As America struggles to deal with the growing obesity epidemic many are wondering how to encourage young people to sidestep weight gain and live healthier lives.  But while major changes such as nutritious school lunches, incorporating more physical activity during the school day, and educating parents on how to cook fast, healthy (and cheap) meals have yet to become the norm, companies are looking to benefit from a new market of body-conscious consumers: kids.

Just in time for the New Year, NBC will return for yet another season of its hit reality show The Biggest Loser. While the new season will include more obese folks attempting to transform themselves into svelte athletic machines, this season will see something new: overweight teens.

The latest installment of The Biggest Loser will follow the journey of three teens, two 13-year-olds and one 16-year-old, as they struggle to lose weight and break the cycle of childhood obesity. While the teens won’t be subject to public weigh-ins and elimination threats, many are still concerned about the message the show will send other kids.

Golda Poretsky of the blog Body Love Wellness has launched a #StopTheBiggestLoser campaign. She argues that while the show has helped some contestants lose weight, the show’s methods—abnormally grueling workouts and extremely strict diets—provide unhealthy examples for others.

She writes:

Just like with adults, every attempt to make fat kids thin has failed in the long run. All that dieting does is set these kids up for a lifetime of weight cycling, poor self esteem, and potential negative impacts to their cardiovascular and metabolic health. And it teaches them the sad reality that acceptance from adults means changing their bodies by drastic and dangerous means.

Plus, as I mentioned above, the show legitimates fat bullying, and now it’s looking to further legitimate fat kid bullying.

What fat kids really need is unconditional love, respect, appreciation, safe places to play and nutritious food. Just like thin kids. Just like all kids.

Poretsky isn’t the only one who has raised concerns over the show. While most doctors recommend people lose weight at a moderate pace, contestants on the show dramatically drop the pounds as a result of working out five to six hours a day and adhering to a strict diet.

Robert Kushner, the clinical director of the Northwestern University Comprehensive Center on Obesity, told LiveScience: “I think a lot of people can feel quite defeated that they’re losing weight in what we would call a recommended amount, but they would have been voted off the show immediately. So the message, to me, is just all wrong.”

Despite the concerns, Jillian Michaels, one of the show’s trainers, said they are taking every precaution to ensure that the teenagers will be treated with “kid gloves.”

She told the Today Show:

“We won’t be saying things to kids like, ‘How much weight did you lose?’ It’s about getting them healthy, using words like ‘healthy.’ We won’t be getting them on a scale; it’s about getting them on a softball team — things like that. We’re very cognizant of how touchy it is, how controversial it is. And yet, of course, that’s right where I want to be, right in the sweet spot, right in the frying pan. I couldn’t miss an opportunity to be part of it.”

What do you think: should ‘The Biggest Loser’ also include teens?

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  1. I don’t see anything wrong with teens being on the show. The chosen contestants aren’t people who need to lose a few pounds. They’re obese with declining health conditions because of it. The show promotes hard work and healthy eating. People will find ANYTHING to gripe over.

  2. This is hella ridiculous. The biggest loser already creates nothing lasting for most of its contestants, now they want to take teens and give them eating disorders to replace whatever eating habits they come to the show with. genius

  3. Young kids have health problems typical of older adults now. It’s a real problem and anything to get to the bottom of it is important. Further it is voluntary– it’s not like these people are being forced to do it.


  5. I hate shows like biggest loser. I think weightloss should be more gradual than rapid to ensure long lasting results. When those contestants get acclimated back into the real world it’s hard to maintain that level if fitness and weightloss. I also hate that the contestants spend hours a day exercising. Weightloss is mostly abt your diet but I guess that doesn’t make riveting tv.

  6. Any plans to take naked Rhianna off the side panel?

  7. I don’t think the show should include kids to be honest, I think it’s great how it’s been and I’ve all the past episodes. I’m excited the show’s coming back and I can continue to learn new tips and get some great advice. This happens to be one of my favorite primetime shows I can’t wait to get back into. One thing I love about my DISH Hopper DVR’s I never have to pick and choose my primetime anymore, because it will record all four networks nightly with PrimeTime Anytime. I can play all them back within the next eight days, and I thought this was a great feature once my coworker at DISH told me about it. I’ve been able to watch new shows I never knew about and I’ve started to enjoy. This keeps things simple and allows me to watch my recordings on any TV too.

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