Reality TV hits new low: ‘Biggest Loser’ kids infiltrate Scholastic News

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.

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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.

Bitch’s take on the Biggest Loser kids episodes:

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.

The non-profit About-Face blogs:

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?

5 thoughts on “Reality TV hits new low: ‘Biggest Loser’ kids infiltrate Scholastic News

  1. Earlier this week, I had a tough experience with my doctor, who told me that based upon my height (5’4″), the maximum ideal weight for my frame was 126 pounds. When I told her that even when I was in my best shape I was 135 (which I am certainly heavier than now), she responded by saying that living in an overweight society skews your view of normal. I then asked her if she would have said I was fat at 135, she demurred by saying she would never use that word but would instead say overweight. She did not listen when I told her that the chart she was referring to had nothing to do with my own personal experience, nor did she ever ask me about my nutrition or exercise habits, which are both very good. She based her information solely on the number on the scale–not even on how I look, since I’m not carrying any of the visceral fat that, according to the literature, is what is supposed to be so negative about weight gain.

    I’m 33 years old, and this has made me terribly depressed. This was a relatively minor negative encounter, but the sense that an authority was judging me, deeming me lacking, and refusing to listen to my own expertise about my body has been awful. I can’t imagine what this could/would do to a teenager, let alone the kind of “just do it through willpower!” messages TBL uses.

    • Hi Emily,

      I am so sorry you had that experience and I’ve heard about a similar thing happening a lot. I really believe people are going to look back on this time and be totally appalled by all the weight prejudice. So often, doctors don’t have a clue about what is going on in your life or who you are, they just want to fit you in some cookie cutter mold that they learned about in med school. I used to have an eating disorder and how I got better, really, the essence of what changed, was I learned to listen to myself, not any “expert.” Please search on this blog under eating disorders, health, body image to find references and recommendations.

      Thank you for your comment,
      Margot

  2. I was appalled to see that they decided to put kids on this show. It’s bad enough that the show actually damages people’s chances of creating healthy habits by creating completely unrealistic expectations for weight loss with utterly unsustainable strategies, but to then basically provide national screen time to justify the bullying of overweight children . . . I don’t even have words.

    Two other articles that I read on this topic by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff really hit home with why this isn’t a good idea. In this article (http://www.weightymatters.ca/2013/01/how-do-3-biggest-loser-alumni-feel.html) he talks about how previous contestants on the show reacted to the inclusion of kids (which includes them talking about what a psychological toll the show took on them and how few people to keep the weight off), and in this link (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/yoni-freedhoff/biggest-loser-kids-_b_2473934.html?utm_hp_ref=tw) he talks about how much the show runs counter to all research about what does produce sustainable healthy habits.

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