Skip to Content

Watching Biggest Loser makes you hate fat people

Watching Biggest Loser makes you hate fat people

An academic study found that watching The Biggest Loser actually makes viewers hate fat people.

For the study, conducted by people in the department of psychology at Bowling Green State University and published in the journal Obesity earlier this year, 59 college students watched either the NBC weight loss show or Meerkat Manor, and their attitudes toward obese people were compared to those from before the experiment.

Here’s how the abstract describes the conclusions:

“Participants in Biggest Loser condition had significantly higher levels of dislike of overweight individuals and more strongly believed that weight is controllable after the exposure. … 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.”

In other words, watching the show increased a person’s dislike of fat people, especially if that person is skinnier; that’s in part because the show’s weight loss messaging makes them think that being obese is simply a choice.

That’s despite the show’s obvious success in humanizing the struggle that some overweight people face.

The full report isn’t freely available, but researchers showed just 40 minutes of The Biggest Loser (which is about 1/600th of an episode) to participants, and I’d be curious what 40 minutes they chose.

In-house drama? Challenges? The weigh-in? Voting strategy? Product placement? Or a combination of all of those things? Some moments might have a stronger impact than others on a viewer’s perceptions.

 

All reality blurred content is independently selected, including links to products or services. However, if you buy something after clicking an affiliate link, I may earn a commission, which helps support reality blurred. Learn more.

More great stories

About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

Discussion

I value our community at reality blurred, which connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

Comment rules: My goal is for us to be able to share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space. That’s why I’ve created these rules for commenting here, and by commenting, you agree that you’ve read and agree to them. Happy discussing!