Why Try Out for Biggest Loser?

I’m at a disadvantage here, because I haven’t watched the show.*   I’ve had people suggest I try out for the show — often as small talk, but also as an “OMG you’d be great on The Biggest Loser!”

(The latter I remember clearly, since it was from my boss.  I asked if she really thought I should quit my job, because if so we should talk.  She said, “Oh no!  No no no!”  I guess she thought they did filming on weekends or something…?)

These articles suggest it’s about people who’ve had diets and weight loss surgeries fail, who are so desperate to be thin that they’ll quit their job if necessary to go on the show.  They probably don’t have the sort of mobility issues that Heidi had when she had her WLS , if they plan to do the workouts** — but I could be wrong.

But there’s also people who are unemployed, perhaps at lose ends, thinking that losing weight (and, perhaps, a bit of fame?) will help them get a job.   There’s always been people who decide to try stand-up comedy or writing a novel or auditioning for theater jobs or starting a blog or, yes, trying out for a reality show when they’re disatisfied with life.   The Biggest Loser also ties into the health/weightloss obsession – but it’s not just about weight loss. I think. Anyone else care to speculate?


*This is not exactly a specific dis of The Biggest Loser.  I don’t watch much TV in general.

**Reportedly The Biggest Loser does do various medical tests prior to accepting contestants.

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44 thoughts on “Why Try Out for Biggest Loser?

  1. I’ve never seen the show, either. But, I have a friend who has had several people at her gym tell her she’d be perfect for Biggest Loser. For some reason I find that very funny, because presumably they think she’d be “perfect” because, even though she’s very fat, she’s also healthy and happy and works out regularly and is just a fun person. And yet you’d think if they’d stop and think for a minute, they’d realize, “Hmm, if this woman is already exercising regularly, seems to be happy and healthy, and is fun to be around, maybe she’s just fine the way she is.”

  2. Why is the Biggest Loser so popular? A big part of it is the weight-loss aspect, but I think another part is the sheer voyeurism of watching someone go through strenuous trials and tribulations. I think that it makes people feel better about themselves to see someone who they feel is worse off than them.

    You say the Biggest Loser does medical tests before the show but perhaps they need to do ongoing tests during the show. One season winner admitted that he was starving himself and peeing blood. How healthy is that?

    • You say the Biggest Loser does medical tests before the show but perhaps they need to do ongoing tests during the show.

      I found that in a news article — not anything connected to the show’s “how to audition” information. So, no idea.

  3. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a show called the Biggest Winner? We could follow BBW and BHM living large and happy lives in a culture that has declared war on them?

    We could subtitle it “Portraits of Enormous Courage”

  4. I’ve been told so many times I should try out for the show.

    The number one reason they give me? “Because you’re SO healthy you could do all that stuff and not collapse and you’d totally win!”

    Thanks. And because you’re single you should totally go on one of those dating shows so they can air your dirty laundry all over the tv! No? Why not? Too embarrassing? Oh…ok…yeah, but me rocking out a treadmill on NATIONAL TV is totally not so the at-home audience can ridicule me? No.

    Well gosh, consider me schooled. Bah, humbug.

  5. I actually did try out for The Biggest Loser, and obviously didn’t make it.

    The reasoning I gave on my blog is that I wanted to be on TV, and I cannot sing or dance, and will not eat bugs, but I am fat, so this is the only show I was qualified for.

    But I do think it was deeper than that. The show offers you a chance to become socially acceptable, because the only socially acceptable fatty is one who actively trying to lose weight.

  6. I actually did try out for The Biggest Loser, and obviously didn’t make it.

    The reasoning I gave on my blog is that I wanted to be on TV, and I cannot sing or dance, and will not eat bugs, but I am fat, so this is the only show I was qualified for.

    But I do think it was deeper than that. The show offers you a chance to become socially acceptable, because the only socially acceptable fatty is one who actively trying to lose weight.

    • Bianca, maybe you didn’t display enough self hatred to satisfy the producers? (yes, that was snark) It seems like contestants can’t just be fat. They have to be fat and self hating, and convinced that weight loss is what they need to CHANGE THEIR LIVES!!!!

