The Biggest Loser is a controversial institution. The weight loss program is an institution, first on NBC and now on USA Network, but its weight loss strategy has faced criticism. Jillian Michaels, perhaps the show’s most famous figure, is speaking out about her issues with its controversial tactics.
Burn Baby Burn
The Biggest Loser successfully turned weight loss into a reality show. Contestants would be tempted by food, urged to work out up to their limits, and voted off if they failed to lose enough weight. The show’s timing structure means there’s immense pressure for contestants to lose weight by a strict deadline which is not always healthy. Others feel the dietary guidelines and workouts are flawed. The show has a full “risks and criticism” section on Wikipedia, never a good sign.
Michaels is an authority on this show. She was a trainer on the show for 12 years before leaving in 2013. In an interview with Today, she revealed some of her issues with the program.
All A Big Game
“Nobody should have been eliminated. That was my No. 1 issue with the show,” Michaels said, adding, “But the producers gamified weight loss. It was weight loss on a ticking clock.” She also felt like the show really needed to have a psychotherapist on site. In fact, Michaels would call her psychotherapist mother for advice from the set.
Michaels says, “When you have someone that weighs 400 pounds, that’s not just an individual who likes pizza. There’s a whole lot going on there emotionally.” There’s deep work involved to help people mentally get to where they need to be, and the show didn’t exactly provide it, Michaels contended.
She Stands By Her Methods
In spite of this criticism, Michaels stands by the controversial diet program. Contestants could eat 1,200 calories a day, about two big Macs, with all the greens they want. “The diet worked amazing. You eat less, you move more, and there you go.” Michaels dismissed contestants who gained the weight back after leaving the show: “they had unresolved issues with food.”
She also did not apologize for all the screaming and yelling that comes with her training. “You need them to have a rock bottom moment where they’re like, ‘I can’t take one more moment.’” She said, “The ones I yelled at are the ones that kept it off.”
If you want a nuanced appraisal of the show’s methods, perhaps Michaels isn’t exactly an unbiased source. Still, she has a point that weight loss is often just as much a mental battle as a physical one. As the show continues on USA Network, it’ll be interesting to see if any revisions are made.