Who is the Biggest Loser?

by Rachel on January 6, 2010

I haven’t regularly followed the Biggest Loser in a few seasons, but I hate feeling out of the loop when the finale hits and I don’t know any of the contestants. Since I was home last night — and there is a Detroit team who are actually my mom’s coworkers cousins — I decided to watch it.

Up until this point, I didn’t have a strong opinion either way on BL. I mean, I like that it helps people change their lives, and I like Bob and Jillian…but I also dislike reality TV and I dislike the obnoxious product placements on the show. I also dislike that it’s two hours long when it could SO easily be one hour. But I like weight loss, health, fitness, etc…so I want to like it!

Now, I try not to rant very often. I like so many things, I don’t feel a need very often to focus on things that I don’t like. But…last night’s episode had me ranting on Twitter for a good hour. And I’m still pissed.

So you meet the contestants, blah, blah, blah. Then they go to the ranch and their first challenge is to bike 26.2 miles. (Now, just for the record, this isn’t as far as it sounds. I’m not saying it’s not far, but in a 45-minute spin class, you can cover nearly 20 miles. It’s not a short distance, but it’s also not like a five-hour deal. Just FYI.) So they are biking on indoor bikes, and suddenly I look up and this woman on the blue team is freaking out. She’s screaming and crying. They cut to her confessional-style and she says, “The pain was excruciating. I’ve given birth to two children and it was not as painful as this.”

OK. I have not given birth to any children, so I can’t speak with total authority, but I’m going to go ahead and wager a guess that squeezing a live human being out of your vagina is, in fact, more painful than riding a bike. I remember my first spin class when I was overweight and out of shape. (Lest you have forgotten, here are my own BL-worthy pics.) It was so hard and I was sore for days. But childbirth? No fucking way.

So anyway, she starts to have some sort of medical issue and the doctors had to get involved. So two doctors come up to make her stop pedaling  — and she’s a black woman and screaming hysterically so this started to get a little “OK, let’s be careful here, NBC” — anyway, she’s screaming that she has to finish this bike ride and they have to drag her off the bike.

And this was when I was like, Wait a minute. You have spent the last few years of your life with access to a gym but I’m willing to bet that you never wanted to work out so badly, so desperately, that you would have to be dragged off a bike to stop. And that’s when I realized this show is about greed. It’s not about finding your own power. I mean, yes, they have to dig deep to be away from their families and of course day-long workouts are no picnic, but the thought that keeps them going is winning. It’s not health. It’s cash. And if you think otherwise, then why did season one winner Ryan say he dropped weight right before the finale by fasting so hardcore he was pissing blood? (New York Times, 11/24/09.) You want to tell me what’s healthy about that?

Anyway. The show continued to get more dramatic, to the point it was just laughable. During their first workouts, contestants were puking left and right. Can you imagine if your local gym had trainers pushing overweight people so hard they were vomiting out windows!?! That wouldn’t fly. But what really killed me was the screaming. Stephanie from the magenta (?) team doing a wall squat. Screaming like she was being gutted. Close up on Cheryl from the orange team as she did a bench press. She’s 50 years old and was screaming like she was possessed by demons. Jillian, are you there to perform an exorcism or get the woman to lift weights? Again, I’ve been out of shape and I was put through really, really tough workouts when I was out of shape. Never screamed like that, no ma’am. At this point, with all the puking, screaming, and crying, the show could have been renamed “Surgery Without Anesthesia.”

What really irritates me is that it sends a message that working out has to suck and be really, really hard. Um, no. It doesn’t. Even if you have a lot of weight to lose or are really out of shape, I’m willing to bet that even on your worst days in the gym, you’re not going to hate your life as much as these contestants apparently hate theirs. They cry and whine so much; I just want one optimistic person to say, “Hey, I feel really good right now!” because in my experience, that’s how most normal people react to a workout. Working makes you feel good about yourself, no matter how much you weigh.

