Tuesday, January 11, 2005

AMERICA IS THE BIGGEST LOSER

(Here comes another rant. This one's the result of a weight loss study covered in the New York Times and the finale of "The Biggest Loser." Oy. Here it comes.)

According to the New York Times, a new study “finds little evidence that commercial weight-loss programs are effective in helping people drop excess pounds. Almost no rigorous studies of the programs have been carried out, the researchers report. And federal officials say that companies are often unwilling to conduct such studies, arguing that they are in the business of treatment, not research."

They cite Weight Watchers as an example as the most livable of the weight loss plans, since it involves changing your eating habits and weekly support meetings. It was apparently the only "diet company" (which is not how they refer to themselves) that actually does any research.

…with the exception of Weight Watchers, no commercial program had published reliable data from randomized trials showing that people who participated weighed less a few months later than people who did not participate. And even in the Weight Watchers study, the researchers said, the results were modest, with a 5 percent weight loss after three to six months of dieting, much of it regained. [Emphasis mine]

The Weight Watchers study, published in 2003 in The Journal of the American Medical Association, involved 423 people who weighed an average of 205 pounds. Half the participants were randomly assigned to attend Weight Watchers meetings and follow the program. The other half tried to lose weight on their own. After two years, the participants in Weight Watchers had lost an average of 6.4 pounds. The other group had lost no weight. Neither group showed a change in blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose or insulin.

[Side note: one of their sources is a Dr. Stifler, who I believe spends a portion of each day cursing the careers of the Weitz brothers, who created a memorable American Pie character who shares his last name and who emphatically is not a doctor. I’m sure that Dr. Stifler is also not enjoying the implication that his mother is a MILF.*]

What have we learned so far (if any of you are still with me)? That there’s no program that works for everyone, and the only one with any kind of success rate combines sensible eating with exercise.

Moving on to the not wholly unrelated topic of “The Biggest Loser” (which ended its high-ratings run Monday night on NBC).

The title itself reminds me of the episode of Friends where Monica gets mad at her mom for saying that she “pulled a Monica” (meaning that despite her best efforts, everything went wrong). Phoebe suggests that they change the meaning of the phrase, converting “pulling a Monica” into something good. Later, Mrs. Geller (which was actually the name of my high school librarian, but I digress) gives Monica a compliment on her chef-work. Phoebe says, “You might even say she ‘pulled a Monica.’” There’s a beat as Monica glares at Phebes, and then Phebes responds, “oh, she doesn’t know we changed it.”

Growing up, if someone called you “The Biggest Loser,” there was no doubt it was a barb, hurled solely to maim you. And even if no one called attention to it, an overweight child felt like he or she had been publicly crowned “the Biggest Loser.” It was a double insult: socially, you were a loser, and if you were involved in some sort of weight-loss program, the term also functioned as a mockery of your inability to lose the life-ruining pounds and attain the weight standard as set by doctors and the popular Benetton-rugby wearing class elite. Loser…bad.

But this NBC show essentially attempts to play on this double meaning, and to reclaim the term within a weight loss context, reframe it and make it positive. Essentially, they encourage contestants to pull a Monica and officially become The Biggest Loser--after years of feeling like the biggest loser--but Phoebe forgot to tell everyone that being a Big Loser on this show is the whole point, and that it means something different now.

I’ve watched two episodes (both while I was at the gym on the elliptical). And I can tell you now why it’s a) an abhorrent concept, and b) riveting television.

It wouldn’t be reality TV without three essential elements: competition, a useless host, and public humiliation. The Biggest Loser has all three, in spades.

The participants have been broken into teams (red and blue), and are asked to perform various challenges. I only managed to watch two of these challenges: one involved the teams being forced to make pastries and then sell them at a theme park. Of course, the secret purpose of this assignment was to test their ability to restrain themselves from tasting the batter, licking the spoons, etc. They were told after they’d completed the task that they’d be penalized for any BLTs (as Weight Watchers calls “bites, licks and tastes”) that they might have taken during the process. (How many of us could pass such a test?) But this is nothing compared to the challenge in which contestants are forced to climb the stairs of a ninety-floor building and the first complete team to reach the top wins. (Maybe it’s just the irrevocable warping of my brain, but I don’t hear, climb stairs in a 90-story building without thinking about 9/11.) People collapsed in tears, one woman was rushed to the hospital, I believe. Even most gym regulars aren’t in the kind of shape that allows them to sprint 90 stories.

