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TBD3: Crossfire Hurricane —

January 18, 2013

Biggest Dickweed

Trigger warning: This post thoroughly discusses the first episode of The Biggest Loser, including the abusive bullshit as well as the weigh-ins.

If I had to pick one, I would say that this is my favorite week for The Biggest Loser so far.

The first two episodes were just brutal in terms of treatment of the contestants, including their physical response to the relentless ass-kicking. Whatever happens from here out will be in the shadow of those first two episodes.

If you want people to get healthy, then you don’t treat them like weak, pathetic losers for the first two weeks of their training. I’m sure there’s a steady supply of those who feel they deserve to be treated like weak, pathetic losers and are willing to pay good money for it, but show me the research that says it works.

The Biggest Loser isn’t interested in health; it’s interested in producing significant weight loss in a limited amount of time, which is best achieved through unsustainable levels of caloric restriction and exercise. For Biggest Loser, that’s a diet of between 1,000 and 1,200 calories, and between 5 to 8 hours of exercise per day. And the fact is, that’s the level they would probably have to sustain for as long as they want to maintain that body.

For some people, that’s doable. Particularly if your career depends upon maintaining a slender physique. (aka professional thin people… and yes, there are professional fat people too, but they’re dwarfed by the burgeoning industry for PTPs). And The Biggest Loser is a veritable PTP factory, churning out motivational speakers, fitness instructors and authors like they’re Olympic athletes.

But for the rest of us, our livelihoods depend largely upon spending eight hours a day (your mileage may vary) engaged in tasks that may not include exercise. This can make one hour of exercise per day a challenge. That’s why the experiences on TBL are not reflective of how most people get healthy, and treating the show like it’s a model for healthy behavior in any way, shape or form is insulting to our intelligence.

The Biggest Loser is not a health and fitness program. The Biggest Loser is a game show.

The Biggest Loser is a game show created and produced by JD Roth, the same guy who hosted Fun House on Nickelodeon when I was a kid. Biggest Loser is just Fun House for Fatties.

Do you think JD Roth cares whether Jackson Carter collapses from dehydration, just as long as he loses one pound a day?

I do, particularly when it comes to the message that sends to viewers. And while I was pestering Dr. Splenda (aka Joanna Dolgoff) on Twitter Monday night, she called for people to submit their questions to trainer Dolvett Quince and Carter himself. So, I asked him about this very problem.

Pesterbug

To my surprise, Carter responded, then promptly deleted the tweets. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to capture them.

Jackson

I took the time to respond to Carter, knowing that although he would not be able to respond, he may just listen. I captured my message on Storify.

The Biggest Loser is not about health. It has never been about health. It will never be about health, so long as it is a contest to see who can lose the most weight.

And if you think that eating healthy and exercise will make you inevitably slender, you’re in for a shock.

Because the things that make you healthy won’t win a game show. They’re the small, simple things that you incorporate into your life to improve your health in a sustainable manner. And when people in the real world do attempt to lose weight, they end up losing between 5% and 10% of their starting weight within one year, which is what most TBL contestants lose their first week.

And this is why the third episode of TBL is my favorite so far. The first weigh in is predictably astonishing. People lose 10, 20, 30 pounds in a single week, largely due to the loss of water weight. The second weigh in is predictably disappointing. In fact, the trainers repeatedly refer to the “week two curse” throughout that episode, bracing people for a less impressive set of numbers on the scale.

But this third week is when things are supposed to normalize, right? It’s as easy as calories in, calories out: the more you exercise, the less you eat, the greater the number on the scale, right?

Well, that’s not what happened this week.

Fresh Hell

So far, Jillian’s White Team has lost three players, leaving Pam and Danni to fend off Bob’s Blue Team and Dolvett’s Red Team. When the show begins, Pam and Danni are crying. Then Pam says, “Whatever it’s going to take to get through the next weigh in is what it’s going to take.”

That’s the spirit!

But before they can do whatever it takes, though, they have to survive a challenge. All the contestants are herded into a vault (yes, a vault — or at least the trappings of a vault).

The Vault

The vault is filled with pizza, cheeseburgers, candy, video games, pinball machines, vending machines, hot dogs, ice cream, gummy worms and more. The editor takes great pleasure in cutting from the gape-jawed faces of the contestants to the piles and piles of high calorie food items that are supposed to tempt and entice the contestants, all while whimsical music invites viewers to giggle at the juxtaposition.

Except, if you actually pause during the shots of the food, you’ll notice that there’s something remarkable about all this food: it’s perfect.

Fake Food

Hell, even the mustard squiggles on the hotdogs look like they were squeezed from a caulk gun. But this makes sense, doesn’t it? A fake health show tempting fatties with fake food? Seems par for course to me.

Then Allison Sweeney says:

This season we asked you to help fight childhood obesity. Well take a good look around, because you are surrounded by the enemy: sodas, junk food, video games, and, of course, [looking back at screen with Biggest Loser logo on it] TV. [emphasis mine]

You may recall that in the first episode, Sweeney introduced the trainers by saying, “Tonight, we’re bringing out some real life superheroes, people who fight every single day against one of the biggest villains in this country: obesity.” And in the second episode, she narrates, “An obesity epidemic is attacking our nation.” Now, we finally meet the enemy, and it includes the very device you’re watching Biggest Loser on, so clearly we’re screwed.

