Weigh In: Should Kids Be on 'The Biggest Loser'?

By , Registered and Licensed Dietitian
For the first time in its 14 seasons, the hit weight-loss reality show The Biggest Loser is featuring obese children. If you've seen the show, you know that the producers have made some changes to the show's formula for these kids.

Find out my thoughts on this change to the show--and get tips to help your own family--in my latest blog on Huffington Post Healthy Living.


What do you think?
Should children under 18 be allowed to participate in shows such as these?

Thanks for your thought-provoking comments on my last blog for Huffington Post, about how downplaying the obesity epidemic harms public health. I appreciate your continued input and insight to this community and my blogs.

Should children under 18 be allowed to participate in shows such as these?

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No, because it would be very rare that a child would have the emotional maturity to survive the intensity of the Biggest Loser. And for a child, weight loss should be a private family type project. Our children need to be built up to be adults. Not used and beaten up while on display in a public setting. There are better ways for children to learn a healthy life style and lose weight than a TV show. Report
yes. They do medical tests and are followed by professionals. I'm not sure of the competition part, though. I liked the way that biggest looser did it this season. Report
I think that America needs to recognize the rising obesity level in our children. It saddens me to see how many children are overweight now days. Having said that, I do not think that putting them on a tv show is such a good idea. My main thought on this is what happens when the show is over? Will they still have the support they need or will they fall back into the same trap they were in before? Ultimately, their parents need to be their total support system. Hopefully when the show is over, they will continue to be just that!! I just dont think that putting them on tv for millions of people to watch is such a good idea. I dont watch the show regardless because they go by pounds lost and I've learned that it isnt always about whats on the scale=) spark people taught me that;) Report
After reading some more postings on here I have found another erroneous assumption made by people....assuming the ALL obese children are this way due to lack of exercise and their eating habits. Did it ever occur to anyone that some children are obese due to medical issues? I didn't say morbit obese, just obese.

My daughter had her first seizure at age 15 months, took her to several hospitals across the country and found no reason for her seizures. Last time she had a seizure it was so bad I have to give her infant/child CPR in my front lawn waiting for the ambulance to arrive. This was last straw for me. I got a hold of a reknown hospital and they suggested taking her off of phenobarbital (same drug they inject into death row) and placing her on a ketogenic diet (special high-fat, low-carbohydrate to control seizures) which worked great, her seizures stopped. We were warned of the chances of weight problems later but it was the lesser of two evils and I would do it again. She is now 17 years old 30 pounds overweight but seizure free. She is active in the community, involved in a lot of community service projects i.e. mission trips, Civil Air Patrol, Opera House, and Drama Club.

