Why I love the Biggest Loser
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Oh, I know, there are lots of reasons to hate it. It's "reality TV" to begin with and that's an oxymoron if I've ever heard one. And no, it can't be replicated in the real world - taking 6 months off of life to deal with your weight issues would bankrupt most families so, no, it can't be done the same way as seen on TV.
Dieticians and trainers like to chime in with their own disgust - the diet is too restrictive, the participants are at risk, it's too dangerous, the trainers are too unsupportive, the process is too hard, there's too much focus on weighing in so the contestants have to dehydrate themselves before weigh ins, they lose weight too fast and will regain it all. Blah, blah, blah.
Let's be honest - we don't really know anything about the actual life on the ranch. Let's say we have 16 contestants. In the first week alone, there is 2,688 minutes of contestant life on that ranch that is condensed into 88 minutes of television. Let's just get over the fact that we actually don't know a thing about what truly happens on the ranch. And, looking at the extremely faulty and easily manipulated memories of all human beings, let's just take any disgruntled participant's memories with a grain of salt.
So - I don't like what's "real" about the show because I can't know what's real. But I get what the show represents to me and these are the reasons I love it.
First - fat people can run, and jump, stretch and lift weights. I spent a lot of time believing fitness was not possible for me because my knees hurt, my hip ached, my foot yelled at me all the time. I was sure raising my heart rate would stop it permanently. I got red in the face when I exerted myself and sweat like a cold beer on a hot day - it was uncomfortable, hot, painful, and ugly, and smelly. But the Biggest Loser showed me that I could exercise. Maybe not as strenuously as they had to (I'm akways happy to see medics standing by when I watch!!) but I could. And if a 62 year old fat guy could run across a desert to reach Bob first - then I could get off my couch and walk to the park and back.
Second - it isn't just over eating that made us fat. These people have huge emotional issues. The season where Jillian brought in her psychotherapist mother to help them open up paid tribute to this part of the journey. This year, I relate best to Abby - losing children is it's own nightmare and, having lost 2, I totally get it when she talks about not being engaged in the world. I'm not an "emotional eater" the way most people think about it. I don't run to a bowl of chips when I'm sad or angry - but my poor emotional health contributed so much to my obesity that watching these contestants open up with their own gut wrenching pain is like personal therapy all over again. Exposing this pain disturbs many people who prefer to keep everyone's damaged insides inside. We, as a society, would rather believe that Shay got to be over 400lbs because she was too lazy to push herself away from the table. Finding out that she has a huge empty space inside of her that she has been trying to fill with food since she was a little girl should make us squirm - and it does. I'm glad she's getting some help - even though, again, I'm not there, I don't know how much or of what quality.
Third - sometimes we have to be selfish. So many people were annoyed that Helen won last year because she was a terrible mother for sending her daughter home and staying herself. She was my hero. First of all, we have no idea what influenced the decision so I'm not even going to talk about how it may have come to be that the daughter went home. But, I do know that mothers and fathers everywhere are ruining their adult children and themselves by continuing to sacrifice their very souls for their kids. We have so many friends who are on the verge of chronic ill health and bankruptcy in their 50's because they can't put their needs in front of those of their fully grown adult children. Biggest Loser contestants survive by learning that they are worth putting themselves first. I roll my eyes when someone offers to go home (except Abby - I, again, totally got what she was looking for at the ranch) - this whole weight loss and maintenance thing requires some degree of selfishness. I'm about to go out for a 2 hour run - those are 2 hours that I cannot use for my daughters, my husband or anyone. They are completely for me. And, I DESERVE them. Taking 6 hours a week for exercise does not mean I'm a bad wife or mother.
Four - the medical side. Most of us don't get to sit with a team of medical experts who size up all aspects of our health and make a verdict on our overall physical wellbeing. Some of us, okay, me, have chosen to believe aging meant pain, fatigue, obesity, slow metabolism etc. To see the medical team doing extensive tests then watching them tell the participants how they are progressing medically beats the heck out of watching an episode of Grey's Anatomy for this nurse. Watching Ron being taken off medications is exciting. Knowing that huge teams of obesity researchers descended on the contestants this year revs me up. We're killing ourselves with our obesity - I'm keen to see that we don't have to.
Five- I'm a big fan. It was the 2nd season of the show that got me off my duff and on my way to health. I couldn't believe what these people were doing! Why couldn't I do it too? I ran a half marathon because Ron walked one on his messed up knees. These people inspire me every single time I see their faces. I hate the games, I fast forward through the challenges and I can't watch the elimination round but the journey... the journey fills me up.
Plus, it is the only show that my husband and I watch together.