Now let’s up the humiliation ante…with a public weigh-in that doubles as another chance to torture the contestants, but this opportunity provides for emotional torment. As each contestant stands on the scale, clad in shorts (and for women, a sports bra), the screen they stare at, was well as the screen over their head, projects their weight escalating and then going down in an effort to create dramatic tension for the audience and contestants alike. The number is giant, on the screen over their heads, like a scarlet number they’ll have to wear in the town square for all to see. The number fluctuates…260…262…245….252…258…230 before finally arriving at…250. This scale is literally PURE EVIL. And once the show is over, it SHOULD BE DESTROYED (via a potion by the Charmed Ones if necessary. Do not make me involve Alyssa Milano). This episode with the scale made me so mad that I stayed at the gym an extra half hour to see every contestant get weighed. (I ellipticaled so hard that my quads ached in the morning.)

But wait, there's more humiliation ahead.

If the team has lost enough weight as a whole, they’re technically safe. The losing team (which, if you’re following, did not lose enough, and therefore they lose that round and feel like big losers for not losing…) is forced to “vote someone off the island.” Those who are unpopular, who have any kind of weight gain or plateau are up for review by their teammates. There’s a vote: team members unveil their choices by lifting up the lid of a fancy silver serving tray that you might expect would reveal duck a l'orange, but instead contains a folded index card with a player's name on it. If a player is voted off after losing twelve pounds the week before but only one pound that week, she must face useless host Caroline Rhea (who is apparently the biggest loser of her own sense of humor, which is completely absent on this show), who says “You are not the biggest loser. Go home and good luck.” Then, the camera pans to a corner of the room with ginormous refrigerators, each labeled with the name of a contestant. When the contestant is eliminated, the fridge goes dark. (To recap: here, on this show, you want to be “the biggest loser.” A total of 13 pounds in two weeks, unrealistic bordering on miraculous in real life, is scorned on the show. And your presence is represented by a refrigerator. Like I said, this is not a nice show.)

But even as the show sucks, it also sucks people in. Because in America, we all think we’re fat. And, according to BMI guidelines and Supersize Me, many of us are right. But with self-esteem and health of national concern, no matter what our weight or the depth of our revulsion of the concept and execution of “The Biggest Loser,” we’re hooked. But why? I hope it’s not because we enjoy the torture of others, I assume that we watch because we are appalled. These people are bigger versions of us—larger than life because they are on TV, publicly struggling with their size. We compare our bodies to theirs; even though we often suffer from a mild body dysmorphic disorder and don’t really know what we ourselves look like next to anyone else, the comparison engenders either comfort, that their weight problem is more serious than our own (“at least I’m in better shape than she is”), or a mixture of contempt and jealousy (“if I spent two months with a trainer and dietitian, not working or in my regular environment, I could lose a hundred pounds, too!”).

Maybe it is this “awesomely bad” quality that draws us in. They are us, so we can relate. Yet they are not us, so we can bear to watch.

Many of these people were extremely overweight when the show began. And now, they are thinner. They've probably learned a lot about healthy eating and exercise. And while it’s encouraging to see people have success in their weight loss battles, the cynic in me credits not their hard work, but the advantages that they’ve had: personal training, the luxury of working out all day, every day in preparation for weekly weigh-ins, nutritional counseling, the competition looming over them like Big Mother, watching everything they put in their mouths.

I admit it, I’m a little jealous. But I wonder what will happen once they really get back to their normal lives. Donuts in the morning at the office, birthday parties for family members, trying to incorporate exercise into a packed schedule…these are the ongoing challenges of weight loss and a healthy lifestyle. What’s unclear is if they’ll still see themselves as losers once they’ve been reimmersed in normalcy. And we won’t know how they feel about the title of loser--whether it will be their scarlet letter or red badge of courage.

Tonight, The Biggest Loser was declared. And I missed it. I just decided not to tape it. I know my ratings points don’t matter to NBC. But even though this show won’t feel my bite (I’m even blogging about it too late for it to have an impact), I don’t want to expose myself to the reality that there is such a thing as The Biggest Loser, Who Is Also The Winner. It’s too confusing.

