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'The Biggest Loser': Weight loss at what cost?

Canadian Living
Health

'The Biggest Loser': Weight loss at what cost?

Season 10 of 'The Biggest Loser' premiered last week, and if you're like me, you'll be spending your Tuesday nights guiltily enjoying the controversial weight loss reality game show. I checked in with Canadian Living's Facebook fans and they confirmed that it's a show that many love to hate (or hate to love, like I do). Case in point, Barbara says:
"I do watch 'The Biggest Loser'. It is one of the only reality shows that is doing something positive and saving and transforming lives."
While Joyce disagrees:
"I can't stand the way those people are abused. It's hard enough to lose weight without somebody yelling at you and standing on your neck. Phony as a $3 bill if you ask me."
(I must have missed the neck-standing episode. Must check my PVR.) For me, the behind-the-scenes controversy surrounding the show's feel-good diet and fitness extreme makeovers make the show that much more compelling. Last November, in the article On ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Health Can Take Back Seat, the New York Times reported that season one winner, Ryan C. Benson, who lost 122 of his 330-pound starting weight, had gained back much of the weight he lost and admitting to using dangerous dieting tactics on the show:
"Mr. Benson is now back above 300 pounds but he thinks he has been shunned by the show because he publicly admitted that he dropped some of the weight by fasting and dehydrating himself to the point that he was urinating blood.”
The Times also reported:
“Some contestants have claimed that dangerous weight loss techniques were common among contestants. Kai Hibbard, who lost 118 pounds and finished as the runner-up in Season 3, has written on her MySpace blog and elsewhere that she and other contestants would drink as little water as possible in the 24 hours before a weigh-in. When the cameras were off, she said, contestants would work out in as much clothing as possible. Ms. Hibbard, who weighed 144 pounds at the show’s finale, wrote that she added 31 pounds in two weeks, most of it simply by drinking water. That experience is not isolated. Including Mr. Benson, the winners of the first four seasons of the show each have added at least 20 percent to their weight at the end of the show.”
The contestants’ transformations are designed to inspire us to live healthier lives. But how healthy are their transformations if they’re using extreme and sometimes dangerous methods to lose the weight? I want to believe that the contestants can redeem themselves and start a healthy, fit new life full of potential. I want to believe that they can achieve their dreams. That's why I keep watching. But do the ends justify the means? If you were overweight or obese, what lengths would you go to to lose weight? And would you ever go so far as to want to be a contestant on 'The Biggest Loser?'
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'The Biggest Loser': Weight loss at what cost?

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