Sweeney goes on to say, “The average kid spends 4.5 hours per day watching TV. All of these factors contribute to an epidemic that affects kids across America, including three you’ve already met.”

And just in case you haven’t met them, we are conveniently reintroduced to these representatives of the childhood obesity epidemic.

Lindsay Gluttony and Sloth

Lindsay watching Biggest Loser and eating chips.

Biingo Gluttony and Sloth

Biingo playing the Biggest Loser video game and eating chips.

Sunny Gluttony

Sunny scooping a massive glob of Nutella into her face.

Now, I don’t mean to brag, but I was once on the telly myself, and if Biggest Loser works anything like network news, then these shots were not taken by magical camera fairies capturing the day-to-day gluttony and sloth of these kids. In fact, in all likelihood, the cameraman told Sunny, “Hey, grab a spoon and dig out a massive glob of Nutella and shove it in your face.”

When we return to the “junk room” (as it’s called), Sweeney tells the contestants, “The best weapon in fighting childhood obesity is knowledge.” Ironically, The Biggest Loser‘s greatest weapon is ignorance.

We then learn that there will be a trivia challenge for the contestants, and the losing team will be locked in the junk room for 4.5 hours a day for the week week without being allowed to work out.

So, I’ve decided to recreate the quiz and to add my own answers to help with this whole “knowledge” thing. Are you ready for The Biggest Dickweed challenge?

Here we go:

What percentage of American children aged 2-19 years are obese?
A. Approx. 5%
B. Approx. 12%
C. Approx. 17%
D. Approx. 39%
E. That depends on whether you’re using the pre- or post-2007 diagnostic criteria for obesity, as the rate doubled from 15% to 30% overnight.

Sweeney says the answer is C, though you all know the real answer is E.

What percentage of overweight children ages 5-10 already have at least one risk factor for heart disease (e.g., high cholesterol, high insulin or high blood pressure)?
A. 10%
B. 25%
C. 45%
D. 60%
E. Actually, the 2007 study used the pre-2007 diagnostic criteria and found that “99th [percentile] of BMI-for-age may be appropriate for identifying children who are at very high risk for biochemical abnormalities and severe adult obesity.” And even so, as I tweeted at Dr. Dolgoff, fat kids aren’t the only ones at risk for heart disease today.

Again, nobody guessed TBL’s answer of D, and they could never even imagine that E is the real answer.

According to the CDC, what is the biggest single source of added sugar in children’s diets?
A. Chocolate
B. Fried Food
C. Sugar-Sweetened Drinks
D. Ice Cream
E. Mainlining Karo Syrup.

Every team got C, though I’m pretty sure it’s E.

Complete this sentence: Over the past three decades, the childhood obesity rate in America has…
A. Decreased
B. Doubled
C. Tripled
D. Stayed the same
E. The time frame given is misleading since obesity rates have remained the same for children since 1999.

After the options are given, Jeff explains his rationalization after the fact. “It obviously didn’t decrease,” he says confidently. “It definitely didn’t stay the same, and doubled didn’t seem like quite.”

Sorry Jeff, you’re wrong. For the past 14 years, obesity rates in women and children have remained the same.

Of course, everyone guessed C and that’s the answer TBL wants.

After getting it right, Mike says, “The fact that it’s tripled over the last three decades suggests that what we’ve been doing is wrong and needs to be fixed.” So, does that mean that the fact that it hasn’t risen in over a decade suggest that we have been doing it right?

This last question is my favorite.

Of the parents of obese children, what percentage think their child is normal weight or underweight?
A. 20%
B. 38%
C. 51%
D. 75%
E. Shoulder shrug, since there is absolutely no research anywhere to back this claim up.

Lisa explains her teams answer. “As parents, we only want to see the good in our kids,” she says. “So I know that it’s got to be 75%.”

Meanwhile, Pam is not so sure. “We’re struggling a lot because we have a hard time thinking that 75% of parents can’t see that their children are overweight. So we’re thinking maybe it’s 52%, maybe it’s less than that.”

Maybe it is less than that, Pam, but we’ll never know because this statistic was pulled out of Strong4Life’s ass last year and there is zero evidence that this is true. If there is, I will let Jillian Michaels kick me in the taint.

In the end, two teams guessed wrong, while the red team answered “correctly” with D.

This led to a tiebreaker between the blue and white team with the closest team winning the challenge:

What percentage of daily calories of children aged 2-18 years is wasted on sugars and solid fats?
Blue Team guessed 68%
White Team guessed 55%

The correct answer is 40%, though I’d be curious what the answer would be for the 1960s, when people at red meat and real butter with reckless abandon.

So, Bob’s Blue Team lost the challenge and would have to spend 4.5 hours a day being sedentary and tempted by plastic food.

Jeff, the guy who lost 29 pounds the first week and 0 pounds the second, was concerned. “I have to pull a big number and there’s a lot of pressure on me to pull a big number because I pulled nothing last week, so I’m terrified that this is going to be my demise this week.”

And so, as the other teams head for their next workout, the Blue Team settles into the room, where we see actual real food, like cupcakes, brownies, and trays full of high calorie foods.

Junk Room

In order to prevent anyone from indulging in the treats, Alex pours orange juice on every single item in the room.

Public Confidentiality

So, here’s the weird thing about episode 3: Jillian is still mellow.

