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Is the Biggest Loser Motivating Any Longer?

October 7, 2010

The reason I have loved Biggest Loser, all drama aside is the fact that it has made me believe that weightloss is possible with the obese and morbidly obese.  Think about this for a minute, it is huge.  People who are very overweight, who have asked over and over again, why weightloss doesn’t work, are actually ALL losing weight at a phenomenal rate by increasing their exercise and eating less.  I like this.  It says to the world, you too can lose weight.

The Biggest Loser Lottery

The problem is, that I don’t think  this belief has been shared by the exact target market the show singles out for weightloss help.  In fact, in the first episode of the Biggest Loser this season, he one thing that the contestants kept saying was that ‘They needed to be on the biggest loser.  The only chance for them was to get to the ranch.” and “I know I need to be part of the biggest loser because I know I can’t do it on my own.  I haven’t. I am almost 36 and I haven’t”.  These were the messages of the soon to be contestants (and the almost contestants).  The problem with this belief is that the Biggest Loser lottery, the chance to be selected for the show, is now the route to weightloss for so many of these people and the actual, infinitely more likely possible route, eating less and moving more, isn’t.  In one of the first blog posts that I ever wrote: The Biggest Loser,  I talked about the desire to get in some sort of an army bootcamp, the belief that this is what I need to get fit.  For almost everyone, Biggest Loser has replaced this bootcamp mentality, but it is still just as foolish and unsustainable.

You need to take the lessons from the Biggest Loser and apply them in life.  The problem is, the Biggest Loser show is more and more of a black box.  After what, 10 seasons, and we still don’t see the everyday life of the contestants.  They are signed to Non-Disclosure Agreements, forbidden from sharing even the slightest details with us the public, the people who would benefit from the details.  Shame on you NBC and Biggest Loser and Bob and Jillian.  We should be able to see exactly what these people are doing, with detailed daily journals.  How many hours a day are they working out.  I heard three in the last episode.  Really!??!  Three hours of workouts per day.  That is insane!!  How much are they eating.  Some past contestants say they eat very little, but  still we don’t know.  Here is a perfect  example of what we  see when experts are asked.  In this case, it is a ‘reality tv expert’ from the Today Show,  He is asked how much do the contestants work out, his answer, it depends.  Asked “How come on ‘The Biggest Loser’ they never show what the contestants eat during the week?”, he answers, “As to nutrition and eating, I can’t think of a single episode where we haven’t seen the contestants eating.  Perhaps you’re fast forwarding through those segments?”.  God knows that Biggest Loser’s agonizing 2 hour format begs you to have a heavy finger on the fast forward button, but this answer just highlights how infuriatingly unknown the diet habits of the contestants are.  Sure we see them eat, or prepare a meal, or some ‘celebrity’ chef (god I hate that term), comes in and makes them a meal and we get the recipe, but that tells us nothing of how they eat.  It is like suggesting you know how an obese person eats after watching them eat one diet meal.  Are they cheating throughout the day?  How many meals are they eating, how often?  Who is preparing them?  What are the other meals like.  There is no way to get this information other than complete daily journals.  This is just common sense.

Rather than give us the information to help ourselves though, NBC and Biggest Loser continue to keep us in the dark, all the while suggesting that they are ‘paying it forward’.  I am not going to go off on a rant here, but I should.

Feeling like a winner.

One thing the first episode of Biggest Loser did bring up though, was the tremendous sense of self satisfaction that the winners had.  It was constant.  In the first episode three people competed at an irresponsibly difficult task for their level of fitness.  Two people moved on, the other person was out, unless they were selected by Bob or Jillian in the next episode…   So, the winners say  “this is the first time in my life I have had this feeling”.  Each and every one of them talks about the tremendously improved sense of self that they have in winning the event and pushing themselves where they didn’t think they could go.  I think that feeling, the feeling of success and the feeling of working hard for that success is intrinsically connected to getting fit and staying fit, and that is something that you need to build into your weight loss routine if you expect long term success.  I don’t want to dwell on the loser in each of those competitions and the one, now additional experience of defeat that they feel and how that is going to impact their future.  After all, they were lucky enough to win the Biggest Loser lottery, but not good enough to qualify when push came to shove.  Think about living with that new feeling.  And before you say, to feel that sense of winning, someone has to lose, you are entirely wrong.  Stand on the sidelines at any 5k or 10k or half or full marathon and watch the last person to cross that line.  I guarantee you they will feel a sense of winning and satisfaction that will bring tears to your eyes.  Everyone who went out on that day does.  Anyone can feel like a winner, when they set a reasonable goal to achieve what they never have before, select a plan to achieve that goal, and follow through to completion.

Blame is the enemy

The thing that is angering me beyond belief is the new spin they have put on the Biggest Loser, the ‘I am fat because something terrible has happened in my life.’ and Jillian Michaels the fat whisperer is going to talk to me and make it all good.  For the last few seasons, ever since Jillian sat down and dealt with a crying woman who had deep personal issues the producers of the show have seen the value in the ‘damaged fat person’ myth and the 5 minute Jillian Michaels cure (now Bob is in on the fat whispering-and the yelling).  The thing that makes me angry about this is that it implies that these people are fat because they are emotionally damaged.  This may or may not be true, but almost every one of these people was fat before the crisis that they are blaming for making them fat (look at the first episode, they all blame an event for getting overweight, but you will notice in photos, most if not all of them were overweight long before the event), and millions of us are fat or have been fat without these massive emotional traumas.  To blame these trauma’s for our obesity crisis is absurd.  So, not only is the emotional cause of obesity totally untrue, but it is actually very detrimental to our belief that we can lose weight.  First, we end up blaming emotional causes on weight gain.  This means that we can’t control why we are overweight, it isn’t our problem, it is our terrible luck.  It was inevitable after what happened to us that we would end up overweight.  This blame makes us powerless and we aren’t powerless.  It also gives us an excuse and the last thing we need is an excuse. Blame is the enemy.  It is always the enemy.  If you are blaming someone, or something for your being overweight, you need to stop NOW.  Accept your role in your being overweight and make changes.

