Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Life during the Biggest Loser: Experiences and Perspectives of Non-Contestant Romantic Partners

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Life during the Biggest Loser: Experiences and Perspectives of Non-Contestant Romantic Partners

Article excerpt

NBC's The Biggest Loser is a reality television show that features overweight and obese adults that attempt to lose weight while being filmed on national television. (Domoff et al., 2012; Hall, 2013). The Biggest Loser utilizes a competition and incentive-based approach, where "winners" are awarded with cash prizes as well as other benefits for their weight loss. (Domoff et al., 2012; Hall, 2013). Before being selected for the show, individuals are required to "audition" by attending an in-person interview and/or by submitting a video audition (Moore, Whitley, & Holland, 2017b). Once participants are chosen for the show, they are secluded on what has been referred to as "the ranch." At the ranch, participants often engaged in rigorous exercise and diet practices until the finale or until they are released from the show. While there have been some seasons where individuals participate as members of a couple or family-based dyad (i.e., season 5, among others) most seasons are focused on the weight loss process of the individual. One aspect that has not been considered within scholarly research has been the impact of participation on couple and family relationships.

It is plausible that being involved in weight loss and a reality television show may impact or influence relationships, given that individuals do not exist in a vacuum and that individuals exist within the context of relationships, (Dymek, le Grange, Neven, & Alverdy, 2002; Hafner, 1991; Hafner & Rogers, 1990; Hafner, Watts, & Rogers, 1991; Moore & Cooper, 2016). Similar to some residential treatment programs, (i.e., addiction residential treatment) biggest loser contestants are not allowed to have their children or family members with them while "in treatment" at the ranch and are expected to have minimal contact with the "outside world" during the weight loss process (Moore, Cooper, Williams, & Zwisler, 2017a). In addition, contestants are expected to focus exclusively on weight loss. While focusing on weight loss may be advantageous for contestants, it may also alter couple and family dynamics for spouses that are left at home. Within scholarly literature, it has been found that weight loss can negatively impact couple relationships. (Barbarin & Tirado, 1985; Earvolino-Ramirez, 2008; Marcus, Kalarchian, & Courcoulas, 2009; Sarwer et al., 2008; Tejirian, Jensen, Lewis, Dutson, & Mehran, 2008). However, most of the research has been focused on bariatric surgery patients or other obese patients, with no researchers exploring the impact of weight loss and participation in a residential- or competition-based weight loss intervention among spouses. Further, participation in a reality television show may add additional stressors or have an additional impact on the couple dyad, that currently has not been explored within scholarly literature. The purpose of the current study is to explore the experiences and perspectives of spouses/partners who were involved in a romantic relationship with a contestant of The Biggest Loser during the weight loss process. Likewise, the researchers are particularly interested in exploring perceptions of spouses regarding the potential role of marriage and family therapists in developing interventions for couples during the weight loss process, specifically related to assisting with promoting health, sustained weight loss, and couple/family relational harmony. For this study the weight loss process is specific to being on The Biggest Loser, and relationship defined as being in a relationship at some point between casting and when the finale airs on television, which may expand up to 12 months. For this study, the overarching research question is: What are the experiences and perspectives of non-contestant spouses, of biggest loser participants?

Literature Review

The Biggest Loser

There are a few researchers who have explored the experiences of weight loss contestants from The Biggest Loser (Moore et al. …

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