The segment kicks off with Jillian gleefully informing Bob that his team is in the junk room.

Yeah, I know. I can hardly believe it myself.

She turned it down a few notches on Danni and Pam, and yet they still manage to work out. Amazing.

We then cut to Cate on a treadmill and her voice over says, “Today is the most difficult day I’ve had on the ranch. Already, my shins: screaming, on fire.” Shots of Cate wincing as she tries to continue.

Cate in Pain

“I started out strong and now I’m tapering off. And I can feel it happening,” Cate laments. “Now I’m starting to shut down.”

Now, somebody back me up on this, but considering the amount of treadmill running the contestants, isn’t it possible that Cate could have shin splints?

The symptoms of shin splints certainly sound familiar:

  • Overpronation of the feet
  • Oversupination of the feet
  • Inadequate footwear
  • Increasing training too quickly
  • Running on hard surfaces
  • Decreased flexibility at the ankle joint

So, because of the, let’s just call it, shin pain, Cate screams in agony and stops running on the treadmill.

Dolvett approaches, arms crossed.

Dolvett Scold

“Bad fatty, no water.”

“We’re going to keep going because you have yet to produce a number I’m happy with,” Dolvett says. Cate swears at that moment, but you can’t actually hear what she says. The only reason you know she’s swearing is that they pixelated her mouth for a few seconds. “I think the reason is what’s going on inside there and inside there,” he says, vaguely gesturing to her heart and her head without uncrossing his arms.

There-and-There

Don’t make me unfold my arms and elaborate. [click for animated gif]

Dolvett’s such a sensitive badass.

But no, Dolvett. If there’s any reason for Cate’s performance, the reason is what’s going on inside there…

Dolvett Shin

… and only there.

We then get to see Dolvett saying to the camera, “This has nothing to do with weight on Cate’s body. It has everything to do with weight in her head. The way she views herself. My job isn’t to help Cate lose weight on that scale, my job is to help her lose weight in how she perceives herself.”

What the hell does that even mean? How does Dolvett suggest that Cate lose weight in how she perceives herself? Should she put her perception on a diet? Does The Biggest Loser have a program for obese perceptions?

So, Dolvett takes Cate out to the… um… tire farm.

Tire Farm

Whoa, I wouldn’t disturb the big tires when they’re havin’ relations, if you know what I mean.

Dolvett asks Cate, “Why are you crying?”

Keep in mind that up to this point, Cate has stopped working out because of shin pain, while Dolvett is the one who interprets her “quitting” as some kind of mental block. And between the time we saw them in the gym and their trip to the vulcanization fields, something changes. And that’s the beauty of TV — you can connect two unrelated scenes and make them seem related, and the audience is none the wiser.

“I’m just so mad at how I let myself get this bad,” Cate says, flagellating herself. “I hope it was worth it, every terrible, lazy day I had, every time I ate more than I should.”

“How’d you let yourself get this far?” Dolvett asks, trying to not look like a dick.

“Because I looked in the mirror and I didn’t see anything wrong,” Cate sobbed. “I thought I looked fine.”

Cut to pictures of Cate doing everything wrong.

Cate Photos

See how not fine she is? What a disaster!

“I had a trainer at home and I waste her time because she works so hard with me and I go and I eat it all away,” Cate cries, as a herd of tires grazes in the background.

Tire Herd

You haven’t lived until you’ve calved a whitewall.

“It’s called Fat Tuesday because I work with her on Tuesdays. I’m just undoing all that she does and it’s so badly wasted her time.”

Dolvett grins slightly, attempting sympathy.

Dolvett-Smirk

My facial muscles show I understand. [click for animated gif]

 “Cate, you’re not wasting her time,” Dolvett reassures her. “You’re wasting your time. And you’re wasting your life.” And I hate you. I guess Dolvett had his sympathy circuits removed.

“That’s why I’m here,” Cate sniffs. “This is part of the process of healing. You’ve got to tear down to build it back up. Is that how this works?” Yeah, Dolvett, after you’re done ripping her apart, you’re going to put her back together, right?

“It’s time to start being honest with who you are,” Dolvett says, because he knows Cate so intimately. “I’m going to help you every step of the way.” Because he knows Cate so intimately. “But I’m going to need you to want this more than I want it for you.” And Dolvett wants it for you pretty bad, Cate. Him and Jillian have a wager going that the loser has to kiss Bob.

And now, with all the drama out of the way, Dolvett and Cate hug. The Biggest Loser hug says, “Yeah, I’m a dick to you, but I still care.”

Meanwhile, Bob visits the junk room to give his team a pep talk. Then we see Bob tell the camera, “So, I’m thinking, last week Jeff lost zero. David is injured. And now we’ve got this? This is the last thing that I need right now.” Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaw, poor Bob. David’s stress fracture is such a burden on him, and now his team can’t exercise six hours a day? He’s so oppressed.

Next, it’s Jillian’s turn to feign humanity when the Red Team’s Francelina stays after their workout to work with Jillian’s White Team.

After their workout, Jillian calls a heart-to-heart with everyone, and she says to Francelina, “I haven’t really had a chance to sit and talk with you. You are an interesting little character. You know, you lose, you gain, so you get close and then you sabotage. That’s obvious. Why do you think just off the top of your head?”

