Reality Check

Up until September, I was an avid viewer of The Biggest Loser. My interest sparked when contestants from Southeastern Michigan celebrated tremendous successes on the show. The Biggest Loser does extend a powerful, positive message: anyone can make lasting positive lifestyle changes given the right environment, support and resources. Also, the celebrity personal trainers, Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper, appear to have a proven track records. Their exercise DVDs have been among my best fitness aids because they have helped me realize visible, lasting results.

With that being said, I also think the show encourages at-home viewers to develop unrealistic fitness and weight management expectations. For example, most of us do not have the luxury of leaving professional, parental, marital, social, and household responsibilities to focus exclusively on weight and fitness management for extended periods of time. Next, devoting all wakeful hours to exercise is not a consistent reality and it is unhealthy. Finally, it is unnerving to watch the weigh-ins at the end of each episode. With self-esteem hanging out for all to see, each contestant steps onto the scale for the moment of triumph or defeat. Smiles deflate, shoulders slump and words of disappointment come forth when losses don’t match expectations. I can relate to this. There have been objectives — some too grandiose — I have set for myself. Along the way, I encountered challenges and experienced frustration that zapped my confidence. But, I think contestants should be encouraged to stand proud for all pounds lost. A loss is a loss. Plus, it’s unrealistic for at-home viewers to expect losses comparable to what they see on The Biggest Loser.