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Social Worker Review: Biggest Loser Needs Social Workers

The Biggest Loser
Category: Reality Show (Tuesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern on NBC)

Review by Cheryl A. Johnson, LCSW

RATING (Out of 5 Megaphones):




Plot (Cheryl watched Episode 2 on Oct. 5, 2010): The plot of the show is for individuals to lose weight through diet and exercise. Participants go through vigorous exercise routines and food management. Each week the participants are weighed and out of a process of elimination (most to least weight lost) one of two participants leaves the show.

Why social workers and the public should not watch this show: Although I do not think the show should be totally ignored, the parts that are shown of the participants dealing with their life situations outside of the competition and emotional struggles during the show should be totally ignored.

This is not due to the angst the participants feel, BUT the incompetence of the two trainers who “support” the participant when experiencing their difficulties. What is shown on the episodes  is an untrained trainer giving “sugar coated”  discussion with individuals who are in real pain.

The issues that have caused the participant to gain their weight are often at the core of emotions that rise up. It is a disservice for the participants to once again not receive the support they need to break through or even better handle a problem he or she is experiencing. The show does not indicate that the participants are receiving any mental health support outside of these potentially harmful “chats”.

Just as they have medical professionals who are responsible for the participants ongoing medical issues, so should there be trained mental health professionals (Social Workers) be an active presence on the show.

Cheryl A. Johnson is a Baltimore social worker who has been employed in the field of disabilities for 25 years. recently featured a panel of social work experts who commented on weight loss reality shows. To read that article click here.

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1 Comment

  1. The trainers on the biggest loser are not clinicians. There are psychological issues before weight loss is initiated and issues once the weight is lost. These components are not addressed.

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