The Biggest Loser - Winning by Losing For discussion of the NBC tv show The Biggest Loser and the book Winning by Losing, by Jillian Michaels

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Old 05-07-2009, 06:44 AM   #1  
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Default Is anyone else bothered by final challenge? (spoilers)

** warning - spoilers below **

Maybe it's just me, but I think asking the final 4 contestants to complete a full marathon distance wasn't fair to them. I'm a runner, I've done a full marathon, and I KNOW how long and hard that is. And I trained for months, and I wasn't significantly overweight!!

Sure, they had individual support teams and there was no time limit, unlike a real event. And they had been training vigorously for weeks, so their baseline fitness was certainly much higher than before. But, expecting them to ramp up training for a full marathon distance in 4 weeks, is begging for an overuse injury IMO -- and that is exactly what happened to Mike. He showed all of the signs of either hip bursitis or IT band inflammation, brought on by ramping mileage up too quickly.

I'm totally impressed that everyone did make it in the end. Especially Ron!! But, at what cost? Ron could have stroked out (systolic BP was over 200 at one point!!) and the mileage certainly didn't do his bum knee any good. Mike has an overuse injury that could take weeks to resolve. It made for good TV, but I don't think it was necessarily good for the contestants.

So ... I'm thrilled that they made it, but a little torqued at the producers for making them do it. How many people are going to look at that challenge and think that they can go out and run a marathon with 4 weeks of "training" ?? And hurt themselves in the process ....

Is it just me ??
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Old 05-07-2009, 08:01 AM   #2  
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I do agree with you. Don't most people train for about 1 year before running a marathon. I understand their motivation to give the contestants confidence in their athletic ability but at what cost!
Even on the Ranch I think they sometimes do things that put people at risk for injury. For instance, in the beginning of the season when Jillian jumped on Jerry's wife's back (can't think of her name) That woman was like 60 years old. I am only 43 but that would have put my back out for sure.

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Old 05-07-2009, 11:06 AM   #3  
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I don't watch the show anymore as it really seems to have become more 'leering' is the best word I can think of. I'm afraid that they'll keep doing these things until they kill someone. As it doesn't look like injury is enough to make them rethink it. I stopped watching it because I don't really think that the people involved really like the obese. It's like everything is okay because they deserve the abuse. idk, maybe it's just me.
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Old 05-07-2009, 11:23 AM   #4  
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I have to agree. They push way too hard. One gal got a hip fracture this season and then Mike injured his hip. I was shocked to see them running Max at over 400 pounds. That is so not right for his joints. He was complaining about his feet hurting - also very susceptible to injury. I used to walk 10K's and those were very hard on my feet, knees and hip. I am skeptical that Ron was really able to do 26 miles. As far as Jillian jumping on someone's back, I don't think I could take that. I probably would have flung her off. That is just ridiculous and unnecessary.
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Old 05-07-2009, 11:57 AM   #5  
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I stopped watching it because I don't really think that the people involved really like the obese. It's like everything is okay because they deserve the abuse. idk, maybe it's just me.
It's not just you thinking this stuff. I will admit to being obsessed by the show because it enables me to see average people who aren't like the usual population on TV shows learning how to become athletes & to become comfortable in a gym setting which, to a lifelong obese person, was often the site of lasting childhood trauma. Also, I'll admit that Jillian just plain fascinates me as a strong female role model.

But my liking for the show is often a guilty pleasure because I think the show, for all the uplift it professes to offer, really agrees with all the moral judgments made against the obese & that it believes that obesity is grotesque & disgusting. The camera angles glory in the excess flesh (but not in a celebratory way) & invite us to agree that these people are freaks. Never more so than in a recent episode where we were invited to contemplate the contestants' bulging stomachs in profile. Or whenever they showed the contestant Ron shirtless during the weigh-ins, or showed shots of a contestant visiting her morbidly obese father during an at-home segment.

