Utilizing Qualitative Description influenced by aspects of phenomenology, we conducted fifteen open-ended, semi-structured interviews with former contestants of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” The purpose of the study was to explore experiences of significant weight loss. We focused on challenges, emotional well-being, and relational dynamics of contestants transitioning through their weight loss journeys, which included what happened after the show was completed. Further, we analyzed perspectives regarding the utility of Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) in working with this population. In the study, three themes emerged which included: (1) Living at the ranch: It’s reality TV, not reality; (2) After the confetti falls: Post-Traumatic Reality TV Syndrome and The Whiplash Effect; and (3) Therapeutic treatment: Much needed but nowhere to be found. The study includes a rich description of the data, as well as a discussion of clinical implications.


Obesity, Weight Loss, Qualitative Description, Marriage and Family Therapy

Author Bio(s)

Darren D. Moore, Ph.D., LMFT, Associate Professor & Site Director, Couple and Family Therapy Program, Alliant International University. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to:Darren D. Moore, Ph.D., LMFT (Georgia), AAMFT Approved Supervisor, is an Associate Professor and Site Director of the COAMFTE approved Couple and Family Therapy Master’s program at Alliant International University, in San Francisco, California. Dr. Moore’s research focus is obesity and weight loss, within individual, couple, and family relationships, as well as larger systems, with an emphasis on health disparities among men, African American families, and other unique or marginalized populations. Dr. Moore directs an obesity research team, consisting of undergraduate and graduate students, community members, and colleagues at various academic institutions. Dr. Moore may be contacted at darren.moore@alliant.edu or (612) 296-3758.

Clinton Cooper, MFT, Mercer University School of Medicine. Mr. Clinton E. Cooper, currently a LAMFT in the state of Georgia, has a bachelor’s degree from High Point University's Psychology program and is a graduate of Mercer University's Marriage and Family Therapy program. He has served as a research associate and is a senior member on Dr. Moore's obesity research team, having three published articles thus far with the team. His research interests include: exercise, weight loss, eating disorders, minority populations, motivation from a systemic standpoint, human sexuality, gender identity, elder populations, as well as men and masculinities. Clinton.E.Cooper@live.mercer.edu

Toiya Williams, MFT Student, Mercer University School of Medicine. Toiya D. Williams is a marriage and family therapy graduate student at Mercer University. Toiya has served as a research associate on Dr. Moore’s Research Team for over a year. She earned her undergraduate degree at Xavier University of Louisiana. Her research interests include obesity and health, mechanisms used to induce weight loss, social support, community development, resilience characteristics, and the psychological well-being of African American girls and women. Toiya.Danielle.Williams@live.mercer.edu

Kai Zwierstra, MSW Student, University of New England. Kai Zwierstra has served as a research associate on Dr. Moore's Obesity Research Team for over a year. She holds one BA in Justice and one in Psychology from the University of Alaska Anchorage. Ms. Zwierstra is currently completing her MSW at the University of New England and works as a body acceptance activist. Ms. Zwierstra speaks around the country at conferences regarding body acceptance, is currently executive producing an off-Broadway play inspired by an article she wrote based on her past experience as a weight loss reality TV contestant on "The Biggest Loser," and is negotiating for publication of her fictional novel addressing the subject. Her academic interests are: social justice, intersectionality, research, body acceptance and obesity. kaihibbard@gmail.com

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