Thursday, February 6, 2014

Thoughts on The Biggest Loser finale

After reading quite a bit about The Biggest Loser season finale, I really wanted to watch it for myself; since we don't have cable, I had to wait for it to be on Hulu. Last night, Jerry and I watched it together. I used to love the show, especially the finale, but it was after season 10 or so that I just didn't like watching anymore. I actually wasn't even going to watch this season at all, but Jerry still wanted to, so I watched with him. I wasn't really caught up in any particular contestant, though.

Anyway, the big controversy over the finale on Tuesday was about Rachel's weight. She weighed 105 pounds when she got on the scale at the finale, and all over the internet, people are saying that she looked "sickly", "too thin", "gaunt", "100 years old", "anorexic", and a whole bunch of other things. I'm not going to comment on what I thought of her appearance, because it's not for me to judge others' appearances. (By BMI standards, she is technically "underweight" now).

photo source

I just feel very, very bad for her. She was ashamed of her body when she was obese, and now, I imagine she's excited that she lost the weight; but she's getting bashed for losing too much weight. I feel awful that people are talking about her appearance as if she doesn't have feelings, or that her feelings don't matter. I know how hurtful it is when complete strangers say cruel things about you, especially online. For someone with low self-esteem, it can do some serious damage, even if the comments are well-intentioned. I imagine that in reading those comments, she probably feels like she'll never be "good enough"--she wasn't good enough when she was fat, and now she's not good enough when she's thin. That would be very hard to deal with!

All of that said, I think that The Biggest Loser definitely should make a couple of rule changes to the show. I think that a contestant should be disqualified if they become "underweight" (this has never been an issue until this season). Even better would be some sort of way to win without having to lose "the most" of anything. I don't know how it would work, but here's a thought: what if the person who is closest to goal weight wins? They could pick a healthy goal weight to aim for at the beginning of the show (something that they could reach without taking drastic measures), and whichever contestant comes closest to their particular goal weight at the end, wins.

Of course, that wouldn't be as dramatic, but I think it would solve a lot of the problems that the show has in regards to unhealthy weight loss. When I was running Ragnar Relay with Ada (from season 10), I learned a lot about the "behind the scenes" of the show. I don't know how much Ada was allowed to say, so I don't want to write about it and possibly get her in trouble; but I will say that I definitely don't believe everything I see on TV ;) Ada did say that she was fairly represented, however, as far as her story and her personality. And the overall experience for her was a good one.

photo source

Pete Thomas (from season 2) had a great experience on the show. I was thrilled to see him on the finale last night! When I met him in 2012, he played a big part in my getting back to goal weight. We had a long conversation about maintenance, and I took away a few tidbits that were enlightening to me. He hasn't gained back any of the weight he lost, and I know he works extremely hard at it. But again, he told me about a couple of contestants that had a really hard time feeling "good enough" after the show. They get used to working out for 6-8 hours a day, and then when they get home, they feel like "just" 4 hours isn't good enough. Or, they see a weight loss in double digits each week on the ranch, but at home, losing "just" 4-5 pounds a week isn't good enough.

photo source

It makes me think of the issue that I've noticed with getting too focused on the numbers: once you see a certain number on the scale, anything higher seems like "failure"; once you see a certain race time, any time slower than that feels like "failure". That's why I stopped focusing on the numbers so much, and I'm a lot happier for it. I accepted that my weight isn't the lowest it's ever been, but it's still healthy. I've accepted that running at a slower pace makes me enjoy my runs more, so it's okay not to go for PR's. I definitely feel like I'm "good enough" now, and I don't have to always keep trying to be "better". But I can certainly understand how some of the contestants feel so much pressure to keep upping the ante.

In my perfect television world, The Biggest Loser wouldn't be a contest at all--but rather, a documentation of a group of people who get together at the ranch to learn a healthy lifestyle, and reach a healthy weight. Dramatic? Not really. But certainly inspiring! And then, just like the show now, they'd go home for a few months to continue on their own, and we could see them at the "big reveal". I guess it would be a lot like Extreme Weight Loss, only with a group of people at a ranch, instead of one person at home.

I don't know if I'll watch the next season of The Biggest Loser or not. I'd like to see if the producers make any changes after the issue with Rachel (the show is getting some heat about it). I just think that there has to be a better way of doing it!

