I would have missed "The Biggest Loser: Where Are They Now?" special if I didn't have a DVR. I had heard a while ago that something like this was coming up, but then I sort of forgot about it, and hadn't seen a lot of promos for it.
Luckily "The Biggest Loser" loves to do reruns, so you can probably catch it if you missed it. Sometimes they show up on The Fine Living Network about a week after they air on NBC, and Bravo also does reruns. For this reason, I won't do too many spoilers of the surprises, just give a few hints.
It was interesting to hear Dr. H. talk about starting the show. He said they didn't know whether they could take people who had never exercised and put them on an intense exercise routine, "We knew that professional athletes could work out like this, but they had been fit all of their lives." To me, that is the most impressive thing about "The Biggest Loser," that they are able to take people who don't think of themselves as able to work out and turn them into athletes. And besides the people who have been on the show, there have been lots of people who see the show and have started their own fitness programs.
I have to hand it to the show's producers. They didn't cherry-pick their successes and only show people who had maintained at or near their lowest weights. A few people were able to maintain at low weights, but they worked very hard to do it. I noticed that the magic number for a lot of maintainers seemed to be around 160 -- even if they had dropped more than that for the show to compete for prizes, this was where they "lived their lives." And even though some people might not think of that as success, I do. The contestants were able to live happy, active lives that were realistic for them. You could see a real light in a lot of their eyes that wasn't an act put on for the special. I think that was an important message to get across to people watching at home -- that you don't have to look like a fitness model to be a success.
The show focused on all kinds of successes. There were some segments highlighting some of the romances in the contestants' lives, and even weddings, including those who met on-screen (Matt & Suzy) and off (Neil). Several of the contestants have also competed in races, sometimes in big groups. I was especially teary-eyed to see the clip about Matt's Ironman race. Many are now working as fitness trainers, touring as motivational speakers, or volunteering to help spread what they learned to other people in their communities. Some talked about feeling better-equipped to do their jobs and take care of their families. Ali has written a book, which I plan to read and review at some point.
As I said, the special didn't shy away from talking about contestants who are struggling. Matt and Suzy talked about the weight they've regained, and how they want to turn it around so they can be good examples for their kids. They still seem to be keeping pretty active (especially Matt), but they admit that it's a lot harder in the real world than it was on the ranch. Bob also pays a visit to a contestant won the "Biggest Loser" title but who's regained most of his weight and talks to him about how he can turn it around. What I liked is that when this contestant said he was reluctant to go back to "the strict life," Bob said he shouldn't, that he needs to find a lifestyle he can live with day-to-day instead. At first glance, it actually seems to be better to be an also-ran on "The Biggest Loser" than the winner: Three out of seven of the winners (Ryan, Matt, and Eric) have regained a sig nificant amount of the weight they lost. But the other four, including the three women who won (Ali, Michelle, Helen, and Bill), seem to have maintained pretty close to their finale weights. I think it may come down to what motivated them to lose. I didn't see Season One, but Matt and Eric both seemed to be really motivated by the competitive aspect of it all. Ali, Jim, and Michelle seemed to focus more on changing their lives. Helen is sort of a hybrid.
One of my favorite segments was seeing Mike from last season looking like a fit, happy college kid. He and Ron seem to be doing fine, and better yet, Mike's brother Max got a chance to go to the spa at Fitness Ridge over the summer and has lost some significant weight. I was always sad for him because he saw his dad and brother go away and come back fitter, and he was left out of it all. It was great to see him getting some help to get started. They didn't say that the show had sent him, but my guess is that he got to go either free or at a reduced rate as part of a trial of the new "Biggest Loser" branded spa experience, since he appears in the commercials for it.
I'm sort of sad to know that Jillian was in Michigan twice and she didn't come visit me. Doesn't she know I'm her biggest fan? But of course, if she came here, she might want to work out with me, and I know she'd crush me like a bug.
I really thought the special did a good job of both showing the challenges of losing and maintaining weight while still showing that it is possible to change your life. Though a "Biggest Loser" program wouldn't be realistic for people to do in the real world, I think the show can help us all see that our limits probably aren't anywhere near where we think they are. That doesn't just have to mean weight loss -- I liked that the special showed people living their dreams in all kinds of different ways. The message of the show is to figure out what you really want, and then do whatever it takes to get it.