How to Lose Weight and Alienate People

The Biggest Loser.

The show where everyone but the biggest of losers, is a loser anyway.

How many times have you heard the word ‘Obesity’ in the last week? The last month? The issue is a central part of our society and a consistently hot topic for public debate. It is not surprising that a reality TV show came about for our entertainment that is centred around such a prevalent topic. However the show raises questions about much more than simply obesity.



The Biggest Loser has been accused of trivialising weight loss. Weight loss professional Professor Wittert (2014) claims the show “is a crass attempt to make entertainment of a serious problem… putting them (contestants) through a gruelling and unrealistic regime of exercise and diet, and exposing them to public ridicule because of their weight.” In her Article, “The Biggest Loser: you win some…you lose more” journalist Stacey Carter (2014) describes the way the show provokes audiences’ interest, “Trainers scream abuse, contestants strip down for weigh-ins (reinforcing the freak-show vibe).” Both Wittert’s and Carter’s takes of the show raise issues for debate in the public sphere questioning what our society deems to be ‘entertaining’. Have we become insensitive, cruel even, in the things that entertain us?

Critics and health professionals have accused the show of professing unrealistic expectations of weight loss. Professor Wittert (2014) says, “It is misleading. It may also lead to physical harm if individuals try to emulate it and even partially succeed, and potentially to psychological harm if they can’t.” Stacey Carter (2014) claims, “the show is likely to harm contestants and unlikely to benefit them… Before weigh-ins they reportedly starve themselves, go without fluids and take long saunas to temporarily shed kilos.”



Debate over The Biggest Loser in the mediated public sphere ranges from ‘Did you see that fat dude fall off the bike last night?’ to ‘Where are society’s morals when laughing at the expense of these people?’ to ‘What are the real health concerns in weight loss?’ to ‘Am I a bad person if I eat pizza while watching this?’ Never the less, The Biggest Loser demands discussion of the issues it raises, contributing to the mediated public sphere in a very big way.


Anderson, J 2014, ‘6 ”Biggest Loser” Lessons to Unlearn’, Spark People, accessed 7 April 2014

Carter, S 2014 ‘The Biggest Loser: you win some… you lose more’, Sydney Morning Herald, accessed 7 April 2014–you-lose-more-20140118-311gk.html

Health Sciences, Media Release, Research Story University of Adelaide, 2014, ‘Biggest Loser a setback for healthy weight loss’, The University of Adelaide, accessed 7 April 2014



  1. Your title for this is really clever and made me want to read more! I think this is a really important debate, it’s a bit of a worry that The Biggest Loser portrays weight loss in such an unrealistic way. I think there are so many things that go on behind the scenes and cameras that we don’t know about. Your writing flows really well and you make a clear point. Good job!

    1. I agree! It’s interesting to think how the contestants maintain such a lifestyle after the show. And the ways contestants have confessed to pushing themselves would never be aired on the show.

  2. I do my best to avoid these shows as much as I can. The artificial circumstances that are forced on these contestants (such as vying for one man’s affection in the presence of 10 other women, all out for the same thing) would never happen in real life, and we unfairly treat these people like the ‘couldn’t get a date’, or ‘need to put down the fork’.

    It is interesting that you can also speak about how they affect our society rather than just the content of the show. The fact that ‘reality tv’ has become so prevalent is basically because our attention spans cannot hold long enough to digest a plot, instead we need to watch people run on a treadmill, and have shorter stories fed to us about these people to become invested.

    Call me old fashioned, but i’d rather watch a slow paced show with a satisfying ending than watch an infinite amount of overweight people heckled to death.

      1. You could easily point the finger at reality tv, but it’s much more likely to say it would be a byproduct of the integration of the internet into our everyday lives.

        Everything we need is a button press away, we can watch 2 minute long youtube videos all day long and be taken on hundreds of journeys or we can wait until we get home and watch a half to full hour tv show at a time when you might be busy with other things and be left disappointed.

        I’m by no means saying this new system is bad, but it has definitely changed the world in some interesting ways, one being the fact we can no longer focus on one thing long enough to enjoy it.

  3. I agree with you 100% it is a clear example of trivializing weight loss.
    It is unrealistic to loose so much weight in a short period of time, being health experts on the show shouldn’t they know that? It is obviously a show of rating value, whilst these people are suffering and wanting to change who they are, we are watching it at entertainment level. (Usually eating as well)
    How can winning a title with the word ‘Loser’ in it be rewarding, its sending the connotation that fat people are losers and if anything putting them down. They should be rewarded with a better reward name that is uplifting and satisfying to be winning.

  4. I agree with you on this, and think this is a large issue within society with so many people using reality TV as a way to reduce weight reasonably quickly. Although throughout the show they do teach them educational values of nutrition and ways to keep motivated but whether or not this is sustained without a professional trainer can be questioned. I also agree with the degrading aspect of ‘loser’ when they are deemed a ‘winner.’

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