      Bah.

    • I don’t know. Everybody I know who likes the show is overweight and wants to lose weight. I think people love the idea that, if they could just really commit to exercising a lot and dieting, they’d lose massive amounts of weight and live happily every after.

  7. The Biggest Loser…..gak. It seems to “other” people into some category of desperation and a willingness to do whatever they are told without argument.

    First off, the exploitation of the desperate nature of those contestants is so over the top that I avert my eyes. The scenes I have seen in bits and pieces often show women and men bent and contorted in various exercise positions, sweaty armpits and crotches, and most of them screaming out in pain and anger. Their tears, fear, and frustrations seeping out of every pore in their body.

    Additionally, TBL doesn’t even BEGIN to address the differences that are very present in each person’s body and they way they metabolize food, burn energy, and lose weight. The big weigh in at the end of the show never addresses that truth and only serves to shame those who’s bodies have clung tightly to each pound they possess.

    This show seems to be so full of the flawed science being spewed by the media that no one…and I mean no one will ever be able to sustain the 4+ hours of exercise and low calorie eating they do on that show. It’s another reality show that doesn’t have a firm grasp of reality, in my opinion. It is grounded in false assumptions, suspended belief systems, and stereotypes that only work to perpetuate the mythology that society as a whole accepts as truth.

    All of these contestants, I am sure, are hoping to live a “normal” life when they apply and start the show. The truth is their life will never be normal again, if they try to sustain the activities and eating patterns they had while on the show. There will be hunger, and injury, and relationships, and work, and kids, and crises, and LIFE influencing the time they need to exercise, plan meals, and rest adequately.

    But what do I know?

    • YES on the flawed science! I have several personal trainer friends who want to pull their hair out when people carry on about “Man, I only lost a kilo and I’ve been exercising three times a week! That dude on the biggest loser lost seven!”

  8. A fat mole infiltrating “The Biggest Loser”? Sounds very interesting.

    With the revelations that one contestant was peeing blood and starving himself, and that some contestants regain the weight because they can’t keep up the unrealistic lifestyle they led on the show, you would think maybe NBC would issue a cease and assist order. Unfortunately, the show draws too many ratings from viewers who keep buying into the diet mantra.

  9. I’ve read several articles that mention that a large portion of the contestants have gained back significant amounts.

    I was asked to participate on the show. I don’t care for the show, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider it. Once I read the waivers, I opted out. No way I’m going to kill myself for entertainment, while the network reaps millions and won’t pay for any injuries or health issues that may arise due to participation on the show.

    • I considered it as well, but more because I would love to quit my job and exercise for a couple of hours every day. Of course, I would also like to be able to eat cookies, so you see my dilemma.

      • If I were going to quit my job and exercise for a few hours a day, I’d follow Springsteen on tour. Fly to new city; sightsee (walk) a few hours in the afternoon; dance a couple hours every night. What’s not to love? Okay, besides the cost! ;)

  10. Lots of reasons NOT to get involved with this disaster. But the main one? Well, that would be the one they keep harping on as a reason to ‘Join the Team!’ *Que; uber-perky cheering squad with blazing white teeth* That would be HEALTH!

    It is not and will never be healthy to lose as much weight, in as little time as most of these contestants are ‘encouraged’ to on this show. Especially when combined with the endurance style work-out schedule they try so desperately to portray as normal. These people are destroying their metabolisms, putting way too much strain on muscles and tendons far too quickly, and, quite possibly damaging themselves internally. Contestants have admitted to dehydrating themselves to the point of collapse and over-exercising so much that they start seeing blood in their urine. Older participants frequently drop out due to injury from pushing themselves too hard too quickly and it’s usually portrayed as ‘Oh, that’s to bad! Your gonna miss out on such a great opportunity!’ Then it’s C-ya! On to the next drama-powered Money Shot. Yeah, this sounds SO healthy. As for follow-up? How many seasons has this show been on? How many of it’s former contestants have managed to remain thin(ner)? *Que.; crickets*

    Probably the ONLY reasons they haven’t had a serious injury or near fatality yet is because the producers were smart enough to realize that kind of bad press would probably kill the show. Lots of Dr’s and EMT’s on THAT set I can assure you. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking it has anything to do with actual concern for the contestants. If there was any of that, the show wouldn’t exist in the first place.

