The Biggest Loser

For the past several years, I’ve refused to jump on The Biggest Loser bandwagon. Having been a devoted WWer for five years, I know the only way to lose weight and keep it off is through eating well and exercising.

the-biggest-loserAnd as a recovering disordered eater, The Biggest Loser, to me, represented an extreme: severe restriction and severe over-exercising.

And so although you know I love Jillian and her Shred DVDs, I just couldn’t wrap my arms around a show that demonstrates such unrealistic conditions.

(I mean, let’s be real: who has 8 hours a day to exercise with a trainer, and a set menu for each day?).

But then I watched the season 8 premier Tuesday night and couldn’t help but feel my heartstrings tugging and my feelings towards the show soften.

Maybe it’s because I’m in a better place emotionally now when it comes to food, exercise, body image … but truly, I think the reason people get hooked on this show is because of the people on the show … their amazing stories.

Like where they came from, how they got to be so heavy, and why they want to lose weight. For so many of them, it’s not a matter of fitting into size 29 vs 30 jeans; it’s a matter of life and death — literally.

We all know obesity is a huge problem in America; no one can doubt that. Just look around you, at the mall, on the street … it’s an epidemic, and a scary one at that. Our kids might live fewer years than our grandparents.

And we know it’s not realistic to think the average person can drop 18, 22, 30 lbs in a week. It’s not healthy; no doctor would support that.

But on the show, it happens, and so much more.

Watching a 400+ lb. woman on TV trying to climb a ladder machine — seeing her frustration and then, after a screaming match with Jillian, seeing her accomplish her goal …  suddenly I “got it.”

I admit,  I judged the show and deemed it unsuitable for me because of the place I was at … but now I view it differently. I get what all the hype is over. Hell, I was crying at the end, and this was only my first real episode!!

These men and women are making a positive change in their lives, for all the world to see. They’re undergoing physical, mental and emotional transformations. And they’re doing it for themselves, for their families, for their mortality.

It makes me feel pretty silly that I moan about 10 lbs when some of these people have 200 lbs to lose. My health isn’t in danger, but many of them are suffering already from health problems at my age.

All I know is, watching the show just put a lot into perspective for me, and I think I needed to see it.

Jillian and Bob have their work cut out for them; this group is the heaviest the show has ever seen, apparently. But how motivating to watch these individuals make a goal and stick to it.

That’s something we can all take away from the show, regardless of what your goal is.

How about you? What do you think about The Biggest Loser? Can you see it for what it is, or do you think the rapid weight loss promotes an impossible expectation?

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15 thoughts on “The Biggest Loser

  1. I loved the show right up until I saw Jillian had “supplements” out.

    Now I have a healthy level of skepticism about everything they show.

    But on the whole, I think it’s good these folks are offered the opportunity of a wake-up call and the tools to change.

  2. I just started watching TBL myself and I think it is unrealistic but still inspiring to see such will power and strength in accomplishing their goals. And I don’t care what people say about Jillian being a sell-out, I still love her workouts!

  3. While I do get a little concerned for the safety of the contestants (like the 2 people who had to go to the hospital on last night’s episode!), I try to tell myself in the long run they are doing good for themselves. I can’t IMAGINE how hard it must be to lose that much weight. I have nothing but the utmost respect for them!

    And you’re right…it completely puts things into perspective. Even though some look at the American average size (14?) as “larger,” these contestants would KILL to be that size. It’s neat to watch them on their journey and see how incredibly happy they are at the end!!

  4. ive never seen the show, but what ive read makes me pretty ill toward it. in your post you said, “And we know it’s not realistic to think the average person can drop 18, 22, 30 lbs in a week. It’s not healthy; no doctor would support that. But on the show, it happens, and so much more.”

    they way they are “losing” isn’t healthy, mentally or physically in my opinion. i dont think it is motivating at all to have a goal and then to reach it by unhealthy means. i find it sad and i feel like these people are simply being used by the entertainment industry. to me, the example that this show is giving off is unrealistic, unhealthy, unbalanced, and frankly irresponsible.

    while healthy goals are honorable, i don’t find it motivating to watch others reach their goals through means that normal people wouldn’t be able to obtain…like working out 8 hours a day or having constant access to healthy foods, doctors, trainers, etc. what would be motivating to me would be to see a “biggest loser” lose weight and get healthy by realistic and truly healthy means. sure, it would be a lot slower, but there might be an actual lasting lifestyle change rather than lbs lost.

    again, i guess im saying all this based on what i know from reading about the show…so i guess i should watch an episode. but i fear this media has tugged your heartstrings lissa to the point where you’ve lost sight of the poor message the show might be sending…??

    just my .000000001 cents.

