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The Biggest Loser - Helpful or Harmful?

News | Adelaide Bariatric Centre

21 Mar 2014 2:19 PM

Biggest Loser Before and After

Despite its popularity both in Australia and worldwide, reality television show The Biggest Loser is being labelled as unrealistic and dangerous by many medical professionals.

One of the series’ more vocal critics is University of Adelaide professor Gary Wittert, a leading diabetes, weight loss and obesity researcher in Australia.

According to Professor Wittert, The Biggest Loser produces few winners among its onscreen contestants and audience members.

Professor Witter is concerned that the show promotes unhealthy attitudes towards diet and exercise, presenting rapid and extreme weight loss as both desirable and achievable, whilst demeaning and exploiting its participants.

"The Biggest Loser is a crass attempt to make entertainment of a serious problem, by enticing desperate people to participate, putting them through a gruelling and unrealistic regime of exercise and diet,” he said.

He says that the show promotes an unrealistic view of weight loss, where those trying to emulate the Biggest Loser contestants’ journey at home are destined for failure regardless of their result.

"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", he said.

Last year, his concern about the show caused him to lead a written complaint against the show to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The Biggest Loser is no stranger to criticism, receiving media attention earlier this year when it was reported that stair climb challenge “The Punisher” lead to contestants collapsing and vomiting whilst attempting to complete the task.

Professor Witter says that this only underlines his concern about the show’s sinister nature. "There's nothing healthy about exercising until you vomit and collapse," he said.

Professor Wittert is also concerned that the show is enjoyed by many viewers who see The Biggest Loser as an opportunity to ridicule its participants, citing numerous cruel and demeaning Tweets in example.

With research indicating that weight discrimination can cause individuals to become or remain obese, this underlines Professor Wittert’s concern with the show: that it hurts Australia’s overweight population, rather than helping them.