Later in the episode, the contestants were all sitting around talking about why they want to lose weight. And then, of course, they start talking about how pathetic they are. “I’ve never been kissed.” “I’m still a virgin.” Tears. Lots of virgin tears.

Newsflash: fat people fall in love, make out, get laid, have kids, have families, have happy lives! But scenes like this just reinforce the stereotype that only thin people are attractive and therefore worthy of love. (And don’t even get me started on the half-nekked weigh-ins.) It also sends the message that losing weight is going to totally change your life. Yeah, it may have a big impact, but if the best thing it brings you is getting your cherry popped, then seriously, you have some major work to do.

If watching these people push themselves gets more people off the couch, then that’s awesome (although I can’t imagine what newbie wants to hit the gym after watching the granny in orange scream like a banshee.) I just hear so many people saying, “I want to go on ‘Biggest Loser.'” It’s like they are waiting for a reality show to come in and save them. Why are you sitting there inhaling chili cheese nachos, watching other people try to lose weight, waiting for someone to come save your life? No. Just do something now. On your own. In the real world, not some bizarre, surreal fat-camp where they believe Extra Sugar-Free gum can help you lose 150 pounds.

The fact is, all these people could do this on their own. And so at the end of the show, when they are proud about how they changed their lives, they say, “I did it for my kids.” Well, no, you didn’t do it for your kids; if you wanted to lose weight to be healthier to be around for your kids, you would have joined a gym and learned to cook…you wouldn’t have left your kids for four months while you pursued half a million dollars. You wouldn’t have started pissing blood.

What kind of victory is it if their bank account was the only thing that keeps them going? They could have done this years ago. Privately. No big money. But so much more to be proud of, so many valuable things learned along the way. I wish they realized that…I wish the show sent that message. I think that’s what makes more upset than anything.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 thefatandskinny January 6, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Basically all of the reasons why I never watch this show.


2 Michael Carney January 6, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I saw this tragedy of a show for the first time last night and couldn’t believe how ridiculous it looked. It seemed to tell America, “if you don’t lose 30 pounds in a week, you are a failure.” Sorry BL, I am excited when I get on the scale and see I lost THREE pounds…


3 chandra January 6, 2010 at 12:53 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with you. I was giggling and nodding my head in agreement the entire time I was reading. Last season was the first time I’ve watched the show, and like you I have a love/hate relationship with it.
.-= chandra´s last blog ..I like to move it, move it =-.


4 Julia January 6, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I have to agree. On one hand, I love that Biggest Loser helps make positive changes in people’s lives, but it is SO over the top now. I just feel like it’s a big, dramatic publicity stunt now. I make sure to DVR it, not because I’m worried about missing every take, but so I can fast forward through the extra drama, product plugs, etc.


5 Allison (Eat Clean Live Green) January 6, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I completely agree with you. I hate the show, but for some reason keep watching it.

Working out does not have to suck!

And I really wish the show would suggest things people could do at home – you don’t have to go on the show to lose weight!


6 phiBetaFit January 6, 2010 at 1:18 pm

I haven’t watched last nights episode yet. I’m blown away by the NYT article you listed.

I also do not like ‘reality’ tv but I’m a trainer and I do find value in BL. There are some great workout moments however, I can’t stand the countless “OMG” looks and long pauses.

Also, I have Jillian’s books and some of the dietary practices on the show do not coincide with her books. Much of the foods they show in the Product placement portions are full of HFCS or other sugars. Don’t even get me started on that horrid Jenni-o turkey. BTW.. Subway.. (sponsor) has HFCS in their some of their breads. Jillian’s book calls HFCS Garbage. Just sayin.


7 Rachel January 6, 2010 at 1:33 pm

@PhiBetaFit I COMPLETELY agree that her books differ SO much from the products on the show!! She’s all about natural, organic foods…it doesn’t add up!


8 Olga @ Healthing It January 6, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I definitely laugh when I catch the show because it’s so overly dramatic.

