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:)