Reality TV and Unhealthy Weight Loss

Reality TV and Unhealthy Weight LossReality television makes up many programming lineups, but researchers question the impact such shows have on viewers’ self-image. Programs like NBC’s The Biggest Loser portray dramatic weight loss that may not be realistic or sustainable.

Reality TV and Health

Since Survivor garnered top ratings in 2000, the number of reality shows has grown. Over the years, several shows focused on health and medicine, such as E!’s Dr. 90210, The Learning Channel’s Honey We’re Killing the Kids and ABC’s Extreme Makeover. The content of the shows can positively highlight a lesser-known medical condition or make people view a certain condition more negatively, according to an October 2006 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A major concern about reality shows is the way information and participants are presented. The shows are obviously designed to sell ads and are used as marketing tools for various companies, according to the KFF report. Critics point out that it is difficult for health experts to get the most accurate message out on a reality show without it being changed in some way by producers trying to sell products or the show.

Reality TV and Weight Loss

The setting and environment of a weight loss show can lead to large amounts of weight loss. Critics of the way contestants lose weight on these shows point to how unrealistic it is for viewers at home to replicate the results. On The Biggest Loser, for example, contestants may lose 20 pounds in one week while weight loss experts recommend losing one to two pounds per week for healthy weight loss.

In a survey of obese people and their attitudes toward The Biggest Loser, the viewers noted the following problems with the show, according to a February 5, 2011 article in Obesity Management:

  • Resources on the show, such as a personal trainer, time spent off work and access to prepared foods, are unaffordable for the average viewer.
  • The amount of time spent exercising is impossible for viewers who work.
  • The number of pounds lost each week is not normal and often dangerous.

In addition, many viewers felt the show was humiliating to obese people by forcing them to show off too much skin.

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