I’m so sick of hearing about self-sabotage. I’m so sick of the trainers acting like if a person works out, then gains weight, that they’ve somehow undermined their own work. As we saw in the previous week, Jillian went on and on and on about how hard Nathan worked and how he did everything right and what happened? He lost the least amount of weight and got eliminated.

Or how about Jeff, who lost 29 pounds one week and 0 the next. I assume, he’s sabotaging himself too, right? Once again, it’s taken as fact that when the contestants lose weight that the trainers have successfully motivated them, but if they don’t lose enough, then the contestants have failed or sabotaged or somehow not worked hard enough, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

But Francelina is willing to play this game, and she tells Jillian about her dad who was an alcoholic and his behavior ranged from extremely good to extremely bad, and that when he died, she was both angry and relieved. Jillian then puts on her psychotherapist hat:

Nothing is black and white. It’s the black and white world that you’re trying to live in that’s destroying you. Here’s the thing. You need to forgive him and you need to forgive, subsequently, yourself. Here’s how you start to do it: when you start to understand him, truly understand him.  What was he coping with? Why was he drinking? Did he use alcohol as a coping mechanism the way you use food? So if you want to atone and you want to make it right, then make it right by rising above. Make it right by not letting it ruin your life.

Once again, we’re told that being fat ruins your life, which is nothing but a self-fulfilling prophecy. But more importantly, if anything epitomizes a black and white world, it’s The Biggest Loser. You’re either thin and healthy or fat and unhealthy; you’re either doing good and losing weight or self-sabotaging and gaining weight; you’re either

In the Junk Room. Everybody standing, sitting, laying around like they’re in traction.

Longing3

And strangest of all was that the time-lapsed clips showed the contestants lounging in the same position on the couch, on the floor, in a beanbag chair. I don’t get it. You’ve been told you can’t exercise, so you’re not going to play the pinball machines? Really? Because, as far as I know, pinballs don’t have a lot of calories or anything.

Or perhaps they were so grateful for rest that they got, it wasn’t worth standing to play. At one point, we see Mike playing a game while sitting, but that’s it. Throughout the episode, we see several time lapse shots, and they lounge the entire time.

As the clock ticks down, there’s a montage of the bored contestants and their voices complaining:

Mike: This is the longest four hours and thirty minutes I have ever felt in my life.
Gina: I hate this room.
Jeff: I feel trapped.
Gina: I want out of here.
Jeff: It is torture.
Lisa: I can see how kids could get sucked into this environment.
Gina: You don’t want to do anything. You have no energy to do anything. It’s just a horrible place to be.

Finally, the clock hits 00:00:00, and the door opens. The bored contestants fled their prison.

Somehow, The Biggest Loser manages to make a pretty fun-looking room seem like a torture chamber.

Brilliant.

Enter Dr. Splenda

We knew this day was coming. Dr. Splenda, (aka Joanna Dolgoff) made her national broadcast television debut walking up to a spacious, nice-looking home, where Biingo opens the door, excited to see her.

Biingo tells the camera, “I probably don’t have the best eating habits” and we cut to a shot of Biingo eating  junk food. Then it’s talky time on the sofa with Biingo and his parents.

“Biingo, what do you do with your time home?,” Dr. Splenda asks.

“Playing video games,” Biingo says.

“How many hours of video games would you say you play a day?” she asks.

“Like nine.”

“Like nine hours?”

Biingo’s mom adds, “If it’s on the weekend.”

“And then what about during the week?” Dr. Splenda probes.

“Five,” Biingo says.

Now, personally, I believe in limits on video games, if only to spare the brain from turning to mush. Read a book or something, kid. But here’s the thing: thin kids play video games nine hours a day, and it’s just as bad for them too. The impression The Biggest Loser gives is that it’s the fat kids who are addicted to video games or that video games are somehow worse for fat kids to play.

“Then eating while you’re playing the video games?” Biingo nods. “Studies show that when you’re not concentrating on what you’re eating, you eat 25% more calories than if you were just sitting at a table and eating.”

This may be the case, but it’s Dr. Splenda who explained to the LA Times that calories should not be the child’s concern:

It’s not about calories and weight and depriving ourselves. It’s about feeding ourselves nutritious foods and finding ways to fuel our bodies to do all the things we want to do.

And on the front page of her website (beside the before and after photos of children), Dr. Dolgoff emphasizes that there’s no counting calories. And why not calorie counting? “Will not promote calorie guilt of diet obsession.”

As you may recall, in the first episode, Biingo was doing this really awesome challenge and what he blurted out was, “I feel like I’m burning more calories than ever. This is awesome.”

This is why you can’t simply mask a diet and protect the kid from the effects of dieting. Diet jargon is contagious, and kids emulate adults. There’s no escaping the diet mentality.

“”Sometimes you have to get tough to get that message across,” Dr. Splenda continues. “As a parent, as a doctor, you have to draw a line sometimes and say, this is what’s acceptable and this is what’s not. And when he starts to see the results, I think he’s going to be grateful, I really do. Because I’ve seen it before.”

And Dr. Splenda draws that line at 2 hours of a screen time a day, which obviously thrills the kid.

We then see Dr. Splenda attempting to have a “moment” with Biingo.

Bonding

“Get the off me, lady. I just met you.”

Biingo then tells the camera, “Video games is definitely a problem. Bob mentions it, Dr. Joanna mentions it, and I’m going to go with Dr. Joanna’s plan.” Not that he really has a choice in this matter, as Biggest Loser has dubbed him the ambassador of fat kids everywhere.

Dr. Splenda then visits Sunny, who also lives in a spacious, nice-looking home, where she feasts on giant spoons full of Nutella.

“I know you are a vegetarian,” Dr. Splenda begins.

“I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life, ever since I was born,” Sunny says, enthusiastically.

And now, Dr. Splenda has bring her down. “What I see very often is kids telling me they’re vegetarians, when actually they are what I call carbaterians.” They eat carburetors? “They’re turning mostly to carbohydrates.” Oh…

Sunny agrees. “A lot of what you’re saying rings true, like we eat a lot of rice because we use that a lot in our Indian cuisine.” Damn you, traditional Indian cuisine!

“When you do pick a carbohydrate to eat, I really would love it to be a whole grain: from white rice to brown rice; from white bread to whole wheat bread. These are simple things that are going to make you feel more full so that you take in fewer calories throughout the day.”

And here we have Dr. Splenda’s second calorie comment within a matter of minutes. And she’s the expert.

Sunny’s completely on board with Dr. Splenda’s plan. “I want to help change myself, my family.”

This brings us to Lindsay, who also lives in a spacious, nice-looking home. Lindsay also has the privilege of being diagnosed on national television.

“We went over Lindsay’s medical records and there are some things I wanted to talk to you about, okay?” Dr. Splenda begins. “Lindsay has pre-diabetes. So that means that her body is not processing insulin and sugar the way that it should. It’s one of the first steps in the development of diabetes. The majority of children who have pre-diabetes will get full-blown diabetes in about two years if they don’t make changes to their health habits. But that’s what we’re doing. That’s why you’re here and that’s why I’m here.

As I summarized in my post on the work of Dr. Gerald Reaven, the man who brought metabolic syndrome to the forefront, pre-diabetes is essentially a worthless diagnosis. It’s predictive powers for either metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes are incredibly low, as the fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin levels can vary widely.

And then I stumbled across a study of Hispanic children with pre-diabetes. Lindsay is Hispanic, so this study seems particularly apt to Dr. Splenda’s prime time diagnosis. Their conclusion?

In this group of Hispanic children at high risk of type 2 diabetes, 1) pre-diabetes is highly variable from year to year; 2) the prevalence of persistent pre-diabetes over 3 years is 13%; and 3) children with persistent pre-diabetes have lower [β-cell function], due to a lower [acute insulin response], and increasing visceral fat over time.

In short, although the diagnosis of pre-diabetes may point to some issues, the actual state of being “pre-diabetic” fluctuates so wildly as to be essentially worthless at predicting the future state of the child. But being called “pre-diabetic” has become such almost a substitute for diabetes. If you’re pre-diabetic, you may as well be diabetic, even though that’s not actually the case.

If you have high blood sugar and a poor insulin response, then you may want to make some lifestyle changes since high insulin levels can do long-term damage. But wagging your finger at a 13-year-old girl on national television over pre-diabetes is disgusting.

Of course, the scare tactics work.

“I’m still shocked that I have pre-diabetes,” Lindsay says, absorbing the information for all the world to see.

And so, Dr. Splenda shows each family how to begin improving their health. “The first changes I would like to make is I would like to go into your kitchen and cut the junk,” she says, as she throws open the cabinet doors. We’re then treated to the great purge, as we see everybody throwing away cookies, cheese puffs, chips, candy bars, brownies, and icing.

“Regular soda,” Dr. Splenda says, as they dump a two liter down the sink. And, presumably, diet soda is still okay.

“We do not need all this chocolate in the house, am I right?” No, you’re not right, Dr. Splenda. But I’ll let you continue. “The truth is, you can have these things sometimes, but they don’t need to be in the house. I promise you, you’re going to have plenty of exposure to chocolate outside of the house, so let this be a safe haven.”

By “plenty of exposure to chocolate,” she means that you will be allowed to gaze longingly at a Snickers bar while you count up whether you’ve used your two red lights that week.

Dr. Splenda tells the camera, “You don’t have to give up all sweets to get healthy. But the idea is to put it in it’s proper place.” And it’s proper place is the garbage, apparently.

After gutting their kitchen, Dr. Splenda explains the next step. “Now we’re going to fill it with whole grains, lean proteins, reduced fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables, and we’re good to go.” It’s as simple as that!

Finally, after meeting them for the first time and spending a few hours talking to them about their lifestyle, Dr. Splenda hugs Biingo’s family and says, “I love you guys.”

Hey Dr. Splenda, you’re trying waaaaaaaaaaaay too hard.

Sticky Situation

The only part of The Biggest Loser that I can actually watch and enjoy are the challenges. I love to watch a good obstacle course, and TBL often has them. This episode’s challenge was junk food themed, as the contestants had to first cross a pit of “bubble gum” (some kind of pink ooze) to retrieve a 10 pound “gumball” from a giant gumball machine, then return through the pit and place the gumball on a rack. The first one to get all their gumballs would win a  year’s worth of groceries.

Bubblegum

Once again, we find out that David and Pam have not been medically cleared to compete, though they never explain why Pam can’t.