Although, for some reason, when they begin advertising the next season, I know I’ll find myself wondering what the application process is like.





*Yes, I am fully aware the mention of Mr. Stifler and his mother is going to increase traffic to my blog, if only via keyword searches. I do understand the nature of the internet. As it is, the search term that most frequently leads people to My Urban Kvetch is “Portia diRossi Ellen Degeneres lesbians.”

12 Comments:

At 2:14 AM, January 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, forget Weight Watchers. Forget stupid Atkins diets, totally forget anything having to do with Suzanne Sommers. What America needs is my patented Crystal Meth Diet.

Simply eat whatever the hell you want. Combine that with regular consumption of Crystal Meth and watch the pounds melt away as you get more done than you've ever thought possible, become an insatiable tiger or tigress in bed while still enjoying your fave dishes. Granted you might forget to eat for days at a time, but thanks to the wonders of Crystal Meth, it won't affect your productivity.

"But Dave" you ask, "Isn't Crystal Meth kind of harsh?" Well, maybe, but it's not as harsh as heroin. Or Thalidomide. Or uh... Aspartame. And more importantly, it'll make you as skinny as you want to be! "How about the environmental implications?" you might ask. How come no one asks about the environmental implications of the meat consumption in Atkins type diets? Do you have any idea how much grain and rainforest land is wasted in order to produce one pound of beef? Save the rainforest, use Crystal Meth.

You'll be thin, a veritable bundle of energy and you're sure to have lots of new exciting motorcycle driving friends as a result. Crystal Meth - cuz being fat sucks!

ck
Methalicious

 
At 10:14 AM, January 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really great analysis of the show and the American obsession with weight loss. This reminded me of the VH1 show "From Flab to Fab," which I also watched while on the elliptical trainer at the gym (maybe it's same one Esther?!). Four women are put through the celebrity diet and exercise treatment for 3 months. They get personal trainers, dieticians, chefs, psychologists, coaches, make-up artists, hairdressers, etc., to get them ready for a big event where they have to be fab. This is allegedly a regime that the biggest stars in Hollywood undergo in order to be in top, top shape for . . . whatever.

There was one problem that each woman encountered while going through the program though-- they didn't have the time for it. Work-outs in the morning and night, sessions with the shrinks, coaches, nutritionists, facialists, etc., had to compete with their regular jobs. One woman -- a wife, mother and graphic designer -- said something I still remember. She looked straight into the camera and said, "I don't know how you expect us to do this and still go about our regular lives. And all while eating just a handful of chicken!"

This confirms what people have known for years -- celebrities are not like the rest of us. They don't have jobs to go to while working on getting "fab" for an event or a movie part. Getting "fab" IS their job, and nothing, like a project that your boss expects to be turned in on deadline, takes precedence.

Imagine how much thinner (and hopefully healthier) we'd all be if we could make getting "fab" our full-time jobs? Right now, I'd just settle for a personal chef.

Janice

 
At 11:15 AM, January 11, 2005, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Nobody was forced to appear on that show.

 
At 11:29 AM, January 11, 2005, Blogger Esther Kustanowitz said...

Funny post, CK. Clearly inspired by my Kabbalah infomercial, which was inspired by one of your posts, so I guess we're even.

Janice, I hear ya. A personal chef would make my life a whole lot easier.

Jack, of course, no one forced them to appear on the show. But people who have struggled with these issues for years, like many of the contestants had, get to a point where you're willing to try anything.

In theory, I'm sure it sounded good...live in a great house, have no responsibilities and concentrate on the weight loss.

If it's like many reality shows, they weren't told in advance what the title of the show is, and I'm sure that other "minor" touches (like the bit about the evil scale) weren't revealed to them until they arrived. I'm sure they had to sign various contracts, but I'm also sure they weren't fully aware that their presence would be represented by a refrigerator.

And again, it's my two cents on the issue. My objection was not the existence of a weight loss show. The devil was in the cruelty of the details.

 
At 12:26 PM, January 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny? Oh yeah, *heh* Of course I was totally kidding. Crystal Meth diet. I mean really! I don't even know what Crystal Meth is.

ck
Jewlicious

 
At 1:14 PM, January 11, 2005, Blogger Dakota Pundit said...

