I am a really big fan of The Biggest Loser and when I first heard they were going to have some teenagers on the show this year, I was highly intrigued. I wanted to see the approach they were going to take before voicing my opinion, especially because there was a pretty big backlash before the shows started airing. I have to say, after seeing these first few episodes, I think the show is doing a great job addressing childhood obesity through Biingo, Lindsay, and Sunny’s stories.
I think they are taking a fantastic approach to working with the teens. They are not staying at the ranch full time like the rest of the contestants, but are going home and living their normal lives while trying to lose weight. The teens are not weighed-in (at least not on-screen) and cannot be eliminated. Bob, Jillian, and Dolvet are showing them how to get exercise by playing and simply being active, rather than sweating for hours on a treadmill. One thing I really loved was in one episode, they brought a pediatric nutritionist to visit each teen at home, talk with their families, and rather than just focusing on the teen, talking about changes the whole family can make to lead healthier lives.
What do you think about the teen contestants on The Biggest Loser this season?
“It’s about making fitness and health fun and building self-esteem,” says trainer Jillian Michaels. “I was surprised by how courageous the kids were,” she adds. “I hope it’s a wake-up call to parents that they need to lead by example, and I hope other children are motivated and inspired.” (1)
This week, they showed that it is hard for the kids to do this at home – and that’s true for kids and adults alike. I think that, in some regards, it would largely benefit the adult contestants to incorporate some of approaches they’ve taken with the teens throughout the season. One of my biggest criticisms of the show has always been that I don’t think, based on what they show on air, they are teaching contestants how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I know there’s a lot we don’t see, but there are so many stories about contestants who lose an awesome amount of weight on the ranch, only to gain a lot of it back after the finale. Sure, there are some awesome success stories that have come out of the show – those contestants that lost the weight on the ranch and have gone on to stay fit and be an advocate for a healthier lifestyle. I love those stories. I think those are the exception, not the rule, though. I think that it would be greater benefit to the contestants – and on many levels, to a lot of the people watching the show – to teach the contestants and their families the changes they can incorporate on a day-to-day basis. Because once the contestants get home, they going back into old routines with the people that might not understand. Instead, get them back home for a week here and there, let them test the waters while they can still have the support of the show.
But, back to the kids.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years; in 2008, more than one third of our nation’s children were overweight or obese (2). So, one out of every THREE children is struggling with their weight. There are obviously so many contributing factors to this, but so many kids just aren’t active, but play hours of video games. When I was in high school, one of the most popular lunch options in the cafeteria were Bosco sticks – cheese-filled breadsticks – usually with a soda on the side. That was lunch. Obviously there were other choices, but how many high school students are going to opt for the salad in this scenario? My friends and I usually didn’t. I was an overweight kid – obese in my late teens/early twenties – and my weight had serious repercussions on my self-esteem. That low self-esteem had its impact on so much of my life. Being overweight can be tough at any age, but as a kid, it is really hard, and my heart goes out to anyone at any age that struggles with it. I give so much credit to Biingo, Lindsay, and Sunny for having the courage to share their stories on national television.
So, are we really setting our kids up to lead healthy, active lifestyles – or are we fueling our nation’s growing obesity epidemic? According to a 2012 study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, every state in the country could have obesity rates ranging from 44% to more than 60% in the next twenty years (3). RWJF also references a report, Still Too Fat to Fight, shows that U.S. students consume almost 400 billion calories from junk food sold at school each year (4).
Will having three teenagers compete on the Biggest Loser solve everything? No, and I don’t think that’s what the producers are aiming for. But, if Biingo, Lindsay, and Sunny can be a catalyst for change, if families can start having conversations, and if they inspire kids at home to want to be a bit healthier, then I think this experiment has been worth it.
Bravo to the producers at The Biggest Loser for taking a chance and recognizing that childhood obesity is an issue in our country, and for helping these three kids – and hopefully inspiring many more at home – learn what it means to be active and eat healthy.