Jan 22

The Biggest Loser — Week 3 (Episode 4)

bl_recapAnyone who has been on a weight loss journey has had one of those weeks.  They’re frustrating.  They’re deflating.  They’re the thing that, I’d venture to guess, derail more diets, exercise plans and lifestyle change than anything else.  They’re what I like to call “transition weeks”.

A “transition week” is when you do all the work.  Your diet is tight.  You’ve put a check mark next to every exercise and physical activity you’d lined up.  No cheating.  You crushed it.  Then you hit the scale at the end of the week.  Boom!  Nothing.  Maybe you dropped an ounce or two, heck, maybe you gained an ounce or two.  You did the work, but you didn’t that sweet, sweet payoff that makes it so much easier to do it another week..

I didn’t always call them “transition weeks”.  “Hell weeks”, “dead weeks” and sometimes something a little more colorful that matched the exclamation that I shared with the morning air when I stepped on the scale.  I didn’t start calling them “transition weeks” until I realized that they were an important part of the process.  Not to be over-dramatic, but when you’re in this battle like I was, you’re really putting your body into a state of shock.  You’re asking it to do things and respond in ways that, frankly, weren’t part of the routine that got you to that point.  Sometimes our bodies, which are simultaneously our greatest gift and worst enemy, just respond unexpectedly to the effort that you’re putting in.

A single season of The Biggest Loser kind of follows a similar flow.  In competition-reality television, there is this sort of device where they get another episode in without really advancing the narrative.  Some weeks of the show are simply “transition weeks”.  You invest the time and effort of watching, but, when you come to the payoff at the end, there really isn’t any movement of the needle.  That’s really what we saw this week with Episode 4 – “Pay It Forward”.

That’s not to say that the weight loss competition that’s chronicled in the show had a down week.  In fact, many of the contestants had fairly successful weeks from that perspective.  However, there really wasn’t much substance to this week’s episode.

Before we start… as always…

[notice]Very Important!  This piece will ALWAYS contain Spoilers.  If you DVR the show and haven’t watched it, come back when you did.[/notice]

The real drive behind this week’s episode was once again hitting on the season’s theme of childhood obesity by visiting the three kid contestants at their homes.  Instead of the sending a doctor/nutritionist like last week, the three trainers went to visit their respective child at home while leaving their contestants alone at The Biggest Loser Ranch to take care of themselves all week.

Quick sidenote… do you think every time someone calls it The Biggest Loser Ranch, the Contestants immediately get melancholy and wax nostalgic about Ranch dressing?  Plus, how long until the show, which is already chock full of product placement, sells the naming rights?  Any season now I’m anticipating it being called The Biggest Loser Hidden Valley Fat Free Ranch.

The Biggest Loser - Kid Contestants (Photo Courtesy: NBC - Trae Patton/NBC)

The Biggest Loser – Kid Contestants (Photo Courtesy: NBC – Trae Patton/NBC)

In previous recaps, I’ve talked about some of my feelings about the overuse of buzzwords when dealing with the kids on the show.  Dolvett, the red team trainer, is especially guilty of throwing the now dreaded “b word” around – bullying.  What people fail to realize when they label everything under the sun as bullying, they really take the power out of the word and create this “boy who cried wolf” dimension to it.  Lindsay, the 13-year-old from Fillmore, California, even said during the episode that she felt like everyone was laughing at her.  And she felt like everyone was looking at her.  And she felt like everyone was judging her.  This may be the unpopular stance, but that’s not bullying.  I was 426 pounds and felt like every room that I walked into was staring at me.  I felt like every person who laid eyes on me was pitying me… judging me…  But that was me!  I was the one doing the judging.  Nobody was bullying me.  I was deciding what everyone thought of me with no proof or basis in reality whatsoever.  Being 13 is hard enough.  You already think the world is sizing you up at all times.  Being over weight just adds an entire new layer to the self-doubt and loathing.  We should be teaching our children about self-worth, not about crying foul.

There was a significant gap in the takeaway that the show wanted viewers to have from the home visits with the kids and the one that we should actually be mining deeper on.  The reoccurring theme that the show attempted to portray was just how hard it is to be a kid.  The pressure.  The stress.  The fear.  The burdens.  And while I certainly don’t want to completely sugarcoat the life of a young teen, I think we need to be very careful teaching this lesson of blame.  The stress in the list of 99% of 13 year olds isn’t a tenth of the everyday stress of a typical adult.