I like The Biggest Loser, too. It's bad ... so bad. It's guilty pleasure bad.

And you're right about the whole "exercise works" thing, too, although it pains me to admit it. I was a trim size 12 when I met my husband, but marital happiness and a baby plumped me up to a (yikes!) 18/20. I am descended from big-boned Norwegian farmers, but holy cow, I was a cow. NutriSystem didn't do much for me. Dieting on my own just didn't work. (Although I'm more than a little envious of those who can pull off the Crystal Meth diet successfully.) But walking and yoga and weight training have gotten me back down to a 14 ... which is still too big, but it's better than before.

Isn't it silly how much we obsess about our weight? In fact, I thought weight was my biggest concern before you told me that, according to my recurring tooth-loss nightmare, I'm also afraid of death. With that new information pinging around my head I could hardly get to sleep last night.

 
At 1:23 PM, January 11, 2005, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Hi Esther,

I don't doubt for a moment that there were some twists that were not revealed, but at the same time I don't feel badly for the participants.

Reality TV is not new, it has been around for many years now, long enough that people should have some kind of understanding about what it involves.

It can be cruel. America thrives on edgy, goofy and shocking material. You have no control over editing so it doesn't always matter whether you are nice or not, a couple of snips here and there and you are the biggest jerk or nicest person ever seen on television.

IMO, if you appear on one of these shows you need to expect to be subjected to this kind of nonsense.

 
At 8:16 PM, January 11, 2005, Blogger Plantation said...

I've been itchin' to do a reality TV post, but it's such an easy target. Kinda like airplane travel. So many things to make fun of. I used to be a big fan of 'reality tv.' I'm sure some will argue, but I think Millionaire kicked off the fad. I liked it and tried like hell to get on it. Along came Survivor and I liked that, too but it's growing tiresome. Nowadays, it's totally out of control. The concepts are seemingly the same. For every Amazing Race (I guess that's and OK show), there are 10 Biggest Losers or Who's your daddys. Someone please shoot Mark Burnett before he debuts that reality Martha Stewart from Jail show. Like Susan Powter once said, "Stop the Insanity!"

 
At 10:22 PM, January 11, 2005, Blogger Plantation said...

Call me a loser, but I had to watch it after all your kvetching. You're right. It sucked. Kudos to those 3 people who lost a ton of weight, but it was soo overly dramatic complete with the corny 'suspense' music in the background. FYI, the guy with the size 38 breasts won it.

 
At 5:54 PM, January 12, 2005, Blogger PepGiraffe said...

♦ What constantly amazes me is this: With the exception of the morbidly obese, any time anyone says "I'm so fat, I'm a size X," there is going to be someone (usually within hearing distance) who can say, "I would jump for joy if I were a size X" because that person is a size X+4. I feel like I can never complain about my weight for that exact reason, but I really want to. I've gained thirty pounds in the last ten years and that's just a lot. I want to get it off, but not enough to go on any type of diet (so I feel particularly validated that none of them are proven to work). I know I have to exercise a lot more than I do, but I really hate exercising. I will do it, just not right now. I'm busy.

♦ I went to the 92nd Street Y's Open House the night before last and they tried to convince me that I was fat. I know this because 1) that stupid body fat measuring device they used (not a caliper) said I was 47% body fat, which I don't even think is possible AND 2) the Russian man with the bad breath proceeded to give me this long lecture that started with "You have a very pretty face, but...." Everyone here knows what "You have a very pretty face" means, right? He continued giving the lecture even though I told him I had just lost ten pounds. No one ever listens to me. By the way, I am not fat. I know they were just trying to get me to join their gym, but that is a really mean way to do that. I was out of sorts for almost two days.

♦ I couldn't watch "The Biggest Loser." I saw ten minutes of one episode and it grossed me out. I did have a better third point, but I couldn't remember what it was.

 
At 9:39 AM, January 13, 2005, Blogger PepGiraffe said...

Okay, I remember my third point. If any of you have a chance to read Holly Teichholtz's article in Self Magazine, Appetite for Life, you should. Very well written and pertinent to our discussion.

 
At 11:29 PM, January 13, 2005, Blogger Gatsby said...

