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Study: the Biggest Loser increases weight bias

In January's issue of the Journal Obesity, a Bowling Green Department of Psychology study: The Effects of Reality Television on Weight Bias: An Examination of The Biggest Loser.

From the abstract:

Weight-loss reality shows, a popular form of television programming, portray obese individuals and their struggles to lose weight. While the media is believed to reinforce obesity stereotypes and contribute to weight stigma, it is not yet known whether weight-loss reality shows have any effect on weight bias. The goal of this investigation was to examine how exposure to 40-min of The Biggest Loser impacted participants' levels of weight bias. Fifty-nine participants (majority of whom were white females) were randomly assigned to either an experimental (one episode of The Biggest Loser) or control (one episode of a nature reality show) condition... Participants in The Biggest Loser condition had significantly higher levels of dislike of overweight individuals and more strongly believed that weight is controllable after the exposure... Exploratory analyses examining moderation of the condition effect by BMI and intention to lose weight indicated that participants who had lower BMIs and were not trying to lose weight had significantly higher levels of dislike of overweight individuals following exposure to The Biggest Loser compared to similar participants in the control condition. These results indicate that anti-fat attitudes increase after brief exposure to weight-loss reality television.

The Biggest Loser increases weight bias, especially among thin people. No big surprise.

And Michelle Obama is appearing on the show! I really want to think that Mrs. Obama means well. I want to think that she's a decent person, if a bit misguided. But the study above has been available for months, and even without it, isn't it obvious that The Biggest Loser is horrible? That the contestants are bullied? That the methods used to make them lose weight are unsustainable?

In the Huff Post, back in 2010: Michelle Obama On Bullying: Adults Need To Set Example. I guess she's changed her mind. If fat people are the targets, she thinks bullying is a-okay. What a disappointment.

More armchair quarterbacking | Feeding tubes? Really?

vesta44's picture
April 4th, 2012 | Link | That was exactly my thought

That was exactly my thought - she's against bullying, as long as it's kids who are being bullied, but if it's fat adults who are being bullied into losing weight, then it must be okay. There's something wrong with that, and there's something wrong with anyone who thinks bullying anyone is okay for any reason. I guess mental health doesn't matter, doesn't affect physical health, so bullying is going to work to turn fat people into thin(ner) people. Oh, wait, it hasn't yet, has it. *headdesk*

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

Alyssa April 10th, 2012 | Link | Michelle Obama

You know, the irony of all of this, is that Michelle Obama (MO) is hardly "thin" in societal terms (and neither is her younger daughter). Wouldn't it be refreshing if MO used her less than svelte body (again as societally defined) as an example to emphasize that one needn't be "model thin" to be healthy and fit? I add the latter as I have read that she works out daily.

richie79's picture
April 4th, 2012 | Link | Ah, but you're forgetting

Ah, but you're forgetting that if it's targetted at a fat person, it's not 'bullying', it's 'mobilising social pressure', 'reinforcing social norms', denormalising obesity' or any of a list of other jargonistic velvet gloves used by the we-know-bests and public health fauxgressives to disguise what normally in the next sentence comes down to justifying the use of some form of iron fist against the fat enemy within. Others are more upfront about it being bullying but argue that it's justified in the name of 'tough love' or 'telling it how it is' and (despite masses of evidence to the contrary) the resultant stigma serves as an incentive for people to pursue weight-loss efforts (which as we all know ends up making them fatter, and so the cycle continues, but with the fat person's self-esteem eroded a little more each time).

And if despite having had it repeatedly spelled out to her, Michelle Obama STILL can't appreciate that the fat bullying she spends millions abusing her platform to encourage is every bit as harmful and destructive as the victimisation and abuse of gay children, I can't accept she's in the slightest bit well-intentioned. Indeed, (and as with Channel Four's constant efforts through its programming to 'rehabilitate' every stigmatised group APART from fat people, against whom it wages a constant propaganda war) if someone who is otherwise vocal about their liberal, tolerant attitudes nevertheless joins in with stigmatising a particular group, her actions only further reinforce the belief that that form of intolerance is somehow different, justified and ultimately more acceptable than other forms.

I can therefore only conclude that her real motivation is self-serving publicity, something which has not been in short supply for everyone who's jumped on the obesity epi-panic bandwagon.

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

moxie3's picture
April 4th, 2012 | Link | Although the study involved

Although the study involved thin white women I know it's not just the thin who dislike fat people. Fat people also dislike fat people and themselves. They have been brainwashed into thinking they do not deserve to be treated as well as thin people and are constantly trying themselves to reach the goal of thinness which is extremely difficult for most and almost impossible to stay that way for long no matter what action is taken either by drugs/surgery/"willpower" etc...

As to M. Obama I am not happy with either her or husband and will not be voting for him in the next election and am hoping her fight against childhood obesity dies a natural death!

closetpuritan April 5th, 2012 | Link | I'm done with Michelle

I'm done with Michelle Obama. I'm giving up on her.