During the challenge, Mike (the heaviest contestant) gets bogged down in the muck because, as he said, “I probably struggled the most on my team because my knee kind of got tweaked going into the pit. It was just unbearable.”

Once again, we have a potential injury, and a contestant who is ignores the pain to play the game. His teammates are even aware of his injury. Jeff says, “It seemed to be neck and neck when Mike’s knee that had been bothering him seemed to flare up.”

But, of course, host Sweeney puts a noble spin on it when she says, “Michael not walking away from the challenge, not giving up.”

Mike does finish the challenge, then aside to the camera he says, “I don’t quit. That’s not anything I plan on teaching my children. I don’t want them to ever see that quitting’s an option because that’s not in my vocabulary.”

Mike, it’s good that you teach your kids perseverance and dedication, but I hope that you will also teach your kids that when they are injured, they need to give their body time to heal. Anything more than that, particularly while playing a game, is just foolish.

The Red Team won the challenge and the year’s worth of groceries.

Then, we’re off to the last chance workout, where Jillian, still mellow, explains the stakes, as we see Danni and Pam pushing themselves.

It’s week three and there are two players left. One bad day, one slip up, it would catastrophic for them. It’s nerve wracking as hell. We actually got through this first part of the workout without Pam having a nervous breakdown. I can’t believe it! I’m over the moon. It’s like Christmas.

We then cut Dolvett, who says to the camera, “Cate wants to succeed so bad and I can see it. She’s putting in the work and is getting better every week.”

As he works with Cate, he tells her, “You are dialed in. You want to be here don’t you?”

“I don’t want to go home. I’m just starting to find me. I’m having fun and doing things I like.”

Cate then says to the camera, “Dolvett said you need to fall in love with the gym and it’s happening.”

Wow, Cate is really on a tear. She’s been busting her ass, worked through shin pain, and Dolvett can see that she’s really committed. And then Dolvett tells her, “I’m proud of you.”

Cate begins to gush, “Oh, he said it. He said he’s proud of me,” she says, giddy. Then she hugs the punching bag she’s working with.

Cate Proud

Love me, inanimate object!

“Oh God, he said he’s proud of me,” she laughed.

Then Cate says to the camera, “I’m could walk on water right now. I’m ready to kick ass on the scale.”

People talk a lot about the emotional and psychological issues that can cause a person to gain weight. But we rarely discuss the emotional and psychological that drives a Biggest Loser contestant, and repeatedly we have seen that acceptance and the positive attention of others is a key motivator for these people. Cate acts like she’s just been waiting for Dolvett to say he was proud of her, and once he does, she’s an emotional geyser. It makes me wonder how much of her life has been spent seeking the approval of authority figures.

We then return to the White Team, where Pam is beginning to struggle on the treadmill. She then starts to cry.

Of course, this pisses off Jillian.

Every single time Pam starts to do well, she has to sabotage it. And she was doing well. I was like “You’re doing good, Pam. Look at you, Pam. Wow, Pam, you’re a runner.” And then she just blew it and started to fall apart.

Aaaaaaaaah, sabotage. it’s what you get accused of if you aren’t giving what the trainers want you to give. It’s not simply a matter of exhaustion or pain… you aren’t able to meet their standards because you secretly want to be fat. Yeah, clearly these self-loathing contestants are really hoping they fail to lose weight.

So Jillian asks Pam, “Why the crying?”

And Pam responds, “‘Cause I just want to break through this. I just want to be where there’s people so I can break through this (garbled).  I just feel like I can’t do this and I don’t know why. I have done it.” So, Pam has reached her physical limit, but wants to push through, and she can’t. Her body refuses to bend to her will, and that frustration causes her to cry.

Pam tells a camera in an aside, “I see my fellow contestants being able to push through whatever walls they have, and I just can’t seem to get there. And it’s frustrating and it’s a big issue between Jillian and I.” Except, as you’ve read, the other contestants are hitting walls left and right. Maybe the problem isn’t the contestants, but the walls they’re facing.

“Why is this so hard for me?” Pam asks.

“Because of what you’re thinking,” Jillian snipes. “Because you just want to blow it. You don’t want to accept it.

Pam snaps back sarcastically, and astutely, “It feels great being a failure.”

“I think it does!” Jillian screams. “It must for you! You must love it! Because you will not let it go.”

Pam gives Jillian the death stare.

Pam Pissed

Bitch, I will cut you.

“You wanna kick me in the face?” Pam yells back. “Would that make you feel better?

“No, I want you to run,” Jillian says. “I want you to step into the new Pam. Because you can, Pam.”

Ah ha! So, this is where you get your “new body” that celebrity mags are always talking about. You have to “step into” it, and then you win!

Jillian then tells the camera in an aside, “The reality is that Pam is strong, she is capable. And that’s why I push, because I know that she can do it. But it’s just an exhausting fight every single time, man.” Aaaaaaaaaaaaaw, poor Jillian. It’s so hard being an asshole.

Jillian continues on her tear, screaming, “I said ‘Well done Pam. Excellent job, Pam. Good work. I’m impressed.'”

Pam snaps back, “‘Yes, but let me push you, Pam, until I break you, Pam.'”

“Let me push you ’til I break you?” Jillian scoffs. “It hasn’t even been an hour. Week three, go inside.”

“No,” Pam responds, as she starts to run again.

