Jumping on TBL bagging bandwagon

Monday, March 5, 2012 Permalink

The Biggest Loser started here in Oz over a month ago. It launched to much TV-land hype and blogosphere disdain. As well as the usual ‘the show is too fake, sets up false expectations and features unsustainable approaches’ bagging, it got a caning for its promotional approach. (For my international readers I should note: bagging and caning = Oz words for criticism. I like to think my blog posts are as educational as they are informative. *Sarcasm*).

Touted as The Biggest Loser – Singles, all of the ads featured the contestants moping about being single and how they won’t find love until they lose weight. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Many viewers (and non viewers) criticised the show for implying that no one likes a fatty. Even I cringed each time I saw the ads. HOWEVER I cannot talk, as I say the exact same thing. Not about others – cos there are a lot of overweight people in relationships and I’m always gobsmacked when their partner is vaguely normal. I mean, how on earth did they find someone to look past the outer layers? I’ve just always assumed that I’ll remain single while I remain overweight.

That aside, I haven’t actually watched TBL for a few years, although I occasionally tune in just for the finale in the hope that the shocking makeovers motivate me to get my act together as well. And by then I don’t know any of the contestants and have no vested interest in who wins. It’s just all about the changes.

The show itself no longer holds any interest for me. I hate the competitions and hate the unrealistic environment. That’s not to say I wouldn’t want someone to lock me up and force me to lose weight. I’m pretty sure I’ve prayed to be knocked unconscious for a few months to a similar end! And… I did pay a nice sum of money to go to a Biggest Loser-style fat camp a few years ago.

However, while I know the show’s about breaking people down and building them back up, I really just can’t stand to watch it. On top of the annoying contestants and competitions – it also makes me feel bad that I’m not achieving what people there are achieving. Ridiculous as that sounds.

However – unfortunately on Friday night I caught the end of the show which featured an interview with someone who’d been voted out. It was one of those check-ins a few weeks later to see how life ‘on the outside’ was going.

“Great,” she said, “I’m doing 5 hours of exercise a day. Two hours of cardio in the morning. Strength work at lunch for an hour and then two hours of cardio at the end of the day.”

WHAT. THE. FUCK?!
biggest_loser_logo_highres
After I picked myself up from the floor, I had to remind myself that this THIS IS A COMPETITION. D-oh! I thought my old weight loss program’s expectation of six days a week of exercise (burning 500 calories a day and 1000 on Saturday) was unrealistic.

I mean, I know in (the) TBL house contestants do a ridiculous amount of exercise. My fat camp (based on that concept) involved 3-5hrs of exercise each day and consuming 700-900 calories. Completely unsustainable in the outside world if one is to have a life of any kind. And yet this girl IS in the outside world – supposedly easing back into ‘normality’ I would have thought. And yet, she’s doing five fucking hours of exercise a day! (And yes, I do swear more when I’m gobsmacked!)

She then showed her food consumption to a doctor assessing her biological age (or something; I was channel-flicking by then as a result of my frustration). I almost gagged. Now I know that I am a bit weird when it comes to greenery, but her three meals included half a forest and a couple of tiny bits of white chicken and fish flesh.

How long will this person be able to eat like that?!

Lettuce plate

Exaggerated? Yes. Sustainable? No.

When I left fat camp, the owner suggested we continue consuming minimal calories and over-exercising UNTIL we hit our goal weight; and then ease off, which – he said – is what he did (having been on the show himself).

I realise people go on TBL to achieve results and so I don’t blame this girl. I don’t even blame the show. In fact I’m not even sure there’s any point to this post other than me having a rant.

I’ve been on some stupid diets in my time. I’ve yearned for quick results on many occasions. In fact, I can’t promise I won’t be swayed by a convincing ‘magic elixir’ even now. I can understand anyone wanting a quick fix. But even I wasn’t prepared for my reaction to the program last week. For some reason it was particularly confronting. The girl’s efforts reeked of desperation and sense of urgency intimated something. Does she want to look great by the finale? I wondered. Does she hope to get back onto the show by having lost a lot of weight on the outside? I wondered. Or, does she want to win the money? I wondered.

Perhaps the show’s paying for 5 hours of personal training a day and she doesn’t have a job. Or maybe she’s under pressure fromthe show’s producers. Who the fuck knows?! And maybe she – and others on the program – will keep it off after the cameras and fans disappear. Perhaps – like so many of the previous contestants, she will become personal trainer and be committed to a life of clean eating and exercise. And if she, or her fellow contestants do… good on them!

BUT… if I do sit down to watch the finale, I will HAVE to re-read this post to remind myself of the bizarre lengths these contestants have gone to in order to drop huge amounts of weight in a short time as I already know I’ll be comparing my own pitiful efforts to theirs. And I don’t want to AGAIN feel like the bigger loser!

