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.