That said, I will still vote for Obama. I doubt that Mitt Romney is going to be significantly better for FA. (And Rick Santorum is not going to win, but he's not exactly libertarian when it comes to people's bodies.) When I found out Hillary Clinton was working with the sketchy organization "The Family", I thought for about a day that I would vote for McCain if the general election came down to Clinton vs. McCain, but ultimately decided I would still hold my nose and vote for her (which of course ended up being a moot point). This is Michelle Obama's "The Family" moment, for me.

chondros April 5th, 2012 | Link | I'm done with Michelle

I'm done with Michelle Obama. I'm giving up on her.

That said, I will still vote for Obama.

Closetpuritan, that second sentence is the only one Michelle Obama cares about.

Fat Acceptance will make no progress until lots of us stop holding our noses and insisting that our desire for decent treatment is important enough that we'll actually punish people who work against our interests.

closetpuritan April 6th, 2012 | Link | I'm not a 1-issue voter

Well, chondros, FA is not the only issue I care about. I'm not going put aside every other priority I have and vote solely based on who's least bad for FA. (There's no one GOOD.) At least Michelle Obama is not making laws restricting what I do with my body.

And let's not forget that Regina Benjamin is Surgeon General. I suspect our next Surgeon General will not be nearly as good. We could end up with someone like David Kessler. I'm not at all sure that replacing Obama with Romney would be an overall improvement, even from a solely FA perspective.

moxie3's picture
April 7th, 2012 | Link | There are other reasons I

There are other reasons I choose not to vote for the Obamas in the next election and it's not just "their" stand on how they deal with the "obesity epidemic" in this country but I tend to feel that FA is the most important topic to deal with on this site and that there are plenty of other sites that deal with politics and other topics.

Just because we all are pro-FA doesn't mean we're all cut from the same cookie cutter but we still need to keep this a safe place to discuss FA and not feel threatened because our politics/religion etc... maybe different.

closetpuritan April 7th, 2012 | Link | Huh?

I'm not sure what to make of someone who announces whether they like a politician and who they plan on voting for, then says how we shouldn't threaten people by bringing up politics on this site.

moxie3's picture
April 7th, 2012 | Link | Sorry I don't always do a

Sorry I don't always do a good job at getting my point across, lol. Actually what I meant to say was that I felt it was fine to discuss politics as it relates to FA but not bring up everything else in the arena. Maybe it's just me but that's how I feel, Moxie.

DeeLeigh's picture
April 8th, 2012 | Link | The Democratic/Republican

The Democratic/Republican split in the US right now is really toxic. I agree that it's better not to get into it on this site. I know we're one of the few places that has a mix of political outlooks, and I think that's a good thing. Nothing wrong with mentioning political affiliation, but it's nice to see that everyone's aware of the hazards of getting into party politics here. It's very hard to keep it civil.

closetpuritan April 8th, 2012 | Link | Despite my getting involved

Despite my getting involved in this, I agree too, DeeLeigh. But it's hard for me to walk away from an argument. Moxie, I don't think it's going to work to "just" bring up how FA affects our votes. It was already starting to get toxic despite the fact that no one directly brought up anything non-FA related.

moxie3's picture
April 8th, 2012 | Link | I'm am no debater and when

I'm am no debater and when it comes to politics I pick and choose because there is never one party I endorse or candidate although I am affiliated with a particular party due to the fact I picked it when I was 18 years old. I don't always vote that party. It is hard for me to trust any politicians probably because I grew up just outside the Beltway. No party is perfect and no candidate is perfect but I often vote with my heart but sometimes I vote with my head and sometimes with my wallet. I've never had an opportunity before to even consider FA when I voted until this time so to me that's voting with my heart, head and wallet.

DeeLeigh's picture
April 9th, 2012 | Link | On the other hand, President

On the other hand, President Obama appointed Regina Benjamin surgeon general. She's basically a smalish fat woman who practices Health at Every Size. So, I give him a thumbs up for that.

ordinaria April 10th, 2012 | Link | Did any of you actually

Did any of you actually watch the show? The First Lady was so gracious, relatable, understanding. Just great. She wasn't patronizing. She wasn't judgmental. She didn't talk about weight loss. She talked about health in the family. A true class act. I really liked her on the show.

vesta44's picture
April 11th, 2012 | Link | ordinaria - She can be as

ordinaria - She can be as gracious, relatable, and understanding as you think she appeared to be, and not talk about weight loss at all, but just the fact that she appeared on The Biggest Loser is an endorsement of their bullying and unhealthy behaviors toward fat people. For someone who professes to be against bullying, that's the height of hypocrisy and that's what we object to - her tacit okay of bullying of fat people "for their own good". She's endorsing the conflation of weight with health and further stigmatizing fat people. I'm sorry, I have lost my respect for her when she does something like that. I've fought too hard to be able to tell the bullies to eat shit and bark at the moon, and then to have the First Lady endorse bullying of fat people like me? That's just too much.

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

worrier April 11th, 2012 | Link | What vesta44 said. Lie down

What vesta44 said. Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

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