Apparently contestants on The Biggest Loser exercise for six hours a day, dehydrate themselves until they urinate blood, and push their bodies to extreme limits, sometimes causing them to pass out or be otherwise injured. Two contestants were taken to the emergency room on the first episode of the current season. Gawker summarizes the Times article thusly:
- The winner of season one “dropped some of the weight by fasting and dehydrating himself to the point that he was urinating blood.” Actually many of the people dropped mostly water weight, and gained much of it back after the show ended and they began hydrating properly.
- Whose fault is it that these dangerously fat people are dangerously dehydrating themselves in pursuit of a cash prize? The fault of the fat people themselves, according to the professional fitness trainer Jillian “Evil” Michaels. “Contestants can get a little too crazy and they can get too thin,” she said.
- Don’t go blaming the show for that; they never said they were qualified to know about health and weight loss and whatever! The show’s waivers state that no guarantees have been made that the medical professionals are qualified to “diagnose medical conditions that may affect my fitness to participate in the series.”
- Also the show tried to intimidate former contestants into not speaking to the New York Times.
The contestants also end up gaining weight back after the show, through such unhealthy practices as drinking water.
Inspiring people to eat healthier and exercise more is a great goal. Exercise is great! Healthy, nutritious food is great! But that’s not what The Biggest Loser does. The Biggest Loser puts fat people on display as moral failures — it suggests that people are fat simply because they are lazy, and if only they worked a little harder, they could lose the weight. In reality, the contestants are nearly killing themselves for the amusement of the viewing audience. I’ve never actually watched The Biggest Loser because the whole concept disturbs me, but I’m further unnerved to know that the show puts its contestants through extreme weight-loss without proper medical oversight. To make matters worse, they do it under the guise of “health” — as if extreme exercise, disordered eating and intentional dehydration are “healthy” so long as they make you thin.
I suppose, though, that a real show about health — where in the end there would still be some healthy fat people and some healthy thin people and some healthy in-between people — would make really boring TV. But NBC could at least drop the pretense of The Biggest Loser being a “health” show and just admit it’s about making fat people do all sorts of extreme and dangerous things for our entertainment. You know, hold up the mirror.
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