Who is The Biggest Loser? We are, if we don’t take a stand

Who is The Biggest Loser? We are, if we don’t take a stand

I join with Eating Disorders Victoria in encouraging you to email this Biggest Loser Letter, together with your own extra comments, to info@shineaustralia.com

Dear Biggest Loser Producers,

I am horrified to learn that the 2013 series of The Biggest Loser on Australian TV station, Channel Ten, will be open to contestants over the age of 15 years, as part of the ‘Next Generation’ concept.

As a person who has been directly touched by, and suffered great losses due to, the devastating impact of an eating disorder, I strongly oppose The Biggest Loser casting contestants under the age of 18 years and to ‘cashing in on’ the weight loss struggles of people in this age group to entertain Australian TV viewers.

Adolescence is a vulnerable time for the development of a person’s body image and self esteem, and we look to the media for role models and societal expectations. As such, I believe that the media has a great responsibility to cover obesity and weight issues with care and sensitivity. The Biggest Loser however, has a long history of shaming overweight contestants, and putting them through gruelling weight loss diet and exercise regimes that are generally unsustainable for a long period of time.

The Biggest Loser not only has a responsibility to the young contestants appearing on the show, but also to the many impressionable viewers who tune in. The shaming of obese and overweight people contributes to a culture that values thinness above all else and the view that losing weight will solve all of a person’s problems. Unfortunately, this view that ‘life will be better if I lose weight’ is extremely damaging and misleading, especially for eating disorder sufferers. Even when weight is lost, underlying issues often remain.

I am also very concerned at promotion of The Biggest Loser weight loss and diet techniques at a time when adolescents are undergoing immense psychological, emotional, social and physical development and change. Dieting is the leading risk factor in the development of eating disorders (including Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder) and this, coupled with the high prevalence of eating disorders developing in the adolescent years, makes this an extremely vulnerable stage of life.

I strongly urge The Biggest Loser to reconsider the inclusion of teenagers in its next series, and for the strong emphasis on public shaming of the contestants to stop. A person’s weight is only one aspect of their overall health, and I urge you to focus on the mental health of the contestants appearing on the show, more than their waist lines.

Yours sincerely

[insert name]

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