When I caught a glimpse of the ‘first look’ at The Biggest Loser on Channel 10, I was horrified.
Because The Biggest Loser is now claiming to ‘break the obesity cycle in families’. Yes, this prime example of reality porn is now performing a community service. The Biggest Loser contestants this year are families. And some of those families include people under 21. The youngest is a fifteen year-old boy.
I despised The Biggest Loser before it brought children into the mix, but this has taken my antipathy to a new low.
Firstly, because no fifteen year-old child can give informed consent to being shamed and bullied on national TV. And secondly, because the disengenuity of TBL propaganda – that it is working to make our population healthier – enrages me. I don’t believe the producers of TBL give a hoot about the obesity crisis in Australia.
These are the same producers who bring us Masterchef and Beauty and the Geek – let’s not pretend they are a charitable organisation. They are hosting a game show in which overweight people compete in their underwear to see who has lost the greatest amount of weight.
And it is a disgrace.Robyn and Katie, mother and daughter team on TBL
Let’s get beyond the myth perpetrated by TBL that a fat person, by definition, cannot be healthy, happy, or have good self esteem. This, of course, is nonsense, but we’ll move on.
Let’s just look at the ways in which TBL ‘trainers’ address the weight issues of their charges.Not every fat person has an eating disorder or eats for emotional reasons. However, the contestants on TBL do have unhealthy relationships with food – relationships which make them unhappy.
Instead of receiving counselling and support, the contestants are placed on severely kilojoule restricted diets, and starved and exercised like pack animals. They are brought consistently to thresholds of extreme physical pain, and, occasionally, unconsciousness. The trainers bully the contestants and yell at them, conveying that implicit message that fat people aren’t worthy of respect or self-esteem.
Bizarre “exercises” are included, like being buckled into harnesses and pulling a truck behind them. Truly. A truck. This isn’t exercise. This isn’t healthy. This isn’t a way to generate positive changes.
It is cruel and dehumanising and a little perverted. And it is packaged and labelled as entertainment.
And let’s not forget the weigh-in at the end of the day.
The weigh-in. Where contestants line up in their underwear and step on the scales to be told by the numbers how worthy they are. And why are they weighed in their underwear? Because it is far more titillating for the audience to see fat people in their underwear, true to The Biggest Loser’s theme of reality porn.
I cannot stop The Biggest Loser from being made, but can certainly stop my family from watching.
I strongly urge you to do the same.
The Biggest Loser isn’t going to solve the obesity crisis, but you can stop the cycle of fat shaming in your home by simply pressing a button.
*Kerri is not alone in her dismay at this latest The Biggest Loser. She asks us to refer you to an online petition addressed to the producers of TBL here.
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*Kerri Sackville is a writer, TV presenter and author who lives in Sydney with her husband and three kids. Her first book was titled When My Husband Does the Dishes and her second book The Little Book of Anxiety was also a best-seller. You can follow Kerri’s blog here and catch up with her on Twitter @kerrisackville