Also…the product placements drive me crazy…”You want a healthy snack? Cut up some carrots and put them in a ZIPLOC bag. When you’re hungry, you can take out the ZIPLOC bag and eat the carrots. The carrots are already conveniently cut up in the ZIPLOC bag. Isn’t ZIPLOC great?” Thanks, Jillian…
.-= Olga @ Healthing It´s last blog ..Fluorescent joy =-.


9 Jess January 6, 2010 at 2:27 pm

I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. Working out is tough especially in the beginning when you’re out of shape. But seriously working out to the point of puking isn’t healthy. Working out so that you drop 30 pounds in a week isn’t healthy. I still watch the show because it’s a guilty pleasure, but I agree that there are some things wrong with it. And yea…there’s noooo reason it needs to be two hours.
.-= Jess´s last blog ..Working out with Jill before BL9 =-.


10 Laura Georgina January 6, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Another agreer here. Fast fixes really tick me off, but so do these far-fetched scenarios–of course I’d lose half my body weight if I had a trainer screaming at me and my paycheck depended on it, and I’d gain it right back after my promos for the show were done, because I would have learned nothing about taking care of myself.

Having said that…. if it’s on TV and nothing else is on, I will definitely watch. Guilty as charged.
.-= Laura Georgina´s last blog ..Twas Four Days After Christmas… =-.


11 Ellen January 6, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Yes, yes, and yes. I got sucked into that show like a moth to flame a few seasons ago. I tuned out when I saw a “challenge” with the new contestants doing Slip-n-Slide down the side of a hill. I mean, REALLY? I certainly welcome Jillian into my home for a little 30-day Shred action, but I can’t watch the show. You said all of my reasons so well (how’d you do that)??


12 Leah (Nutritionista) January 6, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I agree with so much of what, but I’ll always have a soft spot for TBL (if only because it’s slightly better than some of the other reality TV out there).

But! Have you heard about this new show Jillian’s doing? It’s called Losing It and it sounds much more my speed. According to a press release I read, Jillian will “spend five to seven days with a family and follow them to work, school and the rest of their day-to-day lives, then evaluate their lifestyles and offer tools and information they can implement to enact real change.”

Anyway, if it’s actually anything like the description, I’ll definitely be watching!
.-= Leah (Nutritionista)´s last blog ..Slow Your Role: Slow Cooker Chicken & Sweet Potato Stew =-.


13 Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) January 6, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I totally have a love/hate relationship with BL. For some reason I can’t stop watching it…even after they had the whole marathon fiasco a couple of seasons ago. *Rant on* It really has gotten ridiculous as far as advertising, but so many people have TIVO these days that they have to do the advertising as part of the show…ughh!
I also agree with you that these people can do it themselves at home. Yes, it will take longer than it does on BL, but it is possible! Take last season when America had to vote for one girl to be on the show. The girl who didn’t get voted on lost a ton of weight, at home, by herself! Everyone has busy lives…work, family, finances, etc.. are not excuses for being overweight! All you need is the willpower to get off the couch and make the time to workout. *Rant off*
.-= Aimee (I Tri To Be Me)´s last blog ..Homemade Lara Bars = Yum!! =-.


14 Dori January 6, 2010 at 3:57 pm

I hate commenting from my berry but I don’t want to forget later. GREAT POST! You are so articulate and funny. And right. I don’t watch that show and you really hit the nail on the head with this one.


15 Maggie January 6, 2010 at 4:17 pm

I totally agree with you on many, many points, but after watching many BL finales I don’t know if most people are in it for the money. I think the majority know they need to change for their health.

And since you’ve never had a kid and I’ve never had a kid maybe spinning is more painful than childbirth and I need to rethink my whole giving birth terrifies me thing.
.-= Maggie´s last blog ..Calorie Counting =-.


16 Ryan Sullivan January 6, 2010 at 5:14 pm

This is a little shameless self promotion but you might find this article that I wrote back in September kind of interesting. I like that the show motivates people but damn, it’s got some issues!



