Archive for the tag - jillian michaels

“Biggest Loser” Viewers Turned Off to Exercise.

Back before I canceled cable, I managed to catch a few episodes of “The Biggest Loser.”

In a nutshell, severely overweight contestants compete to lose weight and win a million dollar prize. Doctors remind the participants that their current path is one that will likely end in early death – and thus the competition begins!

I remember being taken aback by the Hollywood-ification of weight loss. Even without screaming celebrity trainers, extreme diets, tears, vomiting, obstacle courses and dozens of cameras in your face, losing weight still tends to be a pretty dramatic process. Even though “The Biggest Loser” is far from the typical experience of following a sustainable exercise and nutrition regimen, it certainly makes for good TV. And great ratings.

I’ve always wondered how watching shows like the biggest loser – wherein contestants literally run, jump and climb until they collapse in a pool of their own puke – shapes viewers’ perceptions of exercise. A new study, which will be published in the American Journal of Health Behavior, aims to answer that very question.

According to the study’s lead author:

The depictions of exercise on shows like “The Biggest Loser” are really negative. People are screaming and crying and throwing up, and if you’re not a regular exerciser you might think this is what exercise is – that it’s this horrible experience where you have to push yourself to the extremes and the limits, which is completely wrong.”

For the study, researchers had college students watch either an exercise clip from “The Biggest Loser” or a performance clip from “American Idol.” After watching the clip, participants’ attitudes about exercise were examined. Regardless of fitness level, participants who watched “The Biggest Loser” had more negative attitudes about exercise.

While the study is fairly limited and not without its flaws, the conclusion is no surprise. I, for one, am traumatized just at the thought of Jillian Michaels screaming in my ear while strapped to a treadmill and begging for mercy.

In actuality, sustainable weight loss isn’t about extremes. Sure, you need to push yourself. But it’s done in a practical, realistic and even enjoyable way. It’s not something to fear, but rather something to relish and appreciate. Finding small ways to make your life healthier is a joyful experience. But who wants to watch that on TV?

Do you think shows like “The Biggest Loser” inspire viewers to improve their health – or do you think these types of shows make viewers even more intimated and reluctant to change their lives with exercise? Let me know in the comments below.