Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Watching reruns of The Biggest Loser

I originally got a streaming-only subscription to Netflix to see "Downton Abbey." Then I got hooked on "30 Rock." Then it was "Mad Men." Then I realized I had never watched the very first season of "The Biggest Loser."

My husband and I just finished watching that first season, and I thought I'd share some of my thoughts for other TBL fans. The first thing I noticed was that the show was incredibly low-budget that first season. There were not standard weigh-in clothes. Contestants seem to have brought most of their own clothes with them.

 The contestants seemed to be a rag-tag bunch of people the producers had hanging around. They had everyone from 400-pound Maurice to a couple of women who were only in the 170s. One guy was a television writer, so he may actually have worked for NBC and volunteered for the project. In later versions of the show, they seemed to standardize so that the contestants looked more similar at the beginning, with only one or two contestants who were much larger or smaller than the average. Weight losses were smaller too.

 Many of the conventions, like "LAST CHANCE WORKOUT!" didn't really take hold until later. It was actually nice to see a more organic version of the show. There were no integrations, either (those in-show commercials) and repetition, so the shorter shows actually felt like they had more substance. With a little less polish, the show was more touching. It was obvious that everyone was surprised that they were able to do so much. The yellow line didn't appear until the end of Season One, and "percentage of weight lost" as the measuring stick did not appear until Season Two. This meant that smaller contestants were at a huge disadvantage, and that contestants were also free to vote off anyone they wanted. There was a little more gameplay because of this -- contestants were as likely to be sent home for losing too much as for losing too little. Alliances were very important in determining who stayed and who went.

 Temptation food was everywhere. In later seasons, I don't remember seeing piles of donuts and candy on the coffee tables in front of the contestants, but there was gorgeous and tempting food everywhere in the first season. Contestants seemed to be really good at ignoring it, too.

 The contestant, Maurice, who most vocally opted out of the low-intensity cardio "homework" that contestants are supposed to do on their own was the one who under-performed the most on the scale. He was great at the strength training, but at 400 pounds he lost less than some of the smaller contestants. It was funny watching the show and knowing both that [name] was the winner and that he has since regained most of his weight. He seemed so happy and confident on the show that it's hard to believe that he had so much trouble later. He came across as a real leader on the show, and his ability to control the game was what made him the winner. He said in interviews that he was very motivated by the money, but I also read that he had a new job and became the father of twin girls not long after he left the show.

I think that the show is such a protective bubble for some of the contestants that they don't learn how to juggle their other responsibilities and maintain their self-care rituals. It may also be that the contestants who were most motivated by money used some unhealthy techniques to get rid of the final pounds, which sabotaged them for the long run.

 I know that there are a lot of valid criticisms of the show, but I still find it incredibly motivating to watch and see people on television pushing themselves physically and learning to deal with temptation. I plan to watch the new season when it comes out, and might even resume my reviews.


  1. Loved this... I am with you, I knooooow there is so much wrong with the show but I still find it so motivating to watch! I started watching Season 1 via some dodgy website but gave up on it coz it just looked so rusty and the "most pounds lost" thing drove me bonkers. I really hope Season 14 improves on the debacle of the last one, I really miss that dose of inspiration! And if you do your reviews again, even better! Season 7 and 11 were my faves ;)

  2. Me again, how timely was your post today with the news of the return of the J-Meister, can you believe it?

  3. First, what is the J-Meister?

    I am very glad you mentioned this because I am not sure I have see the first two seasons.

    I hope you will continue your reviews also, I really enjoy having somewhere to talk about the show and appreciate your insight.

  4. Found Jillian Michaels return inJanuary article. I don't think they will be able to make lasting changes to kids lives unless they work with the parents/family. Most of the time if you look at the family, it is easy to see what happened to the patterning of the kids. Can make differences when the kids are removed from the house, but pretty hard for the changes to stick when/if they go back home. Many TBL contestants totally change their lives (jobs, move, etc) in order to break their old cycles after the ranch. A kid does not usually have that type of power. They might not even be able to change the groceries brought into the house. Have you ever watched Wellspring academy/Too Fat For 15 and looked at enabling/codependency of parents?

  5. I love that I got the big announcement only because an Aussie living in Scotland commented on my blog. I have been busy all day and only now see the news. I will be curious to see the new format and I will be excited to see Jillian on TV again.

  6. I have a link to this post coming in one of my posts this week. Would you consider taking the name of the winner out of your post (you can leave the sentence talking about regain, just omit the name if you would) in case other people want to watch the season and don't know the outcome. I am now watching it myself, but I did know the winner, so no spoiler.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07