A Tradeoff Between Weight Loss and Healthy Body Image on Reality Shows

by Zach Danssaert

There’s a reality TV show for just about everything these days. With a high entertainment value and a low production budget, reality shows seem to be taking over cable TV. One of the more popular genres is the competition for weight loss. In these shows obese contestants are taken from across the country to lose weight. Sounds like a good idea, right? Competitors can compete for money and become healthier at the same time. However, these shows might not be leaving contestants as healthy as they appear to be. Reality TV shows require an extremely fast paced competition where the most successful competitor is rewarded. There are a few major issues with applying this game show model to weight loss.
In the most recent season of The Biggest Loser contestants would prepare for their weigh-ins by exercising in sweats and drinking massive amounts of coffee to dehydrate themselves. Extreme dieting and exercising 6 hours a day deprives the body of the nutrients required to instill a healthy metabolism. Furthermore, the winner of this season’s show, Ms. Frederickson, was extolled for losing about 60% of her body fat. If I could confidently say that the “winner” had achieved this incredible transformation in a healthy way, I would be the first one to give credit to Ms. Frederickson and the competition in general. However, after hearing that Ms. Frederickson was losing hair during the competition as a lack of nutrients, I began to question the whole process. Our body image is tenuous and should never be forced. An optimal body image is where a person feels completely comfortable in their own skin. They are one with their body, and they love how they look, ignoring how others think they should look. Game shows like The Biggest Loser directly contradict a healthy body image. Yes, these contestants need to lose weight to limit their risk of cardiac disease and diabetes, however, this process should be promoted in a better way. Unfortunately reality TV shows and healthy weight loss don’t really go hand in hand.