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Biggest Loser / Weight Does Not Equal Health
Last night was the finale of The Biggest Loser Season 9. This is a show that I’m relatively disappointed in myself for watching, but the same thing happens every season:
- NBC announces the contestants, I try to ignore things
- Flipping through channels some random Tuesday night, I stumble upon the show and watch for 5-10 minutes, turning things off when excessive crying and/or excessive in-show-advertising gets to me
- Every week from that point forward, I tune in to more & more of the show.
- Eventually, I find myself rooting for individuals, and nearly tearing up when the contestants turn on the water works.
However, I have a real love/hate relationship with this show. As somebody who has struggled with his weight all of his adult life, I know that weight does not equal health. I’ve likely weighed more than 320 pounds at two points in my life (before my senior year of college & two-years after graduating college). I’ve weighed as “little” as 170 pounds (about 4 months after getting married). Anytime I know what my weight is, I obsess about it. I’ve written about not wanting to know my weight before, and I’m sure that I’ll write about it again.
I can tell you that I’m healthier right now, with a bit of a middle about me, than I was at my lowest weight. Weight does not equal health – my blood pressure is lower these days. I have more stamina in just about everything. I’m not obsessing about calorie count & I think I’m in a better place, mentally. Still, though, at the beginning of The Biggest Loser, reducing weight is certainly the most important thing toward the general health of the contestants.
So, I watch the show, I tell myself that everybody is way too obsessed about weight, marvel at what the trainers are able to get out of the contestants (they’re best friends, witch doctors, interrogators, and torturers all in one), wish that they’d start a “moderate loser” because I’d totally kick ass on that show (you put me on “the ranch” for a month, away from work, and I’ll come back ripped), and get angry at the end when the biggest person who started ends up winning. See, the weight-loss is truly remarkable for everybody — but, there are people who simply don’t have much fat to lose at the end of the game. I really feel badly for them – because try as you might, if you don’t have fat to lose, you can’t lose weight & be healthy about it. Organs weigh what they weigh. Bones weigh what they weigh (and, if you lose bone weight, you’re either an amputee or you’re undergoing osteoporosis). If you don’t have excess fat, good on you – but they should make a contingency in the competition for anybody who gets down to x% body fat, give those people a big-ass check, allow them to continue getting TV time, but get them out of the competition. I’d much rather see calculations of VO2MAX for people once they get to that place, rather than just a scale reading.
With all of that said, this season’s winner lost the equivalent of what I think I weigh, which is pretty fucking impressive. To lose the equivalent weight of a tall, overweight, runner/cyclist? That’s a jaw-dropping achievement.
Speaking of scales, the scale on Biggest Loser pisses me the fuck off. I know it’s there to create drama, but grrrrrrrr….
So, in conclusion, I really think they should do more to encourage health by putting less focus on weight on The Biggest Loser (yes, I know it takes a very simple formula and makes it complicated), but they suck me in every season, and they certainly do more good than harm for the individual competitors. Though, as this season proved, when you’re not on “the ranch”, living day-to-day and being healthy is a lot more difficult. I really hope they’ll have a full season of just “follow-up” visits to previous contestants . . . I think it’s important for people who struggle with weight/health issues to see familiar faces & the issues those people are dealing with. I was incredibly fat and I lost a lot of weight, to the point where I was incredibly skinny. Trying to maintain, I put in a lot of weight . . . that “loser” part is only the start to a healthy lifestyle. Let’s concentrate on the “living” part, too.