“‘You wanna push me ’till you break me,'” Jillian sneers. “Oh, okay Pam.”

“Aren’t you the one that said that?”

“Aren’t you running? Are you broken? No. Are you capable of doing it? Yes.” Jillian is frothing at the mouth. “I don’t want to push you ’til I break you, Pam. I want to make you better. I want to make you stronger. I want to make you wake up.”

Pam says to the camera, “I don’t know, it’s like I don’t believe in myself enough, that I can do this. And I need to get there because I feel like everyone else is getting there and I’m not. And I don’t want to go home.” She starts to cry.

Back in the junk room, Bob says, “They’re about to experience a last chance workout that has never been seen on The Biggest Loser.” It’s just a bunch of pushups, burpees and other shit I used to do in gym class. Wow, Bob’s an innovator.

Bob then says, “My boy Jeff is our golden ticket to the weigh in. He lost nothing last week. He better go up there and kill that scale.” Because that’s all that matters.

Reverse Psychology

And here’s the payoff. Bob’s Blue Team, which has been kept prisoner in the junk room for 4.5 hours per day, which supposedly mimics the lazy lifestyles that have produced obese kids, are the first to be weighed. Here are their results:

Jeff: 11 pounds
Alex: 4 pounds
David: 6 pounds
Michael 13 pounds
Gina: 8 pounds

That gives the Blue Team a total weight loss of 2.81%. So, the lazy-ass team should suck the most, right?

Dolvett’s Red Team, which has been busting its ass as per usual, gets weighed next. Pam, on the White Team, groans, “You never want to go last.”

Bob whispers to Jillian, “Or you do.”

Jillian says plainly, “No you don’t.”

What? What the fuck does this even mean? Regardless of whether you go first or last, your weight is the same. Nothing magical happens if the White Team weighs first or second, the results are identical. And yet here are Bob and Jillian arguing over whether there’s some sort of magical advantage to being weighed first. It’s just more of their magical thinking.

We then see Dolvett tell the camera, “We’ve got big numbers to put up. Will the hard work pay off?”

And by “pay off,” Dolvett means “Will they lose a bunch of weight?”

When Joe goes second and gets a weight loss of 9 pounds, he says, “I’m happy with it, but I wanted a bigger number. I mean, I know where we’ve got to get tonight, so I know what I could lose. I’ll take 9 pounds, but I wanted more.”

Dolvett tells him, “I’m sure you would have loved to have seen a double digit. I would have loved that as well for us.” For us, because it’s more about the game than anything. “But it’s a number you can’t be ashamed of, you should be proud of.” Fair enough. But was that 9 pounds mean Joe’s work has “paid off”?

Jackson goes third, and as he walks up, Dolvett whispers to Bob, “He has to put up a big number.”

Jackson loses all of two pounds.

Pam whispers, “How is that possible?”

Jackson starts to cry and says, “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I’m putting in all the work my body will let me. I’m eating exactly what I’m supposed to be eating and it’s just not working.”

Jackson’s feelings about his weight loss are understandable, especially considering Dolvett’s attitude that the way you know whether your hard work has paid off is how much weight you lose. And yet, Dolvett suddenly sings a different tune:

Jackson, I’m here to tell you that you’re not doing anything wrong. You’re still losing weight. You’re on the path of making a better version of you. You’re here. Everything you’re doing right now is right. Know that. I know your setbacks. I know the condition you’ve been going through. You have the right attitude and I couldn’t ask for a better person to work out. I love you for that, so keep fighting brother. Just keep fighting. [emphasis mine]

The condition Dolvett mentions is the medical condition that caused him to vomit up everything, including water, the first few days.

Jackson tells the camera, “My teams in trouble now. It was up to me to pull them through it and I didn’t do it and I’m scared.”

Cate weighs in next, but beforehand she tells the camera, “I don’t want Dolvett to regret saying he was proud of me. I want him to say, ‘Now that’s the Cate I’m looking for.'” Again, her motivation seems driven by Dolvett’s acceptance and praise. So when she gets on the scale and she’s lost just two pounds, like Jackson, she’s devastated.

But, once again, Dovlett changes his “paid off” tune:

I’m looking at you up there and I know you’re mad at that number, but I want you to know that I am proud of you. I’m proud of all the work you’ve put in, all this discovery of who you really are. But I’m just inspired to keep fighting, and you should be too.

Cate then says to the camera, “Even though Dolvett said he’s still proud of me, it makes me feel just so low that I wanted so badly to be that miracle for my team and instead I just dragged them down even further.”

Once again, a contestant can feel the direct results of their work not “paying off” in the way that they’ve been taught to expect.

Finally, Lisa goes up to the scale and, oddly enough, she’s lost just two pounds as well. And this is when Dolvett loses his cool.

I’m just upset — I’m mad — You know what, yeah, you guys all lost weight and that’s all good, but again, those numbers are not reflective of the work that’s put in. I’m looking at some amazing people that want to be here. That need to be here. You couldn’t ask for anything more as a trainer.

For an entire week, the Red Team’s hard work did not pay off. They did not get the large weight loss numbers that they are told they should expect from busting their ass. And who is Dolvett mad at? He’s the person pushing his team, he’s the one tracking their progress, he’s the one instructing them on how to get the most out of their six hour daily workouts.

