When Society Becomes the Biggest Loser

By now you must have heard about the controversy from NBC’s The Biggest Loser reality TV show. This season’s winner lost 60% of her body weight and her physical appearance caused outrage across the nation. How could they let that happen? GASP!

Image source: The Healthy Trucker (http://www.thehealthytrucker.net/real-biggest-loser-winner/#.U9EcCii0xtc)

What we have here is a clear bias. It doesn’t matter that a lot of contestants on The Biggest Loser have lost 40-60% of their body weight consistently, but what matters is that someone looked “too skinny” and that was the problem. 

Here is the reality. Generally, you cannot tell the health of someone by looking at his or her physical appearance. It is possible for “overweight” people to be starving themselves. It is very real for them to be so metabolically deficient that their bodies are deteriorating. “Overweight” people hear how they shouldn’t eat this or that. They hear that they should cut calories. They hear that they should exercise more. The reality is they probably aren’t getting enough calories. The right calories. But the bias tells them they are overweight and they must lose weight. Cut calories. Get that number lower. Conversely, the thin person is told that they are perfect. Keep doing what you’re doing.

The sad reality of NBC’s The Biggest Loser is that our society continues to hear the wrong message. The emphasis is on the scale and physical appearance. It took a woman to lose 60% of her body weight resulting in a final weight of 105lbs for people to be outraged by The Biggest Loser. But, what if she lost 60% of her body weight and had a final weight of 135lbs? Easy. She would be heralded as a champion. All the while everyone would ignore the collateral damage she did to her body losing that much weight that fast.

What is America’s fascination with weight? When will magazines stop plastering half naked female and male bodies on magazines praising weight loss? Where is the outrage when magazines – TMZ, EXTRA, etc. – perseverate on the amount of weight this or that person has gained? Where is the outrage on the coverage of the best and worst beach bodies?

The Biggest Loser is a microcosm of our society. Our society loves to talk about weight, calories, and quite frankly, our society is vain. Character is only skin deep in the land of the free. Social status determined by the number on the scale. Get on a scale and allow the amount lost or gained to determine success or failure. Allow it to determine a good day or bad day. When will the madness end?

My favorite is when you hear people talk about health. You hear things like: “I’m only worried about your weight because I want you to be healthy” or “I don’t want you to eat that because I want you to be healthy” or “You need to exercise more because it will make you healthy.” Don’t talk to me about health in the context of weight.

To anyone who is feeling bad about their body please know you are so much more than what you think stares back at you in the mirror. You have a mind and soul that is so much more than what the scale says. What society says. Please know there are people out there that love you for who you are. Whatever that looks like!


Dr. Brad Zehring is a resident psychiatrist at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Zehring is deeply passionate about helping those battling mental illness and eating disorders. His passion drives his research interests and learning opportunities. Dr. Zehring wants to challenge the status quo society has on these issues by creating conversation and educating the public on the most recent research in these areas. Read more from Dr. Zehring at Dr. Z's Ramblings blog or on Twitter @DrZehringDO