A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this reality competition series deals almost exclusively with weight loss and the effects of being overweight. The series emphasizes the benefits of healthy, long-term lifestyle changes related to diet and exercise, but the competitive weight-loss angle could potentially encourage impressionable viewers to slim down quickly without a doctor's supervision. The competitors also recount being made fun of for their size and are forthright about worrying that they might not live long enough to see their kids grow up. Their long separation (up to 100 days) from friends and loved ones could also be hard for sensitive viewers.
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What's the story?
In THE BIGGEST LOSER, two teams of extremely overweight contestants compete to see who can lose the most weight in 100 days. The prize? Better health and $250,000. Each episode of Biggest Loser follows the 14 contestants as they learn to eat better, exercise, and maintain healthy habits in their efforts to peel off the pounds. All of the contestants have their own reasons for wanting to win the prize. Some come from obese families and want to stop the cycle for their kids; others were once thin and active and want to regain their fitter form. All of them end up on one of two teams (red and blue), where they work with trainers. Over the course of the competition, the competitors work out, eat right, and participate in a series of challenges. Their goal is to make sure that their team has lost the highest percentage of weight at the weekly weigh-in, since the losing team has to vote one member out.
Is it any good?
Although Biggest Loser lacks some of the sexiness and drama of reality shows like Survivor (to which it bears the most structural resemblance) and The Bachelor, the contestants' constant togetherness (they live, eat, and work out together) means that there are still plenty of times when the going gets tough. When teams lose challenges, they'll often argue fiercely over who caused the loss or didn't work hard enough. Plus, they're constantly tempted by high-calorie foods and are often nauseated by the strenuous daily workouts.
It would be easy for the show's producers to hype the vanity angle of weight loss. But what's nice about The Biggest Loser is that the contestants -- and, therefore, the viewers -- are constantly reminded that the point of losing weight isn't to look like a supermodel, but rather to live longer, healthier lives. The coaches, while tough, are extremely encouraging and sensitive, and the host acts as both a cheerleader and a sensitive mother hen. Though The Biggest Loser is technically a dogged competition, it's also feel-good fare with a message that everyone can benefit from: Eat right and exercise to be healthy, and the weight should take care of itself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the realities of a world in which thin bodies are prized, fat ones are scorned, and deliciously unhealthy food is more widely available than ever before.
Why is thin so in -- and how do the sculpted celebrity images we see in the media affect our perceptions of our own bodies? Why are chubby children teased -- and why do heavy people so often become the butt of jokes in television and movies?
Why do Americans as a whole tend to eat to excess -- are we really that hungry, or are we eating for other reasons? What does "everything in moderation" really mean? Are all diets truly healthy? And is there such a thing as being too thin?
For kids who love reality TV
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