Letter to the Editor: The real ‘Biggest Loser’

“This is just disgusting,” a freshman Rider student said with a furrowed brow at the sight of advertising for Rider’s newest challenge, “The Biggest Loser at Rider.”

Gourmet Dining, Rider’s new dining and catering service on campus has been holding annual “Biggest Loser” challenges at all their college campuses since 2011. According to their website, their abbreviated version of the late reality television competition “is safe and effective if people follow the advice given,” and that “’The Biggest Loser’ TV show is very popular but the goals they set are not always realistic.” 

Even though the goals of Rider’s “Biggest Loser” may be more realistic, the dark history of the competition still lingers in the branding and advertising of Rider’s tasteless event. The show ran for 17 seasons on NBC and promoted strict dieting and intense workout programs for successful weight loss. What many viewers never saw was the boomerang effect contestants went through after the competition ended. A study conducted by the National Institute of Health in 2016 found that most contestants gained back all the weight they lost during their time on the show. 

Other investigations have uncovered the horrifying realities of the controversial competition, discovering that, on average, the “show’s contestants lost one to two pounds per day — essentially seven times what doctors had said was healthy,” said former show producer JD Roth. 

Producers would go to extremely dangerous lengths to gain viewers, from allegedly telling contestants to eat less than what they would say in front of the camera to letting trainers give their team members Adderall and caffeine pills. The show has a long history of corrupt weight loss tactics and is infamous for treating contestants like cattle.

For a university and dining program that encourages healthy living and eating, hosting a competition to see which young, college student can lose the most weight in 10 weeks goes against everything that healthy living stands for. Not everyone can lose weight easily, let alone in a brief, 10-week time frame.  

 In fact, registered dietitian Andy Bellatti tells clients time and time again that “you’ve got to give yourself two, three, four years of consistent behavioral changes. That is hard work. You’re building new habits. And that takes time.” 

The program is a 10 week-long event that includes dieting plans when students sign up. What will happen after these 10 weeks? Will students simply go back to old habits since they no longer have a guide to eating or a cash incentive to treat their body well?

Not only that, but the picture on the poster depicts a tiny waist being measured, showing that the waist is no larger than 24 inches and may be even smaller than that. Considering that the average female waist line is 34-35 inches, this is ridiculous. Such a small measurement is unrealistic for most people to achieve and promotes becoming thin as the goal of the program, rather than becoming healthier.

This triggering image haunts students at almost all of Rider’s dining locations. Students with food anxiety or eating disorders must see the competition’s image on giant posters next to dining locations and must face the graphic on napkin dispensers while sitting at tables at Daly Dining Hall or on screens at Cranberry’s. In fact, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), “Between 10 and 20 percent of women and four to 10 percent of men in college suffer from an eating disorder, and rates are on the rise.” 

The NEDA says, “Eating disorders develop when the need to feel control over a stressful environment is channeled through food restriction, over-exercise and an unhealthy focus on body weight,” which can easily occur in the midst of college stress. This competition could easily send an at-risk contestant over the edge, sparking a full-blown eating disorder that would hurt them for years to come.

Gourmet Dining and Rider should do more to encourage students to eat healthier, rather than just for 10 weeks. Gourmet Dining and Rider cannot just talk the talk when it comes to healthy eating, but they must also provide more healthy options for all students. For example, more healthy options should be added to the Cranberry’s meal exchange. 

In all honesty, when Gourmet Dining came to Rider this past fall, I welcomed the company and its new dining options with open arms. While my peers complained about the service and the food, I looked on the bright side, chatting with dining employees and trying new dishes at every meal. After this tasteless and senseless move, though, I am ashamed of Gourmet Dining. Gourmet Dining thinks something such as the “Biggest Loser” is not just okay, but healthy to promote on a college campus and that is, well, “just disgusting.” 

 —Jamie Hafner

freshman arts and entertainment industries management major  

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