I've been hearing a lot of negativity lately surrounding the TV show "The Biggest Loser" in which contestants compete for a cash prize to see who can have the highest percentage of weight loss in a specified amount of time.
My cousin calls it a freak show. My chiropractor said she wondered what other nations of the starving world must think of America having a program where obese people compete to lose weight. I never looked at it that way and can see both of these points.
Then I saw it discussed on the "Joy Behar Show" where a fitness guru said it created unrealistic expectations for the overweight who watch the show and that it was unsafe and may one day cause a heart attack to happen on camera. This is debatable. There is close medical supervision on the show.
My feeling is that those who criticize never fully watch the show. They may see clips of it or previews but unless they experience the whole season, they have no clue what is going on.
My conclusion, after watching the last three seasons, is that it is the most uplifting show on TV. An episode does not go by where I am not touched or moved to tears. It is genuine. I don't respond to fake emotions.
It is the only reality series I know where the "game" players are booted out first (when they fall below the yellow line of course) and the contestants are often in agony over having to vote out their friends and fellow warriors.
There is something going on here that is much deeper than a "competitive" reality series. The winner is usually one who gets that the winning is not about the money but about changing their life.
What inspires me from the first show on is seeing these obese players (some over 400 lbs.) working out with their demanding trainers, Bob and Jillian, and competing in challenges that normal sized athletes would have trouble completing. Through the season we see a gradual transformation of the players that is not just physical but emotional, mental, and spiritual as well.
This season I am in love with O'Neal Hampton (who unfortunately just got voted off the show this week. I haven't watched it yet as I am waiting for it to come On Demand). He was there with his daughter, Sunshine. The love they share is deep and inspiring. He is a 51 year old African American man with a bum knee and big heart that gave all that he had. The first show O'Neal and Sunshine were eliminated by finishing in the bottom two in a stationary bike competition. Then they were told they had a chance to come back in a month and weigh in with the other losing team to see who would be allowed back on the show. Father and daughter won with an impressive weight loss at home on their own.
Once back on the ranch they both became an inspiration to the other team members by their drive and determination and closeness. One week O'Neal won a challenge for a car and he gave it to Sunshine. Last week was a tough one in that O'Neal fell in a challenge and re-injured his knee. This caused a last place finish and a one pound disadvantage for him at the next weigh-in. He still lost 8 pounds to stay another week at the ranch.
In addition to these troubles, his older brother died of cancer and he never got to say goodbye. Bob was a sympathetic listener and he suggested that O'Neal have a boxing session with Jillian to help get out his frustration and sadness. He did and later when Jillian was working with him on a bike machine he lost it. Usually Jillian is known for her drill instructor barking orders, but in this instance she was solemn, only gently touching O'Neal's head as he let out his feelings. Then when they went for a walk he melted, sobbing in her arms. I could so relate because I lost my younger sister to cancer two years ago. I was bawling.
This show is about real life with all its ups and downs. It proves that overweight folks are not freaks but human beings with the same issues we all have: low self worth, addictions (in this case food), laziness, and depression. But by overcoming these weaknesses they show us that they also possess the higher aspects of the human spirit: bravery, determination, commitment, love, support, and hard work.
This season every contestant was initially weighed in front of a home town crowd. That takes true courage. They all made pledges to lose the weight and become a more healthy person. They are by all accounts succeeding.
In a sense, obesity is symptomatic of our society as a whole; representing consumerism, fat cats, sloth, greed, fast food diets, and a sedentary lifestyle of computers, video games, and cable TV. "The Biggest Loser" may be our wake up call as it can be transformative not just for the individual contestants but for our society at large (pun intended). By teaching us anything is possible with a strong will, support, and belief in oneself, it is an inspiring show that anyone can relate to, even if you don't weigh 400 pounds.