By the way, she responded well to the fact, BL now includes kids on the show. Hopefully this will be a reoccurring idea. Coming from an adolescent point of view, she says it's a great idea and might motivate other kids to get up and start moving outside and off the couch. Report
Personally, I support kids on the show. Having kids on the show is long overdue. I think it's a wonderful idea, needs a little tweaking but good. I miss Jillian going to the homes and helping the families and going through their refrigerator and pantry and throwing out empty calories, the "garbage." Obesity has no boundaries, does not discriminate against age or gender. In fact, there is a higher percentage of obesity in children than that of adults at an alarming rate at that. Having kids on the show as role model for other kids is a wonderful thing and hopefully just the beginning of great things to come. Report
I think that the kids are the best part of the show! I love that the focus for them is overall health and wellbeing - No scale, no waist circumference. I agree that there are many factors contributing to childhood obesity and just as many to consider in addressing it well, but the strategies the show is presenting for the kids are simple and easy first steps that they and their families can use to get started in building healthy lives as children and eventually as adults. I love the way Bingo and his family for doing this together! Report
They don't seem to show much in the way of healthy food choices, or food plans for the adults on the show. They push them to extreme exercise until they either become sick or injured, and this is really dangerous. They need to treat the adults like they treat the kids: showing them respect, exercise can be fun, better food choices, and realizing emotional eating or eating out of boredom can add calories pretty fast. They put these overweight & obese adults on a scale in very little clothes and it's humiliating. Why aren't they showing them fun ways to exercise Ex: make up a scavenger hunt where they walk a course looking for items ( walking, hiking can help burn calories too) or swimming ex: they could have some kind of fun water games ( water aerobics very easy on the joints and helps burn calories too) Some light weights,treadmill, exercise bike etc.. good too but in moderation not to extreme. They need to show that food can be enjoyed and show them how to cook really healthy meals, snacks, and having a plan( food, exercise, enough sleep, and drinking enough water can help them to be successful...LONG TERM). They are on a reality show for money if they lose the most and what will happen to those who "lose" the big money prize? Did they scare them enough into wanting to exercise with a bucket close by " just in case" they feel sick and need to call 911? Can you imagine the kids faces if they were to watch the way these adults were being treated? Report
I'm still amazed that people who have no idea what's going on with the kids on the show are commenting on how horrible it is. It's inspiring, watching the kids blossom every week. This week, they all took further steps to follow dreams they've had all their lives, and the pride they had for themselves was beautiful. All children deserve to see themselves the kids on BL are being taught to--worthy of every dream they create for themselves and the lives they want to build in healthy, practical, and FUN ways. We could all learn a lesson and start being more fearless! Good for them!! Report
@BTVMADS, you said
"...we need to stop the endless cycle of self-hate, deprivation, and dieting that has damaged the public's health and sanity. Teach kids to enjoy all kinds of exercise, eat intuitively, enjoy a wide range of healthy foods, and LOVE their bodies enough to take care of them."

Agreed. You can read my mind ... something like that would have been the REST of the comment ... Report
The biggest loser does not set up its participants for a lifetime of self-care, joyful movement, mindful eating, or consistently healthy nutrition. It teaches participants to shame and distrust their bodies, to purge themselves through excessive exercise and dehydration, rely on outside cues on when and what to eat, and ignore their bodies' natural signals regarding safety, health, hunger, and satiety. WHY would anybody think that this is something we should be teaching children and teens?

If we want the next generation to grow up strong and healthy, we need to stop the endless cycle of self-hate, deprivation, and dieting that has damaged the public's health and sanity. Teach kids to enjoy all kinds of exercise, eat intuitively, enjoy a wide range of healthy foods, and LOVE their bodies enough to take care of them. In other words -- the opposite of what goes on in that awful game show. Report
The kids don't weigh in on the show and will never have to. The trainers teach them how to eat healthfully without deprivation and keep active in ways that would keep children interested. They encourage the kids to set goals regarding their health and give them steps to rally their family, friends, school, and communities around them, and then they show how empowered the kids become when they realize that their self-worth goes beyond their weight. The girl on the show who wants to be a cheerleader? It's not beyond her grasp. The boy who wants to play sports? Now he's doing it. The girl whose dream is to have a prom date? She's learning that there are more important things, and as her confidence climbs from week to week, she's changing her goals and finding a level of fulfillment that she can bring herself. Once in awhile, the kids get to go to the ranch and participate in the physical competitions, helping their teams, but they set it up so it's more about teamwork and participation for the kids and trying things they'd never get to or were afraid of before. Most importantly, I've talked to my niece and her friends, who are battling weight issues or are trying to help friends and family members who are, and watching these kids has been empowering and inspiring for them. They don't feel helpless in it now. I have no complaints. Report
Seriously, why would you log in and make a comment when you have not watched one minute of the show? And most of these comments fall in this category. Give us all a break and only comment when you have a clue as to what you are discussing. There is NO competition, NO rapid weight loss, there is plenty of family participation, etc. etc. Most every negative comment here, is addressed on the show in a positive manner. Go expound on your non relevant theories elsewhere. Report
It is great they are learning. Others including parents wtching will learn. Report
Absolutely. Children are the future and right now America's future is looking obese according to the health professionals. Children are motivated by other children and perhaps if a show like this can emphasis the importance of good health then we are pushing them in the right direction. I don't think they are putting unrealistic demands on these children. These children are already at risk of weight related problems which will affect their lives later down the road. If anything the accomplishments that these children achieve can better build up their self esteem. A better self image of themselves and the their potential will benefit all of us. Report
Based on what I'm reading, the people who seem to be against the kids being on the show, haven't actually watched how the children are being treated.

