Is The Biggest Loser a Winner?

This was my first season joining the millions tuned in to the reality show The Biggest Loser (BL).  I had no interest before.  No BL, no Survivor, no Amazing Race.  Not my thing.  Or so I thought.  But I decided to set the Tivo and see what all the hype was about.

So I watched.  And I scoffed.  I didn’t like it.  But I kept watching.  And at some point I actually began looking forward to the next episode.  Do I like it?  Yes, I do, surprisingly.  But there is much I dislike about the series as well.

BL is a competition.  I forget that.  I wish it was enough to be about losing weight and getting healthy and learning new habits and changing lives.  But maybe that wouldn’t be enough motivation for the contestants.  I don’t know.  I don’t like when they “play the game”, instead of just focusing on supporting each other and losing weight for themselves.  And I dislike all the drama that is built in by the editing.  Especially the cut-away shots of shocked facial expressions at each week’s weigh-in.  This is supposed to be reality TV but the reality is blurred.  And then there is the product placement and “ads” that are supposed to look like part of the show.  I know it is all about making money, but this way seems almost intentionally deceptive.

What bothers me most about the show is that the weight loss seems to be more important than safety.  From the first episode of the season when very obese and out-of-shape contestants had to get on exercise bikes and ride a marathon, some of the challenges have struck me as downright dangerous.  One resulted in a fall that injured a knee and another caused a fall that led to blood and bruising.  Seems to me there could be safer ways to push the contestants.  And speaking of safety… do they really need an obese person to run on a treadmill at a 12 mph pace, with no safety tether attached?!  Pushing someone to work harder is great but not at the risk of injury.

And speaking of pushing… there is Jillian.  Maybe she gets results.  But doesn’t she know the old expression that you can catch more flies with sugar?  She berates and badgers.  Where are the words of encouragement?  The “ata boys”?  I cringe just watching and can’t imagine if I was the one on the other side of her sharp tongue.

And then there is the public exposure.  How I felt for the contestants when they had to stand on a scale, exposed, in no shirt, week after week.  I wished they could preserve some dignity by at least getting to leave the shirt on.  And why did the men get to strip down just before weigh in while the women stood during the whole thing in just their bras?   And why, mid-season, do they suddenly get to leave the shirts on to weigh in?  To cover sagging skin?  Now that they are thinner they get to be less exposed?  Huh.

Shira raised an interesting point on her blog.  She wondered “Are people setting themselves up for failure by expecting the super-sonic fast weight loss results of the contestants…?”  And even the contestants themselves seem unrealistic in their expectations, especially as they lose more and more and it gets harder and harder to drop pounds.  I also have wondered what support they receive when they leave the show and try to adjust to losing or maintaining in the real world, the world where in the past they lived lives that led to obesity.  How many gain back some or all of the weight?

That said, there is a lot I like about this show.  First and foremost it motivates many and changes lives for the better.  The importance of good nutrition, the impact of excess weight on one’s health, the benefit of exercise.  And it affects not just those who participate, but others who watch or join in BL challenges outside of the show.  Countless people have been inspired.  On their own, with similar competitions at their gyms, and more.  Even me!  My husband and I kept saying that if the contestants could work out all day long, surely we could put in more time ourselves.  So we did.  My first 75 minute elliptical workout was done while watching the show.  I even tried to find old seasons on DVD so I could go back and watch those during workouts!

My bottom-line about The Biggest Loser – the show is educating people, inspiring people, motivating people, and changing lives.  A very good thing.  And if there is a little entertainment value thrown in the mix:  bonus.  I am already waiting for the next season to begin:)



Filed under exercise, influence of others, trends and/or technology

37 responses to “Is The Biggest Loser a Winner?

  1. jen

    I enjoy BL, but I do look at it as extreme. I get that it’s television and it’s trying to entertain and make money, so I try to look beyond that. What intrigues me is how far these people can go, what their bodies can do in such a short amount of time.

    The show helps me see that we really are stronger and more capable than we think. Do I want to lose weight the same way they do on BL? Nope! But I can walk harder, walk a little more, be conscious of what I’m eating, and keep going. My body can do the work and change. I can do the work and change. Is watching the BL going to motivate me to act? I don’t think so. But it’s entertaining and I’m not going to lie, I’ll keep watching.
    .-= jen´s last blog ..Weighing In and Goals, Goals, Goals =-.

  2. Stopping in from SITS. Have a terrific weekend!
    .-= Amy @ Positively Splendid´s last blog ..Guest post at Finding Fabulous =-.

  3. Well, you know my thoughts, but I should add something. On almost every episode there is something very personal and very specifically ME that I relate to or that I’m actually going through at that time. It is uncanny and I feel when that kind of thing happens that I need to be paying attention, someone wants me to. It’s the first place that those of us living with and fighting obesity have ever had our language, our fears, our lives shared. Ruby on Style have taken the challenges and emotions and mindset behind obesity in the forefront also.

