The former NBC show, which ran for 17 seasons, is coming back on USA Network on January 28.

Lauren Wicks
January 27, 2020
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The Biggest Loser is coming back to television for the first time since 2016, and it has been the center of controversy since USA Network announced the revamp last spring. Critics of the show say The Biggest Loser shouldn't exist anymore, since it promotes "fat-shaming."

A 2016 study published in the journal Obesity actually found that many of the show's contestants have been left worse off than they were before due to the demanding eating and exercise regimens placed on them by the trainers. Most of the participants studied not only regained most of the weight they lost on the show (or more) but saw a decrease in their metabolism over time. However, it's important to note that the group studied was still able to maintain about 12% of their weight lost, on average, six years later, had better cholesterol profiles and were free of diabetes.

USA Network has been working to update the show's focus towards wellness instead of weight loss (even though the show's namesake is still The Biggest Loser). Bob Harper, the only trainer from the show's previous run who will be on the revamp, told People that the show won't look anything like its previous installment. He will be accompanied by trainers Steve Cook and Erica Lugo—who lost 160 pounds herself.

"It's not about getting skinny, it's about getting healthy," Harper tells People. "You see people getting off medication, reversing their type 2 diabetes, lowering their blood pressure."

Harper has revamped his own ideas of health and wellness after suffering a heart attack back in 2017. The fitness legend told Shape he is much kinder to his body than he used to be and isn't as concerned about having the most intense workout everyday. Harper says he instead listens to its body and provides it with the rest it needs—and isn't above going for a walk instead of doing a HIIT workout some days. He additionally has begun to follow a more plant-centric, Mediterranean-style diet.

While Harper and the show both seem to be headed in a better direction, many of the show's questionable components will still exist in the reboot. While the controversial "temptation challenges"—where contestants had to choose between sabotaging their diets with fast food or getting to call their families—are gone, extremely fast weight loss is still the show's central theme. Plus, we don't think weighing yourself on national television is something that needs to exist in 2020.

"At the end of the day—or episode in this case—every contestant is stepping on a scale. So, while I commend the show for making some positive changes towards overall health, it's still a weight-loss focused show," says Lisa Valente, M.S., R.D. and EatingWell's Digital Nutrition Editor. She adds, "I understand the inspiration that they want to provide to people, but for the contestants (plus the viewers) a show like this can trigger disordered eating and thinking around food. There are lots of negative health consequences associated with weight stigma and this show will help perpetuate the myth that thinner is better. If the show really and truly wanted to encourage health, they would take away the name and the scale."

While there are a few encouraging changes being made to the show—such as group therapy classes and free access to a dietitian and gym afterwards—at the end of the day, a show about weight loss is still a show about weight loss. Tune in Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST if you're interested in learning more about the weight-loss journey of the show's 12 contestants, but be mindful of ways the show may unintentionally be promoting a number on a scale over wellbeing.