    • You know, this is really such a salient point. One thing I actually really like about dealing with pro athletes is that most of them are NOT confused on the point about what is and isn’t healthy. They’re jobs are NOT healthy. They’re often on the verge of illness or injury (or on the road back from same). They don’t kid themselves that the workout schedule, the insane diets, the ‘cutting weight’, the cortisone shots, pain killers or EPOs are for their health… NONE of it is for “health”. It’s to win. It’s to get the big payday. People on the outside might think they’re healthy, but for the most part, they know better.

      I don’t begrudge them the insane demands of their jobs or the big rewards that come with it, anymore than I do mountain climbers or movie stars or test pilots. It’s only when the bizarre requirements of their extreme professions are held up as a reasonable guide for the rest of us that I call bull shit.

  11. Man, that is a pretty offensive thing to say. “Hey, I assume that you hate yourself! You should take three months out of your life to be humiliated on television. It’ll be awesome!”

    I wonder if she recommends her employees go on Supernanny and World’s Dirtiest Houses as well. Your response is pretty much classic though.

    In regards to people going on when they’re in a bad situation and such, I heard the person who won a few years back (and later went on to be Disfigured. I think it’s the same guy) was saying that him and his family were in a really bad place financially, and he knew that winning would really help them out. He was describing the insane lengths he went to to win (pissing blood, spending hours in the sauna, drinking water and cayenne pepper for AGES.)

  12. In a moment of weakness, I tried out an an open call in a city close to my home.

    I was denied because I was:
    1) too big;
    2) had too many medical issues (I am diabetic and I have had knee surgery);
    3) I failed to fill out the answer to the questions What personality traits are you annoyed by and What is the last unusual, exciting or spontaneous thing YOU instigated.

    I didn’t (and still don’t) understand what those two questions had to do with losing weight!!!

    • 1 and 2 are interesting, yes.

      I think the personality traits and “thing YOU instigated” were probably about how you’d interact with the trainers and other contestants — aka would you make good film.

  13. Man, that is a pretty offensive thing to say. “Hey, I assume that you hate yourself! You should take three months out of your life to be humiliated on television. It’ll be awesome!”

    I wonder if she recommends her employees go on Supernanny and World’s Dirtiest Houses as well. Your response is pretty much classic though.

    In regards to people going on when they’re in a bad situation and such, I heard the person who won a few years back (and later went on to be Disfigured. I think it’s the same guy) was saying that him and his family were in a really bad place financially, and he knew that winning would really help them out. He was describing the insane lengths he went to to win (pissing blood, spending hours in the sauna, drinking water and cayenne pepper for AGES.)

    I think those medical checks you’re tlaking about consist of “Hey, are you going to die? No? Awesome.” Getting kidney damage because you’re starving and dehydrated? Fine.

    Oh! On the topic of people quitting their jobs to do this show, on the Australian one, I think, one contestant might have been pregnant. Seeing as 7 hours of working out a day might be a bit hazardous, they were saying that if she was pregnant, she would have to leave. Cue lots of crying, shots of “I really want to stay.”

    Though they were editing it and making sure no one said the A word, it was obvious that she would rather have the abortion and stay on the show than leave. Which is her choice, obviously, but they were going to such great lengths to avoid saying it.

    They eventually said she wasn’t pregnant, but there she was mysteriously absent for several episodes (including panning shots of them all working out) and when she was on again she hadn’t lost as much weight as everyone else. What do you reckon?

    Sorry for the long reply, but Biggest Loser just grates me. I used to watch it for shits and giggles, until the Australian one had a coach that said “YOU MUST NEVER EAT FOR ENJOYMENT. ONLY FOR FUEL.”

    Officially making him the most boring person in the world!

    • Sorry for the long reply, but Biggest Loser just grates me. I used to watch it for shits and giggles, until the Australian one had a coach that said “YOU MUST NEVER EAT FOR ENJOYMENT. ONLY FOR FUEL.”