I wish, when I was a chubby kid, an opportunity like this had come along. The focus is all on being active and working on eating healthfully. Their measurements aren't being taken, nor their weight. These kids are downright inspiring. People seeing they haven't changed is crazy. They all look learner and their confidence is through the roof! Congrats to all three. Report
No, this should not be done. Sensationalism in front of a national--even international--audience. Appearing in such a show could have its long-term negative consequences, possibly against conventional wisdom.

Suppose some of these kids are academic achievers, and college-bound. There are many, many more academic merit scholarships awarded than there are athletic scholarships. Finally, I am of the opinion that young achievers are more than just their bodies. Correlation with obesity, of many diseases that are talked about--and not causation.

A highly competitive college might consider a kid's having participated in this show, yet another ground for exclusion. Everybody can be Googled these days.

And if the kid is not in line for a top college? They'd better develop and maintain rhinocerus skin. Report
I never watch it. The previews make me sick! I just find the idea of the show to be a turn off- would we treat someone with another health issue in such a poor way? No! I would hate to see children involved. Getting healthy should not be a contest.
It is a healthy lifestyle not a contest. It is just sick! Report
No. The idea of the program would be very helpful, but it's television-ized and I don't think that would be overall helpful for a child. Report
No, I don think this an apporpriate forum for kids who need to lose weight. I think it is far far too public - reality show style. Kids grow up to be young people who can have eating disorders in their teens and early twenties - very vulnerable age - and I think these overweight issues need to be handled very sensitively and not in this way. Report
I like the way they are working with the kids in the BL. Report
I like the way they are working with the kids in the BL. Report
I've been watching this season and I think the addition of the teens has enhanced the message. They don't get weighed, they don't do ridiculous workouts. Instead, the trainers work with them in a completely different way - finding activities that interest them and urging them to pursue leadership. In a few weeks, the three teens have become much more active and their confidence is growing. In one case, one of their mothers has lost significant weight as she changes what her family eats and how they move. So the impact is reaching others besides just these teens. At first I wasn't sure I wanted this addition to TBL, but now I'm more than encouraged. And if we can start urging people to eat better and move more at an earlier age, then we all benefit. Report
I think it's great if the kids are getting nutritional guidance and support but I do not believe it is good to do these things "on air". I was an obese child and this comes with lots of self-esteem issues. Putting these kids on display is something that can really backfire, especially if the kids can't maintain their accomplishments once the cameras are gone. Classmates can be very cruel. No matter what the child says now, they are not old enough to decide whether or not to appear on such a show. I don't think their parents are really considering all the potential impacts of their kids being portrayed as obese children on national TV. Report
It's interesting to me how many comments here have been made by people who have not watched this season's shows and are only making assumptions about how the segments with the children are being handled. The three children who are being featured are not part of the regular Biggest Loser competition, and there is no competition among them. The parts of the show that are about the children are additions to the usual program, not part of the program. There are no weigh-ins, no over-the-top workouts for the children. Instead, each child has been assigned one of the trainers who keeps in touch with their child by Skype and by making visits to their homes and schools. The emphasis is not on dieting or losing a certain amount of weight. It's on making small changes in their lives, in their families' lives that include improvement in nutrition, learning to become more active, improving self-confidence, and believing in their dreams. They are coached to lead by example and to see themselves in different, more empowering ways. I think had these segments been a separate program, as indeed they could have been, and not included in a program under the Biggest Loser brand, the comments here would be very different. Report
They absolutely should participate in the show! They not only lose weight and learn about health, but also get an opportunity to develop leadership skills. Moreover, their self-esteem gets a boost from regular interaction with thier peers! Report
I think it's a major fail to try to change the child's habits without addressing the family dynamics. Unlike others, the competition doesn't bother me as the kids will find out in their later years that someone will win, someone will succeed, & it may not be you. As much as your heart wishes that the kids will not be disappointed, you do not do them any favors by trying to avoid that disappointment. Allow the kid to feel it, address it, & grow from it. He/She will use that & gain strength from it. Report
