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Does the biggest loser really win?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My local paper this past weekend had a really interesting article on Kai Hibbard, a local woman who was a Biggest Loser finalist in 2006. She's married now and battling the weight she gained having a baby. Here's a link: www.adn.com/life/health/story/740127
There's video, too, both of her as she is today and a couple of video diary entries from when she was at home working toward the final. The diaries were considered too negative for inclusion in the show.

This all reinforces for me that though the program makes exciting entertainment and inspires people to take up healthful ways, it can be really destructive to the people it uses. It makes them more conscious than ever of their weight, even though it is no longer in the upper ranges. And it reduces their whole being, their whole sense of self to a number on the scale. Do Biggest Losers sacrifice their mental health to their physical perfection?

As an exercise instructor, I have always had reservations about the show. Healthful body size and condition are achieved by improvement in both diet and exercise, but the show is almost entirely about the exercise, as that struggle can be shown visually, whereas the mental struggle about having too many brownies can not. Exercisers are driven to the extreme of their strength and endurance, again because the struggle is visual and film-able. But I wonder if the viewer on the couch is taking a bad message away from this--that exercise must be a painful, gruelling ordeal. I wish they could also see the people in my classes, especially on the great days when they're into the groove, singing along with the music and enjoying themselves to the hilt. THAT's the kind of exercise that can become a lifelong habit.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CAROLYN1ALASKA 12/18/2009 8:56PM

    I completely agree with you too!

I believe the articles I have read on Spark People, and according to those articles, what is done on The Biggest Loser is not that healthy.

However... and this is a big however, the show also promotes HOPE, and all of us on a quest to lose weight and become healthier need the hope that we can eventually achieve progress.
I do still watch the show and it motivates me . I love doing my work out while I watch the tape of the show. That being said, I don't do their work-outs, do their diets, or copy many other things about their work-outs.

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WETPTARMIGAN 12/15/2009 12:26AM

    LIFEISMYCHOICE, different folks do indeed need different strokes. Many people seek strong exterior force in order to make substantial changes in their lives. Many others seek methods of change within to motivate the changes they want in their lives. You do what works for you on any given day.
The blog post was mainly musing on the nature of reality tv and what, out of all that goes on in the lives of the contestants during their time on the show, is selected to represent the process they undergo. I was trying to raise the question in people's minds about what the show's viewers are taking away from what they see and whether this is a reasonable representation of what has taken place in real time. And whether the toll on the psyches of at least some of the contestants is an acceptable price for fame, prizes, and an ideal physique. Kai's post-program struggles really made me ponder.
LIFE, I hope you find your own groove, whether it's on this show, on this web site, or in the hands of a trainer that pushes you to be the person you want to be.

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LIFEISMYCHOICE 12/14/2009 6:31PM

  I understand your position as an exercise instructor. As an overweight person however, I must disagree with you. I look at the show like an answer to my prayers! Here's why: Your method, based on what you said in this blog, doesn't work for me. I have been through 20+ exercise instructors just like you, and that particular way of doing things just doesn't work for me. Different strokes for different folks, as the saying goes. I need a Jillian in my life to push me to the brink in order to get things done, been that way my entire life. All of my successes have come from working best under extreme pressure, and a lot of overweight people are the same way. I believe that is the caliber of person the show caters to, and I am trying out for Season 10. And while it's unfortunate to hear about this woman, you have to consider: With 8 season done, and the 9th one airing, they must be doing it right on the whole, because people keep auditioning. It's an answer to a cry for life. I appreciate your position and welcome your rebuttle, in the spirit of friendly debate :-)

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MUSKIEPW 3/31/2009 2:09PM

    I totally agree with you. I had to stop watching the show because after I while I felt like I was watching people being tortured. So far by using SP I have enjoyed a good result and the tone of it's ok to eat a small brownie once in a while "moderation" works so much better for me. And I use the same approach with working out, I started slow and I have built up and continue to do so with a trainer. Good blog!!