There's a strong whiff of sanctimoniousness about the whole project. It has a religious redemptive arc. It implies these people were **bad** people before they saw the error of their sinful, slothful ways & repented. And that when the show ends, they are "better" people. It not only tracks the characters' weight loss, it examines their behavior & asks us to pass judgment on whether they are too into gamesmanship or manipulation to win. Nearly all the discussions I read involve viewers saying how much they like or dislike certain contestants & these discussions are not about weight loss, they are about the contestants morals & worth as human beings. The biggest question coming up again & again: Are they selfish? Are they lazy? Are they kind to others? Are they evil?

The way to win seems not just to lose the most weight, it's to become the "nicest" & the "kindest." Viewers seem to be looking for role models who are also moral compasses as well as having smaller *sses.

I just hate the equation of fat = imperfect, sinful & damaged while thin & athletic = improved, redeemed, somehow BETTER. Not just healthier. But more deserving of our admiration for their inner beings, which have somehow also been improved. So apparently if you're fat & you haven't been on the show & gone through the process, you are a lesser being.

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Old 05-07-2009, 12:20 PM   #6  
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Originally Posted by RealCdn View Post
I'm afraid that they'll keep doing these things until they kill someone... I stopped watching it because I don't really think that the people involved really like the obese. It's like everything is okay because they deserve the abuse. idk, maybe it's just me.
Definitely, not just you. I also stopped watchng the show for the same reasons. I've been tempted, but haven't watched a single episode of this season. All of the reality shows (they don't reflect reality, so I prefer the term unscripted), have an air of the gladiators' arena. It almost seems like the producers feel that death would only add to the excitement for the audience. Every year has to "top" the previous, by getting more extreme and more dangerous. I know the contestants sign their life away in term of releases, but I still feel that watching does make me an accomplice in any injury, illness, or death that would result, so I had to finally "just say no."
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Old 05-07-2009, 12:30 PM   #7  
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I've watched nearly the entire season and it wasn't until the marathon that I thought the show went a little too far. Yet, I really think Tara was up to it, but not all the contestants are at a point in their journey were it was safe. Ron should have never been given the option, he's gilt riddled about his kids, and didn't want to let them down. Lets not forget that the contestants knew what they are getting themselves into. I am sure they signed liability wavers up one side and down the other and many have mentioned watching other seasons.

As for leering, that's what reality TV is all about, and I am all for shameless inspiration.

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Old 05-07-2009, 01:52 PM   #8  
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I was reading an article on TBL and it was interesting about the original concept. The producers wanted to keep the competition "respectful" to the competitors, but the network wanted ratings.
I read that one of the first challenges the network wanted to do on the show was to divide the competitors into two teams, and take the largest member of each team, DUNK HIM OR HER IN CHOCOLATE, and have the team members THROW MARSHMALLOWS. Whichever team had the member to whom the MOST MARSHMALLOWS STUCK TO THEIR BODY would win the challenge! And the phonecalls home...Now THAT'S entertainment...Apparently the trainers and producers complained and refused to do it, which is why the challenges are physically based and relatively non-humiliating...


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Old 05-07-2009, 02:32 PM   #9  
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Originally Posted by Reddalice View Post
Lets not forget that the contestants knew what they are getting themselves into. I am sure they signed liability wavers up one side and down the other and many have mentioned watching other seasons.
As for leering, that's what reality TV is all about, and I am all for shameless inspiration.
Jillian has given some pretty blunt interviews about how miserable this season has been for her. She has said that the contestants come in now with a sense of entitlement and they're jaded. They've seen 6 seasons ahead of them and many of them know how to play the game. That's how you get a Vicky or a Ron going so far. Jillian mentioned one contestant this season came in asking how to get an agent. And, let's face it, if you win, or even if you don't and enough people and companies like you, you can end up famous like Ali Vincent and have your picture plastered everywhere. Lots of them end up with motivational speaker gigs or brand new jobs. They become the "face" or the "voice" of something.