And you wonder why I don't have a tv

 

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My Urban Kvetch: AMERICA IS THE BIGGEST LOSER

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

AMERICA IS THE BIGGEST LOSER

(Here comes another rant. This one's the result of a weight loss study covered in the New York Times and the finale of "The Biggest Loser." Oy. Here it comes.)

According to the New York Times, a new study “finds little evidence that commercial weight-loss programs are effective in helping people drop excess pounds. Almost no rigorous studies of the programs have been carried out, the researchers report. And federal officials say that companies are often unwilling to conduct such studies, arguing that they are in the business of treatment, not research."

They cite Weight Watchers as an example as the most livable of the weight loss plans, since it involves changing your eating habits and weekly support meetings. It was apparently the only "diet company" (which is not how they refer to themselves) that actually does any research.

…with the exception of Weight Watchers, no commercial program had published reliable data from randomized trials showing that people who participated weighed less a few months later than people who did not participate. And even in the Weight Watchers study, the researchers said, the results were modest, with a 5 percent weight loss after three to six months of dieting, much of it regained. [Emphasis mine]

The Weight Watchers study, published in 2003 in The Journal of the American Medical Association, involved 423 people who weighed an average of 205 pounds. Half the participants were randomly assigned to attend Weight Watchers meetings and follow the program. The other half tried to lose weight on their own. After two years, the participants in Weight Watchers had lost an average of 6.4 pounds. The other group had lost no weight. Neither group showed a change in blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose or insulin.

[Side note: one of their sources is a Dr. Stifler, who I believe spends a portion of each day cursing the careers of the Weitz brothers, who created a memorable American Pie character who shares his last name and who emphatically is not a doctor. I’m sure that Dr. Stifler is also not enjoying the implication that his mother is a MILF.*]

What have we learned so far (if any of you are still with me)? That there’s no program that works for everyone, and the only one with any kind of success rate combines sensible eating with exercise.

Moving on to the not wholly unrelated topic of “The Biggest Loser” (which ended its high-ratings run Monday night on NBC).

The title itself reminds me of the episode of Friends where Monica gets mad at her mom for saying that she “pulled a Monica” (meaning that despite her best efforts, everything went wrong). Phoebe suggests that they change the meaning of the phrase, converting “pulling a Monica” into something good. Later, Mrs. Geller (which was actually the name of my high school librarian, but I digress) gives Monica a compliment on her chef-work. Phoebe says, “You might even say she ‘pulled a Monica.’” There’s a beat as Monica glares at Phebes, and then Phebes responds, “oh, she doesn’t know we changed it.”

Growing up, if someone called you “The Biggest Loser,” there was no doubt it was a barb, hurled solely to maim you. And even if no one called attention to it, an overweight child felt like he or she had been publicly crowned “the Biggest Loser.” It was a double insult: socially, you were a loser, and if you were involved in some sort of weight-loss program, the term also functioned as a mockery of your inability to lose the life-ruining pounds and attain the weight standard as set by doctors and the popular Benetton-rugby wearing class elite. Loser…bad.

But this NBC show essentially attempts to play on this double meaning, and to reclaim the term within a weight loss context, reframe it and make it positive. Essentially, they encourage contestants to pull a Monica and officially become The Biggest Loser--after years of feeling like the biggest loser--but Phoebe forgot to tell everyone that being a Big Loser on this show is the whole point, and that it means something different now.

I’ve watched two episodes (both while I was at the gym on the elliptical). And I can tell you now why it’s a) an abhorrent concept, and b) riveting television.

It wouldn’t be reality TV without three essential elements: competition, a useless host, and public humiliation. The Biggest Loser has all three, in spades.

The participants have been broken into teams (red and blue), and are asked to perform various challenges. I only managed to watch two of these challenges: one involved the teams being forced to make pastries and then sell them at a theme park. Of course, the secret purpose of this assignment was to test their ability to restrain themselves from tasting the batter, licking the spoons, etc. They were told after they’d completed the task that they’d be penalized for any BLTs (as Weight Watchers calls “bites, licks and tastes”) that they might have taken during the process. (How many of us could pass such a test?) But this is nothing compared to the challenge in which contestants are forced to climb the stairs of a ninety-floor building and the first complete team to reach the top wins. (Maybe it’s just the irrevocable warping of my brain, but I don’t hear, climb stairs in a 90-story building without thinking about 9/11.) People collapsed in tears, one woman was rushed to the hospital, I believe. Even most gym regulars aren’t in the kind of shape that allows them to sprint 90 stories.