17 Lexie January 6, 2010 at 6:14 pm

I would love to go on the show only because I’d love to have Jillian as a trainer. I’ve been doing her 30 Day Shred and I have some of her books as well. I adore her.
The product placement is the worst, though, and I fall for that shit because Jillian tells me to do it and I’m a bitch for Jillian. She says go buy Extra Sugar Free Gum, and I do. And you know what? I had a huge bloated stomach from chewing that gum. It was horribly uncomfortable.
Bleh. Also, about the bike ride, let’s not forget that they actually only had to ride like.. 13 miles since the distance was divided between 2 people. So yeah. Not really THAT far.
.-= Lexie´s last blog ..Skewl Suckz =-.


18 FoodCents January 6, 2010 at 7:00 pm

You nabbed this one in the ass, Rachel. Well said, well said.

I never really paid attention to BL until I found the blog world, because it just wasn’t something that my friends and enemies were talking about on a Wednesday.

There are so many things to discuss regarding this show and the charactars. I can not wrap my head around the fact that so little time is spent on food and (as mentioned before) the time that is focuses on a paid product promotion – Jenni O my ass.

It’s funny to see and hear Jillian on this show and how different she is in her book and on TV. Not sure if you caught her on Jay Leno last night. She said to him “clean eating is more important than exercise…” I have lost respect for her because of her “diet” pills, but that is another story for a different day.

All that aside, if this show is encouraging people at home to get up and move more, eat healthier and maybe make some other changes, than all for it.

Miserable people come in all shapes, sizes, sexes, races, ethnicities, etc…… not just people who are on the BL, as you pointed out.


19 Whitney January 6, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Great post. I agree and have been there. I just watched this last season (I’m surprised to see another one is already on!), mainly because I wanted to know what all of the Jillian Michael’s hype was all about. It’s all entertainment, which is unfortunate.
.-= Whitney´s last blog ..Strep Throat =-.


20 Steph January 6, 2010 at 10:11 pm

I totally agree with everything you said, Rachel!!
.-= Steph´s last blog ..Dad’s Healthy Snacks On-the-Go =-.


21 Triz January 7, 2010 at 12:25 am

Hmmm … I usually agree with everything you post, but I’m not on board with this. One of my resolutionary decisions last year was to stop swearing, especially name-in-vain, but if I’m doing ladder intervals, hill repeats or *vomits* the plank … it’s a problem. Stupid plank!

From my marathon experiences by the way …

1) Drink water at every stop, AFTER the first few miles. Those early stations are just disasters. Watch your intake of other stuff (gatorade or whatever) … you’ll be on the road longer than you are used to, even with the long runs, and too many replenishings could end up in throwing up (luckily, I missed this magic).

2) You want one person at the start, because there are going to be things at the last minute you won’t want to trust to the cart. More importantly, you want someone at the finish line who is going to be able to be shouty for you and get you clothes and water and give you a hug even though you will be wrung out, exhausted and disgusting. Also, you will feel briefly like “yeah!!! let’s go out!!!” Do not listen, as soon you will crash with your head on the table (this one I did). Someone to get you home, then maybe you can play later in the day.

3) Keep an eye on your splits and / or heart rate especially around miles 8-12. You will feel all goddess-like and sprinty likely about then, because these courses are designed to give good times. The revolting part will follow. Luckily, right about the time you are thinking you cannot possibly lift your foot one more time, you will suddenly be on a street lined with people! Cheering for you! Peer pressure at its best – and you WILL get through it.

And then, forever after, you will be able to say: I ran a marathon.

I have absolute confidence you will run it all, and run it well!


22 Kate January 7, 2010 at 10:21 am

AMEN SISTER! I totally agree~!


23 Nicci@NiftyEats January 7, 2010 at 12:59 pm

With all that weight on the contestants, I think they do work hard to get the weight off but also for the money. I’d workout hard core for money too. Health and Money…why not. lol
.-= Nicci@NiftyEats´s last blog ..Mondays Meatless Wonder =-.


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