Reserve judgment. That's what Jillian Michaels says about the new season of "The Biggest Loser." She's not talking about her return to the show -- she talking about the controversial decision to include three children among the new competitors on NBC's weight-loss program.
For the first time in its history, the show is taking on childhood obesity. While we may be a country that can talk endlessly about weight loss and exercise and diets, we often fail to discuss childhood obesity with more than a generic "move more, eat more veggies" kind of way, Jillian said.
Parents of obese children want to talk to their kids about their weight, but they don't know how, she added. Parents fear that talking about it could create disordered eating patterns among their children, especially daughters. But at the same time, they fear not talking about it could lead children to grow up to be obese adults.
"I understand why its controversial," Michaels said, adding that the issue of childhood obesity is especially important to her now that she's a new mother to two. She says it's one of the reasons she returned to the show. "I wouldn't be a part of it if I didn't think it was being done in a sensitive way, in the right way. The point is to get this country talking about childhood obesity."
Several efforts are being made to safeguard the children on the show, co-trainer Bob Harper said. The children will not be subjected to weigh-ins or eliminations. In fact, the issue of their weight is almost secondary, he said
"We keep it in the context of getting strong and healthy and fueling their bodies to do the things they want to do -- like play sports," Bob said.
The youngsters will participate in high-spirited challenges, and serve as "mascots" of sorts for the three teams of five people apiece competing to lose the largest percentage of body weight and claim the $250,000 grand prize.
Moreover, the children will not live at the ranch in the hills outside Los Angeles. Instead, they will travel to the ranch from their respective homes for regular appearances during the course of the competition.
Take a spin through our photo gallery to meet the three youngest members of "The Biggest Loser," and the rest of the competitors.
What do you think about adding children to the show? Does this put too much pressure on youngsters to worry about their weight? Or will it be the first step toward creating a conversation between parents and their children?
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