FYBF

22 Comments
  • Amy Cooper
    March 5, 2012

    Although in the past I have never been a fan of this show. Sure they do have impressive losses, but as you highlighted, they are clearly not sustainable… and the diet this contestant is currently on will not last!

    I have however been watching, and enjoying, Excess Baggage. Sure the results are not AMAZING compared to TBL, but they are much more realistic. On top of that, yes there are elements of sensationalism (they need to or the show wouldn’t survive on even a secondary channel), but it is more related to looking at a balanced lifestyle.

    • Debbish
      March 5, 2012

      I remember a few years ago Amy there was another weightloss show – less about the ‘challenges’ etc but assessed the participants along the way and I liked that concept. I don’t think it did very well as it didn’t last long. As you said, they need some sensationalism to keep viewers coming back for more. I’m sure they choose a few difficult personalities to promote conflict etc as well!

  • Kek
    March 5, 2012

    Absolutely ridiculous. Unsustainable. Unhealthy. Just look at the contestants at the end of the series…significant muscle loss. But hey, who cares? As long as the scales go down, right?

    Aargh!

    These people have been set up for a lifetime of yo-yoing, or if by some extreme act of will they manage to keep up the regime, a thoroughly miserable existence.

    • Debbish
      March 5, 2012

      Kerryn, I’m always surprised that each year the losses seem to get bigger and bigger. When at fat camp a previous contestant told us that much of the show is staged (which I did realise) but weigh-ins aren’t often weekly, rather fortnightly etc… though that isn’t made obvious and it means the audience wonder why we can’t achieve 7kg (15lb) losses each week!

  • Erin Lately (@eloquentembrace)
    March 5, 2012

    I caught the end of this episode as well, and was quite shocked and a little annoyed by it.
    Exercising 5 hours a day is severely unhealthy- the horrid stress that girls body must be experiencing will surely wear her down within a matter of weeks (if not sooner).
    Her cortisol levels would be through the roof, she’d be risking injury, muscle degeneration and just mere exhaustion!!
    Having been a compulsive exerciser myself in the past (thought not to that extreme), I can understand wear this mentality comes from.
    With weight loss, we tend to want to always be *doing* something to shift the weight, in an almost panic we push our bodies to the edge in the hope of ‘melting’ fat.
    Weight loss comes from good, whole, nutrition- something that is slightly more harrowing as it requires us to be marginally more consistent. Science has proved repeatedly that exercise does little more then make us hungry- we need to eat ourselves slim, not jog it off. However, it would seems it is easier on our psyche to sweat it out for an hour or two each day then make consistent good choices.
    There are many benefits of exercise, but with anything, too much is not a good thing.
    And don’t get me started on what she eats- that kind of exercise would require 3 times the amount of calorie intake. Train like an athlete, eat like an athlete.

    I suppose all we can do is shake our heads- I’m disappointed by the show, I’ve not had the time to watch this season (though have been to a few tapings) and it seems to have become all about the shock factor. Sending out a false message to the masses of what is healthy and right is just plain wrong. And very dangerous.

    • Debbish
      March 5, 2012

      Hi Erin… obviously the show was running late and caught our attention. I agree with everything you say – and I was quite flabbergasted – as you can tell from my language in the post. Even writing it I was shaking my head.

      Having said that, I didn’t want to demonise any of the participants etc as well… cos I completely understand their desperation and not wanting to waste the opportunity they’ve been given.

      I just need to remind myself what they are doing to get huge losses etc so I don’t end up comparing my results to theirs!

      Deb

  • Deb @ Home life simplified
    March 5, 2012

    I used to love the show and watched with my kids the first 2 years – showing them that people could get healthy (not about weight loss / dieting when we talked) and we loved the challenges as they showed mind over matter BUT this is the first year i have not watched and am amazed how different the vibe is – the ads, the audience feedback, etc – I wonder if it will make them rethink their angle – this has to be the most negative, over the top season i have witnessed via ads and small clips I have watched.

    • Debbish
      March 5, 2012

      True Deb, even though I haven’t watched it I’ve seen the comments on FB and Twitter and there does seem to be a lot of negative comments attached to this season. I’m sure they’ve handpicked some trouble-makers to improve the ratings – which I guess is understandable if you remind yourself it is reality TV and a competition.

      Like you I enjoyed the first couple of seasons, but haven’t watched it for a while now.

      Deb

  • nondiscrypt
    March 5, 2012

    Hey Deb, with regards to the exercise – yeah not sustainable. But I have to disagree on the food – her meals were imho HUGE and looked nutritious and balanced

    I know you’re not a fan of green but it’s a sad fact that you need to consume salads / veg etc if you want to shed the kgs and avoid hunger. I find if I’m hungry it’s usually because I’ve been eating or drinking “empty calories” and not been eating nutritious food.

    It’s taken me a while but I’ve finally resigned myself that I can no longer eat like a teenager and I just have to make wise choices. To be honest the forest and token bit of white has grown on me and my binging has reduced dramatically … I don’t even want the crap most of the time now.

