AAAAAARRRRGGGH! We’ve recently gotten news that Michelle Obama is to appear on the upcoming series of the television show, “The Biggest Loser”. Apparently her topic will be somewhat benign. She is to talk about the importance of drinking water. And given the show’s somewhat checkered past in dehydrating clients to help them achieve weigh-in goals, a focus on drinking water might not be such a bad thing. But the fact that the FLOTUS plans on appearing on this piece of crap show at all is not, to quote Martha Stewart, a GOOD thing.
A fair amount of criticism has recently been leveled, especially by the size acceptance, eating disorder prevention and anti-diet communities against the First Lady for making this choice. There’s this amazing video showing dozens of people from the community (including me) speaking out against Michelle Obama’s upcoming appearance. And there’s even a petition you can sign asking Michelle to “just stay home”. We haven’t heard much from her camp yet. But I imagine if we do hear from her or her people about this appearance, she’s likely to scoff and say that she’s just talking about the importance of drinking water for goodness sake. What can be bad about that?
My response? Plenty.
Here’s a few reasons why I think Michelle Obama should just knock it off, and refuse to be on The Biggest Loser:
1. The show is built on the notion of shame. And as I state here and here and here and in my submission for the video, SHAME DOES NOT HELP. It doesn’t make people healthier. It doesn’t make people happier and it doesn’t make people thinner. It makes people less happy, less healthy and it tends to lead people into disordered behavior around food and exercise.
2. The show is based on BAD SCIENCE. I wrote so much on this topic in the past, I had to create a two-part blog post. The “weight loss” techniques depicted on that show are contrary to accepted professional practice and can be downright dangerous. It needs to stop.
3. The show routinely tortures its contestants. Check out these interviews between Golda Poretsky and a former Biggest Loser contestant. The cult-like experience of this former contestant demonstrates the unhealthy power dynamic between contestants, directors, producers and other show staff. And the long term health prognosis for many of the former contestants is not very good.
4. The show uses the magic of editing and other Hollywood tricks to further mess up people’s expectations around exercise, health and weight loss. Sometimes weight losses that are depicted as taking a week actually take longer. People’s fluid levels are manipulated to help them look like they are losing more weight than they actually are. Extreme exercise is described as an important weight-loss tool even though it is not that closely related to winning weight-loss totals. It’s described, oxymoronically as “reality television” even though it bears little resemblance to the real world.
5. This show is unhealthy not only for those who participate in it, but also for people who simply watch. Several studies came out showing that the show negatively impacts viewer opinions regarding people of size. Additional studies show that those who watch the show wind up LESS INCLINED TO EXERCISE than those who don’t. So much for “Let’s Move!” Michelle.
Look, I think it’s awesome that Michelle wants to encourage people to engage in healthy habits. And it seems in many ways, she has toned down the weight-loss rhetoric in her “Let’s Move” campaign verbiage. But even if she doesn’t appear with a weight-loss message on the show, simply being on the show adds weight and credence to a television program that is irresponsible and just needs to go away.
Feeling good and mad over this whole thing?
Good! Let’s do something about it!
1. Sign the petition.
2. Share the video.
3. Join weight neutral exercise spaces like the Fit Fatties Forum.
4. Stop watching the show.
5. Help spread the word about Health At Every Size(R).
Go get ’em!
Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
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