The Biggest Loser is a TV reality show on which people who really do weigh a lot more than is healthy compete to lose weight. They do this on teams. There are various challenges. There are charismatic trainers. And, of course, because it is a TV reality show, individuals can get tossed off the show either because of poor performance (not losing enough weight) or by getting voted off.
An interesting and entirely inappropriate trend has developed on this show.
Individuals decide that they should leave the show while others must stay. They accomplish this by gaining, rather than losing, pounds. The show is about brave people in an uphill battle doing amazing things, except for when the strategy dictated by the rules of the show lead individuals to gain weight on a show about losing weight, add fat in a contest to lose fat, do something unhealthy on a show about being more healthy. Older contestants say the youngsters are like their children, and thus are willing to sacrifice themselves by adding fat. Sometimes it is actual parents giving up their own position on the show for their actual children. Two twins tried to save each other’s place on the show (both failed successfully, somehow). At some point, it became a matter of guilt. If you did not go along with some plan to save one or more other contestant by putting weight on rather than taking it off, then you were a bad person.
I call bullshit at two levels. First, on the individual level, this should be rather obvious. There are a lot of reasons a person is two or three hundred pounds over their “healthy” weight, but one of them is liking to eat pie a lot more than liking to get some exercise. (I oversimplify.1) There are other reasons, but that is one of them. I’m sorry, but when I see a bunch of people who for thirty years have preferred pie over running and doing jumping jacks competing with each other to see who gets to NOT lose weight in a given week to “save” the others, I’m thinking …. well, I won’t say it because someone will likely get mad at me. So I’m not going to say it. You already know what I’m thinking.
Second, there is the level of the game itself, the show, and their rules. This show … The Biggest Loser … is about saving people’s lives. People who are morbidly obese (or, as a TV news caster once said “morbidly overbese”) may need to lose dozens and dozens of pounds to save their own lives. “Eliminating” people from a game like this is not just a matter of drama or show. It is a matter of health. It may even be a matter of life and death. But, I’m sure the marketing drones at the network that puts this show on insist on elimination because of some survey they’ve done.
That whole situation may change the first time a “Biggest Loser” loser, a person voted off or sent home by the rules, dies of a heart attack. Frankly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet. Well, I think they should change the rules first. Stop voting people off. Just make losing more weight a very very desirable goal. Like everybody gets a car. A small car (more incentive!).
Writing this blog post was a lot of work. I feel weak. I think I need a piece of pie.2
1And when I say I “oversimplify” I’m trying to give you a pointer to the fact that the problems people who end up weighing two or three hundred pounds or more than they probably should are not about liking pie. See comments below in which people scream at me. They make important points.
2Disarming reference to my own inadequacy.