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Old 10-20-2004, 01:25 PM   #1  
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Default The Biggest Loser TV show.. Did anyone watch?

The first episode in this latest reality show aired last night. The Biggest Loser is about 12 obese people that compete for $250,000, and the one that loses the most weight wins. They live together, exercise and eat together. They are divided into two groups, and work as a group effort. The group that loses the least amount of weight each week has to cast out a member.

The first thing I noticed was that they played on the typical stereotype of the obese eater as a glutton. They tempted the group with piles of pancakes and sausages. They showed tables of food that the individuals had eaten before and it contained stacks of doughnuts, platters of pasta and fried foods, large cakes, etc.

They assigned a personal trainer to each group, and the show focused on the grueling exercise routines that looked practically impossible for an overweight person to accomplish. I was in shock watching these out of shape, very obese and unhealthy people being forced to pull cars, do a few hours of cardio a day, and exercise until they puked. Remember, they were beginners! I kept waiting for the EMS to arrive.

The entire program was more visual, they never included weight loss tips, explained healthy heating choices, touched on emotional eating, or discuss health at all. One woman was crying because she didn't know what she was supposed to be eating. She had counted her calories and had consumed less than 600 calories that day and said that couldn't be enough. I'm assuming they still fed her more food that day, but they should have explained it to the viewers.

At the end of the show, they had the weigh-in. The person that lost the least had lost 5 pounds in the week. She weighed 175 to start with, so in the REAL world, that was an outstanding loss! Others weighed well over 200lbs, at least one weighed over 300, and the largest weighed over 400 lbs. The biggest loser lost 22 lbs in one week, many of the others lost between 10 and 15 lbs. The narrator never mentioned that this was mostly water weight, so the public was left with an unrealistic expectation of weight loss. No one said that the safe rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 lbs per weight. No one said that an initial quick weight loss is almost always regained. It was like Las Vegas, where big flashing numbers were most impressive.

By the end of the program, I was left with the impression that you can lose huge chunks of weight in a week. All you have to do is consume less than 600 calories per day, exercise all day long, until you vomit, and you don't need nutritional guidance. I think they will be posting the diet plans and routines on their site in the future, so I hope they will be more complete. Most people just see what was on the tv show, and since they chose to leave out details and advice, then we were left with a very unhealthy message.

I didn't know what to expect from the show, because the commercials didn't explain the details. I never expected to be so mortified.

Did anyone else see it? What was your opinion?
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Old 10-20-2004, 04:34 PM   #2  
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Hey Suzanne,

I watched a bit too (my BF flicked between that and the Yankees/Red Sox game). First of all due to the differences in weight I thought it would have been better to do it as a percentage rather than pounds lost. But I guess lbs lost makes much better TV.

Secondly, I thought it put way too much emphasis on pounds lost instead of changes in lifestyle. Most people can lose weight in a controlled environment (retreat, camp for obese children etc), but what about at home? It would have been better to have gone and done a make-over of everyone's kitchen and learn a bit why they got overweight and what changes they feel they need to make.

I know they cut a lot out I am sure so we can't really see what happened, but as I have learned lbs lost isn't as important as the process of losing weight. Realistically most of us can't do 3-4 hours of exercise a day.

I hope they taught them coping mechanisms and what not for the real world.

I must give credit to Caroline Rhea who told the girl that losing one lb a week, let alone 5 lbs in one week is fabulous. When I started WW four years ago at 243.4lbs I lost 3lbs my first week (6 the next), We're all different.


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Old 10-20-2004, 04:46 PM   #3  
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I meant to watch and I forgot. I would've missed the first 15 minutes anyway, because I didn't get home from Pilates until 8:15 pm, and Jim was watching Seabiscuit. Ah well, maybe I'll remember next week...
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Old 10-20-2004, 06:13 PM   #4  
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Default I watched...

I watched the show last night, too... I also didn't know what to expect, so I went in hoping it would be something *positive* for people trying to lose weight, but came away quite mortified.

Yeah, if I had 8 hours a day to exercise until I'm sick, I'd lose weight, too, but I'd gain it all back as soon as I left. And the temptations were incredibly stereotypical. They never touched on the fact that it's not always "temptations" that do us in as much as it's unhealthy eating habits and routines -- how much and when, not necessarily what. One character started to talk about that in one scene, but he was off-camera and the scene shifted really quickly.

