Dear Mrs. Michelle Obama,
I am a dietetic intern with Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina writing on the subject of your reappearance on the popular reality show, The Biggest Loser.
I understand the concern over adult and childhood obesity, and implementing effective strategies to combat it. However, The Biggest Loser is not an appropriate platform to do so. The Biggest Loser uses fat shaming techniques to compel the contestants to lose large amounts of weight. I have seen contestants yelled at, insulted, belittled, and told by their trainer to exercise to the point of physical pain and emesis. This is absolutely not a healthy or sustainable message to promote.
There is significant scientific evidence to suggest that the strategies The Biggest Loser utilizes on its show does not maintain weight loss in the long-term, and could be a factor in developing a serious eating disorder. In fact, a study was published this year in the American Journal of Health Behavior showed that watching The Biggest Loser gave participants a lower perception of exercise, and as the authors said, “may result in lower motivation to participate because of the anticipation of an unpleasant experience.”
I would like to point out positive health promotions that you have spearheaded. I think it was a fantastic idea to encourage big name suppliers, like Walgreens and WalMart, to carry more fresh produce. A large majority of Americans do shop for groceries at WalMart, pharmacies and even gas stations. So getting fresh produce where it will meet the American public was ingenious and effective. I know you were criticized for this move by people who themselves do not shop at these stores, but it was a smart, sociologically-informed approach. Studies have shown that produce consumption correlates with access, and one recent study published in Preventing Chronic Disease suggests that increasing access to fresh produce could increase consumption. If you want to be effective in helping foster healthier lifestyles I think you should stick to things that will work, and that you won’t regret later.
The Biggest Loser, however, is not a smart approach to encouraging a healthy lifestyle. I ask you to please not dignify The Biggest Loser by appearing on it, as the show sends very negative health messages to the public for the sake of entertainment.
Ariela Haro von Mogel
An example of the negative message that The Biggest Loser gives for exercise: