As the collective that’s known as “the internet” is prone to do, when you put your opinions out into the universe, you’ll often be greeted with a chorus of jeers. From the simple “I disagree” to the far more to the point “you suck”, being so bold as to editorialize on something that someone else loves leaves you wide open for the faceless masses to attack.
If I’ve learned nothing else through the first three weeks of my recaps of The Biggest Loser it’s that (a) people REALLY have a passion for the show and (b) I should consider doing intimate things with either a family member or using inanimate objects that were not intended for that purpose. Though I appreciate any and all suggestions, I’m going to go ahead and pass on B. However, I very much understand the folks in Camp A who really love the show and get defensive over what they perceive as me taking shots. Although often their way of expressing it is both vulgar and physically impossible (I’m just not that flexible), their end message to me makes sense – “who are you to judge!?!?!”
The thing is, The Biggest Loser is about a weight loss journey. It’s about people battling to make a change. They use it all the time on the show. It’s about saving your own life. That’s the product their selling. Well… I’ve used that product. I’ve been there. Not on the show, mind you, but I’ve been through that journey. I know what it feels like. I know what it looks like. I’ve been through the ups and down. While The Biggest Loser the television show and the product line that goes with it (DVD’s, cookbooks, video games, etc.) tells one version of it, it tells it only from one side.
If you’re looking to buy a new vehicle and you want to solicit opinions of the Ford Focus – are you going to only ask Ford Employees? Will you only visit Ford enthusiast websites for customer reviews? Are you only going to ask the guy at the Ford dealership his opinion?
These recaps aren’t meant to be anti-The Biggest Loser. In fact, as I’ve said many times, at the core I appreciate the show for what it does. And, most importantly, if it motivates even one person to make positive changes in their life, it’s doing an important service. But, if my experience can take that one person who tries to do it The Biggest Loser way and quits when he’s not losing 12 pounds a week and share with him the reality of weight loss outside of that controlled and well-produced environment…. then I guess we both win.
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]
Episode 5 of The Biggest Loser was called “Waist & Money” and, unfortunately, I think their intentional semi-pun on “waist” vs “waste” may have hit a little too closer to home. This week opens with the remaining ten Contestants returning from a workout only to find their usually stocked kitchen empty. In the place of their food simply a note to meet host Alison Sweeney at the “local grocery store”. Upon arrival, we find out that this week on the show they’re going to crush the illusion that eating healthy is more expensive by being given the challenge of feeding themselves on a budget for the first time. $10 per person per day would be their limit and they would have to do all of the shopping in a 15 minute period starting immediately. The montage that would follow contained the usual array of “talking head” interviews where the Contestants talk about how inexperienced they are at the grocery store and how they usually get fast food because it’s cheaper and easier.
(insert record scratch)
Here comes Captain Negative with his first issue with the message… It’s wrong. It’s a myth. Eating fast food is NOT cheaper or, in most cases, faster than eating from home. You really need next to no experience with the grocery store and you can have Elementary School math acumen to figure it out. In fairness to The Biggest Loser, they’re not the only ones who perpetuate the “fast food is cheaper” line of thinking. Grocery shopping and eating at home is always the most economical choice. I think that may have been the actual message they were attempting to get across this week, but here’s the other issue, they never did. In fact, they never really did anything with this message. They killed a half an hour at the top of the show setting up the premise, but they never paid it off. There’s your waste right there. How you feed yourself when you’re attempting to change your lifestyle is so important. Setting up a lesson, but never paying it off just screams of time-filler. If the goal of the show is to educate as well as entertain, finish your messages… don’t just rush to get to the shots of fat people crying.
Next the Trainers checked in with their at-home Kid Contestants remotely. While there seemed to be a lot of excuse making and, at least visually, very little progress for the two young cast members, a little love is merited for the White Team’s “Sunny” Chandrasekar. The 16-year-old from Rochester, New York, is not only showing signs of weight loss, but a very healthy outlook on her progress. As a parent of tween daughters, there’s such a dangerous line that I feel has to be straddled. While you want your child to be healthy by any means necessary, it’s so important that the motivation isn’t going to build in body and self-esteem issues that are going to last a lifetime. Often with the adult Contestants, you’ll hear competitors (both male and female) who use dating or marriage as a motivator to getting their health in order. That’s likely something that was instilled in these folks at very young age and the cycle continues. Being a teen is tough enough. We need to teach our children to be healthy for health’s sake.
Devin Alexander – The Biggest Loser‘s official chef – stopped by to meet with the contestants and teach them some healthy comfort food recipes on a budget. Not going to lie, I may have a little TV crush on Ms. Alexander, so I may have to recuse myself from properly assessing her merit to the show. Though I’ve never read her cookbooks, I can say that last night she shared her South-of-the-Border Loaded Sweet Potato recipe and The Wife quickly said, “Oh yeah…. I’d eat that.” A ringing endorsement indeed.
We jumped back to the gym at this point and I’ve finally pieced together a theory that has been nagging at me for years with this show. If you’re a regular viewer, you know that injuries are always an important supporting character in the show. There are almost always multiple Contestants each week who “have not been medically cleared to participate in the challenge” or they’re seriously limited during training because of injuries during previous workouts. And, if you’re someone who has spent any time doing professionally facilitated exercise, you’ll notice quickly that during most of the filmed workouts, the Contestants’ form is awful. It doesn’t take a PhD in Kinesiology to know that form in exercise is not only the most efficient and effective way to workout, but it’s imperative in injury avoidance. While I think the show kind of glosses over it or even tries to sell us on the notion that these people are nursing old injuries that have been made worse through the intensity of life on The Biggest Loser Ranch, the fact that good form during the workouts isn’t discussed more than it is does a disservice to people working out at home. Believe me, I understand that fixing form is not good TV, but it’s an important message that should not be ignored completely.
The challenge came next and, to no one’s surprise, Danni Allen, the sole-remaining member of the White Team and my pick last week to win the show, dominated the competition and took home a two-pound advantage on the scale.
The weigh-in had very little drama with big numbers being put up by many contestants – including all three of my CONTESTANTS TO WATCH from last week. The Trainers did a nice job this week squashing my oft-stated pet peeve about people crying about 5+ pound weight loss numbers. Jillian Michaels even said at one point, “In the real-world, these numbers are amazing!” I appreciate when these professional trainers, all of whom I respect, acknowledge the fact that life and weight loss on The Biggest Loser isn’t in line with reality.
In the end, the Red Team had the lowest percentage of weight loss for the week and elected to send home 37-year-old mother-of-four and Special Education teacher Lisa Rambo of Hudson, WI. Lisa lost 37 pounds on the Ranch and in her “Where Are They Now” catch-up segment that caps the show, had lost another 40(ish) pounds at home.
While Episode 5 was set-up to spend more time talking about nutrition and the costs of being healthy, it quickly shifted to just another “cry-sweat-cry-sweat-cry” week that we’ve grown accustomed to.
Call it judgmental, call it what you will. I choose to call it sharing information. Enjoy The Biggest Loser for what it is – fun TV. But, if you’re looking to make a real change in your life, one of the best things you can be is educate yourself with every bit of information you can find. There’s no perfect answer. The Biggest Loser doesn’t have it and neither do I. But, maybe the best answer for you lies somewhere in the middle.
Thanks for tuning in this week. Come back soon!