I do agree some of the workouts and challenges seem extreme. But then I have to wonder. They have a doctor there. They have the medics there. Jerry Hayes passed out the first day having done next to nothing and the medic was there to catch him. Dr. H approved Ron going back to the game after his surgery but he basically told Laura not to move for 3 months. Kristin and Laura both were excused from several challenges because of medical reasons. I think some last minute finagling was done last season to send Jerry Skeabach home but allow his daughter, Colleen to stay. I think to myself, stuff seems pretty extreme but the medical professionals go along with it, so what do I know? When Laura got hurt, Dr H made a remark that that is what can happen when you workout at a professional level. But these guys aren't pros. He didn't prohibit Ron from the marathon; Ron said Dr. H left it up to him. Sometimes I wonder how much Dr. H is influenced by the producers or the network.

I do think the show is scripted and edited far more than is let on...some scenes are just too "convenient" to have just spontaneously happened. Certain qualities of people are exaggerated (that whole Ron as the godfather with music spoof); certain information is omitted to create a false impression (like maybe the fact that Ed didn't gain 2 pounds at the end on purpose last season but got filled with fluids while he was hospitalized with a hernia!). One editor this season has admitted Helen's "villainy" has been played up. But Helen is also fond of saying "look at me, look at what I can do!"

I agree with Jillian that the show has been on long enough now that the contestants have a pretty good idea of what to expect and how to play. I also suspect a big part of her negotiating about whether to return next season was to make some changes with regard to how much gameplay the producers/network are interjecting (i.e., the switching of trainers earlier this season she called a disaster).

I think there is mutual and consentual (to a degree) exploitation between the show and the contestants. I say "to a degree" because I think some of the contestants may be surprised by the editing--what's exaggerated, what's left out, etc.--and how the context of things can be altered just by cutting stuff out or replaying certain things. For instance, they may fight or talk smack about each other and you see that but you don't see them being best buddies the rest of the week. Mark from Season 5 said the show wanted to create agitation among the players early on and also that he exaggerated some of his own traits.

Not to say that people can't find inspiration in it or have some positive results from it (whether as a contestant or a viewer) but, ultimately, I think it has to be taken for exactly what it is: "Reality." "Game." "Show."
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Old 05-07-2009, 03:03 PM   #10  
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Originally Posted by trekkiegirl View Post
Not to say that people can't find inspiration in it or have some positive results from it (whether as a contestant or a viewer) but, ultimately, I think it has to be taken for exactly what it is: "Reality." "Game." "Show."
I agree with you trekkiegirl, but I worry about those that don't take it for what it is. I watch it because I do find it to be inspiring a lot of the time - I see the contestants work out SO hard, and confront some very real psychological barriers. I watch and think to myself - if they can push hard, so can I! And it helps keep me going too.

But, this last challenge is another example of how the "show" can promote entirely unrealistic expectations for the average person. Lose 10 pounds in a week! Lose 100 pounds in 4 months! Run a marathon in 30 days or less!

Well, sure, maybe you CAN with all of the support provided by the show, but certainly the rest of us can't live like that. And it certainly isn't the most healthy way OR the way proven to be most effective for long term success. And you DON'T go out and tackle a marathon with only a few weeks of training!!

I don't know. I still like the show, and I will probably still watch it. But I think the whole "go run a marathon" thing was pushing things a bit too far for me. Where in the world will they go next to "push the limits" ?? Let's go climb Mt Everest?
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Old 05-08-2009, 11:46 AM   #11  
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I agree that the marathon was overkill.

However, they also showed this week just how much harder it is to lose weight at home. Tara worked out 6 hours per day sometimes and still only lost 10 lbs. in a month once home. That is a GREAT 1 month weight loss and all but it isn't unreplicable by the average person. I liked that they showed how much more difficult it is to lose when you have a life to live.

And while I agreed with what Jillian was telling them (Tara and Helen) about balance, it kind of doesn't work if they're competing for $250,000, you know?

Finally, I wonder what (if any) support the show provides to contestants after the season ends to help them transition into a 'normal' life and maintenance routine. The whole way the weight is lost isn't 'normal' but extreme. To go from extreme overeating to extreme exercise and nutrition doesn't really teach them anything about a sustainable lifestyle. I wonder if they do anything to help them figure out what balance actually is?