What I picked out and what I would like to see The Biggest Loser put a little a larger crosshair on is the fact that with these three young contestants we’ve been introduced to five parents.  Of the five, three are obese and the other two are, at a minimum, overweight.  Why aren’t we talking about that?  Why are focusing on the stress in these children’s live instead a focusing a little harder on the influence.  The United States has the worst childhood obesity problem in the world.  Well, is anyone shocked about that fact considering we have the worst obesity problem overall?  Kids, for the most part, don’t get much of a voice in what they eat.  They don’t buy the food.  In most cases, they don’t prepare it.  So why is The Biggest Loser focusing on their bad decisions and their lives?

“Oh… well Biingo really loves his cheesecake…”

Well, guess what, Biingo can’t eat cheesecake that isn’t in the fridge.

“Lindsay really eats a lot of fast food…”

Is Lindsay walking through the drive-thru?  Hell, I’d argue a kid with enough initiative to walk to McDonald’s for cheeseburger, probably isn’t struggling nearly as much with his weight.

Parents control the bulk of the food that goes into their child’s body.  Period.  Are there a few exceptions?  Sure.  You can’t control that Danny doesn’t trade his carrot sticks for a pudding cup at school, but that one pudding cup isn’t what’s hurting him.

The Biggest Loser has a great opportunity to really help educate people on how to make positive changes.  I just think their focus is in the complete wrong direction on this one.  Start with the parents.

Back at the Ranch, the contestants ran their first 5K as a challenge and the White Team walked away with a victory and $15,000 cash.  A great prize, but, unfortunately for them, while the cash is nice, immunity is what they needed.

When the dust settled on the weigh-ins, it was the White Team of two that lost the lowest percentage of weight and because they were only a two person team, 43-year-old New Yorker Pam Geil was sent home after losing 30 pounds total in the first four weeks.

As I said earlier, there really wasn’t much substance to this week.  A lot of “get out of your comfort zone” talk and your typical temperamental battles with the trainers.

Because of that and some feedback from readers that they’d like me to dig a little deeper into the contestants themselves, I thought I’d try something new to wrap up this edition.  I’m going to give you a quick handicap of my CONTESTANTS TO WATCH after four weeks.  These will be the three Contestants that I feel have the best shot of “winning” the show.

Danni Allen (Center) and Gina Hoover (Right) are two CONTESTANTS TO WATCH (Photo Courtesy: NBC)

Danni Allen (Center) and Gina McDonald (Right) are two CONTESTANTS TO WATCH (Photo Courtesy: NBC)

Danni Allen (26 – Wheeling, IL – White Team) – I’ve mentioned back in Week 1 that The Biggest Loser does a great job at casting types.  There are roles to be played each season and Danni fills perhaps the most important – young, athletic female who keeps her head down.  Danni is a gamer.  Beside the fact that she’s already lost 36 pounds in four weeks, she’s quietly been dominant in challenges including winning the 5K this week.  I also think Danni is this season’s “hottie in hiding” that they love to cast.  Biggest thing standing between her and winning is the fact that she’s now the only White Team Contestant left.  Producers will have to shake things up for her to make it to the end.  That said, she’s the one I’d bet on today.

Joe Ostaszewski (43 – Williston, FL – Red Team) – Another “type” that we see each season, Joe played Division 1 college football at Florida State and had a cup of coffee in the NFL.  People with high level athletic pedigrees do very well on the show because they have the ability to be disciplined.  There’s also a wheelhouse from about 35-49 for male contestants on the show where they get stronger as the weeks go on.  He’s lost 54 pounds in four weeks and his athleticism should blossom when he gets down closer to the 260-270 range.

Gina McDonald (47 – Hoover, AL – Blue Team) – I liked Gina’s story and I feel like it can translate well to The Biggest Loser.  She’s a wife, Mother and practicing lawyer away from the game.  To me, it shows that she’s someone who can work hard and push herself toward goals.  She’s lost 39 pounds so far and was The Biggest Loser on campus during Week 4 with an impressive 9 pound loss.  While her age could slow down her weight loss down the road, I think from a numbers standpoint she’ll benefit greatly from being the smallest person at 5’1″.  From a competitive angle, her body can simply tolerate being smaller than a lot of other contestants can.  Combine that with have a strong team (the Blue Team still has all of its members) and I think we may see Gina on a long run.

Those are my CONTESTANTS TO WATCH after Week 4.  I think they have the best shot at winning the game of The Biggest Loser.

That being said, as we’ve discussed before, I think the game is the least important aspect of the show.  Making this lifestyle change.  Having it click.  Those are the people who will win.

Just like you and me.  When we have those “transition weeks” in our journey.  It’s not about the fact that the needle didn’t move.  It’s about how you let that needle impact your life.  Do you fold up tents and quit?  Or do you push on?

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