43 comments:

  1. I haven't watched that show in years. It is too unrealistic for me. I think that Rachel traded one eating disorder in for another eating disorder. I would like to see how she is doing in a few months, I think that she will put a few healthy pounds back on. I agree, anyone that is underweight should be disqualified. But it is a game and she was obviously in it to win it, and she did. It will be interesting to see if BL makes any changes next year. I much prefer to watch my 600 pound life on Tuesday nights. Oh, I loved the look on Jillians face when she saw Rachel, and Bobs too!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I feel bad for her too. I don't know why we feel we have to judge women's bodies so harshly.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "It makes me think of the issue that I've noticed with getting too focused on the numbers: once you see a certain number on the scale, anything higher seems like "failure"; once you see a certain race time, any time slower than that feels like "failure". That's why I stopped focusing on the numbers so much, and I'm a lot happier for it. I accepted that my weight isn't the lowest it's ever been, but it's still healthy. I've accepted that running at a slower pace makes me enjoy my runs more, so it's okay not to go for PR's. I definitely feel like I'm "good enough" now, and I don't have to always keep trying to be "better"."

    Um...this is totally what I wrote on my blog today. It is a great realization to know that it is ok to be good enough, just gotta get the brain to believe that. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great perspective, Katie!

    I haven't watched the finale yet, but seeing the social media maelstrom that has followed just makes me incredibly sad for Rachel. I just hope that in her post-Biggest Loser life, she gets the support she needs!

    ReplyDelete
  5. My heart aches for her. I am working on feeling "good enough" myself and I can't imagine being criticized by so many people.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I also won't comment on her appearance. I definitely was taken aback, but I also think television can be deceptive in what people actually look like/BMI is not exactly an accurate indicator of health. I say this as a short person with a lot of muscle mass who is at the top of the BMI scale, but wears a size 4. What makes me not a fan of biggest loser is their calculation of "winner." The percentage of weight loss sucks for women. I can easily see Rachel, being a former competitive swimmer, going home and doing the math and realizing the way to win $250k is to be x amount of weight. I could see myself doing the same. The amount of time to go to extremes is limited and in the end you win a life changing amount of money, why wouldn't you? What many don't consider, is the difficulty of getting out of that mindset once the achievement is reached. It's really hard to tell yourself 1 hour of exercise a day is okay when you're used to 4. I lost a lot of weight before my wedding and realized to be 5 lbs less than I am now, means I have to give up a lot of food/alcohol enjoyment in my life. The 5 lbs wasn't worth it. Katie's right. It's really hard to see the "heavier" numbers on the scale and the increased calories logged, but I have to keep reminding myself happiness doesn't equal 5 lbs lower. It's all a mindset. I would like Biggest Loser to consider tiered weigh in's. So, people under 300 lbs would compete against under 300 v. 400. This way height/gender can be taken into consideration and it encourages healthy progress without encouraging competition at all costs. I hope Rachel finds a happy medium if she hasn't already, and every contestant can fit their new lifestyle into their everyday life.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I don't watch the show. I think I've seen 1 episode of it. I just think it presents weight loss in a way that isn't good. I would like to see a better way of winning than how they do it. I just don't see that really changing though since this is a TV show.

    ReplyDelete
  8. That's a really great observation.

    She does look really thin, but I'd do it too for the huge prize money she won!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have been watching the show for several seasons now. Last night I was so shocked to see the drastic change in Rachel since the last episode (triathalon) It was frightening to see her so thin, but I don't judge her for it at all. I think the way the game is structured, this was eventually going to happen.
    I agree they should cap the weight loss at a certain BMI. Perhaps 19? Anyone who goes under 19 is disqualified.
    Even though it sounds awful for money to motivate anyone to lose so much as to risk their health, I sort of hope that's why she did it, and that she is planning to get back to a healthy BMI right away.
    I once dieted myself (starved really) down to 105 pounds as a teenager, and I know the kind of deprivation it takes to do that. The dizziness, the feeling cold all the time, no periods, no strength, tired all the time. Definitely not a healthy way to live.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Well here goes I will comment on her body because it was damn scarey and her family was cheering her on like they couldn't tell how rail thin she had become.I was afraid for her and when I saw the trainers faces I could tell they were too. when she left the ranch she was 150 pounds. the girl looked amazing, so when us followers saw this needless to say our jaws hit the floor. Sorry but it was a shock! the contestants leave the ranch and finish up, the girl went too too far

    ReplyDelete
  11. I completely agree that the competition aspect takes weight loss to a very unhealthy level. A&E did a documentary called "Heavy" (if you want to watch full episodes, they are here: http://www.aetv.com/heavy/video) , and while I still don't agree with everything they did, I appreciated their honesty about how difficult the journey is. Participants were followed for a year, and it seemed like they were using better tactics to lose weight as well.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Your assessment is spot on. I can't imagine what it must be like to be Rachel right now.

