It's been a week since the new year has started, and there are still umpteen articles about resolutions, ads about weight loss, commercials about joining gyms, etc. And then of course, it was also the season premiere of the Biggest Loser Couples show. In the early years of the show, I admit, I watched many episodes until I gave a closer inspection and really saw how unrealistic, unhealthy, and humiliating the show was. I want to focus on the latter in this post as I was horrified how they upped the ante so to speak.
In general, I watch bits and pieces of the show, usually the first and last episodes for curiosity sake, but I do not consider myself any avid type of watcher of the show like some people I know. The season opener was similar to their other shows in introducing the couples. This time we saw Bob and Jillian call the contestants, the contestants exhilarated on making it in the show, jumping up and down, screaming, etc. Then, Bob and Jillian tell them that their first weigh-in is public in front of their hometowns! Each and every contestant had a gaping horrified look on their faces, much like the one I had on mine. Despite the fact these people decide to go on national television to lose weight and announce to the world how much they weigh, how much more humiliating can you get than to be in front of friends and families?
Each contestant apparently agreed, and you saw them go in front of their hometowns (most seemed to be in a park or gym) and step on the scale. Then, they had to read aloud the number and say how and why they were going to change. Can we say AA but with triple the amount of humiliation? Was this necessary? No! My guess is this was completely a way to rev up the ratings and add to the humiliation factor, especially since this is considered the heaviest set of contestants. It was interesting to look at the audience footage as some had mouths wide open at the numbers, while others cried.
This entire concept of humiliation makes me ponder the question of why, and why do so many Americans tune in to watch? Many say they feel connected to the people--that they understand them. Others say they find inspiration.. Then, there are probably others who just tune in to watch Jillian Michaels yell at them.
Just as I'm thinking about all this, a new press release came out saying how negative experiences from a coach or instructor can turn people off of physical activity for a lifetime. The press release doesn't give many details of the study, other than it is published in the Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise. However, it does raise a good point in how our environment contributes to our attitudes on sports, exercises, etc.
One might think that many contestants would not want Jillian Michaels as their trainer as it seems like she is just constantly yelling and berating at them (I think a lot if edited to only show this side of her, because I seriously doubt she is always like this, just my feeling, could be wrong though), but in fact, when given the choice, there are a bunch of them that have in past seasons. So what is the deciding factor? I think it is they feel like she is the one that produces results.
This whole thinking reminds me of Bela Karolyi, the famous gymnastics coach. In Joan Ryan's book, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, many of the gymnasts said he called them awful names, talked about their bodies distastefully, etc., but yet, many continued to train under him. Why? Because he produced results, he produced champions, he seemed to be the best at the time.
I think this is kind of the same mentality of the Biggest Loser contestants. They feel like this is the only thing that is going to help them, that this show is what they need to lose the weight for good, that humiliation will produce results. I don't know, maybe it does for some, but I think there are other, better, more productive, healthier ways.
The other deciding factor for them in losing weight is simply the grand prize of money. Last year, I posted here about a study from the Journal of American Medical Association displayed similar results. Therefore, in this case, for most, when money is on the line, people go to extremes to lose weight. Somehow, going through pain and humiliation seem worth it to them, and I think there is a feeling that that's what they deserve too for letting themselves go, for not being able to "diet" right, for losing willpower, etc.
I wish the public could see how this type of show is not fueling much health but just humiliation. Unfortunately, I seem to be in the minority in thinking this way as the show is one of the most popular ratings wise and is doubtful to come off the air anytime soon. As I always tell my dog clients when they are watching dog behavior shows, "you can't believe everything you see on tv."
Note--*A friend of mine on facebook posted that she was watching the show and that Jillian kicks her butt on ifit, and how she loved that she screamed at them. However, if Jillian was ever her trainer, she would cry. (This is very true) I replied to her that I was surprised since she had a severe eating disorder in the past. She replied back saying she thought it was a great show and helped people get their lives back on track. Everyone is of course entitled to their own opinion, I was just very surprised, that's all.