How The Biggest Loser Will Handle New Teen Contestants

The public weigh-ins, tough-as-nails trainers, elimination—surely this can't be good for kids, right?

When I learned a few months back that the NBC weight-loss show, The Biggest Loser, would feature teenage contestants for the first time in its 14th season, I’ll admit I balked a bit. I mean, if you’ve ever watched the show, you know the contestants are really put through the ringer (to put it mildly) when it comes to breaking their unhealthy habits. The shouting. The tears. On season 8, I watched a contestant collapse mid-run and get air-lifted to the hospital—and that was on the very first episode! Dramatic? Yes. Slightly terrifying? Absolutely. But hey, it made for good TV.

Given the (real and manufactured-for-TV) drama, how would kids fare in this kind of environment? And there were practical questions, too, like: Could they be out of school for that long? And what about their parents? The adult contestants leave their families, lives, jobs, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc., to hole up at the ranch for a few weeks on purpose: it’s a way for them to get out of their environments and reprogram. That’s kinda why the show works. But can you do that with kids?

It seems like the show’s producers wrestled with these very same questions—and actually came up with some good solutions. As People magazine reports today, the three teenage contestants, who’ve been paired up with trainers Bob Harper, Dolvett Quince or Jillian Michaels (side note: she’s returning to the show after a two-year hiatus), will train predominantly at home and will not—I repeat, will not—weigh in on camera. I’ve never had to do it, but I imagine the broadcast-to-millions weigh-in would be the most humiliating part of the Biggest Loser experience, especially that very first weigh-in when you see in plain black-and-white just how heavy you’ve gotten. And another thing: The kids won’t be up for elimination. I think I’m liking this.

The three kids are Lindsay Bravo, 13, who hails from Southern California; Maryland’s Noah Gray, 13, who apparently goes by the nickname “Bingo”; and 16-year-old Sanjana “Sunny” Chandrasekar, who was born in India but now lives in Rochester, New York. Read more about them here. Season 14 starts on January 6th.