    I enjoyed your post and reading some of the points you make. I don’t think they have issued any of the past seasons on dvd (I’ve looked too) and I think they have missed a huge marketing / $$$$ win here. But they do replay whole season marathons on the Fox reality network or the Fine living channel..FLN. Especailly on New Years or big holiday weekends is when they show the marathons, so you may want to look for that. Each season has it’s own offereings. I’ve also seen Austrailian and British seasons and they will hook you in too.
    .-= Ms PJ Geek´s last blog ..Friday Night at Walmart =-.

    • Karen

      I am going to look for those marathons. I would be interested to see old seasons and how they compare, and for the fun of watching.

  4. Genie

    I’ve watched some seasons, but not the most recent. The transformations are amazing, and there is much inspiration to gain.

    The “danger” factor has also struck me, but I also see the “stronger and more capable than we think” point from Jen. I don’t see Jillian’s charm either, but they all seem to love her in the end. Maybe they edit out the kumbaya.

    Don’t like the skimpy clothing weigh-ins either, but the contestants know that’s part of the deal. So…

    I guess the main thing to remember is that it’s TV, which is about entertainment and money. Weight loss on the big screen must appear bigger and more dramatic/emotional than it seems.

    Good post. I like when “institutions” are questioned.

    • Karen

      Your are right about Jillian – they do seem to love her when she is not in their face. And she is getting her own show this summer. Two shows, I think!

  5. I love love love the show. I love that it is a family show that I can watch with my daughter and she sees people dealing with the same issues I’m learning on my own. I am not expecting the same results, but I can’t help but get choked up with the spirit and power of the transformations. I would never audition for it. I’m happy with my slow but steady life approach. But like you, I can’t wait for next season to get ‘er started. 🙂 BTW, who did you vote for?
    .-= results not typical girl´s last blog ..running 12068 hershey bars a day =-.

    • Karen

      I admit it… I get choked up too:) Like when they did the 5K in Texas a few weeks back and some people completed it who had hardly been walking at all. There are many moments when I well up for them. Love that.

      I did not vote. But I would have gone for Koli. I always liked him. But I really though that as far as winning a competition, Daris lost his right when he gained.

  6. My own thoughts about BL are very close to yours. I do watch it, sometimes, but I’m not addicted. We usually go to the gym on Tuesday nights and just watching the last half an hour is almost better than watching the whole thing. One of my favorite parts is seeing the ejected person go back to his or her life and seeing that they make progress there, too.
    .-= Tish´s last blog ..End Notes =-.

    • Karen

      I like that part too. I would love if they did more of that further down the road… like at the end of one season show the contestants from last year. But my guess is that many gain back so they might not want to show that.

  7. I quit watching several seasons ago, but the catching reruns of the first two seasons is what got me motivated a few years ago. So I’m grateful for that….

    But I don’t like the turns they’ve taken, the focus on large numbers, the yelling, the drama, the histrionics, the silly product endorsements. And Jillian gets on my last nerve. (Though to be fair, I do think she genuinely cares about the contestants.)

    I’m so grateful my trainers weren’t the screamer/screecher types. Some of them yelled, but it was encouragement, not criticism. If they had something to criticize (such as my tendency to defeat myself before even starting), they waited until a break and explained what was happening. Also, because we were one-on-one, they were always watching me and knew when I’d truly reached my max. I learned to trust that.

    Lord, I do go on. 🙂 Sorry, but I hope people know that working with a trainer doesn’t have to be a Jillian experience.
    .-= Cammy@TippyToeDiet´s last blog ..Math and Chocolate =-.

  8. I haven’t watched it regularly for the past couple of seasons. I can’t stand Jillian Michaels. I don’t like her treatment of the contestants and her screaming at them. It’s not real life.

    BUT, I do love the fact that the contestants have success and my hope is that they are able to keep it off for years and years.
    .-= Diane Fit to the Finish´s last blog ..What Can’t You Have In The House? =-.

    • Karen

      I would love to know how many have managed that. I hope they can do it too but really wonder since they lost it in such an extreme way and unique environment.

  9. Yep. Yep and Yep.

    I agree.

    That is bad.

    And that it’s good. For basically the same reasons too. It’s just a show now though. When I’m REALLY overweight I can become defensive about it. Because I look at it as live streaming hope.
    .-= JourneyBeyondSurvival´s last blog .. =-.

  10. I “heard” the weighin on the scale we see is just for dramatics, they aren’t “real”. They weighin some place else and I am sure it is in the same “outfit” week after week. I hate the game playing. I think the challenges look like a blast. I want to do them. I wish they focusted more on how to encorporate real life into the work outs. Something you WANT to do, like volleyball with friends. Yes the gym makes results but it isn’t realistic to do this hour after hour every day of your life.

