Tree project and in defence of “The Biggest Loser”

Week twenty nine

Never in a million years did I think I’d defend The Biggest Loser. There is so much wrong with the show. It makes the denigrating of overweight people acceptable, an activity which has been taken on by the media and the general public with a vengeance. It’s now acceptable to laugh at “the fatties” and judge people solely on their physical appearance. Well, as a culture we’ve always done that but it’s far more pronounced then it used to be.

I also disagree with facets of the show, mostly the temptation competitions. They put bad food in people with obvious eating issues and tell them they can gain another week in the show by acquiring “immunity” if they eat the food and consume the highest amount of calories. The concept is reprehensible for a show that’s meant to be about helping people lose weight.

However, it was makeover week this week. The seven contestants left were given hair cuts, the girls got make-up and everyone got to chose new clothes. Once done up, they were all taken to a mirror by their trainer with their eyes shut and when ready, could open their eyes. And at that moment, I realised the show does have at least one redeeming feature.

It’s given those people their lives back.

They looked in the mirror and saw themselves in a way that haven’t in years. Sarah, the biggest female contestant who’s ever been on the show, has gone from a size 28 to a size 16. She was so deeply ashamed of the way she looked. Her life was a misery because of the way she looked. You’d have to have a very hard heart to not feel something when she strutted her way down the catwalk with such confidence.

However, it’s not Sarah I identify with the most. It’s Lara. Lara was just over 100kgs at her first weigh in. I’ve been there or very close to it. Unlike Lara, it took me over two years to shift the weight and get down to where I am now which is around 70kgs. Lara has done it in three months (allegedly – there is some question about timelines) and I can’t imagine what that’s like. But I understand what she’s been through. I know what it’s like when you feel like you’re totally out of control when it comes to food. I know what it’s like to feel so ugly as she said she did. I used to spend so much time pretending I didn’t care about how I looked but underneath it all I hated myself so much. That leads quickly to a vicious cycle of feeling horrible and rewarding yourself with food to feel better so the weight just piles on. It’s such an easy trap to fall into.

Without The Biggest Loser, I don’t think Lara would’ve changed her life in the way she has. I think that eventually she would’ve done something but the change wouldn’t have been as amazing as it has been on the show.

But I suppose that’s also something I have quibbles with. It’s easy to lose weight when you’re locked in a house with your own personal trainer, nothing to do but exercise and a chef to prepare your food for you. It’s totally unrealistic and I imagine it gives people unreasonable expectations of what they can achieve. There’s so much wrong with show. It does so many things I disagree with. However, it’s undeniable for those lucky enough to stay on the show for an extended period that it helps them enormously. They do change their lives for the better. Whether or not they manage to stick with it when they’re back in the real world is another story.

So yes, that’s one reason to defend The Biggest Loser. (And apparently to out myself as someone who watches it – oops!) Unless you’ve been there, you can’t know what it’s like to be the contestants’ position. It’s so easy for people to say “put down the food and get exercising”. Personal experience has told me it’s not that simple. I hope the people on the show have been given the psychological help so many of them obviously need.

To look in the mirror and admit that you hate what you see is a hard and horrible thing to have to do. But saving yourself is so rewarding. I hope the contestants on the show have learnt that.

2 Thoughts on “Tree project and in defence of “The Biggest Loser”

  1. Ian Stewart on April 10, 2011 at 21:19 said:

    Yeah, the show gets watched in our household too. I must admit, to me it’s car crash television – If it’s on I sort of can’t help watching.
    I so disagree with the concept though. Whilst I realise that these people must be going through hell with their weight, the way they lose it in this show is so unrealistic and I still wonder how healthy it is for someone to lose that much weight so quickly. What happens when they go home? And are surrounded by the same people, same job, same routines as before the show. Are they strong enough without the personal trainer, the “weigh ins” etc. For their sakes I certainly hope so. The cynic in me thinks the network couldn’t really give a rats ar$% what happens to them after the show. That part doesn’t sell, does it. But then again, maybe that’s not true. Maybe, in the background they are given help. If so, the show should tell us that. Exploit it.

    • lauren on April 10, 2011 at 22:08 said:

      The only contestants the network is interested in are the ones who have managed to keep the weight off. That’s why you never ever see the ones who don’t succeed once the show is over. For them, it’s all about marketing. I don’t believe for one second that they really care about the contestants.

      But I still watch it. It really is car crash television.

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