Cheating and 'The Biggest Loser'

Jerod Clark

Is it OK for someone to cheat to protect their kids, family or a friend?

This season of "The Biggest Loser: Couples" has put this question in my mind nearly every week. I feel like there is a lot of shady business going on as people are manipulating the game to send others home instead of focusing on what should be the real goal: weight loss as a result of a lifestyle change.

Several weeks ago, a team of contestants was faced with sending someone home. The parents on the team said they were going to make sure none of the younger generation on the team would have to go home. During the weekly weigh-in, as each parent stepped on the scale, it was clear they were throwing the results as one after another each had gained weight. Even in their explanations they conveyed that they had intentionally gained the weight. My instant reaction was: they cheated. The purpose of the show is to see who can lose the most weight, yet these parents purposely packed on more. It’s technically not against the rules to throw a weigh-in, but it’s wrong in principle. And they did it to save their children from elimination.

So my question becomes, is it OK for parents to game play, to cheat or do something dishonest to protect their children? I’m not talking about extreme situations, but in day-to-day life as you’re faced with bending the rules. I want to be clear. I’m not parent, so I’m writing from a little bit of an outsider's perspective. But it seems to me this is wrong and really part of the problem that ended up getting these contestants on "The Biggest Loser" in the first place.

I understand the intentions. These parents want to see their children get healthier and one way to make sure that happens is to keep the kids on the show with the trainers. Many of them feel guilt and responsibility for letting their kids get this sick in the first place. But on the other side, I feel like these parents are falling back into bad habits. They cared so much about their children having whatever they want earlier in life they threw out the rules and that contributed to their kids' obesity. And now they’re revolving back to the hovering parents that will do whatever they can to make their children happy.

But here's the thing. The young people weren't happy as a result of their childhoods. They suffered because they weren't taught responsibility in taking care of their own physical and emotional health. So, why would cheating the system this time make them any happier? And if the younger people hadn't worked hard enough that week to stay on their own merit, what were they learning in the long run?

Last week, there was another controversy over someone trying to throw the results to go home. One of the younger contestants decided she was ready to leave. When she got on the scale, after a week of intense workouts, she had lost no weight. Everyone seemed to smile and be OK with it because they knew her plan. But that wasn’t the end. In order for her to go home, her whole team had to lose the least amount of weight. One of the men on her team ended up losing seven pounds - an awesome accomplishment for him. Yet people were upset. His success meant the young woman who was trying to throw it couldn’t be eliminated. The team had lost too much weight. This man was being emotionally punished for not cheating.

Host Alison Sweeney brought the players to task for not cheering his weight loss, but being upset that someone couldn’t go home. Angrily, she said, "This isn't a prison. You can walk away at any time.” And I felt the same way. Enough of the game playing, enough cheating. No more making people feel bad for losing weight on "The Biggest Loser."

Jerod Clark is the project leader for Church Juice, which helps train and consult with churches on how to use media better as an outreach tool. Read more at the Church Juice blog.

(Photos courtesy of NBC.)

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