I think it is a shame that there is such an epidemic of obese children. I am at the pool weekly with my grandkids and the number of kids that are 10 and 12 and must weigh over 100 lbs is really scary. I don't watch BL as I agree that the yelling and "motivating" is not something I enjoy. However from reading comment here and seeing that the kids are not treated that way and they are treated with respect (why not do the same for the adults?) then I am good with it. I'm glad they are counselling the parents as I believe the issues start with what happens at home. You have an obese child, why do you bring junk food into the house? Report
no no i even think they need to take the show off the air its a no sparky way to lose weight if you don't pull big numbers you are told you are not the biggest loser and time to go home Report
I like the way they are handling the children on the show. It seems to be very motivational for the kids and the kids really seem to like the coaches that they have. I hope that more kids will want to be involved in losing weight by watching these kids in action. Report
have not watched it in many yrs but if they treat any of the kids like I have seen them do adults in the name of motivation, no way. I still think no way period for kids on the show Report
I rarely watch any TV so am not familiar with the show.
I read Becky's Blog but the system won't accept my vote. Report
I rarely watch any TV so am not familiar with the show.
I read Becky's Blog but the system won't accept my vote. Report
I've watched BL this season and have seen them talking to the parents to get them involved in the children living a healthy lifestyle and they have involved them in sports or things with the other children in their schools. They haven't been pushing the kids and treating them like they do the adults. I hate the way the adults are yelled at, which would turn me completely off. But they don't treat the children that way, they are respective to them. Report
I'm watching and there is no sensationalism of the children on the BL. They are concentrating on behaviour modification and tips on how to become more active and eat healthier. The kids are not weighed so there is no embarrassment for them there. They do discuss emotional issues however. Overall I think BL is doing what they set out to do - draw more attention to a national epidemic of more and more children becoming more obese from being less active than previous generations as well as eating more unhealthy foods. Report
I am tired of seeing tv "reality" shows capitalizing on children. This includes child beauty pagents, cheerleaders, Honey Booboo, etc. Leave the children alone and let adults be the only ones to be made fools of by the people who do these types of shows and those sponsors who pay for them. Report
I think they are doing it in a way that helps the kids to ease into this healthy lifestyle without judgement or embarrising them. In turn if other kids see this maybe it will spark them into action..
It is such a big problem now days and so sad to think that there is so many overweight children in the U.S. I am glad that someone is making this effort and to show it on t.v. may wake up some parents as to how serious it is. Report
I think the show has done a great job with the kids. They are not getting the "hard core" trainer treatment at the ranch, their families are being encouraged to get involved, and the children appear to be getting both encouragement and support. Report
I find the Biggest Loser inspiring. I think having kids to inspire kids is good thing. I really liked last week when they had the kids take the lead in some way at their school or with their friends. The kids are getting positive encouragement from the trainers. The problems that the kids on the show are dealing with are very real for kids in our day and age, video games, others expectations, bullying, the wrong foods, not enough activity. What I like about the Biggest Loser, is that the challenges the participants face are real world issues and when the show is at its best, they are able to learn from the challenge. That is what inspires me and I hope the kids can inspire other kids with the challenges they are facing. Report
I don't watch The Biggest Loser. From what I've heard of the tactics in the past, I'm generally against the approach of 6-10 hours of working out, punishing trainers, and unnatural, unsustainable lifestyles. However from reading the comments about this article, it sounds like BL is changing the approach and perhaps introducing people - and children - to more normal, sustainable, healthy lifestyles. If this is true, then bravo Biggest Loser! Report
I have watched every episode this season and am highly impressed with how respectfully they have incorporated the "child ambassadors" into this season. They are approaching it from the perspective of health, fitness, being active and making good food choices and are not focusing at all on their weight loss. They have also taken on the issue of bullying. Bravo to The Biggest Loser. Report
I don't watch the Biggest Loser anymore, therefore I don't really feel I can wager an opinion about the way the child-contestants are being portrayed.