Now let’s up the humiliation ante…with a public weigh-in that doubles as another chance to torture the contestants, but this opportunity provides for emotional torment. As each contestant stands on the scale, clad in shorts (and for women, a sports bra), the screen they stare at, was well as the screen over their head, projects their weight escalating and then going down in an effort to create dramatic tension for the audience and contestants alike. The number is giant, on the screen over their heads, like a scarlet number they’ll have to wear in the town square for all to see. The number fluctuates…260…262…245….252…258…230 before finally arriving at…250. This scale is literally PURE EVIL. And once the show is over, it SHOULD BE DESTROYED (via a potion by the Charmed Ones if necessary. Do not make me involve Alyssa Milano). This episode with the scale made me so mad that I stayed at the gym an extra half hour to see every contestant get weighed. (I ellipticaled so hard that my quads ached in the morning.)

But wait, there's more humiliation ahead.

If the team has lost enough weight as a whole, they’re technically safe. The losing team (which, if you’re following, did not lose enough, and therefore they lose that round and feel like big losers for not losing…) is forced to “vote someone off the island.” Those who are unpopular, who have any kind of weight gain or plateau are up for review by their teammates. There’s a vote: team members unveil their choices by lifting up the lid of a fancy silver serving tray that you might expect would reveal duck a l'orange, but instead contains a folded index card with a player's name on it. If a player is voted off after losing twelve pounds the week before but only one pound that week, she must face useless host Caroline Rhea (who is apparently the biggest loser of her own sense of humor, which is completely absent on this show), who says “You are not the biggest loser. Go home and good luck.” Then, the camera pans to a corner of the room with ginormous refrigerators, each labeled with the name of a contestant. When the contestant is eliminated, the fridge goes dark. (To recap: here, on this show, you want to be “the biggest loser.” A total of 13 pounds in two weeks, unrealistic bordering on miraculous in real life, is scorned on the show. And your presence is represented by a refrigerator. Like I said, this is not a nice show.)

But even as the show sucks, it also sucks people in. Because in America, we all think we’re fat. And, according to BMI guidelines and Supersize Me, many of us are right. But with self-esteem and health of national concern, no matter what our weight or the depth of our revulsion of the concept and execution of “The Biggest Loser,” we’re hooked. But why? I hope it’s not because we enjoy the torture of others, I assume that we watch because we are appalled. These people are bigger versions of us—larger than life because they are on TV, publicly struggling with their size. We compare our bodies to theirs; even though we often suffer from a mild body dysmorphic disorder and don’t really know what we ourselves look like next to anyone else, the comparison engenders either comfort, that their weight problem is more serious than our own (“at least I’m in better shape than she is”), or a mixture of contempt and jealousy (“if I spent two months with a trainer and dietitian, not working or in my regular environment, I could lose a hundred pounds, too!”).

Maybe it is this “awesomely bad” quality that draws us in. They are us, so we can relate. Yet they are not us, so we can bear to watch.

Many of these people were extremely overweight when the show began. And now, they are thinner. They've probably learned a lot about healthy eating and exercise. And while it’s encouraging to see people have success in their weight loss battles, the cynic in me credits not their hard work, but the advantages that they’ve had: personal training, the luxury of working out all day, every day in preparation for weekly weigh-ins, nutritional counseling, the competition looming over them like Big Mother, watching everything they put in their mouths.

I admit it, I’m a little jealous. But I wonder what will happen once they really get back to their normal lives. Donuts in the morning at the office, birthday parties for family members, trying to incorporate exercise into a packed schedule…these are the ongoing challenges of weight loss and a healthy lifestyle. What’s unclear is if they’ll still see themselves as losers once they’ve been reimmersed in normalcy. And we won’t know how they feel about the title of loser--whether it will be their scarlet letter or red badge of courage.

Tonight, The Biggest Loser was declared. And I missed it. I just decided not to tape it. I know my ratings points don’t matter to NBC. But even though this show won’t feel my bite (I’m even blogging about it too late for it to have an impact), I don’t want to expose myself to the reality that there is such a thing as The Biggest Loser, Who Is Also The Winner. It’s too confusing.

