I was recently watching some old episodes of The Biggest Loser and found it to be very entertaining and motivational, but there were several things about the show that concerned me. Below I list 5 areas of concern that I keep noticing whenever I watch the show.
1) The contest is geared towards super heavy contestants. It's always more dramatic to see someone drop 120 pounds than it is to see someone lose 40. It makes for exciting television to see someone lose 25 pounds in a week, but it really bothers me when I see contestants or viewers feel like a failure because they were only able to lose 2-3 pounds during the week. It sets some unrealistic expectations for the average person. I know people who have wanted to audition for the show, but they knew they don't have a chance unless they were extremely overweight so they tried to gain more weight in order to help their odds of being a candidate.
2) There is too much focus on the weight scale. I'd like to see more emphasis on body composition and measurements. I know these other parameters are tracked and calculated, but the show focuses so much on that giant obnoxiously suspenseful scale.
3) The competitive nature can get ugly. The concept of voting someone off and forming alliances should be saved for shows like Survivor and Fear Factor, not for people who are working to improve their health. I'm all for competition and think it can be healthy, but I don't like the way they pit contestants against each other in certain scenarios.
4) The training is often too extreme. Pushing out of shape people to the point of exhaustion and yelling at them until they are in tears might appeal to some people, but I think it's a recipe for injury. One of the episodes I watched featured 4 contestants with injuries that were a result of over training. Gradual progression and reasonable workouts are safer, but not nearly as exciting to watch.
5) It's not realistic. The participants live full time at a secluded ranch with teammates in similar circumstances. Their meals are prepared for them and they have personal trainers to work them out. As appealing as this may sound, do you know anyone in the real world that lives under such circumstances? If you wanted to make it real, have them do the challenge while taking care of their family or while working a full time job and dealing with the stresses of everyday life while trying to get back in shape.
I hope this post doesn't come across that I'm trying to bash The Biggest Loser. Overall, I think the show is very motivating and entertaining and I love seeing people make positive changes to their body and adopt healthier lifestyles, but there are some subtle messages the show gives (perhaps inadvertently) that I don't care for because I don't believe those messages are healthy.