    I do enjoy Jillian for one aspect, to dig at what is making you “eat”. What is bugging you, unresolved inner conflict. I couldn’t deal with the screaming at. I would walk out in week 1. They need more life-coaching vs bullying.

    I do enjoy seeing the rapid transformation though. It is crazy how their bodies change right before our eyes. We are all built so differently. I would love to lose so quickly but I have a real life so I will just deal with a pound or 2 a week. 🙂

    • Karen

      I heard that too somewhere. And it allows them to make it even more dramatic as they pick the order of the weigh in. I wonder, when Jillian and Bob do that digging, if there are counselors there to help the contestants with the emotional issues. Someone trained for that specific role.

  11. Hi Karen!!

    I wanted to invite you to join our
    Over 40 Bloggers List!! Us girls have to stick together!!

    Take a look and see if you would like to be added to the list!!

    I am also following this wonderful blog! I can’t wait to read it every day!!

    Looking forward to our new friendship!

    Have a great rest of your weekend!
    .-= Java´s last blog ..Happy Follow a Friend on Friday!! =-.

  12. Can’t stand BL. This is one “reality” show that has no basis in reality when it comes to weight loss, er, life style changes. Plus, Jillian is a bully.
    .-= Sskar´s last blog ..Mattie’s Melanoma =-.

    • Exactly! If I had six months(or however long the taping is) to do nothing but exercise I’d lose a large amount of weight too.

      I wonder what the ratio is of people that kept it off vs. those that gained it back. Also I wonder what the mental state of the contestants are afterwards. How do they handle having to do everything on their own?
      .-= Adrienne´s last blog ..7 Day Raw Food Detox…hopefully =-.

      • Karen

        I wonder the same thing! I would love to see a show about that. One that showed more than just the success stories.

  13. Well then no more gum chewing!! lol…

    Did you get to check out the Over 40 Bloggers List?

    Let me know if you want me to add you!
    .-= Java´s last blog ..Happy Follow a Friend on Friday!! =-.

  14. I have a love hate relationship with the show. On one hand, I think it’s wonderful these people are getting a chance to change their lives and learn how to LIVE and make healthy choices. On the other hand it pisses me off that there’s such a focus of “how fast you can lose x amount of pounds” and if you don’t meet the threshold you are gone. Granted, I know it’s “The Biggest Loser” but I think that focus sends a message to our Microwave Society that is: You have to lose as much as possible right away or there is no joy in getting healthy.
    .-= Anonymous Fat Girl´s last blog ..It’s NOT all about the pounds lost!!! =-.

    • Karen

      I think you are right about that focus. And that it seems all about losing a lot fast. Again, it is all about the show and ratings. It would probably not have worked as a show if they lost a couple of pounds a week for the season. Sigh.

  15. Hubby & I watch BL but….. we only watch the last two minutes- the before&after. 🙂 The things they go through on the ranch aren’t particularly applicable to real life & so I don’t “waist” my time. 😛
    Saw your comment on the Tea Party saying you wanted a cute button thing- I’d be happy to help if you want. 🙂
    .-= {Not Quite} Susie Homemaker´s last blog ..I’m Too Exhausted to Come Up with a Clever Title for this Post… =-.

  16. Interesting description of the “turn around” in your attitude about the show, Karen! For the first time, I have a flicker of interest in watching it because of your bottom line. Thanks!
    .-= Peacefulbird´s last blog ..10 Good Things (and 10 Not-Quite-So-Good Things) =-.

  17. I’ve only watched it a few times but I can’t handle the eternity that it takes to weigh people in at the end of the show. I mean the pre-commercial teaser, the elaborate ceremony of it all – ugh. That stuff drives me crazy. Just get on the darn scale and let the audience say their oohs and ahhs. But that’s reality TV for you. The anguish of disappointment, the exultation of success and a camera fastened onto a face to capture every expression. If that had happened to me on the WW scale I would have driven off a cliff after leaving!
    .-= Linda at Bar Mitzvahzilla´s last blog ..The Second Summer of Yes =-.

    • Karen

      That was my least favorite part. Initially I fast forwarded to the actual weight. But as I started watching while working out I was glad to have the show run longer:)

  18. I think the one thing that bugs me most about this show…is that these ppl are seriously, morbidly obese…and they didn’t get that way without some psychological influences or problems…and the show NEVER addresses this. This is why, I believe, so many of the contestants end up failing. Just my opinion though.
    .-= losingmore´s last blog ..Tooo Fast =-.

    • Karen

      That is a very interesting point. And I know that sometimes Jillian goes after someone from the psych perspective and I hate it because I worry about her not being trained for that and doing more harm than good.

  19. I don’t have a tv but I did watch a season of Biggest Loser over the internet to see, as you said, what the hype was about. I had a lot of problems with the show which I went into in detail on my blog, but I was happy for the contestants that they were able to lose the weight and the show was inspiring. I won’t be watching it again though, just not interested in tv in general and in that show in particular.
    .-= Nona´s last blog .. =-.

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