Does The Biggest Loser send the wrong message?

There’s a great discussion going on at 3FC on this topic, and one of my posts struck me as something I really need to remember.  The easiest way to do that, seemed to be to put it here on my blog, so for what it’s worth, here it is:

I know that virtually everyone SAYS they know the show’s losses aren’t realistic (I believe them, or at least believe it’s what they think), but before Biggest Loser existed, I don’t remember ever seeing so many complaints on the 3FC and other boards about “only losing 3 lbs.” It seems that more and more folks ARE expecting much larger losses than ever before.

I think that on one hand, with the logical brain we “know” that those losses aren’t possible in “real life” (because no one has the time to work out 6 to 8 hours a day unless they’re independently wealthy and don’t have a job or a life). And yet the emotional brain says “I want that too – if them, why not me.”

Especially since the format hides how much work and time really went into those results. The week (which may not even be only a week) shows some intense exercising, but just a minute or so at a time. You see people being yelled at, and it encourages you to think of some of those folks as “slackers” (not realizing that your at-home exercise is probably 1/20th as long or as intense as the slowest, least achieving contestant). The show WANTS you to think that you would do better if you were there, you would APPRECIATE the opportunity, and you would be one of the ones that worked the hardest – Jillian would never have to yell at YOU.

It isn’t that people don’t think the show is unrealistic, it’s that I think there’s a big gap between the reality and many people’s perception of just HOW unrealistic the show is. People aren’t expextng to lose 20 lbs in a week – but they may expect still-unrealistic 5.

In part, because there aren’t shows praising and making a big deal out of the 1, 2, 3, and 4 lb losses, I think people are losing sight of just how incredible even the smallest losses are. It’s a big deal, and it should be treated like a big deal.

I don’t think ONLY TBL is responsible for the rise in unreasonable expectations, we’re an instant gratification society in more ways than ever before. I just feel that it’s one of the largest barriers to lasting weight loss, because when you expect instant, and don’t get it, that results in disappointment, and I think disappointment is the biggest source of failure when it comes to weight loss. People don’t quit because they ARE failing, but because they feel they are failing (often interpreting success as failure because they think, for many reasons that it “should be” faster and easier than it is – so they must be doing something wrong).

4 Responses to “Does The Biggest Loser send the wrong message?”

  1. brseay Says:

    You know, I had never thought about this before but it makes sense. Great posting!

  2. Screaming Fat Girl Says:

    This is an excellent post and you make many very good points. I think TBL (which I do not watch, but have ready articles about the type of things that happen on the show) is a very toxic bit of pop culture that can have widespread negative effects on people if it continues. It’s not only all of the things you’ve said (though that is certainly a big part of it), but that they cover up health problems and extremely dangerous practices that happen behind the scenes. Some of the contestants after the fact have admitted that they have critically dehydrated themselves to lose more weight for the weigh-ins. Some have heart problems after they take part in the show, but these negative points are not revealed easily because of non-disclosure contracts that are signed.

    I have read on multiple occasions that losing more than 2 lbs. a week is dangerous and difficult for your body. It places too much strain on your body systems as our bodies were never designed for dramatic changes. It doesn’t make for good T.V., but it does make for good health.

    Thanks for sharing this on your blog (which I subscribe to via RSS and see all posts from) rather than only leaving it on 3FC (which I read very sporadically and infrequently).

  3. Effie Says:

    I have to agree with you. TBL makes minor losses seem inconsequential, when in fact, losing at all should be celebrated. I’ve fallen into the TBL trap more than enough times, being upset that 3 or 4 lbs was all I lost in a week. Frankly, I don’t think I’d like to be on the ranch, what happens when you go home and don’t have time for 6 hours of daily exercise and there is no one yelling at you, and no portion controlled kitchen? How can they really consider that being weight loss in the real world. That being said, I think that the contestants are doing good things for their bodies in attempting to lose weight, they are just going at it in a very destructive manner.

  4. beerab Says:

    I totally agree- we are doing our own biggest loser at work and a girl who lost 1.5 lbs the first week told me she was so upset that she went home that night and ate HALF a pizza! I was like WHY? 1.5 lbs IS good! She was upset cuz I lost 3 and another girl lost 7. I told her a loss is a loss no matter what and she shouldn’t be upset that she didn’t lose more. I have to remind people all the time that 10+ lbs a week isn’t normal… Losing over 100 lbs in 7 weeks is NOT normal… I always cheer everyone on at our weekly weigh-ins, even if it’s only .4 lbs I still give a high five- they probably think I’m crazy at work lol.

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