Although, for some reason, when they begin advertising the next season, I know I’ll find myself wondering what the application process is like.





*Yes, I am fully aware the mention of Mr. Stifler and his mother is going to increase traffic to my blog, if only via keyword searches. I do understand the nature of the internet. As it is, the search term that most frequently leads people to My Urban Kvetch is “Portia diRossi Ellen Degeneres lesbians.”

12 Comments:

At 2:14 AM, January 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, forget Weight Watchers. Forget stupid Atkins diets, totally forget anything having to do with Suzanne Sommers. What America needs is my patented Crystal Meth Diet.

Simply eat whatever the hell you want. Combine that with regular consumption of Crystal Meth and watch the pounds melt away as you get more done than you've ever thought possible, become an insatiable tiger or tigress in bed while still enjoying your fave dishes. Granted you might forget to eat for days at a time, but thanks to the wonders of Crystal Meth, it won't affect your productivity.

"But Dave" you ask, "Isn't Crystal Meth kind of harsh?" Well, maybe, but it's not as harsh as heroin. Or Thalidomide. Or uh... Aspartame. And more importantly, it'll make you as skinny as you want to be! "How about the environmental implications?" you might ask. How come no one asks about the environmental implications of the meat consumption in Atkins type diets? Do you have any idea how much grain and rainforest land is wasted in order to produce one pound of beef? Save the rainforest, use Crystal Meth.

You'll be thin, a veritable bundle of energy and you're sure to have lots of new exciting motorcycle driving friends as a result. Crystal Meth - cuz being fat sucks!

ck
Methalicious

 
At 10:14 AM, January 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really great analysis of the show and the American obsession with weight loss. This reminded me of the VH1 show "From Flab to Fab," which I also watched while on the elliptical trainer at the gym (maybe it's same one Esther?!). Four women are put through the celebrity diet and exercise treatment for 3 months. They get personal trainers, dieticians, chefs, psychologists, coaches, make-up artists, hairdressers, etc., to get them ready for a big event where they have to be fab. This is allegedly a regime that the biggest stars in Hollywood undergo in order to be in top, top shape for . . . whatever.

There was one problem that each woman encountered while going through the program though-- they didn't have the time for it. Work-outs in the morning and night, sessions with the shrinks, coaches, nutritionists, facialists, etc., had to compete with their regular jobs. One woman -- a wife, mother and graphic designer -- said something I still remember. She looked straight into the camera and said, "I don't know how you expect us to do this and still go about our regular lives. And all while eating just a handful of chicken!"

This confirms what people have known for years -- celebrities are not like the rest of us. They don't have jobs to go to while working on getting "fab" for an event or a movie part. Getting "fab" IS their job, and nothing, like a project that your boss expects to be turned in on deadline, takes precedence.

Imagine how much thinner (and hopefully healthier) we'd all be if we could make getting "fab" our full-time jobs? Right now, I'd just settle for a personal chef.

Janice

 
At 11:15 AM, January 11, 2005, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Nobody was forced to appear on that show.

 
At 11:29 AM, January 11, 2005, Blogger Esther Kustanowitz said...

Funny post, CK. Clearly inspired by my Kabbalah infomercial, which was inspired by one of your posts, so I guess we're even.

Janice, I hear ya. A personal chef would make my life a whole lot easier.

Jack, of course, no one forced them to appear on the show. But people who have struggled with these issues for years, like many of the contestants had, get to a point where you're willing to try anything.

In theory, I'm sure it sounded good...live in a great house, have no responsibilities and concentrate on the weight loss.

If it's like many reality shows, they weren't told in advance what the title of the show is, and I'm sure that other "minor" touches (like the bit about the evil scale) weren't revealed to them until they arrived. I'm sure they had to sign various contracts, but I'm also sure they weren't fully aware that their presence would be represented by a refrigerator.

And again, it's my two cents on the issue. My objection was not the existence of a weight loss show. The devil was in the cruelty of the details.

 
At 12:26 PM, January 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny? Oh yeah, *heh* Of course I was totally kidding. Crystal Meth diet. I mean really! I don't even know what Crystal Meth is.

ck
Jewlicious

 
At 1:14 PM, January 11, 2005, Blogger Dakota Pundit said...

