Quick to Listen/Episode 8 | 24 min

Obesity, Health, and the Hard Reality Behind 'The Biggest Loser'

Reality TV doesn't show the full story of weight loss, says reality TV show expert Kate Shellnutt.
Obesity, Health, and the Hard Reality Behind 'The Biggest Loser'

Slide 1

You can achieve anything if you work hard enough.

It’s the Protestant work ethic, and it’s also the spirit behind popular TV shows like The Biggest Loser (NBC), Extreme Weight Loss (ABC), and Fit to Fat to Fit (A&E). But it’s not always true, if biology has its way. The New York Times reported this week in an in-depth examination about the lives of Biggest Loser contestants, many of whom regained the weight they had lost after they left.

As the Times reports, contestants’ metabolism slowed significantly after the show, requiring them to eat significantly less and exercise more simply to not gain the weight back. The scientific finding may bring relief to former contestants, but it also challenges our own assumptions about morality, hard work, and health.

“As Christians, we want to be welcoming to everyone and not judge someone based on their size. But when it gets down to it, a lot of times we think, What is wrong with this person that they haven’t taken care of their health?” says CT online associate editor and reality TV show fan Kate Shellnutt.

Shellnutt joins Morgan and Katelyn this week in Quick to Listen to discuss the relationship between social media and weight loss, how reality TV shames the wrong people, and how we can steward the bodies God has given us.

  • One of the main contestants profiled in the NYT piece is a pastor in North Carolina who gained back a significant amount of weight after going on the show. He says his metabolism is now so slow, “it’s kind of like hearing you have a life sentence." How does this idea challenge common conceptions about people who are overweight or obese, such as, "It's all their fault," "They're lazy," etc.?
  • Why are we so attracted to reality TV shows that center on individual transformation? How do they speak to our particular cultural moment or spiritual desires?
  • What's holistic health, and how is it different from, say, a number on a scale or body measurements? Are there specific ways Christian communities promote holistic health?

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Obesity, Health, and the Hard Reality Behind 'The Biggest Loser'