Today, when my fourth grade daughter brought home her weekly Scholastic News, which she has to read weekly for homework, I was horrified to see a full page article endorsing the new “The Biggest Loser” episodes with kids.
Kids don’t belong on reality TV at all, not to mention on a fat-shaming show that stereotypes and stigmatizes children based on their current body type.
At one point in last week’s season premiere, Jillian Michaels talks to the three kids about bullying, and tells them she’s here to help. While Michaels may have the best of intentions, her brand of helping means changing the kids to conform to the bullies’ standards, not challenging the norms that make the bullying okay in the first place. It’s fine if teens want to eat healthy and get in shape—go for it you healthy teens!—but exploiting fat kids on national television in an environment that is known to be unrealistic and risky just so NBC can get more ratings is all kinds of wrong. And the more research we see, the more we learn that fat and health aren’t as closely related as we thought—which makes The Biggest Loser: Chubby Kid Edition even worse.
this odious piece of programming’s definition of mentoring means exposure to fat shaming, intensely restrictive diets, and excessive exercise. The Biggest Loser is synonymous with fueling a national environment that promotes fat phobia, body shaming, and unhealthy means of weight loss…But attempting to integrate youth into the most fat-shaming, weight loss glorifying TV show in America just to expand the target audience is horrifying. Our society is already massively confused about the relationship between size and health and riddled with misconceptions that one is an indicator of the other.
Even the LA Times writes about the show:
There’s certainly an argument to be made that reality TV has no business putting kids in the limelight. There is just no telling how it might impact young lives 20 years from now.
At the very least, the idea of putting kids on this program to improve their health is highly debatable. In fact, when my daughter told me that there was an article that made her uncomfortable, I assumed she was talking about the debate section of the mag, where one kid supports something and another kid is against it. But, no. “The Biggest Loser” piece is on page 2, presented with zero controversy. My daughter told me that she felt sorry for the boy, because people were making him feel bad for being fat. She said, “This is horrible. Why would they do that?” Am I supposed to tell her NBC just cares about his health?