Also, the heaviest woman was only 242 pounds, whereas the men were heavier, and I thought that was a bit of pandering, too. If there's a 436 pound man, why not a woman with as much weight to lose, too? (Could be they couldn't find a really heavy woman to do it, but who knows... I'd have probably done it and I'm 295 lbs.)

Toward the end, I realized it was definitely shifting from them working to change their lifestyles and eating habits as much as to win the money. I'm afraid they'll start sabotaging people and voting off those who lose the most weight to give themselves a better shot at the money... they're starting to look sneakier...

I'll probably watch one or two more episodes.. but it really does seem like a huge gimmick. I have to admit that I'm disappointed, but not very surprised.
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Old 10-20-2004, 06:39 PM   #5  
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I watched it and while I will continue to watch it because I am a reality TV junkie I had the same thoughts as you all.

I felt for the "contestants" while the woman trainer pushed and pushed and pushed them. I even remarked to my husband, one of them is going to have a heart attack! Obviously the trainer has never been obese and cannot even begin to imagine how hard it is for someone of size to do what she is pushing them to do. I felt the male trainer had much more compasion for his team.

I had hoped and still do hope they focus on what they are eating to lose weight and how they are exercising rather than the "drama" that is usually focused on in these shows.

I did go to the website this morning looking to see if they give more information there about their dieting and exercise program, but it just says "coming soon".
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Old 10-20-2004, 06:57 PM   #6  
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I watched the show last night, and found it very similar to "Survivor" in the format. A few things that bothered me:
-Forcing unfit, unconditioned people into intense physical activity on the very first day. I noticed that a woman had her knee taped on the second day, and I noticed another woman looked like she had blood pulled from both arms
-People were forced to lose too much weight too soon. Nineteen and twenty two pounds in one week? Couldn't that cause kidney damage?
-People feeling disappointed about their weight loss and/or mocking that of others, thinking that they should have lost more weight. For example, the 40 yr old man who remarked that he lost more weight than the 400+ guy, "And he's twice as big as me."
-How will the contestants cope once they go back to the "real world" where the food isn't prepared, and they don't have five hours a day to work out until they hurl
-Just the overall sensationalization of another "reality program".
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Old 10-20-2004, 07:14 PM   #7  
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I couldn't watch it. The idea of using overweight people as a form of entertainment just seemed wrong to me. I probably would have cried through the whole thing because I would probably see too many parallels to my own life. So many times in life I would have jumped at anything if it would only help me lose weight, so I can't blame these people for trying, even if the half the world is watching.
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Old 10-20-2004, 07:25 PM   #8  
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Did anyone else get the impression that they didn't know about the money? I wonder what they thought they were there for.
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Old 10-20-2004, 08:08 PM   #9  
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I had the impression they didn't know how much money, but surely they were told there would be a prize?

I had hoped it would have been like the Body Challenge on the Discovery Channel. Did anyone watch that? They really do a good job teaching the participants (and viewers) about healthy eating and going at a reasonable and safe pace. The Biggest Loser was a big joke.
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Old 10-20-2004, 08:43 PM   #10  
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I watched it. I was actually pretty excited when I saw the previews, I thought ok, this will be cool since I am dieting as well. I thought perhaps seeing others go thru this and actually lose weight would make me feel motivated.

Although the show was interesting, I agree that they were really pushing these people much harder then I think was medically safe. If that trainer woman got in my face like that I would probably have said a few choice words and ran off to find the Twinkees. Seriously I was concerned about the pulling of the car as well.

When the show was over I felt a bit depressed. Some of these people had lost 20 pounds in a week and it had taken me a month to lose that much. Of course I hadnt been beaten into submission by a personal trainer for 5 hours a day.

I am not so sure if this show is a good example of the weight loss struggle, but it will probably make for good television.


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Old 10-20-2004, 11:11 PM   #11  
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I know they claimed the contestants are being monitored by doctors, but even so I can't imagine it's EVER a good idea to lose 22 pounds in one week!! It was sending a very bad message to viewers, and was setting unrealistic expectations about what is possible if you "apply yourself." I was imagining people who have never been heavy looking at me on the street and saying to themselves, "well if she REALLY tried, she could drop 22 pounds by next Friday like I saw on Biggest Loser! She must just be lazy..."

