For its 14th season, weight loss reality show "The Biggest Loser" is targeting a new demographic: overweight teenagers. The bootcamp-style weight loss program will be taking on childhood obesity for the first time -- and not everyone is on board. The decision to include young contestants in the new season has incited strong reactions both for and against the idea.
Season 14 of "TBL," which will premiere in January 2013, will feature three teams of six contestants each, one of whom will be a teen between the ages of 13 and 17. According to NBC, host Jillian Michaels' goal with the new season is no less than ending childhood obesity.
"As a former overweight teen, I know firsthand how dramatically weight issues can affect every aspect of a child's life," Michaels said in a recent statement. "Having recently become a mother of two, I am more passionate than ever about helping empower children and families with the information and resources they need to live a healthier life."
Michaels acknowledged that childhood obesity was a controversial topic which would would need to be handled with care. In an interview with Al Roker of TODAY, Michaels said:
"The producers of the show have been consulting some of the top experts -- pediatricians, child psychologists -- to help us deal with this in the most delicate and appropriate ways. For example, we won't be saying things to kids like, 'How much weight did you lose?' It's about getting them healthy, using words like 'healthy.' We won't be getting them on a scale; it's about getting them on a softball team -- things like that. We're very cognizant of how touchy it is, how controversial it is. And yet, of course, that's right where I want to be, right in the sweet spot, right in the frying pan. I couldn't miss an opportunity to be part of it."
The show's producers have stated that the teens will not be subject to the same tough-love tactics as the adult contestants. Moreover, their weigh-ins will not be featured on the show and they will not be subject to elimination. The focus of the teens' transformation, Michaels commented, would be health -- not weight or clothing size.
But not everyone is convinced. Many critics, some of whom are concerned parents, have expressed reservations about the exploitation of the teens on the show.
"Three overweight kids are about to be put out on a national stage for the rest of us to gawk at. As a former fat kid, I'm going to come right out and say it: this might just be the WORST thing you can do to your overweight kid!" wrote Jeanne Sager on Cafe Mom's The Stir blog. "I can only guess these poor kids are in for a whole lot of public shaming."
What do you think -- is the show a good way to tackle the issue of childhood obesity, or is it making a spectacle of overweight teens? Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet @HuffPostTeen.