Biggest Loser: TV’s Biggest Travesty

By Karen

Irked lately by the food snobbery on Top Chef, I swung to the other extreme by catching a bit of the anti-food series, The Biggest Loser, on NBC.

Watching people diet is even less fun than watching them eat, so I have only seen snippets of TBL over the years, but I thought its purpose was to help morbidly obese people get in shape and feel good about themselves, with viewers cheering them on.

Man, was I wrong!

In Season 11, torture and humiliation are constants, with contestants getting the boot if they fail to lose dangerously large amounts of poundage (like 15-20) every single week.

This season exploits couples — siblings or parents and their adult children. Last night, a mother who’d just gotten under 200 lbs. gained 8 back to keep the younger contestants from being sent home.

Most of the parents believe the kids have a greater need to get healthy, so the parents plot to get themselves eliminated.

By regaining more than a pound a day in spite of incessant, grueling workouts, this mother also proved to America what a fragile farce the whole premise of this show is, and you have to wonder how many of the previous 10 seasons’ contestants are waddling around today, even bigger than before.

Previously, I had tuned in near Valentine’s Day and was stunned when they locked the contestants, one at a time, in a room full of delicious chocolates, rewarding the person who ate THE MOST the “privilege” of crushing the spirit of 4 fellow contestants by making them switch teams.

The “winner” ate 35 pieces of candy, became a pariah to his fellow teammates, and then risked elimination because he didn’t drop a dramatic amount of weight.

The producers’ idea of getting these suckers into shape consists of taunting their willpower, destroying their morale, and subjecting them to brutal workouts.

It’s a sad testament to our society that the morbidly obese are so desperate for help, they’ll endure relentless psychological and physical abuse and total degradation on national television.

Oh, and did I forget to mention unrealistic expectations? During the weigh-ins, they are profoundly disappointed to lose “only” 7 pounds in a week. Some of the men have lost 100 pounds in less than 2 months. They must have Dr. Strangelove “monitoring” the contestants, as their disclaimer asserts.

I almost wish we really had the neocons’ fantasy “health police” so they could step in and pull the plug on this travesty. Instead, we’ll just have to wait for someone to die.

On second thought, maybe Top Chef isn’t so bad. At least the producers aren’t trying to actually kill anybody.

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11 Responses to Biggest Loser: TV’s Biggest Travesty

  1. Nina Leto Mayleas says:

    I have watched this travesty of a reality series exactly once. To me it was like watching a NASCAR race, waiting for cars to crash. It is the most humiliating, heart breaking view of people who need help. I wonder if anyone has had a severe injury or heart attack at the hands of those “trainers”. I don’t know how much money the winner makes and I suppose they feel it is worth it. I just can’t bear to watch.

  2. Imabear says:

    I’ve never seen this show, but from what you’ve said it is clearly a money-making ploy to exploit the “contestants”. That people are exploited for money it nothing new, but the fact that folks actually tune in to watch it and cheer them on is sad. I see we really haven’t come that from from the days of the stocks and the dunking stool (sadly, it is not an uncommon belief that these people have only themselves to blame – which may lead some to to joy some get at seeing them so mistreated).

  3. catsworking says:

    Nina, I think the grand prize for the “biggest loser” is $250K.

    Imabear, I read something while researching this post about the viewers voting for the winner at the end, and how that can totally skew things. And you bring up a good point about people watching the show just to reinforce their prejudice against the obese. When they’re all standing around in shorts and shirtless or in sports-bras at the end for the weigh-in, it’s horrifying.

    And it’s like Top Chef in that it’s not instructive. Top Chef doesn’t teach you cooking techniques, and Biggest Loser doesn’t teach healthy eating. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a meal scene, so I have no idea what those people eat. For that woman to have gained 8 pounds this week, there must be bad food available because she didn’t do it on celery.

    If they weren’t just into the freak-show exploitation of having these people kill themselves in the gym or parade around half-naked, they’d be showing how they eat. What’s shown doesn’t give anybody a plan to follow for losing weight.

  4. zappa says:

    I just flipped past a show called “Shedding For The Wedding” Young,obese couples competing a la Loser to have their wedding paid for. In the Padma Please Pack Your Knives And Go role is some Z list actress who was recently a weight loss spokesperson…Jenny Craig or such. The minute that I watched was uber creepy

    Zappa’s mom

  5. MorganLF says:

    I never watched an episode of “The Biggest Loser”. It is repulsive to me that following around a bunch of morbidly obese people is in any way considered entertainment.