    Another thought for the show - the contestants have "support" while they are at the ranch. When they go home to do it on their own, what kind of support are they getting? Part of the rules should encourage at least one check in with an MD and one with a mental healthy professional.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I completely agree that the show needs to make some big changes. Encouraging contestants to lose so much weight that they endanger their health isn't ethical for a TV show.

    Interestingly, I'm approximately the same height and weight as Rachel, so her appearance really shouldn't have shocked me - but it did. I'm actually still recovering from ~5 years of anorexia, and I know how difficult it is to change your habits once they've become ingrained - especially once you've received praise for them ($250,000 is pretty serious positive reinforcement). Some people say she probably only did it to win the game, but even if that's true, anorexia isn't an on/off switch.

    Also, I believe there was some snippet from the show where a doctor told her she had 19% body fat. That would mean at 150 pounds, she only had 28.5 pounds of body fat - and she still lost 45 pounds more, meaning a huge amount of that had to be muscle.

    Since she has /already had/ an eating disorder (binging to get to 260 pounds) it wouldn't be that different (mentally) to be at the other end of the spectrum. In essence, I'm just heart broken for her. I know anorexia, and it's not something you can just shrug off when you're done with it.

    Even if Rachel ends up being okay, she's been losing what, 15 pounds a month? (If it's supposed to be 3 months past the end of their time on the ranch.) If she kept that up for one more month she'd be 90 pounds. Four more months and she'd be dead. I pray it doesn't happen to her, but this exposes the fact that it could happen, and the show needs to make changes to ensure that it doesn't.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I felt bad seeing Rachel; seeing the reactions from Bob and Jillian; and having my 11 year old daughter - who is chubby witness the confetti... I like your idea of contestants working with doctors & trainers to decide on a healthy goal weight and tracking their progress to get there. Imagine that cowboy coming out a 130 lbs (which is what he needed to weigh to win)... The show can't have it both ways - promoting health while encouraging weight loss at all costs... Poor Rachel.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Good comments, Katie. In my opinion, the Biggest Loser is really doing a disservice for people who need to lose lots and lots of weight--training with a trainer every single day, losing unhealthy amounts of weight in one week (17 pounds, really?!), and building hopes for unrealistic life/food choices in real life once the show is over really doesn't enable those folks for weight loss success. I think the whole thing and the obsession with it in this country is actually quite disgusting. It has enabled some folks to lose great amounts of weight, but at what cost? I agree--it should be a documentation of weight loss journeys...not a competition. Or, the competition should be put forth in a healthy way. I'm just not a big fan of the unrealistic lifestyles it gives folks without equipping them for success in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I did watch this season, and was a huge fan of Rachel's and loved seeing her become more vibrant, healthy and strong from episode to episode. I was shocked when she walked out, and it actually brought tears to my eyes. For whatever reason, she went too far, and I hope and pray the show makes some serious changes. I actually wouldn't be surprised if they padded the number on the scale - I was holding my breath pretty sure her weight would show in the double digits - and I think that "fairy dress" - so different from the skin tight dresses they put on other contestants at weigh-in - was a deliberate attempt to make her appear less gaunt. It didn't work. I hope Rachel gets the help she needs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! I never even thought about the difference in her dress versus every single other outfit that I am used to seeing in the "after" reveal. Yikes. A skintight dress would have been too shocking.

      Delete
  17. It's a given that something needs to change. I no longer watch the show myself, as I find it tacky. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I just read and article on people.com. She consumes 1600 calories a day, yet hits the gym for classes three to four times a day. Even not being a nutritionist, or a doctor, I know this isn't healthy. It's appauling the show lets things like this happen. I know it's for ratings, but what kind of image does this set for the children who watch? I'm definitely done with the Biggest Loser now.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I really like the points you made!

    I've been on my weight loss journey for 8 years now, and had heard about the show but had never watched it until this year (I only watch TV in my gym, and didn't have a way to watch "current" programing downstairs until recently). Having watched, at least I know what everyone is talking about :) I did my own write up (on the season as a whole, from someone who hasn't ever watched before). http://jenbsjourney.blogspot.com/2014/02/thoughts-on-biggest-loser.html

    ReplyDelete
  19. Several years ago the show Made from MTV "made over" a girl at the same high school that my oldest kids went to. My daughter was friends with this girl, was interviewed in the process and saw alot of the behind the scenes filming. Let's just say I no longer believe anything I see on reality shows - the only one I watch is Amazing Race, and it's just because I like to see where they go. I like your idea of just helping people get healthy at a ranch and lose weight. I would like to see the emphasis be on helping people instead of competing also.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I have been so disappointed in all the blog posts and Facebook posts/comments from people criticizing her appearance; especially from those that I know suffer/suffered with their own body image issues. Is Rachel thin? Yes. Is she too thin? Well, that's really up to her to decide - not me or anyone else. I hope these very personal and very public attacks do not send her into a downward spiral.