    • Debbish
      March 5, 2012

      Very true that I’m not a big green leafy vege fan. I was thinking how unappetising the food looked, though there may have been other veges hidden away and I may have looked away in horror at all of the leaves. I assume they’re eating other veges as well.

      I remember when I watched the show years ago they didn’t show you what the participants ate and I thought that was a bit failing… I wonder if they do now?

  • Sandra
    March 5, 2012

    Hi Deb, like most of us, I watched the show religiously the first couple of seasons and then possibly found something more interesting to do instead…anyway, I digress. A few weeks ago I picked up a magazine at a doctor’s surgery which featured some of the past *top* contestants and guess what…? They’ve ALL gained some weight back…some say they’re happier at a higher weight and one of the girls who was an overall winner had gained about 11kg, so by no means had she gone into ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ category but she freely admitted that she’d gotten down to the lowest weight with only one thing in mind : to win the competition. That’s all it is, a competition…and I’ve heard of other contestants who’ve put a lot more weight back on, so imho, it isn’t teaching them healthy habits at all.

    • Debbish
      March 5, 2012

      When I think about it Sandra, I’d much prefer the show just follow people trying to lose weight, without the competitions and challenges and prize money. Although I’m sure that wouldn’t make for as interesting TV. And – I guess they need viewers to get sponsors, to keep the show running. A vicious circle!

      Deb

  • Miz.
    March 5, 2012

    Ive never ever ever ever made it through an entire episode.
    EVER
    I just cant watch…all I see is the participants NOT being set up for success later.

    • Debbish
      March 5, 2012

      True Miz. I was surprised at how frustrated I was at the teensy part of the episode I saw! I don’t remember it being QUITE so bad when I watched a couple of early series! (What’s that saying? ‘Slow and steady wins the race?!’)

      Deb

  • Karen@WaistingTime
    March 5, 2012

    I dislike a lot about that show but I admit that I am hooked. I’ve watched the past few seasons. It is sort of like any other reality soap opera where one gets caught up in the people on the show. I do hate that they set up very unrealistic expectations IMO.

    • Debbish
      March 5, 2012

      I guess if you follow the show you get favourites and want to check how they are doing. I know that’s what I was like in the first couple of seasons I watched. Mind you, you also get to dislike some of the contestants and I gather from our local media that there have been a few clashes in TBL house this season. I suspect I liked the naivety of competitors in the early years, whereas now they go into the house having watched other series and knowing what’s expected.

      As I said, I just have to remind myself that it’s a game / competition!

  • janinejackson
    March 6, 2012

    I saw that episode too and up until that point, I’d been thinking TBL was ok. I figured maybe all the insane amounts of exercise they were doing were simply helping them to shift a big chunk of inital weight. However after hearing Bec say that she does five hours of exercise a day, all I could think was – how does she find the time??? So unrealistic…..

    I wonder how long professional athletes train for each day.

    Surely slow and steady wins the race? In the long term anyway.

    Interesting that you say a former contestant admitted it’s all staged and the weigh ins aren’t weekly. It’s really sending the wrong message all round to people trying to lose weight.

    It dissapoints me that the trainers (especially Mish!) put their name to the show.

    • Debbish
      March 6, 2012

      I remember when the show first started it was seen as motivational and I know there is a Biggest Loser Club that seems to encourage some success. I don’t know if the series are just getting more desperate for viewers and sensationalistic outcomes, or if it’s always been like that and I’m more cynical (or knowledgeable/realistic?!)

      Deb

  • Jess Newman
    March 7, 2012

    This is the first season I haven’t watched, and really only because I am too preoccupied with Blogging/facebook/twitter to watch much tv at all!

    I love seeing the transformations, and I think it is a gret opportunity for people, but it’s not normal, and it’s not sustainable, and perhaps it’s not even healthy!

    Besides, who wants to lose all that weight so quickly anyway, and have all the extra stretchy skin left over?

    • Debbish
      March 7, 2012

      Completely agree Jess. I know I often see former contestants in magazines having had surgery to remove excess skin – although perhaps that happens if you have been very big… (I know I have some wobbly bits and I’ve still got a long way to go!).

      Deb

  • KCLAnderson (Karen)
    March 8, 2012

    I have never seen this show and have no desire to see it…for the same reasons many of the other commenters mentioned, but also because I find it to be manipulative and exploitative. I mean, I get that it’s up to an individual whether or not to put oneself on television, but the diet/media industry is slick and has a ton of money to spend (because it’s going to make a much bigger shit-ton of money) to hypnotize/manipulate/exploit both those who are in the show and those who watch it. Something I realized several years ago: anything done out of desperation (and it’s interesting…when you pay close attention to what is motivating you, you start to see the various shades of gray) is destined to backfire…often spectacularly.

    • Debbish
      March 8, 2012

      True Karen and I’ve meticulously avoided it at all costs after getting so frustrated at it last week (after only a glimpse!)

      Deb

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