America is now on its 8th season of the hit show, “The Biggest Loser.” Every season the contestants have gotten heavier and heavier and this season brings us the heaviest contestant in the history of the show (476 lbs).
But if the contestants are getting heavier, is “The Biggest Loser” the wake up call for America that it was intended to be?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “After a quarter century of increases, obesity prevalence has not measurably increased in the past few years but levels are still high – at 34 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 and over.” (http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/index.html) So, although there was no measurable increase in the past two years (up until 2006), 1/3 of the U.S. adult population is still obese.
And anyone who has been overweight or obese knows that it’s not just the number on the scale that poses a problem. As we watch each season of “The Biggest Loser,” we hear stories of public servants who are hindered at their jobs because of weight, parents and future parents who cannot have children due to weight, those who turned to food to hide their pain, and those who have suffered tragedy. We also know about the psychological effects our society heaps on those who are overweight or obese: discrimination, teasing, bullying, ill-fitting clothes, stares at restaurants, depression, and anxiety.
Then there are the adverse health effects of carrying so much extra weight: increased risk for heart disease, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, and others.
But despite the fact that we know all of this, we continue to be a country of contradictions. While “The Biggest Loser” is busy trying to help people who are obese, we have millions of Americans who are starving. According to Feeding America (http://feedingamerica.org/faces-of-hunger/hunger-101.aspx) 1 in 8 Americans face hunger everyday. And last season “The Biggest Loser” challenged Americans who were losing weight to pledge the lost pounds in exchange for food donations for the Feeding America organization’s food banks around the country.
Even now, in my current job in food service, I see people who are eating plenty, and those who are starving and come in hoping we have extra food.
So, where is the disconnect? Millions are starving, but millions are obese – all in the same country; the same land of plenty. And each season “The Biggest Loser” contestants come to the ranch for another shot at life. But more than that, “The Biggest Loser” contestants are supposed to be an inspiration to those who are struggling with their weight. It seems the inspiration hasn’t filtered down too far if the contestants are getting larger and heavier.
America does need a wake up call. This isn’t just about health care reform or Wall Street CEOs or failing banks. This is about the health and welfare of all Americans, especially our children. We need to make this a priority in our lives at all levels of income and education levels. It shouldn’t matter where you live or how much you make; everyone should have the ability to have the tools and knowledge to be healthy and well.
Take from “The Biggest Loser” lessons about moving more and eating healthy. “The Biggest Loser’s” wake up call for America is that we are killing ourselves by what we are putting in our mouths. That is unacceptable America and we can do better. Let’s take the lessons from “The Biggest Loser” and put this nation on the path to health and wellness.