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.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    It makes me cry watching it, but they are good tears. The way they struggle is such an inspiration to me!
    3869 days ago
    I have only watched part of one episode and I have to say you are right on about the positive role modeling. Fat people can! I think I heard someone on the show "don't give up ever ever ever! I didn't fall in love with the show. But I did love many things about it. Thanks so much for sharing.
    3888 days ago
    I agree! I had been making excuses that I was too heavy to start exercising and the show helped me realize you have to start trying and adjust the level of exercise as you lose weight and can do more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    3892 days ago
    Great blog, I agree with your points, but have not been able to put it down so completely.

    I too, am sorry for you loss, and grateful that you have come through it and can share it with us to see that we too can make it through tragedy and loss. I was touched by Abby as well, and you have made me more aware of her courage and strength.
    3898 days ago
    Ditto to everything. For me it was season 5 with Jackie. I was sitting on the couch eating jelly bellies and watching the biggest loser when Jackie's other son (not Dan) came to visit and Dan said his mom is doing a 10K. He was shocked when he said she was running it. That was my "AH HA!" moment. If she can, I can. She was a little older than I, more overweight with teenage boys!. Sounds like a challenge and here I am 55 pounds lighter with 5 half marathons under my belt!! Thanks biggest loser!

    I am lucky, in that I did not have the emotional work that you and others had. I was just a completely devoted mother and wife who forgot that I count too! I am so sorry for your loss. I am glad that you were able to find your way to emotional and physical health again. I don't know if I could ever be so strong. I watch Abby and all I can think about is how strong she must be and that I have no excuses compared to what she is going through.
    Thank you for sharing. emoticon
    3899 days ago
  • no profile photo CD557571
    I also like this show for all the things that obese people "CAN" do. We are only limited by our own beliefs, and they knock the crap out of some of what we previously believed with all they can accomplish.
    3899 days ago
    How well written. I too love the biggest loser, don't like the game play but then it is a show. But yes it has shown me that I can move - for heaven sake if they can I sure can.
    I love Abby cos she has shown what great strides a person can take. Her family was so beautiful but she is taking such steps to see that things won't be the same.
    My hubby did watch till the season where they all gained and he said no way, it is rigged so won't watch. I don't care if it is rigged to win, I watch these obese people move, make changes in their food intake and choices, in their minds and moods and know that again if they can so can I.

    3899 days ago
    You are so right ! This show has motivated and inspired countless people to get moving no matter what thier size.(me for example)
    I am a BL noob in comparison. I only started watching mid-way through season 5 when Ali was able to come back to the ranch.
    The emotional work is very important too and learning why we use use food to "fill" ourselves is something I still havent been able to fully get a grip on. YET.
    Thank you for your candor and sharing your connection with Abby. I am deeply sorry for your loss.
    You must be proud of yourself for all that you have achieved and know that here on SP you are an inspiration to many!
    emoticon emoticon
    3899 days ago
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