Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Biggest Loser

I've been a fan of The Biggest Loser since it first went on the air. When the show began I could have been one of the early contestants. I was obese, and though I was smaller than a good many of the contestants, I still may have qualified...for the early shows.

Over the past few seasons the show has gotten longer and it's harder for me to find the time to watch it, but I usually catch the first few episodes of a season and then the finale. Say whatever you want to about this show, but it's a look into our lives. Yes, we could all lose weight if we went to a ranch and had personal trainers, worked out twelve hours a day, and had a well stocked kitchen at our disposal. Is it totally healthy...well I'm not a doctor so I'm not going to say yes or no. But what I do know is that without this show, some of these people would be dead already.

It's not secret that Americans are really fat. Go outside and look around and you're going to see it. One in three children born after the year 2000 (which both of my children were) will develop diabetes. One in four young people are too heavy to join the army. If you've kept up with The Biggest Loser then every season after the first you have heard Bob Harper say "he/she is the heaviest contestant in the history of the show". Every season! That means with each successive season they are finding heavier and heavier people. We're not catching on! The current "winner" of this label is a 5'8" man who weighs over 500 pounds and had already lost over 100 pounds before coming to the show. He came on with his father who weighs nearly 300 pounds. He needs to lose his father's current weight to be healthy. The heaviest woman had already lost over 100 pounds before coming to the show.

I cannot imagine how daunting that is. I was approximately 70 pounds overweight when I began this journey in October 2009 and I'm not yet at my goal weight. Losing 300 pounds seems impossible to me so I can only imagine what it feels like to him! It's no wonder that we are turning to bariatric surgery more and more, because the task seems insurmountable. Even though the risks are very high, I understand that the risk of staying morbidly obese is dangerous as well.

But anyone who has struggled with their weight knows that there is a reason lurking behind our inability to stop overdoing it with food. No one who is honest can look at you and say that there isn't something deep down that's causing them to hurt themselves in this way. It's no different on the show. Some of these people have horrible stories of loss, humiliation and pain. They've medicated with food which is no different than someone medicating with cigarettes, drugs or alcohol.

The thing that The Biggest Loser seems to do besides help people shed weight, is help people find that issue and tackle it. Once it's been dealt with these contestants are unstoppable. I know that the scenario presented on the show is next to impossible for anyone who doesn't go on the show themselves or isn't loaded. But, I think aspects of it can be duplicated. You can find a reasonable and healthy lifestyle with a program like Weight Watchers, you can begin to move your body, and you can begin to evaluate what it is that caused you to gain in the first place.

I try very hard not to judge people who choose surgery because everyone's situation is so different. I have friends who are nurses and have seen the horrible complications from these procedures so I know that this is not a "quick fix" option for those who go through it. It's like suggesting that a c-section is the easy way out in childbirth. Everyone has to choose their own path and when your life is literally on the line you have to do what you think is best. I only hope that those who choose this route have dealt with their daemons so they aren't right back in the same spot a few years down the road. Some contestants on the show (even a former winner) have gained most of all of the weight back. I could gain most or all of my weight back if I'm not careful.

This process is damn hard! It's hard no matter how much or little you have to lose. So while I wouldn't say that I advocate the extreme solutions like going on The Biggest Loser or having surgery, I understand why they're chosen. And even if you hate this show I suggest taking a long hard look at it. See if you identify with it yourself, or if you see it in those around you. We cannot continue to ignore the size we are as a country and we have to find ways to lift us all out of this and support each other to something healthier.

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