Why We’re Not The Biggest Loser

We know plenty of people love The Biggest Loser and look forward to watching it each week, each season.  This post isn't meant to try to dissuade anyone from that.  Instead, we just want to point out how our approach differs from The Biggest Loser approach.  It's relevant to many women because while they may not always realize it, they've actually tried something very similar to The Biggest Loser many times before in how they attempted to solve struggles with eating, weight, fitness, body image.  And it didn't work.

Before I wrote this post, though, I decided to watch a recent episode, just to make sure I didn't misspeak.  Maybe The Biggest Loser had changed since the last time I watched it.  Maybe they were approaching things differently.

Sadly, no.  I confess I didn't get past the opening segment in the episode, in which they had a "cupcake challenge."  The point of the challenge was to find a sticker hidden on the bottom of a cupcake. The sticker would give the participant who found it a 1-pound advantage in his or her weekly weigh-in.

In the challenge, the contestants had to choose a cupcake and if it didn't have the sticker, eat it before they could choose another cupcake. Each week the advantage multiplied, so that at the end of the season, the person who found the sticker would have an 8-pound advantage, or something like that.  The details escape me but the point of the whole show is who loses the most weight, so obviously something that took pounds off without them having to really take pounds off was valuable.

What didn't escape me was how wrong it all was. It made a spectacle of what can be deeply disturbing for people who struggle with eating and weight.  Viewers all over the country watched people who were working hard to lose weight stuff cupcakes into their mouths so they could choose another one and find the sticker.

  • One man who didn't find the sticker "really, really wished [he] hadn't eaten those calories." Anyone who has struggled with this likely knows how deeply that wish cut.
  • Another woman, who also didn't find the sticker, cried because she had already been failing to lose weight at the rate demanded by the show.  She knew the cupcake challenge wasn't going to help her. She knew she'd be sent home if she was one of the two who lost the least amount of weight that week.  But she wasn't ready to go home.  I'm not sure but I imagine she didn't want to go home because she saw The Biggest Loser as her best opportunity to solve the struggle with weight that was defining her life.

So, no, we're not The Biggest Loser.  One, we're not fighting for television ratings. Wait.  I take that back.  In a way, we are…just not on television.  We work hard to try to help women approach weight struggles in a different way.  But we're up against a lot of programs that still think Biggest Loser style, not the least of which are the new Biggest Loser camps.   What's so satisfying, though, is that we see many registered dietitians, nutritionists, psychologists and health/life coaches who approach the struggle the way we do.  When Thelma first founded Green Mountain almost 40 years ago, a lot of people in those professions thought she was a nut.  But I digress.

Two, we would never make a spectacle of someone's pain. One person I spoke to about the cupcake challenge described it as a sick joke. 

I couldn't agree more. I could go on talking about how we're different, but we've got a new web page  that succinctly tells our story.  Check out what we encourage people to consider When The Biggest Loser Doesn't Work.  It can make a real difference to struggles with eating, weight, fitness, body image and self esteem.

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