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NBC, Enough With the Diet Shows

I get it -- weight loss shows make for good television. High ratings and high advertising revenue are important. But they're not the only things that are important.
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Dear NBC,

Sigh. You're doing it again. First it was The Biggest Loser, then Losing It with Jillian, then Bravo planned a SkinnyGirl show before Bethenny Frankel got pregnant, and now you've created Thintervention with Jackie Warner.

I already know about the dangers of The Biggest Loser. Third season's Kai Hibbard has recounted her experiences, including:

• trainers encouraging contestants to dehydrate before weigh-ins,
• overexercising,
• contestants being pushed to work out despite being injured,
• producers overriding doctors' orders

...and more. Kai has shared how she ended up developing an eating disorder that she still struggles with as a result of her experiences on the show.

But simply having a weight-, eating-, and workout-dysfunctional show wasn't enough for you. To reward The Biggest Loser's high ratings, you gave the main trainer, Jillian Michaels, her own show to further spread this dangerous, deceptive message.

Another trainer, Jackie Warner, had a show, Workout, which seemed fair to middling regarding health. At least she didn't scream at people like Jillian does. Maybe Workout wasn't destructive enough and didn't garner high enough ratings, but instead of just scrapping the show, you've created a new show called Thintervention with Jackie Warner. I hoped you were joking, but you weren't.

Yes, we are definitely a weight-obsessed, diet-driven, looks-centered society. Yes, The Biggest Loser, Losing It, and the upcoming Thintervention have large audiences and high ratings. However, in order to get these ratings, you're promoting eating disordered behavior at the expense of the contestants and the public. You have a responsibility to your audience to present content that's not harmful. Focusing so much on losing weight, getting thin, and staying skinny while skimming over underlying issues doesn't help the audience. Instead, it further encourages people to focus on the external while ignoring the internal.

I've had plenty of experience looking for, taping, and watching shows for thinspiration. I'd look for whichever shows had women whose bodies I envied and most influenced my unhealthy drive to lose weight. I'm so grateful your current diet shows didn't exist when I had an active eating disorder! This letter, however, isn't a request for myself. It's for the people who might not realize how unhealthy these shows are and how they can negatively affect them. It's for people who wouldn't want you to get rid of the shows because they want to use them to fuel their disordered eating and exercising.

I get it - weight loss shows make for good television. The Biggest Loser franchise is very successful. High ratings and high advertising revenue are important. But they're not the only things that are important.

The more you know, NBC, the more of a responsibility you have. Before you create another weight-obsessed show, consider what you're feeding to people and how these messages will affect them while they're watching, and after they've turned off, the TV.

Adia Colar

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