Renee Little, R.D.
The Biggest Loser 2020 Reboot as "Wellness" is Harmful
USA Network announced on May 13, 2019 that it will be starting up The Biggest Loser again. The 10-episode season from Endemol Shine North America, in association with Universal Television Alternative Studio, is expected to debut on USA Network in 2020.
The Network released this statement on May 13th:
“At NBCUniversal, we know the power of impactful content that connects with audiences on an emotional level, and USA is the perfect home for an iconic franchise like THE BIGGEST LOSER which does just that,” said Mark Miller, Executive Vice President, Ad Sales, NBCUniversal. “We are confident that these incredible stories of transformation will resonate with viewers and advertisers alike.”
“We’re re-imagining THE BIGGEST LOSER for today’s audiences, providing a new holistic, 360-degree look at wellness, while retaining the franchise’s competition format and legendary jaw-dropping moments,” said Chris McCumber, President, Entertainment Networks - USA Network & SYFY. “USA’s recent reboot of TEMPTATION ISLAND brought both new and younger viewers to the network, and we’re excited to add another big, buzzy show to our growing unscripted lineup.”(1)
Why is this Show Harmful?
#1 The premise of the show is built on fat shaming and perpetuating weight bias.
Putting individuals on national television and allowing people to watch as they go through "body transformation" reinforces the weight bias that individuals just need to "learn to eat better and move more" in order to achieve a healthy body weight. We know from research that this is not true. Obesity is a complex multi-factorial condition that cannot be simplified to these 2 "solutions." (2) NBCUniversal choosing to put these individuals on display for the entire nation (and beyond) for a 1 hour weekly 10 episode show will perpetuate weight bias that is already so pervasive in our culture. The solution for obesity is not simply "eat healthy and move more," and we need to stop the continued messaging that it is.
#2 Competing " to not only lose weight, but to improve their overall well-being" is a contradiction.
If the show has weekly weigh-ins and a competition for weight loss they cannot claim to be about “holistic" wellness. This is a contradiction and a "smoke screen" used for marketing. Holistic wellness is about the whole person. Putting people in direct competition with each other and making the success based on "the biggest loser" or the amount lost on the scale, is not putting people's wellness first.
"No matter how many "wellness" or "holistic" descriptions are used to sell the show, it is about weight loss "
No matter how many "wellness" or "holistic" descriptions are used to sell the show, it is about weight loss. If the show eliminated weigh ins or any body measurements at all and brought the professionals on the show to teach cooking skills, teach about body alignment/physical activity, a psychologist free of charge (to discuss trauma, emotions, coping strategies, self esteem, self acceptance), a dietitian to teach intuitive eating, a social worker to address income disparities and so on, the show wouldn't be very interesting would it? The content which qualifies for "good t.v." is not synonymous with wellness. No matter the spin, this show is not going to promote health and wellness if it focuses on weight loss.
To wrap this up, I'm clearly not in favor of this show resurfacing.
I think it's damaging to:
- the advocacy work that's being done in the Health At Every Size (TM) field
- our children growing up right now and being highly influenced by what they watch on t.v.
- individuals who are already facing stigma and bias because of their weight
The list could probably go on and on.
How can you help?
1) Don't watch this show when it airs. If the ratings are low the show will have to be cancelled.
2) Share this article - education is key about why this show shouldn't have airtime.
3) Talk about it with others - discuss peoples opinions about the show rebooting as "wellness" focused and help others understand why this is not true and why this show is harmful.
You can make a difference. The language we use and the discussions we have shape our culture. You have 100% control over the culture you create around you.
1) https://www.nbcumv.com/news/usa-network-reboot-iconic-reality-series-%E2%80%98-biggest-loser%E2%80%99?division=1&network=33145&show=7066880 2)https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/295153/07-1177-obesity-system-atlas.pdf 3) http://www.weightymatters.ca/2016/05/the-lasting-damage-of-biggest-loser_3.html 4) http://www.weightymatters.ca/2016/05/the-lasting-damage-of-biggest-loser.html 5) Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after “The Biggest Loser” competition. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/oby.21538