    1. Clare, I totally appreciate your words and concern and I do see how you could question if maybe I got “suckered in” to the messages but I really am trying to look past the unrealisticness of the show to the real message that people CAN do things if they put their minds to it. Yes, these are extreme circumstances–I won’t doubt that. But I can now see beyond the “it’s so unrealistic” aspect of it. I think my DE thoughts got in the way of seeing the show for more than that. I will never think it’s realistic. But I can see the determination in these people and it changed my thoughts.

      1. lissa im feeling poorly about my harsh judgment. i haven’t seen the show, but im overly sensitive i know, due to my ED. i still feel angry that extreme ways of exercising/eating and the portrayals of that on the internet and in the media have been so much a part of the demon that has held me back in recovery. there is no excuse or blame for my own actions, but i still feel very sensitive and bitter toward this stuff. i need to be less judgmental about it and understand that im just hypersensitive. im glad you and others can see a positive out of what i view as negative. that is a beautiful thing.

        thanks for opening up a great conversation here!

  5. I never watched it for the same reason, and then this past year I have started listening to Jillian’s podcasts, doing her DVDs, etc. I decided to give it a try and I watched the premiere.

    I fell in love with it, but I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t heard Jillian talk about it in her podcasts. She says. sure, we cannot exercise for 6 hours a day. But the show is supposed to show us what people are *capable* of. If they can do 6 hours a day, people who are moderately overweight can do 6 hours a week. That’s pretty powerful to me.

    She also talks about helping the contestants with much more than the exercise–when she watched them prove to the world that they CAN run on a treadmill for 5 minutes when they thought they could not, they just broke down a barrier, a “story” they have been telling themselves for years about who they think they are. That moment on the ladder machine with Shay. Jillian said on her radio show, she was NOT going be Shay’s enabler. I loved the moment when she looked at her and said, “There is nothing to be ashamed about.” Whoa! When you take away the shame these people have felt, all that’s left is to do it! That is so moving to me.

  6. Lissa, I love the show. Have wanted to be on the show and actually applied for his season. Sure the results are unrealistic of people living every day life. Once tehy go home, and re-enter life teh extreme numbers go back to slightly higher than normal losses. But they are also in a unique/extreme situation too. They don’t have anything else to do but work out and plan and focus 100% on weight loss. Also, the first weeks numbers are always so drastically high, because these people are completely shocking their system…that too levels off a bit. Still produces high weight loss numbers but not as high as wk1 numbers. The inspiring thing is watching people do things they never thought they could do. As I watched it the other night I thought, they will never pick me. I am too strong already. I won’t produce enough drama. I mean shoot, I am already doing 2 legs of triathlons…I could have run that mile, no problem and wouldn’t have complained. But I remember when I couldn’t…and it is cool to see people struggling, knowing that in a couple weeks a 1 mile run, will be nothing for them to do!

  7. I enjoy the show, but 2 observations:

    a) a “week” at the ranch is not always 7 days, sometimes it’s 10+ – NBC isn’t real upfront about this. That said, losing 18 lbs over 10 days is still pretty amazing (I’m not judging if amazing is good or bad in this case.)

    b) most weight loss comes from what one eats (or rather, doesn’t eat) – not from hours of grueling exercise. But how much fun would it be to watch contestants not eat each day? So 80% of the episode is focused on the workouts and the yelling and the sweating but, in reality, it only accounts for 20% of a person’s weight loss.

    Anyway, still good tv!

  8. I felt the same way at first about the show. Now, the part that I love the most is seeing this pepole undergo these amazing transformations. Yeah, the training is a bit harsh and unrealistic at times but I feel like some of these people need to get pushed to know that they CAN do it. I makes me question what my mind is holding me back from doing..

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