Season 14 of "The Biggest Loser" premiered Sunday night and for the first time ever, three teens will chronicle their weight loss experiences on the show. The controversial decision to include teens on this NBC reality show has sparked debates between activist groups and individuals who fear a younger demographic is at risk from being exposed to extreme forms of weight loss.
While each kids’ journey will be featured on "The Biggest Loser," their requirements will vary slightly from the adults on the show. The teens, aged 13 to 16, will not get on the scale, live on the ranch with the other contestants, or be eliminated.
At the 2013 Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour on Sunday, longtime coach Bob Harper talked about the upcoming fourteenth season of "The Biggest Loser" and addressed criticism around bringing teens on the show.
"With the kids, we wanted to do exactly the opposite of when we work with the adults," Harper said. "We do no breaking down, just lifting up ... It's about getting kids to move around again and getting kids to be kids."
Monday afternoon, a HuffPost Live segment investigated the different perspectives on childhood obesity being represented on "The Biggest Loser." Host Abby Huntsman talked to Huffington Post Teen Associate Editor Carolyn Gregoire along with David Broome, executive producer and co-creator of "The Biggest Loser," Joanna Dolgoff, a pediatrician and child obesity expert for the show, and Jessica Tholmer, freelance writer and former overweight teen.
Tholmer brought up misconceptions about teen weight loss. “We keep saying it’s not about image and it’s about health, but it’s always about image unfortunately because of the way our society is set up.”
Broome said he is not concerned about potentially negative messages teens might be receiving from the show.
“If we don’t fix the teens now, they’re going to become the adults. All of our adult contestants are basically quitters, that’s what got them into the place they’re in right now, and it’s shocking," he explained. "It needs to be shocking because you don’t get morbidly obese by doing the right things."
Gregoire disagreed with Broome's take, arguing that young viewers are likely to be confused by the conflicting messages sent to the teen contestants.
“You see adults on the show who are running until they fall, until they’re vomiting, and they’re being yelled at," she said. “We don’t want to be sending that message to a vulnerable young person who can be very triggered by seeing this kind of activity. I don’t think that shame and creating a fat-phobic culture is a motivating way to tell people they need to be healthy.”
Do you think "The Biggest Loser" is handling the topic of child obesity responsibly? Sound off in the comments and tweet @HuffPostTeen.