I like the show and will continue to watch. Still, I agree they are starting to push too hard for numbers which are too big and that's not good for the contestants.
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Old 05-09-2009, 12:13 AM   #12  
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As silly as it may seem, I am also obsessed with the show because, I guess, I'm interested in the process of weight loss and how to go from obese to a state of fitness and this show illustrates many points for me.

I feel they have medical personnel monitoring them intensely from the outset. I agree with a previous poster about how Jerry passed out at the beginning having done really nothing to warrant that (nothing against him, he WAS very unfit so next to nothing was a lot for him, plus stress, I guess). The medicoes are right there ready to move in on them at all times.

I do think Jilllian seems to go too far jumping on people and humiliating them, etc., although some of that may be editing.

Re Ron at the marathon, he WAS guilt ridden and that's why he allowed himself to almost die (I thought) to finish that, but that was a choice he made. He seems very self-aware and capable of making his own decisions (as well as having a tendency to make decisions for others, he's strong willed). He was carefully monitored during that whole incident and supported to the inth degree in either deciding to quit, in which case they'd probably have transported him to the hospital or to be supported to finish the event and maybe they should not have let him but, why not, if that was important to him?

I personally don't feel the people (other than my aforementioned statement about Jillian sometimes) are humiliated or made to feel somehow bad by the producers for profit. It IS not a good thing, IMO, to be as obese as these contestants, putting themselves at risk for extreme health problems and decreased enjoyment of life.

They seem to have reached that decision by themselves, lining up in hopes of getting on there (I have seen one of the audition events the show puts on, the line snaked through the mall and out along the sidewalk and people waited for hours to get a chance).

There is a prize of $250,000, along with other valuable prizes, plus a paid vacation of sorts in which they are allowed to focus entirely on their own health and weight loss journeys. Their relatives are paid a stipend.

And at the end of the day, if they don't like it there or don't want to do something, I don't see any way anyone could make them do it.

Btw, it is really easy to injure a hip just walking in everyday life at Mike or Laura's original weight.

It's also easy for thin runners and other exercisers to get such injuries. I've had them but sometimes I think, well, it's better than sitting in a rocking chair for the rest of my life.

Last edited by Amarantha2; 05-09-2009 at 12:15 AM.
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Old 05-10-2009, 05:05 PM   #13  
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Originally Posted by Janga View Post
Their relatives are paid a stipend.
Is this really true? I didn't know this. I always wondered how they managed to be away from work for 4 to 6 months.
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Old 05-10-2009, 06:11 PM   #14  
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I thought the marathon was way too over-the-top as well, people have DIED on marathon courses. I just read in a running magazine that the classic individual who dies during a marathon is a middle-aged man who, at autopsy shows coronary heart disease and hardening of the arteries. Organizers of these events also acknowledge that if you have 5,000 participants in a race, you run about a 5% chance of sudden cardiac death. I wonder how those statistics change given the condition of these contestants... I would imagine they've been medically checked up the wazoo, but still, just given where they came from mere months before, I'd be hard-pressed to force them into an event of such magnitude. "People should respect the amount of training involved and the ways in which it's going to impact their bodies." Another quote I read, and I agree, a marathon is a massive undertaking and shouldn't be taken lightly and I think the producers did take it too far.
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Old 05-10-2009, 07:45 PM   #15  
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I think that RUNNING a marathon is completely over the top. But to complete the distance on one's own two legs with no time limit and no requirement to run is, for these contestants who have been training 6-odd hours a day for months, is NOT over the top. It WOULD be unreasonable if they had to do this in week 1 or 2.

There was a full medical staff going along with them, and there was a cash award for a charity and not for the contestant. And there was no other "incentive" to continue. Also, don't forget that Ron continued but it may have been that the editing made his medical check perhaps more dramatic than it was. You can be sure that the producers err on the side of caution medically-speaking because there would be no END of trouble if something serious were to happen.

So, YES one must respect RUNNING a marathon within a timeframe. BUT the distance, at one's own pace, with a full medical team to follow you, isn't insurmountable if you have the history of training that these competitors have. And way more physically demanding things have been done by individuals with less physical training.


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