      Was that Shannan Poynton? I don’t think anyone takes him seriously. :-)

      Honestly, TBL is a bit too close to a Stephen King novel for my liking.

  14. I’ve only watched a few episodes of Biggest Loser, but I couldn’t help but wonder how these people are faring after the show is over. They have them exercising very seriously for more hours each day than any normal person could reasonably do, so after the crazed fitness instructor has stopped yelling and they’re back spending 8-hour days at the office, then what?

    • IIRC, Jillian Michaels says that about 30% of the contestants regain weight, which gives the show a better success rate than the “average dieter”.

      • This may also depend on how long it’s been since the diet, how well they maintain the food and exercise changes, whether they’re counting “any regain” or “regain it all”, and so on. I’ve read some of the folks who’ve been on the show open personal trainer-type businesses, which would be a huge incentive to keep cutting back on eating.

        Re: diet studies, from a study (PDF) led by Traci Mann at UCLA:

        Reviews of the scientific literature on dieting (e.g., Garner & Wooley, 1991; Jeffery et al., 2000; Perri & Fuller, 1995) generally draw two conclusions about diets. First, diets do lead to short-term weight loss. One summary of diet studies from the 1970s to the mid-1990s found that these weight
        loss programs consistently resulted in participants losing an average of 5%–10% of their weight (Perri & Fuller, 1995). Second, these losses are not maintained. As noted in one review, “It is only the rate of weight regain, not the fact of weight regain, that appears open to debate” (Garner & Wooley, 1991, p. 740).
        The more time that elapses between the end of a diet
        and the follow-up, the more weight is regained. For example, in a study in which obese patients were starved in the hospital for an average of 38 days, patients were followed for varying lengths of time after the starvation period. Among patients who were followed for under two years, 23% gained back more weight than they had lost. Among patients who were followed for two or more years, 83% gained back more weight than they lost (Swanson & Dinello, 1970). Even in the studies with the longest follow-up times (of four or five years postdiet), the weight regain trajectories did not typically appear to level off (e.g., Hensrud, Weinsier, Darnell, & Hunter, 1994; Kramer, Jeffery, Forster, & Snell, 1989), suggesting that if participants were followed for even longer, their weight would continue to increase. It is important for policymakers to remember that weight regain does not necessarily end when researchers stop following study participants.

        So regain reported by studies does vary, partly by when and how they’re measuring. Studies also vary depending on if they’re asking over the phone or asking them to come in for a weighing — plus they’re usually a lot of dropouts in diet studies. I would think TBL would be similar….

        Rachel at The F-Word found a Time magazine article on this.

        • I’ve read some of the folks who’ve been on the show open personal trainer-type businesses, which would be a huge incentive to keep cutting back on eating.

          It’s been a few years since I followed the Australian version, but at least two of the high profile male losers from a few years back went on to open gyms or personal training businesses, and the female winner became a spokesmodel for a popular chain of women’s gyms.

          I think being in the public eye would be a huge incentive to keep the weight off too.

  15. “Bianca, maybe you didn’t display enough self hatred to satisfy the producers? (yes, that was snark) It seems like contestants can’t just be fat. They have to be fat and self hating, and convinced that weight loss is what they need to CHANGE THEIR LIVES!!!! ”

    Probably. I didn’t cry once or say I hated myself, because I don’t. I’ll have to remember that for next time. :P

  16. Besides, it’s someone who works for the SHOW who says that it is only 30% who regain the weight, as well as the hasn’t been enough time to know for sure, since the weight regain happens for 95-98% of dieters over a period of 2 to 5 years, though less for some. I expect that, over time, the regain is about average, with likely even more serious health complications because of what these people are put through. And you must hate yourself to try out for concentration camp & Marine boot camp rolled into one.