On future episodes, what extremes will they go to to lose unrealistic amounts of weight every week? One guy mentioned that the gal they let go "was never going to be able to drop 10 pounds a week" so they needed to cut her loose. I was also very concerned that someone was going to go into cardiac arrest during the workouts. Since when is puking a good indication of an effective workout?

Lastly, I thought it was totally degrading to make them strip down to almost nothing for their first weigh in on national television. They looked so embarrassed, trying in vain to cover their exposed fat with their hands and arms. When one of the ladies began to cry I nearly cried along with her knowing the producers were intentionally humiliating her because it made for good TV.
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Old 10-21-2004, 08:48 AM   #12  
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Sally Squires of the Washington Post (she writes the Lean Plate Club column) wrote about the show this week and made a lot of the same points that all of you are making:
Reality TV Check
By Sally Squires

Tuesday, October 19, 2004; Page HE01

If you want to see the emotional and physical toll that diets, deprivation and being pushed to physical extremes can take -- and we don't blame you if you don't -- tune in to "The Biggest Loser," the newest reality television show.

In tonight's episode, a dozen desperate obese men and women begin a personal weight-loss odyssey on NBC. "I don't take my shirt off for my family, I can't believe that I'm doing this on national television," one participant laments as the group lines up for the first of their regular public weigh-ins on a humongous scale.

Over nine shows, viewers will watch as two teams of three men and three women (weighing a little more than 1,500 pounds per team at the beginning) live together on a ranch in Malibu. Rather than consider what weight loss plan might work best for every individual, the script calls for each team to be assigned to one of two diets. Both limit portions. One regimen is based on the glycemic index -- which takes into account how much a food raises blood sugar levels. The other focuses on eating six small meals per day.

Two personal trainers with nearly opposite philosophies put the would-be losers through physical paces so grueling (at least during the first show) that it reduces some to tears. One contestant vomits.

Oh, yes, and hovering in the background are glass-fronted refrigerators, labeled with each contestant's name and filled with their favorite high-calorie foods. The team that loses less weight each week must vote a member off the show. The last remaining contestant will win a $250,000 prize.

And what do leading weight-loss experts think about this exercise?

"Very humiliating," said Albert Stunkard, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and a pioneer in the study of obesity.

"Both cruel and counterproductive," said Xavier Pi-Sunyer, director of the New York Obesity Research Center, St. Luke-Roosevelt Hospital, chairman of the National Institutes of Health Obesity Guidelines panel and a member of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Committee.

"Competition may be a benefit to some people, but it's not a benefit when it damages self-esteem," said Thomas A. Wadden, director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania. "If you slip up, you can feel doubly bad because you're letting down the team."

Having said all that, a few things can be learned from this show:

Don't try this at home. The artificial lose-as-much-as-possible-in-a-week philosophy violates a major tenet of healthy habit change, the premise upon which the Lean Plate Club is built. The way to achieve long-term weight loss is to change habits for good, not to sprint to see how much weight you can lose under pressure.

As David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, likes to say: "You can lose weight with chemotherapy and crack cocaine, but would you want to?"

Also, some of the contestants lost 10 or more pounds in a week -- far more than the half-pound to two pounds per week considered a safe rate, experts say. (And don't be fooled: Rapid and large drops in weight are due mostly to diuresis -- water loss.)

Go ahead, compete -- but within limits. Jump-starting your efforts with a small dose of good-natured competition may provide some extra motivation toward a healthier weight, according to Stunkard. Just be sure there are limits -- say, a pound per week per person -- so that no one gets too carried away and tries crash diets or fasting.

Reality check: Competition gives no lasting edge in long-term weight-loss success. "It's good for initial weight loss, but when people are pushed for longer [periods], they don't maintain it," Stunkard said. "And if they don't lose [enough] weight, it adds to their shame and failure," Wadden said. "It triggers those feelings of thinking 'I have no willpower. I'm not successful. Look how I've let people down again.' ''

Get a physical exam. Participants in "The Biggest Loser" not only underwent physical exams prior to the show but also were monitored regularly during the tapings by two physicians. Experts say physical exams are particularly important if you've either got a lot of weight to lose or haven't had a recent checkup. Gallstones and irregular heartbeats are two potential weight-loss complications for those who are obese or who try to lose weight too rapidly.