I like The Biggest Loser, too. It's bad ... so bad. It's guilty pleasure bad.

And you're right about the whole "exercise works" thing, too, although it pains me to admit it. I was a trim size 12 when I met my husband, but marital happiness and a baby plumped me up to a (yikes!) 18/20. I am descended from big-boned Norwegian farmers, but holy cow, I was a cow. NutriSystem didn't do much for me. Dieting on my own just didn't work. (Although I'm more than a little envious of those who can pull off the Crystal Meth diet successfully.) But walking and yoga and weight training have gotten me back down to a 14 ... which is still too big, but it's better than before.

Isn't it silly how much we obsess about our weight? In fact, I thought weight was my biggest concern before you told me that, according to my recurring tooth-loss nightmare, I'm also afraid of death. With that new information pinging around my head I could hardly get to sleep last night.

 
At 1:23 PM, January 11, 2005, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Hi Esther,

I don't doubt for a moment that there were some twists that were not revealed, but at the same time I don't feel badly for the participants.

Reality TV is not new, it has been around for many years now, long enough that people should have some kind of understanding about what it involves.

It can be cruel. America thrives on edgy, goofy and shocking material. You have no control over editing so it doesn't always matter whether you are nice or not, a couple of snips here and there and you are the biggest jerk or nicest person ever seen on television.

IMO, if you appear on one of these shows you need to expect to be subjected to this kind of nonsense.

 
At 8:16 PM, January 11, 2005, Blogger Plantation said...

I've been itchin' to do a reality TV post, but it's such an easy target. Kinda like airplane travel. So many things to make fun of. I used to be a big fan of 'reality tv.' I'm sure some will argue, but I think Millionaire kicked off the fad. I liked it and tried like hell to get on it. Along came Survivor and I liked that, too but it's growing tiresome. Nowadays, it's totally out of control. The concepts are seemingly the same. For every Amazing Race (I guess that's and OK show), there are 10 Biggest Losers or Who's your daddys. Someone please shoot Mark Burnett before he debuts that reality Martha Stewart from Jail show. Like Susan Powter once said, "Stop the Insanity!"

 
At 10:22 PM, January 11, 2005, Blogger Plantation said...

Call me a loser, but I had to watch it after all your kvetching. You're right. It sucked. Kudos to those 3 people who lost a ton of weight, but it was soo overly dramatic complete with the corny 'suspense' music in the background. FYI, the guy with the size 38 breasts won it.

 
At 5:54 PM, January 12, 2005, Blogger PepGiraffe said...

♦ What constantly amazes me is this: With the exception of the morbidly obese, any time anyone says "I'm so fat, I'm a size X," there is going to be someone (usually within hearing distance) who can say, "I would jump for joy if I were a size X" because that person is a size X+4. I feel like I can never complain about my weight for that exact reason, but I really want to. I've gained thirty pounds in the last ten years and that's just a lot. I want to get it off, but not enough to go on any type of diet (so I feel particularly validated that none of them are proven to work). I know I have to exercise a lot more than I do, but I really hate exercising. I will do it, just not right now. I'm busy.

♦ I went to the 92nd Street Y's Open House the night before last and they tried to convince me that I was fat. I know this because 1) that stupid body fat measuring device they used (not a caliper) said I was 47% body fat, which I don't even think is possible AND 2) the Russian man with the bad breath proceeded to give me this long lecture that started with "You have a very pretty face, but...." Everyone here knows what "You have a very pretty face" means, right? He continued giving the lecture even though I told him I had just lost ten pounds. No one ever listens to me. By the way, I am not fat. I know they were just trying to get me to join their gym, but that is a really mean way to do that. I was out of sorts for almost two days.

♦ I couldn't watch "The Biggest Loser." I saw ten minutes of one episode and it grossed me out. I did have a better third point, but I couldn't remember what it was.

 
At 9:39 AM, January 13, 2005, Blogger PepGiraffe said...

Okay, I remember my third point. If any of you have a chance to read Holly Teichholtz's article in Self Magazine, Appetite for Life, you should. Very well written and pertinent to our discussion.

 
At 11:29 PM, January 13, 2005, Blogger Gatsby said...

And you wonder why I don't have a tv

 

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