    As a whole, women tend to look in the mirror and degrade ourselves because we aren't society's version of perfection. And then we, as women, turn around and attack someone else for their appearance (too heavy, too thin, too muscular, wrong hair color/style, too much make up, the list goes on.). It's a double edged sword. Women hate feeling judged and attacked, yet we (general we) turn around and do the same thing to each other. A terrible cycle that I just wish would end.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I was surprised Rachel didn't appear to have loose skin on her arms and legs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was too. She's really young though and hasn't been stretched out by pregnancy - I'm sure that helps. And she's 24…and at 19 was still a swimmer athlete. So she put on a lot of weight in a relatively short amount of time and didn't carry it for all THAT long. I think conditions were in her favor for her skin to snap back pretty well.

      Delete
    2. There is a contestant from the Australia show that said they tape up all the contestants to the max with gaffer tape to make sure loose skin and bulges don't show. Anything to maintain the illusion I guess.

      Delete
  22. Whether someone thinks Rachel is now too thin or not - who cares. But I sincerely doubt Rachel has the strength and stamina she had when she was on the ranch. Do you think she could run that Sochi luge are win now? Finish that triathlon? I can't imagine she'd excel at any physical challenge in her current state. And that is a shame.
    As for how The Biggest Loser could/should tweak their protocol for selecting a winner - maybe measuring contestants in a BodPod rather than a scale, so body fat is the key factor and not just overall weightloss.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Spot on, Katie. I hope the show's finale causes the producers to do some major soul searching and that Rachel is able to learn to live with a healthy balance. Although I like that shows like the Biggest Loser encourage people to take control and strive to be healthier, I think their methods are all wrong. Learning to manage our weight is not a competition or something that should eclipse everything in our lives. The most unfortunate thing is that the casualties of programs like these are human beings (who often have serious issues to begin with) and their physical and emotional health both as a result of the excessive nature of what they do and the flak they get from the public.

    ReplyDelete
  24. This is a great perspective. Your thoughts on being a "failure" really hit home. I'm still struggling with my thought process regarding food. And guilt is in there. I posted two posts regarding this on my blog and someone said that I needed help in other areas of my life. I disagreed with that. I think people who struggle with weight and food have a lot of thoughts regarding numbers, food, etc. And those thoughts can vary widely. For example I feel guilty when I eat something "bad". I think that's common.

    In anycase, I feel very sorry for Rachel. It's bad if she's fat. It's bad if she's skinny. I don't like looking at BMI. That's put people with muscle in a higher category. I think it's an unfair calculator. That being said I think Rachel will put some lbs on. I can't say that if I had done the math (to see what I had to lose to win) I wouldn't have done the same thing. I think it's totally unfair to imply that she has anorexia. I've seen people (family members) be able to shed weight really quickly with some amazing willpower. They may do it for a wedding or vacation. They got really skinny and I'm sure people thought they were anorexic. But then they put it back on. I'm not saying that's healthy or that it's "right'. But I'm not sure it's fair to say it's anorexia. I think she played the game. I think she's getting some backlash. But I think it would be better if people supported her. She needs support right now to find her healthy body. I fully believe that she will and I hope we get to see that. I think BL should have a male and female category. It's really hard for women to win, even though they do. Rachel wouldn't have won if she didn't lose some serious lbs at home. {hugs} to Rachel cause I can't imagine how difficult this is.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Great post! I think it's really too soon to tell much about Rachel. I thought at first she looked way too thin but then again she had a chance to win $250,000 and made sure she did everything in her power to win that money. If I was in that situation I would do the same, for myself and my family. I hope she doesn't have or develop an eating disorder. I really do think she just wanted to win and now that she has, I hope she finds a happy balance. A lot of people seem to forget that it is a competition.

    ReplyDelete
  26. BTW, I wanted Jennifer to win. As a mom with two daughters, one who is over weight, I related so much to her. I cried when I watched the finale and she said she was so proud of her family and her daughter had lost 30 lbs.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I've never watched a season of the show (maybe an episode here or there), so I'm not even sure exactly how it works. What I see from the pictures are only before and after. Yes, she lost a ton of weight. She also did it with a ton of help (that's the idea, right, they help you gain the tools you need to get healthy?). BMI is a bogus number. 105 at 5'4" describes a lot of real life people. Most of the winners hit an all-time low when they have their final weigh-in by design. (I never watched the show but I've read a book by one of the winners...whose name I can't remember right now). So if she gains even 5lbs back she's good. Why is a size 4 ok but a size 2 not?