    I do believe they are responsible for their own condition. It’s not like they were born with a dread disease compelling them to consume mass quantities of Krispy Kremes. Comparing that sort of self indulgence and neediness with say, multiple sclerosis is as offensive as druggies or alkies whining about their “disease” oh please spare me!

    Watching them lumber about is disturbing; who can eat the most chocolates, repulsive! The gluttony that got them where they are is exploited for our viewing pleasure.

    There is another show on A&E called “Heavy”. A reoccurring commercial had me ready to kick in the TV. A hugely obese grotesque of a baby-man was being prodded to exercise and stop stuffing himself with crap by some militant exercise guru. The next scene cuts to his wildly swinging jowls all a tremble as he stomps his foot indignantly and bawls in a high babyish voice “Weave me awone”. I don’t get it.

  6. catsworking says:

    Morgan, I agree with you that preying on obese people is so low, it can’t even be considered entertainment. I’m amazed that Biggest Loser has lasted 11 seasons. NBC should be ashamed of itself.

    Bourdain once talked about so-called “addictions” as being weaknesses of character rather than uncontrollable compulsions, and I do agree with him to a point. It drives me crazy when people call themselves “recovering alcoholics” after they haven’t had a drink in YEARS. Obviously, they’ve kicked the habit. To act like it’s a lifelong malady they deserve ongoing sympathy for is overkill, when it’s totally in your power NOT to go to the liquor store or NOT to order a drink.

    As you said, there are plenty of bona fide diseases that truly CAN’T be helped.

    The only time I think the balance tips into “disease” is when the behavior causes enough damage that the body actually becomes diseased, like with cirrhosis, lung cancer or, in the Losers’ case, heart problems, suffocating organs, and diabetes. At that point, to continue the behavior is suicidal. I think people sign on for the obesity shows in a frantic, misguided, last-ditch effort to save themselves, only to be exploited.

  7. catsworking says:

    If anybody watches these shows and finds them inspiring in any way, I’d like to hear from you and find out how. I won’t pick on you for it. I really want to know.

    As it stands, I can’t find a redeeming thing about these shows except to make skinny-bitch monsters like that trainer, Jillian Michaels, into mini-celebrities peddling their own weight-loss scams.

  8. MorganLF says:

    People who have vulgar and weak excesses are being lulled into believing they have a “disease” therefore they are without responsibility, absurd!

    Let’s call it what it is, if you get drunk and loud and sloppy every time you have a drink you are Charlie Sheen and a “menace to society”.

    If you eat yourself into a place where it takes a crane to get you out of your house you are dysfunctional and a menace as well. I will not pay for your health care and sorry Kevin Smith, I love your movies but if your FATNESS invades my space on plane, I WILL complain.

    Dude you have millions, can you just stop stuffing yourself???

  9. C from FL says:

    I only know of The Biggest Loser from the promos and therefore never tuned in. Didn’t someone write a book a while ago called The Dumbing Down of America? Seems to me I have heard that the average sit-com, game show etc. on ABC, NBC and CBS appeals to the 5th or 6th grade level. It seems like todays’s audiences are weary of conventional TV fare so “shock” value must be added to programming in order to sell those snack foods, soda products, fast food restaurants and —-oh yeah–Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers. What a psychotic addition to our already deranged culture in this beloved nation. Anyway, with a few exceptions, most TV these days is a series of commercials with some inane programming inserted at 10 minute intervals. Even the Travel Channel is beginning to cater to those who need “shock value”. Thank goodness I have Dish Network.

  10. I never watched The Biggest Loser before and I’m definitely not going to watch it after reading your article. How can you be disappointed about losing 7 pounds a week? That is actually great, but I don’t know how healthy. And to lose 100 pounds in 2 months…that’s definitely not healthy. I really hope they won’t die.

  11. catsworking says:

    C, you are right about the dumbing down of TV, but I think it just recovered a grade level. CBS canceled Two and a Half Men after Charlie Sheen mercilessly bad-mouthed the creator on a radio chat show. If there were any justice, that would be the end of that low-life’s career, but he’ll probably turn up next season on Dancing with the Stars.

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