Five episodes into season 11 of The Biggest Loser: Transformed, and the show is already facing criticism for the decision to cast a 25 year old QLD mother, who tipped the scales at 78kg – just 7kg heavier than the average Australian.
The first weigh-in sparked an influx of social media backlash, with many commenters slamming the show for the potentially “dangerous” body image message this casting choice could be sending, particularly to impressionable viewers.
Speaking out on Monday night’s episode of The Project, trainer Shannan Ponton defended contestant Nikki, saying that her weight has had a “massive adverse effect not only on her life, but on the life of her family”.
Explaining, the 43-year-old confessed how Nikki’s weight has impacted her body confidence so much so that her partner has “never seen her naked”, and that she feared her daughter would learn the same bad habits.
“All Nikki did is come to me and say, ‘Mate, can you help me?’ And we’re showing Nikki how to do it.
“It is like the judged have become the judges and they are projecting whatever insecurities they've got, onto Nikki and onto the show.”
When co-host Steve Price posed the question of whether Shannan considered Nikki’s weight the new “definition of what is fat”, he clarified: “I have absolutely no pre-set agenda on what is fat. For me, being uncomfortable with how you feel is priority number one and improving people's health.”
The PT’s comments come just days after former contestant Fiona Faulkner also spoke out against the social media backlash surrounding Nikki’s casting.
“When I was a contestant I was one of the lightest they’d ever had,” the TV host told The Daily Telegraph.
“I got that criticism, and I was young too like her. I realised if I didn’t make changes when I did, I could potentially now weigh 150 kilos, and be a sad, no self-confidence person.
“When people say she isn’t big enough, her mental state is so important. This season we’re taking the focus off it being about the numbers on the scale, it’s focusing on having a total transformation of the mind, body and soul,” she concluded.
While previous seasons of TBL saw the weight-loss transformations of severely overweight and obese contestants – many of whom had health issues as a result of their BMIs – the new instalment follows the journey of “relatable” contenders on a mission to “overhaul their mind, body and spirit”.
We wish Nikki and the other contestants the best on her journey to being her happiest, healthiest self.