    There's another blog I read - Undressed Skeleton - about a young girl who went from morbidly obese to really thin and she's super healthy! (BTW - do NOT Google Undressed Skeleton to find her...you'll regret it!). She actually reminds me a lot of this year's TBL winner in the way she looks. Her name is TaraLynn if you're interested. My point is - she's real-life, not reality TV and her stats are similar. Folks are jumping all over this poor girl, Rachel, and all they know of her are what the producers of a show want you to know. I hope she just stays true to who she is and the number on the scale (or the ratings) be damned.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry, but are you serious about this? Taralynn admitted to starving herself to lose her weight. That's healthy? Scroll down here--she changed her screen name but the quotes were locked when the thread was looked due to pro-anorexia posting:
      http://caloriecount.about.com/forums/maintaining/losing-weight-maintaining-binge-starve-cycle

      She flat out admits to limiting her intake to 200 calories then trying to work her way up to 600. That is not healthy.

      Delete
  28. I think she was massively dehydrated for the final weigh in, which made her look more gaunt. I'd like to see her two weeks from now, after she's had time to eat/drink at maintenance.

    I think TBL would be a healthier show if they made the prize money about maintenance....give contestants 6 months to lose weight, then check back with them a year later. And monitor them throughout that year to make sure they don't yo-yo the entire time. The person who learns new habits and maintains their new, healthy weight = Winner!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I totally agree with you on TBL, she pretty much had to lose that much weight to win, and who wouldn't want to win?! That's a lot of money!!! I didn't watch the show or the finale, but I saw the before/after pictures, and really, she is no thinner than all the models in the beauty magazines, where is the outcry about that?! I have a feeling she will put on some healthy weight now that she has won, at least I hope so.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Very well said. I think that she may have gone too far, but there is a lot of pressure for them to lose the weight so they can win the money. I know having that huge prize over my head would probably cause me to take extreme measures to lose the most. I remember the year Helen won and people said she got too thin too. Afterwards she gained a little back and has been able to happily maintain it. I hope that happens with Rachel. I hope she can find a nice, healthy, comfortable spot to maintain for the rest of her life.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I would love to have the resources the contestants on The Biggest Loser have... Though the money would be amazing, I think just having a personal trainer and nutritionist and time away from everyone and everything to just concentrate on getting healthy would be an amazing experience. I stopped watching the show a long time ago because I realized how unrealistic it is... I say this in the sense that, no one really has the time to workout like they do on the show... I am at work 9 hours a day and then I go home and cook, work on my house, and unwind before bed. The MAX I could probably fit into one day is two hours.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Very well said. I feel the same way. I am interested to see how this plays out both for Rachel and for the show in the coming seasons. Thanks for being fair and taking her feelings into consideration. Often it's very easy for others to be critical and forget that their criticism is going to affect an actual individual.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I have read several commentaries on this, and this is the best one I have read! You have some great points here.

    ReplyDelete
  34. V and I have been watching The Biggest Loser his entire life. I haven't been as into it the last few years, but watched it because V was wanting to. This finale made me think this is not the show for a 6yo to watch. I do feel bad for her and everything said about her. Because if I were her, and there was $250k on the line, I would have done everything too.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I only ever watched one season (I think it was the season before this). So I've missed a bunch. I think the rule abotu being underweight is a good one though. Overall, the show was just too overproduced for my tastes. It also focused way too much on the numbers and sheer weight loss instead of healthy lifestyle changes. I like that it can inspire people, but it also might give them an unrealistic expectation of what their weightloss should look like.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Very well written and classy on your part. There has been a lot of very rude stuff out there about poor Rachel on the internet - mostly, I think the structure of the show, like you pointed out, needs to be adjusted. I still love to watch and I think it's very inspiring, but as many have noted, who wouldn't go nuts like that to win $250k? That's a HUGE motivator. Hoping Rachel achieves a healthy balance - I was gunning for her since day 1.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I love this, Katie. I think you've really summed it up nicely. My comment to people has been that I sincerely hope she got that small to win the money and that she will get to a healthy/happy place soon. If she does have a problem I hope she is able to get the help she needs before it's too late.
    I know there's a lot of behind the scenes we don't get to see and I'm sure the contestants have a lot of adjusting to do when they get home. In my mind they are all successful and I truly hope they make life long changes for the better.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Love this! I very much agree about the "good enough" thoughts - and I fear I fall into that trap. thanks for reminding me to look at other things and not just numbers!

    ReplyDelete

I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)