Well, I have a lot of thoughts on this one.
Here is what I know based on my own experience as a former contestant and the stories from my other alumni: the Biggest Loser experience itself, months of isolation and reality TV manipulation, as well as the resulting media attention, the brutal online fan reactions and criticisms and more all made being part of a weight loss competition something that has long lasting emotional and psychological ramifications. Yes, I had a blast doing it, but I have many friends who have said after going through it that they would NEVER encourage one of their loved ones to ever be a part of it. It’s brutal.
As a youth worker, I know all too well the confusion of adolescence. With hormones raging, enormous pressures from peer groups, schools and home, and the crucial identity formation taking place, the teenage years are a volatile and intense stage of development with massive potential for long lasting damage.
I cannot imagine a scenario where throwing a group of 13-17 year old adolescents into anything remotely similar to what my fellow alumni and I experienced as being anything other than damaging for them.
What do you think? Agree or disagree? And why?
2 thoughts on “Biggest Loser is casting kids?”
I agree totally, Matthew. Your explanation of the emotional/psychological dangers was right on. And any teen who is 60 or more pounds overweight has enough emotional baggage to fill a freight car. Having to deal with the issues you raised in an environment that separates them from their parents, relatives and friends deprives them of love, encouragement and support from those who know them best, and puts them in an environment where every other contestant is an enemy.
There are also health issues. Teen bodies are still growing and maturing, even at the show”s upper limit of age 17. And on average, the bodies of 13 year old boys are at an earlier physical maturity than girls of the same age. This is not just about the obvious changes brought on by puberty, but about practically every organ system, all of which are still growing and changing.
We don’t know all the physiological dangers caused by throwing their systems into what amounts to a starvation mode, which can have a lifetime of physical ramifications. The push to lose body mass over the short time of a t.v. season means a very restricted calorie intake, inevitably reducing the amount of proteins, calcium, iron and vitamin intake. Undertaking a rigorous exercise program at the same time can result in skeletal injuries. Loss of calcium at this time of life may set them up for dental problems, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, joint, tendon and muscle damage, and perhaps subtle changes in other body systems that may negatively impact their adult and senior years..
Their lower arbitrary limit of “60 pounds” can look very different on a young 5 foot tall small boned 13 year ol girl, than on a 6 foot , large framed 17 year old boy, and we would expect the young man would probably have much less difficulty losing that 60 pounds than the short girl, setting her up for failure before even starting (or worse, having her become bulemic in order to “win”).
For teens who are motivated to address their weight problems, caring parents and experienced physicians, nutritionists and other professionals can provide a sound, sensible and healthy program for a lifetime of optimal health.
We don’t even know if will be called biggest loser. I doubt very seriously it will be the same format. Maybe a format similar to extreeme makeover: weightless edition. Take a group to the ranch for a week camp…. While they are away, have a nutritionist to teach parents how to cook healthy meal and stock house with healthy choices….. Kids come home….. Meet a week goal, get an iPad…. Meet a goal…. Get a prize…… All kids get to stay on show till the end …. Parents get more education…. Family gets a prize if all participate…. If they complete all goals…. Get college education paid for.
Something like that…. Might work.
I’m just saying just … We don’t know the format yet… So let’s support the effort