    Very good research references, btw, & it is only one of MANY demonstrating the same thing. Diets DON’T work…including when people permit themselves to be humiliated on national tv. And the few who do keep the weight off were either not very fat in the first place or spend the rest of their lives building their lives & often their jobs around staying thin, such as with some of the weight loss spokespeople who live on a diet forever, exercise much more than is healthy, etc., because they are paid to do so & being thin (& getting paid for it) means more to them than health or happiness. You can include those who become fitness instructors, etc., maybe running gyms &/or teaching 6 to 8 exercise classes daily, constantly restricting food, in many cases becoming bulimic. Who knows how many health problems are caused or years lost off people’s lives for falling for this crap!

  17. And the few who do keep the weight off were either not very fat in the first place or spend the rest of their lives building their lives & often their jobs around staying thin

    And even for those that aren’t actually miserable or killing themselves, most people just plain do not have that kind of time to spend on maintaining a certain weight. I like to ride my bike (a lot) and I’m fairly well acquainted with a few pro cyclists. It is a full full full time job. They love it. It makes them happy in some way that I will never quite get (to me, biking without stopping for lunch is like a day without sunshine ;) . But it’s a hellish job. They train constantly. They’re nearly always on the verge of getting sick (as are most high level endurance athletes). It’s risky and broken bones are common. They nearly always restrict what they eat (it would seem like massive amounts of food to most people, but it’s still usually fewer calories than their bodies would prefer given what they’re asking their bodies to DO in a day). Being able to race bikes for a living makes them happy as hell. They’re happy and it’s their choice, but for those of us who would like to do something else for a living, you know, be doctor or a lawyer or a salesman or frankly any other job I can think of or, god forbid, want to actually spend time with our spouses or kids or cats, we simply don’t have that kind of time.

    I wonder sometimes if the 2% or 5% or whatever percent it is that keep weight off are nearly all people who have somehow managed to get paid to do so.

      • Living400lbs, you are absolutely right about trade offs and that’s actually an area where I perhaps stray from being a true believer in FA. I have no interest in riding fast or skipping my post ride munchies, but I have no objection to those that choose to. It’s not a trade off I would make, not even if it would get me one of those much coveted yellow jerseys.

        I think it’s a crying shame that part of the current trade off is that being fat means taking crap in society, but I can’t quite bring myself to disagree or disapprove of those who choose what may, to them, seem the ‘easier’ option of deciding to be WW group leaders rather than accept being fat. I know what I want to do with my life and that ain’t part of it, but if I didn’t? Or if fashion were more important to me than it is? Is that really so different than wanting to be a bike racer? A friend of mine recently finished med school and I stand amazed at anyone wanting to be a doctor so badly that they’ll willingly forgo a decent night’s sleep for several years? To me that’s an insane trade off that is part and parcel of a ridiculous system that needs serious overhauling (I think is bad for the patients as well as the doctors), but… it’s the system that exists and I completely get that for some people waiting for the new world order just isn’t in the cards.

        I guess what I’m trying to wrap my mind around is when are those trade offs “ok” and when are they too much? (obviously, it’s up to the individual, but acknowledging someone’s right to do something isn’t the same as having formed a self-consistent opinion about a subject and that’s where I’m having issues)

        • Well, see, that’s the thing Cassi. Most F/A bloggers aren’t trying to coerce anyone into NOT going on a diet or NOT join WW. To some people in F/A, WLS is a travesty that should be banned under penalty of law. Even in those circumstances what I see isn’t people trying to stop others from seeking it out. What I see is people in F/A trying to inform others so that they can make good decisions. Even if they really do feel that this diet or that might work or If they feel that WLS is a risk they need to take, at least they can go into it with more info than just, ‘It’s easy, it’s simple, it’s safe, it’s guaranteed to work’. These are the messages that, virtually, all weight loss schemes project. You hear them all day long, every day, and everywhere. “Everybody knows” it. What you won’t hear, practically anywhere else outside of F/A, is that NONE of it is true. And that, I think, is the point.

