I’ve watched a couple of episodes of The Biggest Loser Families and find myself cringing at the extent of degradation and shaming. To see Sarah-Jayne begging through tears not to have to stand on the scales the first time, was harrowing. It was as though she was being led to a torture rack. To hear each contestant declare their name and weight – “Hi, I’m Meg, and I weigh *** kilos” – was like watching a forced confession. Each individual was reduced to the sum of their weight.
This description of last night’s episode, from The Australian’s TV section:
“The trainers aren’t happy with their weight gain after a week of unhealthy food, but they still get the last laugh with an early morning training session and a bio-age test for all the contestants.”
The last laugh? Revenge on the fatties? Trainers hurling abuse and insults? Being punished for a life history of poverty, poor nutrition, unemployment and lack of opportunity? Is this how we encourage public health in this country?
Sarah McMahon, my Collective Shout colleague and co-founder with Lydia Turner of BodyMatters Australasia, who has contributed thoughtful pieces on the MTR blog a number of times now, had this much-needed critique of The Biggest Loser published on ABC The Drum Unleashed yesterday.
Episode 1 of The Biggest Loser Australia 2011 debuted on Sunday night. The new series, targeting four family units, pitches being overweight as a problem experienced by individuals – indeed whole families – who are lazy, greedy, and slothful: in short, morally weak. They “do it to themselves”.
Trainers were given a week to “live in the shoes” of contestants. They are presented as barely surviving the experience of being drowned in gluttony and laziness.
OMG- and you have this every day?!?!… I can’t even look!!… I don’t know how you do it, I don’t know how you can physically eat this much food!! – Tiffiny, Trainer.
All that food… I was a little frightened; taken back… how many carbs can you have on one table? – Commando, Trainer.
Contestants were shown continually eating fatty and highly-processed foods. As this atypical eating behaviour was played up for the camera, the trainers (and probably viewers) reeled in disgust. Despite the participants revealing the hardships they believed contributed to their weight gain – such as childhood poverty, bullying and compromised family backgrounds. The take-home message is that, really, they have wreaked disaster upon themselves. Read more>>
See also: Diets and Our Demons by Judith Matz
and: ‘On being round’ from This Woman’s Work blog