Happy Calories™ On “The Biggest Loser”

During the Q&A session of a recent speaking engagement, someone asked what I thought of the TV show, The Biggest Loser. Needless to say, I am not a fan. There are many things about the show that concern me.

First, there is nothing real about “Reality TV”. These episodes use “real” people instead of actors, but they are constructed through directing and editing. We don’t see what “really” happens. We see what the directors and producers want us to see. Cameras are always rolling, and oftentimes a provocative look or reaction in a scene comes from footage shot in an entirely different context. In addition, our perceptions of the participants’ experiences are distorted by the weekly nature of the show. We see the contestants in the show week to week, and think they are achieving amazing results so quickly. However, in reality, those results oftentimes come over several weeks or months.

Second, the show is a cash cow in the entertainment business. Every actor, writer, filmmaker – every artist understands the challenges of the business piece. Theaters, film stock, costumes, props, fantastic crew – all cost money. Generally, the true artists are in this business to express their authentic selves through their work. But the bottom line is that we are part of a business. And at the end of the day, that business is to make money. Therefore, it follows that the primary concern of the show is to make money – not the well-being of the contestants.

Which brings us to point three – concern for the contestants’ well-being is questionable at best. While some might argue that the show gives the participants “tough love” and a structured environment, from a Happy Calories perspective the show is simply abuse. The Happy Calories™ model is grounded in connecting with the body, developing a life-affirming relationship with the body and learning to follow its wisdom and guidance.

I don’t even need to get into the psychological and emotional aspects of shaming contestants – the underlying negative connotation of the word “loser,” associating the word loser with an obese population, the verbal abuse by the trainers, having the contestants stand on a stage with their weight displayed in big numbers above them for the audience and the entire world to see… The ultimate problem is that the show takes people who already have a dysfunctional relationship with their body and perpetuates the dysfunction.

Now some people might argue that the show helps people “get a handle” on their weight by forcing them into a structured program of diet and exercise. But forcing and shaming them into a structured program of “diet and exercise” keeps them from learning to develop a relationship with their body.

Medical conditions notwithstanding, from a Happy Calories perspective a contestant who is on The Biggest Loser has likely had an abusive relationship with their body. The contestant is not connected to their body. When one is connected to the body – and motivated by the desire to feel good or feel better – dysfunctional behaviors that lead to extreme obesity, such as binge eating and lack of movement, are impossible to maintain.

The human body wants to be in an optimized state of health, vitality and beauty – and it knows how to create those results in a life-affirming way. Anyone can achieve this optimized state by simply connecting to the body and following its guidance.

However, as far as The Biggest Loser is concerned, everything about the show promotes a continued disconnection from the body. The show does not ultimately care for the health and well-being of its contestants. (As a side note, I find it interesting that just like someone in a childhood, domestic or other abusive situation oftentimes seeks out another abusive relationship, contestants who likely have had an abusive relationship with their body seek out continued abuse on The Biggest Loser.) The show is not a “real” representation of the contestants’ experience. The show is crafted to meet the demands of the producers. And what the producers want is tension and sensationalism that will keep viewers tuned in and advertising revenue flowing.