“The Biggest Loser” and reality TV deception

Television is notorious for its sensationalist approach to presenting news and other programming.  When in the business to keep people glued to the screen, they are going to use nonsense teasers and other trickery to keep viewers glued to the screen through another set of sponsor’s commercials in order to get to the punch line.  This situation has been rampant for years.

Then came so-called “reality TV“.  Obviously a misnomer, there is nothing “realistic” about “reality TV”.  Examples abound.  These so-called “reality” TV shows have rightfully come under scrutiny for their contrived scenes that are obviously intent on stirring up some controversy and drama in an attempt to retain viewers.

The producers have to appeal to the voyeuristic nature of TV viewers – plenty of people apparently live lives that are so boring that they need to live vicariously through their television.  In a sense, then, they are asking for this fake portrayal of human experience.

So, what about “The Biggest Loser“, a hit amongst those interested in weight loss and fitness for whatever reasons?  How much goes on behind the scenes when you’re watching someone waste away on the TV screen weekly?  An editorial in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association titled “When Overweight and Obesity become ‘Reality’” describes some of the sly production waves-of-the-hand that occur unbeknownst to the viewers, without specific reference to a particular show but instead making vague references.

The author references reports by participants of a particular weight-loss show who describe severe weakness and dehydration, while the viewers only saw their dedicated diet and exercise habits portrayed in a healthy light.  Also, the winner of the first season allegedly regained 7 pounds within days of the finale by simply rehydrating with water. (See links at end of post

Obviously, there are unhealthy weight-loss methods being employed in a situation like this where individuals are competing for a significant monetary prize.  Of course the networks and the shows cannot outright encourage these methods, but they are creating an unhealthy competitive environment that all but encourages these drastic methods.

Here, the producers have a unique opportunity to provide an educational service to the viewers, to offer a glimpse into what it takes to change one’s life by diet and exercise.  Unfortunately, it is instead a bit of a freakshow due to the sensationalist perspective that is presented to the viewers rather than the real-life perspective.  

Most viewers should be savvy enough to detect the fraudulent presentation of these stories – we know when we’re getting real “reality” programming – I’ve yet to see it.

Time article

Seattle Times article

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2 Responses to ““The Biggest Loser” and reality TV deception”

  1. […] articles about my current favorite TV show: The Biggest Loser. His three posts talk about reality TV Deception, behind the scenes of TBL, and some of TBL secrets. They’re a pretty good […]

  2. I dont know if this is going where i want it but if possible send it on. Ada i dont know you you dont know me but you have family not just those in the housse but so many out watching tv wether you know it you are an insperation to myself and so many others. if i were there i would give you a great big hug and tell you that you are a worthwhike person and you deserve everything you are working for. dont blame yourself for your families selfish behavior if you belived that you woudnt be where you are. personably i think i think you are beyond fantastic keep up the good work and know that you have someone in your corner

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