Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Biggest Loser

I can't bring myself to write about the shooting tragedy. Sometimes I wish people would just stop and take a moment to acknowledge a heartbreaking event instead of using it as an opportunity to push an agenda, judge people or get into fights on social networking sites, as if that helps anything. Facebook is weird, because people act like their posts are as effective as writing a letter to a representative in congress or joining an interest group. The worst are those who sit in an armchair with a belly full of beer and insist that this or that person in the disaster should have been more heroic, pretending that they have any fucking clue about how they would act in a chaotic and terrifying situation. It's just sad the way people behave after something like this. It reminded me of the critics who got on Jon Krakauer's case after the 1996 Everest nightmare. People suggested he should have gone back out into a blinding blizzard in order to attempt to save people after he had collapsed in his tent, barely making it to safety himself. I guess I understand the need to vent, so I will shut up about it and go into my own rant.

Recently, I read a few blurbs about how an episode of Glee botched the job in their attempt to cover the topic of eating disorders, trivializing it on the one hand but going into specific health harming techniques a little too explicitly on the other. When have eating disorders ever been handled well on television though? It's unfortunate, but it's to be expected. All shows attempting to cover eating disorders as a topic follow the same pattern and are resolved in one to three episodes: A girl wants to lose weight and doesn't eat, takes laxatives or pills and/or throws up; she passes out; someone has a talk with her, and Boom! the problem is solved. The writers of Glee have dealt with the issue in a careless way. It's important to note that the program is not a reality show, but even productions not based in reality can affect viewers. In this case, I have heard some people explain that show is triggering for anyone with a tendency toward disordered eating.

I just read that The Biggest Loser is going to be casting children on their show. First let me say that I stopped watching the show in 2004 after I saw two episodes way back before it was popular. Second, I refuse to watch it after dealing with the sour taste it left in my mouth while watching those first episodes. As far along in my recovery as I was at the time, I found the show to be hugely discomforting in all kinds of ways. Now the producers want to bring children into the fiasco.

Not an effective training method.

Here's a petition to sign if you agree that children should be spared the trauma of being immersed in an atmosphere of extreme dieting and ridicule: Keep Kids off the Biggest Loser.

Kai suffered from an eating disorder brought on after being on the Biggest Loser. 

Former Biggest Loser contestant Kai Hibbard, who suffered from an eating disorder after filming the show, claims that the show stretches the truth and promotes unhealthy diet methods. That much was obvious at a glance, but what's even more troubling is that so many people defend the series, claiming it inspires others to lose weight. Does it? I never responded well to yelling, so watching others get yelled at has never been inspiring to me. I think I have mentioned before my experience with one riding instructor who yelled at me the entire 45 minutes I was on the horse. I refused to go back, because I got so stressed out anticipating the woman's shouts. I respond better to positive reinforcement. It's less dehumanizing and less demoralizing.

Please keep this away from children.
Scanning the statistics for the show, it looks like many of the contestants gain back a significant amount of the weight lost. Some gain back all the weight plus more, which is typical after dieting in a way that doesn't address permanent lifestyle changes. Gradual diet and exercise tweaking tends to lead to better results, but sensible doesn't usually generate ratings on T.V.

The biggest Loser is a contest designed to get viewers. It's not a weight-loss camp where health is encouraged. Supposedly the children won't be weighed or part of the actual competition, so I'm not sure what their role will be. I wonder why anyone would put kids in that questionable setting anyway, but I'm sure it has to do with an attempt to increase viewership.

It's a myth that yelling gets results in training.


  1. Your first paragraph captures what I have been struggling to say for a couple of days.

    1. I know people process tragedy differently, buy I get a sick feeling reading some of the posts and comments sometimes.

  2. Your first paragraph - yes. I've found myself getting into online arguments and I always wonder why, because it accomplishes exactly nothing (beyond unnecessarily stressing myself out).

    I also do not watch The Biggest Loser, for the reasons you mentioned. I do find it interesting that people call it "inspirational" which brings up something I've been thinking about, particularly that the word "inspirational" has pretty much become meaningless. Like, when I think of "inspirational" I think of being inspired to DO SOMETHING. Yet it seems like a lot of people say something is "inspirational" when it gives them feelings. Considering that shows like TBL are designed to give viewers feelings, I'd say that what's really going on is manipulation, but you can't say that to people because no one wants to admit to feeling manipulated.

    I need more coffee. Sorry for the barely coherent sentences.

    1. Yes! That's what I was getting at. TBL hardly inspires; it's pretty much like any other game show. The two times I watched it, it made me feel uncomfortable, not inspired.

  3. I may never get what people see in a show like TBL. Does it satisfy the fantasy of yelling at someone whom they perceive to lack personal discipline? Would they like to yell at themselves or get someone they could look up to yell at them for their own perceived lack of discipline and this satisfies that impulse from a comfortable distance as they put themselves into the shoes of the shamed person on tv, a la BDSM? I am really unsure what the appeal would be, but then the only reality tv I ever care to check out is the original reality tv, sports. Interestingly, in modern, enlightened society, the irate, red-faced, screaming, demeaning coach (i.e. boot camp drill instructor) that was the caricature of a generation ago is falling out of fashion in mainstream sports. Mike Krzyzewski is the new, improved version of Bob Knight, Urban Meyer works well with today's young men where Woody Hayes used to. People have discovered that as you draw and develop a more diverse and sophisticated talent pool that collaboration in a constructive and supportive environment generally bring far more gains than a top-down style ballistic public shaming will. But then these things have to be kept simple for general tv viewership for a semi-scripted show. I used to know someone who was (perhaps still is) a big fan of TBL, and I also know that if someone approached her with that amount of force regarding any area of her life where she sought genuine improvement that she would cringe into a hole and shrivel up. Perhaps it was a self-righteous thing, she liked seeing overweight people respond 'positively' to being bullied around 'for their own good' by a fit person because she wanted to do that but would never have the guts?

    1. Well said. I don't get the draw either. When I did watch the two episodes, the whole thing made me very uncomfortable, and I can't imagine these kinds of bullying techniques doing a whole lot of good for most people.