I cannot overstate my hatred of The Biggest Loser enough. My reasons are simple: The show is built around extremism; many featured trainers are downright abusive; and the long term impact of the show subjects participants and viewers to physical and mental damage that can permanently hinder their efforts to lose weight and live a healthier life. In every single way, it presents a broken and incorrect vision of weight loss.
It's the time of the year again when purveyors of diet and weight loss programs vie most fiercely for our attention, hoping to convince customers that their product can do the trick much faster and more effortlessly than the competition. But the fact is that what makes one approach more promising than another depends on a variety of factors.
This week, with the New Year in full swing, attention focused on that familiar January preoccupation: losing weight. Shedding excess pounds can certainly be healthy. The trouble is, in our zeal for fighting obesity, we sometimes end up taking a punitive stand that does more to marginalize and harm people who are overweight than it does to actually help them get healthier. How about taking our cues from Tiny, the formerly obese New Brunswick cat, and keeping the weight loss theme focused on small consistent steps that lead to big results?
While I personally find The Biggest Loser to be an emotionally and physically abusive, misinformative, horror show, it's clearly beloved and trusted by many. And while my personal opinions shouldn't concern you, the peer-reviewed medical literature should. Along with being taught that obesity is treatable by means of incredible amounts of vomit-inducing exercise, severe dietary restriction, and never-ending servings of guilt and shame, the medical literature suggests viewers will also be taught that failure is an obese child's personal choice.