Publication Details

Holland, K., Blood, R. W., Thomas, S., Karunaratne, A. & Lewis, S. (2010). 'That's not reality for me': Australian audiences respond to The Biggest Loser. Annual International Communications Association Conference (pp. 1-26).


This paper focuses on how Australian audiences who meet the BMI criteria of being obese or morbidly obese read the television program The Biggest Loser. The study consisted of 152 semi-structured interviews in which people were asked about media representations of obesity in general and The Biggest Loser in particular. Four central themes emerged from our analysis of the interview data: Showing the struggle; Watching the transformation; Creating unrealistic expectations; Reinforcing misconceptions and exploiting people. Many people were reflexive about their complicity as viewers in a process in which obese people, like themselves, are ridiculed and humiliated and, while many challenged the contrived format of the program, very few questioned its underlying assumption about the importance of losing weight. These findings are discussed in relation to previous research with viewers of The Biggest Loser and situated in the context of theorising about obesity, and reality and makeover television programs.