I watched the first few seasons of Biggest Loser, and then I just couldn’t stomach it any more. When this latest season ended a few days ago, the show came back on my radar because all of the newsfeeds were flooded with pictures of an emaciated winner. There have been lots of responses, and I have been trying to figure out whether to bother adding my own, and how to even formulate my thoughts about the show, and about the reaction to Rachel.
And then I came across an article at Jezebel by Golda Poretsky, kind of a guru and big name in the Health at Every Size world, and I realized that I didn’t have to make the arguments and points that were in my heart. She articulated them for me.
Biggest Loser lost me early on as a viewer because it was not motivational for me. I felt the fat shaming that the contestants went through. I saw how the trainers treated them. I also don’t believe that any of it is sustainable or realistic outside of the show. It makes for entertaining tv, I guess, but as a huge person who wanted that kind of weight loss but felt that it would be an insurmountable task, the message I actually got from the show was that the only way to do it would be to quit my job, train for 8 hours a day, and be monitored closely so that I wouldn’t eat anything. It was de-motivational, and didn’t encourage a love of exercise or of eating. It skewed my idea of what a personal trainer is, could be, or should be. And it solidified the already deep beliefs that I held about how fat people are to blame for their lot in life and should therefore not be treated with respect or dignity. The show reinforced all the reasons I already had for hating myself and my body.
Not so entertaining, after all.
Some people say that they find the show inspirational and motivating. Studies show the opposite effect, that the show actually promotes weight bias and increases stigma towards fat people.
Whether you find Rachel’s transformation positive or not, whether it’s physically healthy and she achieved it “naturally” as she says, there’s something missing in this equation. She did it so fast. She was able to lose the weight … but did she change her mind and her thinking? I believe she might have actually formed new habits, ones she might be able to maintain on her own in the immediate future. But there’s a reason she put on weight in the first place. I find it incredibly hard to believe that the thought processes have truly changed for her in such a short time.
There are so very many things wrong with this show. Tons.
Here. Let Golda break it down for you:
Freaked Out By Rachel Fredrickson’s Biggest Loser Win? Read This.