It’s no secret that the first decade of the 21st century has been filled with dozens of fat reality TV shows. The Biggest Loser, Celebrity Fit Club, Dance Your Ass Off, you name it, fat people attempting to lose weight have become America’s new entertainment. While some call these shows inspirational, it is arguable that they serve a different purpose. Point blank, weight loss reality TV makes not-so-big folks feel better about themselves; it’s easy to gawk at a fat reality TV contestant and say, “at least I’m not that big.”
It’s quite odd that viewers take pleasure watching contestants mount a scale and share their weight with the world. We watch these people struggle to exercise, damn near pass out, and succumb to one more Twinkie, with a level of interest that is shameful. If anyone has endured the difficult process of losing an abundance of weight, there is nothing fun or entertaining about the process. Admittedly, these contestants signed up to have their journey broadcasted across the nation. But the real question is, why? Are they truly inspiring anyone? Or are they just giving into one more program that ridicules overweight people for profit?
Just think, fat subjects in Hollywood always are the comedic relief or center of a pity party. On family sitcoms, we enjoy watching the fat kid stuff his face with food at the dinner table. Or we (fake) sob when the fat girl can’t get a date to prom. And now, we’re genuinely interested in watching real people lose weight? Would we still be entertained if the pounds steadily dropped off without an emotional breakdown or secret trip into the refrigerator for some cookies?
Obesity is a disease. What’s so entertaining about watching someone battle a disorder? Would we take pleasure in watching a diabetes patient fight to get off insulin? Would we enjoy watching a cancer patient work to get off chemotherapy? Or how about watching a bulimic young woman get her weight under control? Not so funny, right? Or would these situations be classified as “inspirational” programming, too?
Weight loss reality TV facilitates more judgment than individual action. How many moderately overweight Americans watch these shows and feel inspired to challenge their weight circumstance? And no, hitting the gym and changing your diet for a week doesn’t count. I mean, real long-term change, the kind that inspires someone to completely overhaul their fitness and nutrition lifestyle. Slim to none.
If anything, weight loss reality TV is just another platform for finger pointing, giggling, and headshaking from the average American viewer. Maybe the American public truly is that shallow. If there is nothing better to watch than someone slugging through a weight battle, perhaps reality TV does need an overhaul.
While yes, many viewers feel connected to contestants, it’s a complicated relationship that cannot be classified as purely sympathetic. Is weight loss reality TV inspiring to the majority of viewers? Or do we watch primarily for shits and giggles? Speak on it.