the real biggest loser

Wow. Just wow. That’s really all I can muster after what I’ve seen and read in the past 24 hours as a result of the latest The Biggest Loser finale. 

I haven’t really watched much of this season. I used to be pretty vigilant about reserving that time slot (usually after my Tuesday night Zumba class, coincidentally) to tune in to see the ‘amazing transformations’ of individuals who started a weight loss journey in sunny California.

Maybe I was naive then. I mean, I gathered from the measurements and discussions these folks were having with the show’s physician that they were considered morbidly obese the day they stepped on the ranch. Then, their numbers began to fall (most often, consistently) over the course of the show. I don’t even know how long a season typically lasts, but I would assume it was close to three months. At any rate, I was always excited to see the finale to obsess over and the results of their efforts at the final weigh-in.

Over time, I began to see where the franchise became just that. Product placement was almost overpowering and it seemed the show would go to any length to make sure we all knew just how desperate these folks were to drop the weight. Anyone care to run so hard on their first day at the gym that they throw up, or maybe fall off the treadmill because they literally can’t keep up? Yeah, that’s en-ter-tain-ment?

Fast-forward to this latest edition. I had seen a few minutes of one episode where a former competitive swimmer completed and won the show’s triathlon. She looked incredibly strong crossing the finish line and I loved that that she declared she was getting her life back. That had to feel amazing.

What I wasn’t expecting was the finale. The last three competitors come through a rising door that initially displays a photo of their former selves. When that same triathlete walked through, my heart sank. I don’t know if that’s me judging what I saw or not, but that’s just truth. I felt so sad not so much because of her appearance, but because she seemed unhealthy, scattered, deprived. But that was just my perception.

I went to Twitter to see if I was the only one feeling ‘off’ about the results. I definitely was not. And today, social media and the blogosphere have blown up. I’ve seen many comments expressing concern; others calling this woman ‘sickly’ or ‘too thin’; and yet others calling for a boycott of the show.

This hits so close to home for me because I’ve spent so much of my time allowing my entire day to revolve around a number I see on the scale. Shoot, these people had their number plastered on their shirts when the season started. But that number doesn’t define them. Nor does it define me. It’s just a number. It also bothers me that I used to view this show as input for health and fitness advice. Yeah, I totally was naive. This show is about restriction and deprivation (or excess, in sick twists) and UNrealistic transformations.

What I’ve learned by following real trainers and real nutrition advocates is that none of what the show represents is going to make most of us any healthier. Are there folks who would be considered overweight medically, yet considered healthy otherwise? Yes. Are there others who could be considered underweight or ‘too thin’ by medical or society’s standards and still be healthy? Yes. And what if, just what if, we all just gave ourselves a little grace and sought health in our own way and when we got to where we felt comfortable, we just accepted it. I know, crazy.

So, at the end of the day, Rachel ‘won’ The Biggest Loser. To be completely honest, I’m not surprised at all that she won. The girl was born a competitor. And if she’s happy, then I can be happy for her. No judgment. But, despite the 60% body weight loss she can claim, she isn’t actually the biggest loser. This show is. And I’m done watching. I’ll stick to much more realistic tales, like The Bachelor thankyaverymuch.


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