We need methods and techniques that work for us to lose weight, not the belief that if we can just sit down with a therapist the weight will melt off.  It is simply offensive that NBC and Biggest Loser are promoting this belief.  What is even more offensive is that they are mining contestants for sob stories.  My heart went out to every one of the contestants who tried out for this season.  What a collection of unfortunate stories and remarkable people who had to live them.  If out of 100,000 would be contestants, 2 have a terrible story, and blame the weight gain on that, then you have enough contestants for more than 10 seasons full of people who are all obese ‘because’ of circumstances.  So for NBC to select for these people is reprehensible.  Especially because most of these people are going to get voted off long before they get the diet and exercise help they need.  This pisses me off and is making the show unwatchable.

The Worst Season Ever…

What is even worse is the new position of the yellow line.  I haven’t gone online to see the ardent viewer’s opinion on this new format, but I am willing to bet it is probably one of abject hatred.  The new format allows for half of the contestants to be below the yellow line, with the highest loser getting to ‘rescue’ one of the contestants from below the yellow line.  The remaining people compete in a play off to not be the last two losers who then go head to head in a vote off.  Seriously, if there is a better recipe for negative feelings, anger, resentment, self loathing and hurt, I don’t know of it.  Seriously, they may need to start calling the show ‘Lord of the Flies’ if they keep this up.  By the time a contestant is voted off of Biggest Loser, they have been rejected and their failure reinforced in numerous ways.  I would be shocked if they don’t end up in a Ben and Jerry’s induced sugar coma days after going home and climbing into bed.  Think about it, in week two, you had to lose 4 or 5 races for a flag to be eligible to be voted off, this is after being in the bottom half of weight loss and then not being selected by the biggest loser.  In week three, you had to have failed to find a brass ring in a sandpile three or four times, all after again being in the bottom half of weight loss and not being liked enough by the biggest loser.  This and NBC keeps running the sniping and anger that breaks out during these events, with complaints of pushing and laziness, clearly complaints that will turn into ratings boosting knock-down, drag-out wars over the course of the season.

All of the positive emotions and feelings I felt in the first few seasons of Biggest Loser are over.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 9, 2010 9:59 pm

    “Jillian Michaels the fat whisperer” Love it!

    I hate the new format. It’s like they took all the stuff I hated about the previous episodes and multiplied it by ten for the new show. There is supposed to be a Pay It Forward component, but it’s the most means spirited show this season, even at the start when everyone had to compete and two people would get in and one wouldn’t…

    • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
      October 13, 2010 8:22 pm

      I know, the pay it forward part is almost ironic this season. I couldn’t believe the competition to start it. I thought the worst part was everyone chasing the flag and only one person got it, over and over again. That would have been so depressing, worse than the worst gym class… Thanks for the comment!

  2. Lori permalink
    October 10, 2010 9:00 am

    As a physical therapist, I was never crazy about BL and the promotion of working out 6 hours a day. Stress fractures, overuse injuries, dehydration, syncope (fainting) should never be considered a normal part of a weight loss regimen. That said, I initially found the first 4 seasons motivating. The contestants were not as obese and unhealthy as they are now and I believe that the calorie restrictions were not as severe as they are now. (I believe now they go as low as 800 calories). The show got me off my ass & I lost 45 pounds and have kept them off.

    Now the show is (I believe) pushing the limits of safety and concern for the contestants well being. The scenes of Jillian brow beating someone to relive a tragic moment on camera so she, without benefit of any clinical degree, can, in one conversation make them “see the light” and magically move forward make me sick. Although I initially laughed at your “fat whisperer” description, it really is sad and irresponsible. I guess ordinary Joe/Jane fairly well adjusted fat person does not sell on TV as well as tragic fat person. We are after all a culture of reality TV voyeurs and love a good train wreck.

    • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
      October 13, 2010 8:16 pm

      couldn’t have said it better myself! From what I understand from the few details I have heard from contestants speaking out, the producers push the contestants to do unsafe things already, so I too am worried that we are going to see a tragedy soon. I hope they have the sense to stop before this happens.

  3. FarAwayDeb permalink
    October 13, 2010 8:19 pm

    I absolutely agree with Lori and Heather. I have watched BL for many seasons, but I refuse to watch it any more. I has gotten worse every season. This started out as the boo-hoo season where every contestant had a sob story. Many people have gone through similar or worse things but it didn’t make them obese. I’m sick of Jillian thinking she is a psychiatrist, she is practicing without a license (or any real clue of the damage she might be doing). No real trainer would climb up on the back of someone who already weighs 300-400+ pounds and expect them to carry her around. And people that weight should not be jumping or running, you’re talking permanent damage to their bodies! Notice they never explain why a contestant “doesn’t have medical clearance” to participate in a challenge? It’s because they’re injured from doing something during a previous challenge that they should not have been doing!

    • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
      October 13, 2010 8:25 pm

      Apparently most of the contestants work through terrible injuries on the show, something that no person should ever be doing while trying to get fit. The types of exercises and the pressures that these people put on their joints would never be allowed by any qualified trainer I have ever met. It is so irresponsible and sad to see. Thanks so much for your comment!

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