An electrocardiogram, which monitors heartbeats, is one of the essential tests used by many clinic-based weight loss programs. Obese people who lose weight rapidly "need an EKG once a week," Pi-Sunyer said. Those who lose about a pound per week need an EKG every four to six weeks to monitor heart rate and be sure that no electrical abnormalities have developed, he said. That's something that most commercial weight-loss programs and diet books fail to recommend.

Find support. Stunkard has organized weight-loss contests pitting individuals or teams against each other at work sites. Both men and women lost more weight and stuck with their weight-loss efforts longer when they were part of a team, Stunkard found. (Dropout rates were just 1 percent during 12-week work site contests.) So if you can't get a team going at your office or within your extended family, find a buddy to help support your efforts. In a recent Lean Plate Club Web chat, a member from Michigan noted that she uses the Web to stay in contact with her exercise buddy in another state. The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports ( offers a free tool to enable you to set up your own password-protected fitness group -- and to pursue a presidential medal if you choose.

Take charge. Participants in the show were told what diets to use and when and how to exercise. Research suggests that any diet will help you lose weight in the short run. If you want to sustain that loss, you have to find the healthy foods and physical activity that you like best. If you don't, the habit changes won't last.

Plan to avoid temptation. To reflect the many choices in real life, "The Biggest Loser" puts participants' favorite high-calorie foods within reach, beginning with breakfast tables laden with platters of bacon, sausage and pancakes as well as fruit and whole grain cereals. "It's very important for the viewer not to say, 'You put me on a ranch for 70 days, get me a trainer and I will lose weight too,' " said Dave Broome, an executive producer of the show. "So we made a show about choices." But most research suggests that it's important to surround yourself with good choices and to step away from the foods that are likely to trigger overeating.

Ratchet up physical activity slowly. Lean Plate Club members already know that it takes eating less and moving more to succeed in achieving a healthier weight. "Biggest Loser" participants get a minimum of two hours of exercise in the morning and two hours in the evening -- about four times what the National Academy of Sciences says is important for weight loss maintenance and eight times what the U.S. Surgeon General recommends on most days.Those four hours per day are unsustainable for most people in the real world. Also, going from an extremely sedentary lifestyle to that much activity overnight took a toll on participants, who complained of extremely sore muscles. So go ahead, boost physical activity to burn calories and stay in shape, but go slowly. Be sure to get instructional help as needed on weight machines and with other equipment. Aim for about 30 to 60 minutes of activity on most days, including so-called "lifestyle" exercises such as taking the stairs.

Be accountable. "The Biggest Loser" requires participants to publicly weigh themselves on a huge scale. Average Joes and Janes don't need to go that extreme, but finding a way to be accountable in some fashion is a good thing, studies suggest. Regular weigh-ins are also a key part of the Weight Watchers program. Members of the National Weight Control Registry -- a group of several thousand "successful losers" who have shed at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least three years -- report monitoring their weight in some fashion. Various online communities, including SparkPeople and E-diets, provide it, too. So climb on the scale, check your body fat or measure your waistline -- whatever it takes to track your progress of instilling healthy habits and, if you choose, to be accountable about them to others.

Oh, one final thing: Limit your time in front of the tube. Research shows that it's linked to an increased body weight.

New To The Club? The Lean Plate Club is devoted to healthful eating and boosting activity. To learn more, and subscribe to our free e-newsletter, visit
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Old 10-21-2004, 02:45 PM   #13  
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Well...ya know...if I REALLY wanted to watch it, I probably could've turned the channel. After all, we do OWN the Seabiscuit DVD, so we could watch it anytime.

With the current Reality Show craze (you can say it started with Survivor in 2000 or Cops in 1989/1990...Jim and I had a debate about that recently - I say 2000 because there's a DIFFERENCE between following law enforcement officers during their normal course of business and manufacturing situations to put contestants in, which is what these shows are - they're basically mega-game-shows IMO) one quote comes immediately to mind - first written by Harry Mencken:

"No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."
That being said...this show being on 1) a major network and 2) in prime time means, to me, that it's not going to be the same as the Discovery Health Body Challenge which I considered mostly educational from a cable network which is geared mostly towards science and education (notwithstanding that Discovery Network's most popular show is probably American Chopper ) or Dr. Phil's Weight Loss Challenge of last season, which was pretty much a even blend of education and entertainment. Nope, NBC is going to go down the same path as The Biggest Loser's predecessors, such as Extreme Makeover, The Swan, and others of that ilk. Their main concern is RATINGS and VIEWERS. And I'm sure that negative reviews and comments on the Internet don't really concern NBC...after all, they're going for the Average American Viewer. Hearing about people exercising until they vomit, being pushed by a seemingly sadistic trainer, and clear glass refrigerators filled with the contestant's favorite foods, only makes Average Viewer curious to watch and see what all the fuss is about. (In fact, the comments about the fridge scene remind me of an interesting scene in one of the first Dr Phil shows, in which the Weight Loss Challengers who wake up early are given money and driven to the grocery store to stock up the kitchen of the LA mansion they're staying in - without being told WHAT to buy - and they end up buying Doritos, ice cream, candy, and other junk food, to add to the crap that was already in the house. Later, some of the other Challengers decide to follow Key 3 of Dr. Phil's book "creating a no-fail environment" and throw out all the crap food. Needless to say, several of the others were QUITE UPSET over the junk food being tossed!)

Therefore, when I first saw the commercials about "The Biggest Loser", I wasn't expecting anything more than I would from any other 'staged reality' show, and from the comments that I've read here and elsewhere, the show was exactly what I expected. I'm sure that the contestants who applied to be on the show were VERY aware of what could be in for them as well - I'm sure they signed a detailed contract that at least gave them a modicum of what to expect, not to mention that they had probably seen similar reality shows...I don't think anyone *forced* the contestants to be on the show. As far as the vomiting and mega-boot-camp like training, well...I didn't SEE the show, but I do wonder how much editing was involved to make it look as though they were exercising beyond their maximum for hours on end. The show website does have a prominent disclaimer stating "Our contestants were supervised by doctors while participating in the show, and their diet and exercise regimen was tailored to their medical status and their specific needs. Consult with your own doctor before embarking on any diet or exercise program" and the editors of the show basically took a week's worth of film and boiled it down to 45 minutes' worth of content - which of course was geared towards sensationalism and RATINGS. The more sensational, the more controversial, the more people will watch and the higher the ratings, and that's the bottom line here.

Summing up - it's an individual decision - if you don't want to watch it, don't - I do agree it sounds pretty tasteless, but that's apparently what America wants these days - "Staged Reality shows". It doesn't do any good to start online petitions or drives to stop the show - that was attempted last year with The Swan - a show I probably wouldn't have even HEARD of until the first People Magazine cover article, except for the fact that I read about it on the 'Net from outraged folks trying to stop the show - and now look, it's in its second season, and I heard that thousands of applications were received from women who were VERY eager to participate. (I was watching the news this morning while on the elliptical, and saw the commercial for the new season - I don't know if I would take ANY amount of free plastic surgery in exchange for being seen in commercials shaving my chin as one of the 'Swans' is doing in the teaser...)

Looks like Harry Mencken was right!

I'm just wondering how much longer the 'reality show' thing will go on. All I know is, I'm glad I have a lot of movie channels.
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Old 10-21-2004, 07:43 PM   #14  
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Meg -- Great article!!

Karen -- What can I say that was so well said Chickie! .... I have also OFTEN wondered how long the "reality craze" will go on, I suppose as long as we watch it will go on... *I* am one of those pathetic watchers, OYE !!!
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Old 12-15-2004, 01:13 PM   #15  
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I was just wondering now that the show has been on for several weeks if any of you who have posted have continued watching and if you have if you have changed your opinion. There have been a few times where the trainer is sitting down with her team and talking about calories and making better choices in the 'real' world. Also they are not exercising 8 hours a day. From the information I have seen on the nbc websitie it looks like they are doing about 3-4 hours. Finally I want to comment about the statements about obese people doing heavy workouts. Most of these people probably don't have anything wrong with them medically or physically other than them being overweight. The oldest one I think was late 40's or early 50's and somehow I can't see the network allowing someone who was a heart attack waiting to happen to even be on the show in the first place. Why can't they do workouts? The trainers are experienced professionals and know how far to push these people. They need to be pushed or they aren't going to lose any weight. I think we all know that we need to motivate ourselves and push ourselves to accomplish anything in life. These people need to know that they are capable of doing the same workouts as anyone else otherwise they are just going to sit down and think that because of their fat that they can't do anything.

Anyway I really like this show, I think it has done a lot to show that overweight people don't need to resort to surgery or crazy diets to lose weight. These people are watching their diets and exercising and they are all losing weight.
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