This article points to another article by The New York Times about the serious health risks of weight loss on the show, where contestants have admitted that they urinated blood. Don't do this at home! But of course, we fat people have done many dangerous things to fit in to our fat-hating, no, fat-vilifying, fat-bashing, fat-loathing culture. Sometimes I think that Americans would just like to march us into death camps or something and be done with us, especially when I read comments sections such as the one following the Southwest Airlines debacle with our beloved "Silent Bob."
As Tristin Aaron points out on the Media Health blog, now being fat is considered to be a civic problem: "What was once a personal struggle to eat well has acquired new civic and moral weight." Most people always thought that other people's weight was their business, but never more than they do now. We are taking dollars right out of their pocket by driving up health care! We are bad for the environment! We are eating their food! (I actually saw the last in a comment, as if in America most people are starving because the fat people emptied the supermarket.)
The New York Times article was chilling. Apparently what happens in The Biggest Loser stays there. Like Vegas or Fight Club, no one is supposed to reveal the lengths people go to, the nature of the waiver they sign, the dangerous practices, or the quick regain from finally drinking enough water--up to 30 lbs. That's severe dehydration--no wonder people are urinating blood.
The NYT writes: "Getting contestants to talk openly about the environment of the program is difficult. Shortly after a reporter started contacting former contestants to interview them about their experiences, a talent producer on the series sent an e-mail message to many former contestants reminding them that 'serious consequences' could ensue if they ever talked to a reporter without the show’s permission. " Wow, do they send someone to the former contestant's house? No, apparently there are hefty fines from 100K to a million dollars, depending on how long it's been since the show they were in first aired. That's quite an incentive not to talk frankly. (I'm betting they don't fine you for saying only nice things about the show.)
Contestants also have to sign a statement that they think they are "in excellent physical, emotional, psychological and mental health." It's interesting that The Biggest Loser is admitting contestants over 400 pounds yet the show agrees that you can be that weight and be in excellent health. Why do you need to lose weight, then? Supposedly you are losing weight for your health, but as a society we are told no fat people can be healthy. If we aren't healthy, we have no business putting our bodies under such serious stress for rapid weight loss which is known to be dangerous and can lead to heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrest. What a conflict! One that the show sidesteps by having contestants sign that useless statement. They aren't medical professionals. They are fat people desperate to fit in, be loved, and make some money--and being exploited for ratings.
In the many years I've lived as a fat person in this country, I've seen a lot of weight loss scams, many of them extremely dangerous. But I think The Biggest Loser is at the top of the list when it comes to outright exploitation and physical danger. Even Dr. Stillman's Quick Weight Loss Diet didn't have me urinating blood. (The core of the diet back in the late 60s was eating only two foods a day. Subsequent versions were low carb/high protein. It was under his literary influence that I went on 200-500 calorie a day diets. My two foods were 1 egg plus 1 piece of toast.)
I just hope that The Biggest Loser doesn't kill anyone. But don't worry--they have a waiver.