love, and acceptance.

2.)  It rejects the idea of fat glorification.

I’m all for empowerment and in no way condone treating a person any differently because of their size. That said, when a group of people feel oppressed, it’s a very natural for that group to stand in direct opposition. This is where fat glorification comes in: when an individual feels so hurt by the thin-obsessed world that they decide find other hurt souls and rebel. The problem is that this rebellion can often be smoke screen – an unproductive justification for an unhealthy lifestyle. I think we can all agree that having a BMI over 30 has an affect on a person’s risk for heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, sleep apnea, and more. TBL celebrates balanced health, stresses that the morbidly obese are sick, not hopeless, and does not accept the misconception that it’s ok to be fat.

3.)  It inspires people to live healthier.

Type in “biggest loser” to wordpress’ tag search engine and you’ll see what I mean; stories of regular people like me who watch the biggest loser and do planks during commercial breaks, or set their alarm to wake up early the next day to go to the gym. And that’s just the blog-writing crowd.

4.)  It finds creative ways to address some underlying causes of obesity.

Ok, I did cringe when Sunny was encouraged to have a conversation with her mom about the fear she had of her mom dying early of complications of obesity. I know that fear and I know that conversation; it rarely ends well. I didn’t think it was ok to force it. Of course, my uneasiness was confirmed when Sunny’s mom told her it just made her angry. Afterwards, she acknowledged her daughter’s fears and promised to be more mindful of health. Then I realized something: TBL doesn’t force anything. It’s like being in a play; the more you fight it, try not to be seen or look “cool,” the worse you come off and the less you learn. It seems like contestants on TBL just need to trust the process and open their hearts to growth for the change to take affect. Family issues, past experiences, feelings of inferiority can all have an affect on someone’s health, and TBL understands and tries to address these causes.

5.)  It reminds us that we all have power within ourselves.

How many times have you heard “If I can do it, so can you!” on weight-loss commercials? Those fitness models saying that while holding a bottle of miracle diet pills are one thing, but the people featured on TBL are another. Through their own storytelling, they connect and reassure us all that we’re not alone. We’re all stumbling through this human experience together; some of us struggle with obesity, some with other issue, but we all have the power to have a say in how we deal with it.

 

What do you think? Do you have anything to add, or do you completely disagree? Let me know!

8 thoughts on “In Defense of The Biggest Loser

  1. Great post! I am a big fan of that show and agree with all of this. Yes some people will try to game the system and do stupid shit to win, but as a whole, the show is more positive than it is negative.

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a full episode of the show, but your post makes me want to track it down right now! Sounds very inspiring. And once again I’m blown away by your ability to convey very nuanced opinions about a tricky subject in such a careful, diplomatic way. I hope your post gets 1000s of hits!

    1. Thanks again, Claire! Opinions are complicated shades of gray disguised as simple black-and-white things. I know I can sometimes come off as flakey, but I’d rather try to explain how I really feel rather than buy into the myth that you either have to love something or hate it. Thanks for understanding!

  3. The British Biggest Loser is rubbish. When it ends they’re all still really big. We don’t get the same changes as you guys. They’ve lost weight, but they don’t look anything like the ‘after’ pic you posted in your link. I agree though, especially the fat-glorification bit.

    1. Aw! Can you get our episodes online? I think you’d like them – I’ve never seen brit biggest loser, but the american version is is uplifting and impressive without sacrificing the trashy reality TV effects we’ve all come to love, like dramatic drum rolls and intense staring.

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