However, I WOULD like to comment on the Huffington Post article. What struck me most is the author stating she never "blames" parents for their child's obesity. She then continues to give examples of how parents can help their children eat better and exercise more. I know the author is using her writing skills to downplay negativity in this article, but come on! Parents make food and lifestyle decisions for their pre-adolescent children almost 100% of the time. They control accessibility, storage, preparation, and quality of food. They choose whether to spend time/money for their children's sports programs. I don't want to be negative, either, but I find downplaying a parent's role in a child's healthy childhood awful. I absolutely agree parents and children need positive support and encouragement, but I find lifestyle change begins with a stern and truthful evaluation of parental responsibility. Report
are they safely losing the weight on a show like this or going to any means to "win" the prize Report
It did it to me again logged in and still would not let me vote that is the 5or6 times that has happen to me, and yes they should learn and at early age what is good and what is bad for your body. Report
Knowledge is power. If children aren't taught in school good eating habits (and we know what most school lunches are like) when will they learn about fat and calories vs good health? I would much rather have overweight children watching the Biggest Loser than the SciFI channel or the violent and gory crap that is on TV. For me, the Biggest Loser is motivating and motivation is what this young generation needs to get off their cell phones, video games and butt sitting routines to be a part of life again. At least they are watching something that could lead to good health or spark their interest in being active. Where is the generation that can build America strong again and who isn't afraid of physical labor?
But as Lincoln once said, "You can please some of the people some of the time, but none of the people all of the time." And personally I don't think the dietician actually watches the Biggest Loser... Report
I am very pleased with the way Biggest Loser has revamped the show this season - less 'drama' more emphasis on health, incorporating the 'real-life' challenges and results into the overall picture so it doesn't give the impression that the only way to lose weight and improve health is to isolate from life on a ranch where you work out 6-10 hours a day with professional trainers. The way the kids have been included is perfect because it shows how they can really involve their peers, families and make a difference in spite of fears, human stumbling blocks and without an emphasis on perfection or the scale. I think the show has the potential to be a huge inspiration to kids as well as adults and it's odd that Ms Hand thinks it's a bad idea when the show is actually DEMONSTRATING all the things she recommends for treating childhood obesity. Kids are going to be inspired to DO these things by seeing other kids doing it, not by reading advice from some adult nutritionist - so I think BL is doing THE absolute best thing to address the problem!! Kudos to them! Report
I have enjoyed the Biggest Loser since season 5. I especially like seeing the kids on the show. I think it brings to light the ever increasing problem with obesity especially with children. I was an obese child. I think the way the show is handling the kids is good. I would imagine it is stressful for the kids. I really appreciate the fact that they are not focusing on their weighing in. Report
I don't watch reality programming and think it should all be taken off including the biggest loser. Report
I like watching the Biggest Loser and I think having the kids on the show has brought more attention to the obesity epidemic in our country. Report
No. this is a bad idea! Report
I love the idea that they have children this season the kids are at home and are not subjected to the abuse as the adults are on the ranch the kids are leading by example their peers. I have noticed this season the trainers are not as brutal as they have been in the pass The kids are not in the running to be the "biggest loser" and it does come down to the parents to bring in healthy foods and get teh kids off the couch I'm loving this season with teh kids Report