          • I certainly don’t think any FA bloggers are trying to coerce anyone into anything (at least not the ones I read). I was talking only about myself and about my struggle to try to come up with my own internally consistent opinions. It’s not strictly necessary (or even possible) that all of a person’s opinions spring from a consistent underpinning, but I like it when mine do (I also like to argue semantics, so that shows you what sort of twisted nut job I am). So, as I try to work my way through these things, I find myself with a burning desire to resolve any little spots of friction between my reactions in one circumstance and my reactions in another. In general, I find myself in support of nearly all FA core beliefs (if such can even be codified, which they probably can’t), but on peripheral things I have opinions that might be at odds. Why do I cringe when a friend talks about dieting to get into her favourite jeans, but not when I read that Lance Armstrong says he weighs and measures every gram of food he puts in his mouth? Is that a logical inconsistency? Probably. Do I know how to reconcile it? Not at the moment. Does it matter? Probably not to anyone but me.

            Anyway… shorter version is, I don’t disagree with FA and I do understand the point of the movement, I am just still searching for my own logical structure on which to base my beliefs and guide me as I look at new situations… and poor Living400lbs gets to watch me hash out my mental gymnastics in her comments until she decides she’s had it and whips out the banonator.

            • cassi, you said, “I am just still searching for my own logical structure on which to base my beliefs and guide me as I look at new situations… ”

              I also am doing the same thing. I am working my way through all the information and finding my place within it. Being 380 pounds of charming, smart, and handsome (today is a good head day) I get a lot from this blog in particular.

              The two seats on an airplane thing is an example of this. I had to find a position on this issue that made sense to me. I don’t fly because I am uncomfortable intruding on someone else’s space. So I did not have a problem with the two seat thing. When I went to the NAFFA convention, I saw that on some aspects of this issue I did oppose airline policy like wide asses being mandated to buy two seats but wide shoulders getting a pass.

              When I first started commenting on the blogs I said a few things to the effect of the responses from our community to the outside world seem too angry and confrontative. Then I read an Fat Bashing article in the NY Times and I sent out an angry letter to the editor http://fatinnyc.blogspot.com/2009/08/my-first-letter-to-editor-of-ny-times.html

              I love the opportunity the blogging gives us to work these things out for ourselves while we interact with others in the movement.

              Logically I want to categorize everything into right or wrong; agree or disagree, etc. I see that it takes time to get a handle on the issues and concepts before I can do that.

              On some of the academic based lists, there was talk of creating a syllabus for a course study in FA. I think it would be nice to do a ” Fat Acceptance for Dummies” to help people get the information they need to come to their own particular place in the Fat Acceptance/ HAES community.

              • Logically I want to categorize everything into right or wrong; agree or disagree, etc.

                Yep, that’s exactly my problem. I KNOW life don’t work that way but I want it anyhows.

                I’ve read all the FA 101 stuff I can get my hands on, but it still leaves me with my own (possibly?) conflicting beliefs to
                deal with. I’m working on it, but it’s hard to question the cohesion of my own belief system without coming across as arguing with the FA premise, which I’m not. It’s why I rarely comment over at Shapely Prose (which I luuuurve), because Kate has specifically said she doesn’t want to deal with the 101 level stuff. No prob, but it leaves other blogs (not to mention my poor friends and family) to deal with my ramblings (or not).

                That Times article pissed me off but good. I sort of get it when people spout unexamined beliefs in casual conversation, but the idea that something could pass through as many hands as a Times article must before it hits the stands without anyone noticing that it’s horribly offensive is mind boggling..

  18. Interesting about the pro cyclists. I dream of being that fit… and yet …

    I know one through a message board I used to hang around on and his experiences are similar to those you have described. This is a ripped 30-something guy. Every biking season, his coach asks him to lose 10-15 pounds of muscle, because the extra weight will slow him down. And at the beginning of every season, as his body is getting conditioned to the intense exercise, he frequently throws up while training.

    • That’s not uncommon (the throwing up… come to think of it, neither is the coaches looking for weight loss, but that’s another story), because to train for long cycle races (100k or more) you have to do a lot of eating on the bike. Eating while one’s heart rate is anywhere near the lactic threshold is a sure fire way to cause your body to be very very unhappy.

  19. … to train for long cycle races (100k or more) you have to do a lot of eating on the bike. Eating while one’s heart rate is anywhere near the lactic threshold is a sure fire way to cause your body to be very very unhappy.

    Good Lord!!!

    There go my fantasies about being a pro cyclist!

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