On Thursday, the Daily Mail reported that The Biggest Loser has been cancelled. For a time, it was a popular show, which is annoying because it had a stupid — and absurdly outdated — premise. Most people know the drill: A group of contestants compete to lose As Much Weight As Possible. The person who does earns the title of "Biggest Loser" and a whole host of health issues.
Reportedly, the cancellation comes courtesy of a New York Post article from last year. In the article, a former contestant alleged that Dr. Rob Huizenga fed the contestants Adderall and pills that contain ephedra extract, an ingredient used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine, to speed their weight loss. After taking the pill, contestant Joelle Gwynn said she felt "jittery and hyper."
"I went and told the sports medicine guy. The next day, Dr. [Huizenga] gave us some lame explanation of why they got added to our regimen and that it was up to us to take them." Allegedly, Huizenga filed a lawsuit against Gwynn for these accusations, which he claims to be false.
It's delightfully ironic that the man who (allegedly) encouraged illegal drugs — yes, ephedra is very much illegal and can lead to death — is the one to take down The Biggest Loser. The cancellation occurs amidst a swarm of bad tidings for the show, though. While the legal battle might be the blow that killed it, this show had it coming for a number of reasons.
When it premiered in 2004, The Biggest Loser enjoyed high ratings. The first 9 seasons averaged between 8 to 10 million viewers per episode. In recent years, though, ratings declined. Temptation Nation, the last to air, averaged half the number of viewers as the first season, a measly 4.75.
Then came the scandals. In 2015, a contestant from season 3 called the show a "fat-shaming disaster." When contestant Rachel Frederickson dropped to 105 pounds in season 15, trainer Jillian Michaels left the show, citing concerns over the show's system of "checks and balances." It became clear after a scientific study that most contestants gain weight after the show, courtesy of the aforementioned health problems. Gwynn's allegations, which were published in January of 2015, seem to have sealed the coffin in what should have been a dead show in the first place.
This doesn't really need to be stated, but we'll say it anyway: This was not a body-positive show. It actively shames people for their weight and encourages a version of sweaty self-flagellation. It revels in shame, and, people like my ballet teacher in middle school, schadenfreude. This was and somewhat still is — Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian, we're looking at you — a genre of sorts on television in the early aughts. With internet culture, though, came the steady rise of the body positive movement, which, in my ideal world, is one of the reasons The Biggest Loser started flailing in 2010.
Good riddance to The Biggest Loser. It should have been cancelled years ago.
Refinery29 has reached out to NBC for comment on this story. We will update this post if and when we obtain a response.
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