Television is full of shows that focus on weight loss: There's NBC's "The Biggest Loser," ABC's "Extreme Weight Loss," TLC's "My 600 Pound Life," Discovery Channel TLC's "Supersize vs. Superskinny," and A&E's "Fit to Fat to Fat." All of these popular primetime shows follow the same premise.
Plus-size folks are paired with professional trainers to transform their bodies in front of millions of viewers. They're placed on restrictive diets and encouraged to partake in intense exercise routines to initiate extreme weight loss. Those who lose the most weight are rewarded while those who are unable to drop pounds are shamed.
Their extreme diet and exercise journeys treat plus-size bodies as diseases that must be cured. It is fat phobia in living color.
Now, "Altar'd," a new show premiering on January 17 on the Z Living network, is building on this disgusting weight loss TV empire in the worst way imaginable.
"Altar'd" features couples who are getting married. The bride and the groom are separated for 90 days so they can embark on individual fitness journeys in preparation for the wedding.
The goal is to arrive at their weddings completely transformed. The show describes itself as follows:
A pre-wedding, get-slim diet and exercise plan is a major goal for tons of couples, but what happens when a bride-and-groom-to-be take on a 90-day fitness challenge right before their wedding — with the added restriction that neither can see or speak to each other until they're walking down the aisle?! That willpower, plus all the bravery, strength, stress, and emotion that come along with it is exactly what Z Living's addictive new show 'Altar'd' explores. The journey to get there is ratings gold.
However, fat phobia is the true motivation behind "Altar'd" — and that's why it's troubling.
"Altar'd" feeds into the fatphobic idea that fat couples, and specifically fat brides, are undeserving of love.
Rather than undoing the stigma associated with larger bodies, Z Living is portraying fatness as a sign of personal failure. They're sending the message that plus-size couples should focus on being smaller rather than strengthening their relationship before getting married.
Beyond that, it has been proven that the extreme weight loss doesn't yield lasting results.
Kevin Hall, a researcher at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, followed the contestants on season eight of "The Biggest Loser" for six years. His team of researchers found that the show altered their resting metabolism, which calculates how many calories a person burns when they're not moving. The contestants' resting metabolism slowed dramatically, which made it difficult for them to lose weight.
Danny Cahill, season eight's winner, lost 239 pounds in seven months — that's more than a pound a day. He gained back more than 100 pounds after the show, according to The New York Times. He now has to eat 800 calories per day to maintain his current size, though he should be eating more.
Almost all of season eight's contestants who participated in the study had gained back some, if not all, of the weight.
So, if the weight doesn't stay off, is it worth potentially sacrificing a marriage?
One word: No. And no couple needs a weight-loss show to prove it.