And so, with Francelina’s five pounds, the Red Team loses a total of 1.52%, over 1% less weight than the Blue Team that have been the representatives of fat, lazy Americans. How is that possible?

Once again, The Biggest Loser is premised on the idea that if you just workout relentlessly, control your calories and keep motivated, then you will lose a reciprocal amount of weight. And once again, that reality is crushed by the results of their experiment.

The final team to weigh is Jillian’s White Team. In order for them to beat the Red Team, they have to lose more than six pounds. Danni loses six pounds by herself, and Jillian tells her “That’s solid. That’s almost a pound a day.” Once again, we’re told that one pound a day is a feasible goal on TBL (though not borne out by the majority of contestants).

Pam loses an incredible nine pounds, and proceeds to do a gleeful happy dance and gloat in Jillian’s face.

Pam Gloat

Suck it, hatemonger!

In the end, the Red Team must vote for the contestant they want off the team. We get to see them in the voting booth and Cate, who is genuinely adorable in this show, covers her eyes and picks randomly. But in the end, the others vote Cate off the team.

But, of course, we’re then shown that Cate has since lost even more weight and is preparing for her first marathon.

And just we can all get one last laugh in, we see Cate say, “Cate is a runner, and not just to the refrigerator. I run!”

Good for her, but don’t be a dick, Cate.

As this episode wound up, I noticed that the douchebaggery seemed less intense this episode. My hunch is that as the season goes on, the trainers get less douche-y toward the contestants. It’s as thought they’re training the contestants for reintroduction into the real world, where society is generally nicer to you when you’re thin.

Finally, for this episode, the Biggest Dickweed is obvious: Dolvett Quince. From ignoring the potential injuries of his contestants to his weigh in temper tantrum, Dolvett betrayed his usual coolness and calmness to show that he is just as susceptible to being a hardcore dickweed in the pursuit of the big prize.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2013 1:24 pm

    Ugh, seriously, THAT’S what they show the world a personal trainer should be? RAGE!

    I still can’t see why it’s so bad to only have a limited amount of sweets/treats a week as a kid. The brown rice thing, on the other hand… Brown rice for me, as someone who grew up eating a LOT of various Asian cuisines, is the devil. It tastes like someone forgot to wash the rice. It destroys the taste of more subtly-flavored dishes. In short, it’s EVIL! (but I also really really don’t like whole grain pasta other than semolina and occasionally wheat while also not a fan of white bread so…)

    Still, stop it with the brown rice. Please!

    Congrats to Cate for preparing for a marathon- I couldn’t ever do that.

  2. Marilyn permalink
    January 18, 2013 3:51 pm

    I like white rice so much more than brown. When I first ate brown, I couldn’t digest it. Now, I have no stomach problems while eating it, but white rice just tastes better. There isn’t a large nutritional difference between the two. I get just as full on white rice as I do brown.

    • Kala permalink
      January 19, 2013 8:35 am

      The white rice vs. brown rice debate is more important in countries where white rice is a staple and there are malnutrition issues. Brown rice has more fiber and vitamins, which makes sense given what part of the seed you’re eating when you eat white. But Americans eat highly enriched diets (not to mention a lot of white rice itself is enriched with vitamins lost when the bran is removed), and our processed foods are just about always enriched. Vitamin deficiencies aren’t particularly common, probably the most common one is Vitamin D deficiency in darker skinned peoples (which has everything to do with the sun). And if you you’re getting adequate fiber as it is, then you don’t need to be eating brown rice over white if you don’t like the taste.

      Unless you are eating several servings of rice a day, as one of your major daily staples, it doesn’t much matter, regardless of how hard they beat that whole-grain drum. They say whole grains make you feel fuller and stay fuller, but I have personally not noticed a difference either. I eat a lot of wheat bread because I like it, but I love rustic white breads as well. I have not noticed any difference between the two in terms of satiation.

      • LittleBigGirl permalink
        January 19, 2013 10:32 pm

        I would like to eat more whole grain but sometimes it really tastes like cardboard. I find whole grain rice mealier. I am very sensitive to texture. I have found a whole wheat bread that I like. Most whole wheat pasta I’ve tried has tasted too heavy – produced a very bad “full” feeling.
        I’m not going to choke something down just because it’s supposedly better for me. I will find other ways to get the nutrients I need.

  3. The Real Cie permalink
    January 19, 2013 8:59 am

    The Biggest Asshole is about health about as much as The Apprentice is about philanthropy. However, I don’t feel all stabby if I see an episode of The Apprentice. I refuse to every watch The Biggest Dickweed.

    • The Real Cie permalink
      January 19, 2013 8:59 am

      That should be “ever,” not “every.”

  4. LittleBigGirl permalink
    January 19, 2013 10:23 pm

    Reading this makes me want to mount and A-Team like rescue of the poor contestants on the ranch – we’d chopper them the hell out of there and keep them at a 5 star spa while we deprogrammed them…they’d be released back into the world with a copies of Linda Bacon’s HAES book, Ragen Chastain’s FAT book, and Marla Richter’s Fatology 101, to name a few.

    Every time I hear about TBL, I wonder how the winner of the first season is doing…they showed in a retrospective that he gained all the weight back. I wonder how many other contestants have regained weight, especially if it has been 5 or more yrs since they were on the show? Yet another number TBL wants to manipulate/hide.

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