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Am I Competitive? A Nerd? A Competitive Nerd?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Having completed my first month on the site, just for grins I looked up my position on the fitness minute charts for my teams. On 50+ with 50-99 lbs to lose, I am #327 of 125,729 members. On SP class of Feb 8-14 I'm #46 of 17,116. On the Anchorage team #8 of 1516. On Ravelry Knitters I'm # 13 of 500. On Zumba Lovers #19 of 454. Water aerobics #12 of 126. That puts me in the top 1% of Anchorage, 50+ 50-99, and my SP class, top 9% of Water Aerobics, top 2% of Ravelry Knitters, top 4% of Zumba Lovers. Interesting. What this says is that it's comparatively easy to get to the top of large teams. Chances are better of people who don't even post any minutes. It gives me a big boost to be in the top 10% of exercise-focused teams, not surprising that I exercise more than most knitters, and not surprising at all that I do more than most Anchorageites--it's the depth of a long winter and outdoor activity is pretty much limited to skiing and walking gingerly on ice and snow. Otherwise you're indoors with an exercise video or pay for a health club.

Just for a few more grins, I played with the numbers of the top person on my biggest team. 3360 minutes total for February. That is exactly 2 hours a day, seven days a week. For a month. That's what you have to do to be at the top of the chart. Frighteningly, this same person posted 960 minutes for today. That's 16 hours, and it's still morning. I can only guess that somebody so busy exercising puts in an estimate if their week's time. I can relate to that, as it is a bit of a bother to track a lot of stuff and put it in every day.

So the question du jour is--with all this exercise, how come you aren't getting skinny? Because I'm not tracking my food yet is the answer. Sigh.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BELLSE 3/1/2009 2:14PM

    I ask myself that question also... I just started really cutting back on my calories, so I'm faithfully chugging on with my cardio, hoping that results will show in a bigger way soon. Once to keep to it, I'm sure it will happen!!

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Water Instructor Workshop

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Whew! The whole day has been spent in an instructor workshop learning new stuff for Continuing Education Credits to maintain my certification. The major part--4 hours all together-- was practical application in the pool, which was exhausting, but fine with me since the only way I can learn movement is to move myself. Actually, one remark from an instructor really registered with me. There are no new moves. There are only so many ways the human body can move, and they have all been discovered by now. What IS new is how different moves are put together, and there are almost infinite combinations. The other big aha! that I took away was that it's OK to face away from the class especially when showing footwork, as it's easier to learn from behind. For the rest of it--I'm glad they handed out notes!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WETPTARMIGAN 4/14/2009 12:49PM

    Thanks for your comment, CTUPTON! The unique dilemma that H2O instructors have is that when you face away from the class you can't see how they're doing. Dry land teachers usually teach in a studio with big mirrors and they can see what's going on behind them. Add to that the risk that exists when everybody is immersed in water (and not every facility has lifeguards during class) and I don't want to take my eyes off the class for long. The other solution is to face the class and let them be the mirror--move in mirror image to what you demonstrate. The catch there is the instructor has to reverse sides--say "left" when moving right, and I confess I still get muddled up if I do it for too long. Fortunately, I have classes that love to have a good laugh on the instructor!

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CTUPTON 4/14/2009 7:34AM

    I really DO like it when my instructor faces away , especially when teaching us new moves.
I have gotten hooked on water aerobics and just hate to miss it. I love your web page . I am a science teacher, so maybe I enjoy the ptarmigan's more than most! Chris(co-leader Nutrisystem)

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The Day After the Zumba Before

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I am surprised at the effects of the first big Zumba class yesterday. I had thought that muscle soreness would be my biggest problem--my quads were screaming during class and the usual effect of a new activity on my body is sore muscles that I forgot I had. The muscles are OK, though feeling well used, the sign of a good and balanced workout. Hip and knee joints not so happy, excess weight and gravity taking their toll. I think I will do things a little bit differently next time. No need to plunge in and run myself into the ground like a 20-year-old. I'll do 45 minutes of class and then retire for a long and thorough stretch. As time goes by (and weight stress gets less?) I will increase class length. And today I will do a deep water class to do my movin' and groovin' without gravity!


First Zumba Class

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I went to my first Zumba class today. Whew! What a workout! It's been a long time since I did anything with fast fancy footwork and on land to boot! By the second half of the class I was at the back adapting the dance for lower impact and less arm waving. I can definitely see the advantages of Zumba Gold that's pitched more toward the older and de-conditioned body and adapting Zumba for the water. Nonetheless, I intend to persevere. I figure familiarity with the moves will be a big help when I get to try the other Zumba forms in May.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

AKHAPPIE 2/16/2009 1:27PM


I have heard that Zumba is not really hard, but complicated. More like you have to learn all the moves in order to feel comfortable. Then again, isn't that what most work out routines are anyway? Keep it up and you will see results!

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