TBD4: Cognitive Dissonance —
Trigger warning: This post thoroughly discusses the first episode of The Biggest Loser, including the abusive bullshit as well as the weigh-ins.
Up till now, the involvement of the kids on The Biggest Loser has been less than I expected. In the last episode, Dr. Splenda paid her first visit to the kids and helped them throw away any desserts that weren’t artificially sweetened. She also tried really hard to endear herself to the kids by giving awkward face-to-neck hugs and lecturing vegetarians on eating white rice.
But other than that, the main focus has been on the adult contestants, and their puking contest. This week, however, the trainers would be leaving the ranch for the week to work with the kids.
This meant two things: we’d be seeing Bob, Jillian and Dolvett trying to inspire the kids and the contestants would be on their own.
The show begins with Dolvett’s Red Team joining the rest of the contestants in the house after voting Cate out. Everyone sobs like they’re hearing news of an execution
Then we see Gina say to the camera, “I think for the most part we all thought that Jackson would be eliminated.” That’s cold, Gina. “You know, he’s been sick ever since he got here and he hasn’t been able to contribute much to the team.”
Holy shit, Gina just threw Jackson under the bus for his exercise-induced nausea. I mean, I get that it’s a game and “you are the weakest link, goodbye” and all, but still. Despite passing out and being unable to keep water down, he has continued to push himself. It’s not what a real trainer (defined as one who is actually concerned for the health of their people, as opposed to the outcome of your game show) would recommend for a client who was puking, but it is a testament to Jackson’s determination. Of course, stubborn determination can also lead to injuries and long-term health issues, particularly if you ignore the obvious signs that your body is sending that you’re overdoing it.
But with the trainers out of town, will the contestants be able to stay on track? Oh, I’m all atwitter with apprehension.
Of course, Jillian trusts her White team implicitly. “I don’t like leaving either one of the girls for the week because there’s nobody really to crack the whip when the trainers are gone.” Given that Jilly has just two of her original five contestants left, I’m not all that sure the “whip” is doing her team much good anyway.
Dolvett chose to give his Red team a pep talk. “Mentally, you need to put yourself in the state of mind of a warrior.” Like Xena. “I think you need to get angry.” Like Archie Bunker. “Because we’ve been having a lot of fun.” Like it’s fucking Disneyland. “Winning challenges.” Dolvett’s tone gets weird, like he’s trying to make them laugh or something. “Weigh in, what? That recipe hasn’t worked, has it? Not with two pounds on that scale. Two pounds? What is that about? It’s time to get pissed off. It’s time to start fighting.”
That’s weird. Dolvett seems angry that three of his contestants lost just two pounds the week before. I seem to recall that Dolvett told Jackson after his two pound loss, “[Y]ou’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.” Oh, and didn’t he tell Cate after her two pound loss, “I want you to know that I am proud of you. I’m proud of all the work you’ve put in”? Of course, he saved his most uplifting encouragement for Lisa’s two pounder:
[Y]ou 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.
Last week, Dolvett’s all zen and Kumbayah about the two pound loss, and this week he’s mocking two pounds.
We then see Jackson say to camera, “The past three weeks have been an uphill battle for me. No matter how dedicated and motivated I am in the workouts, my body just stops. It throws up, it passes out. I need to push past my sickness and it’s time to step it up.”
This idea of “pushing past the sickness” or “pushing through the pain” is a recurring theme in Biggest Loser, and it’s how people just starting a workout routine do terrible damage to their bodies. If you’re having shin splints on the treadmill like Cate was, then she can do some non-load-bearing exercises to rest her legs until the pain subsides.
But whenever contestants complain about physical pain, their trainer inevitably pulls them aside for a one-on-one talk to find out what’s “blocking” them from pushing through the pain. Then, they ask why they hate being fat and the contestant throws something out and VIOLA! blockage broken. Once again, the trainer has cracked the whip.
For about the 500th time this season, Bob tells the camera, “This season we’re tackling childhood obesity.”
Yes Bob, we know. Obesity is the quarterback and you’re the defensive lineman… or whoever the guy is who tackles the quarterback.
I’m in New Windsor, Maryland and I’m visiting Biingo. I’ve gotta see how he’s doing, make sure that he’s staying away from those video games, finding some sort of vegetable that he likes, and with that foot injury, that he’s still motivated. I’ve got to keep Biingo motivated right now.
I’m just picturing Bob walking the kid through a farmer’s market saying, “Here Biingo, eat this vegetable. Do you like it? No? Okay, now, try this, it’s another vegetable. Is that the one?”
When Bob finally surprises Biingo, the table suggests they’re in a restaurant, while the rest of the building suggests they’re in somebody’s house. Possibly that family behind them. But what’s even stranger is that Biingo’s mom and dad have no food in front of them, while Biingo has a plate.
After Bob greets him, he asks, “What are you eating Biingo? What are you eating Biingo?”
Yeah, Biingo, what the hell are you eating and why won’t you share with your parents?
After observing that Biingo’s mom lost weight (27 pounds, she confirms), Bob suggests they head to the family’s home. But as they’re getting up, I notice that Biingo’s plate is still full.
What just happened? Did Biingo’s parents get no food or did Biingo refuse to eat his food? Plus, I gotta admit, Bob got me really wondering, what are you eating Biingo? What are you eating Biingo?
A salad. Brilliant! Way to go, Biingo. Although it looks like you’ve only removed the onions and poured the dressing. And I don’t see any evidence that you actually ate any of that salad.
But that’s all right, because if you want to shed those unsightly pounds, then what’s even better than finding some sort of vegetable you like is eating as little food as possible. Just ask any of Biggest Loser contestant.
In the last recap, I mentioned that all three of the kids seem to live in spacious, nice-looking homes. This time, we get to see their houses, and learn about their lives, a bit more.
And based on the exterior shot, Biingo’s family lives in a pretty nice home.
But we also learn from Biingo’s mom that due to her husband losing his job in the economic downturn, their family sold their home and moved into brother’s basement. Bob tries to relate their experience with other financially struggling Americans, but most people battered by this economy don’t get to live rent-free in the basement of such a nice home.
And Biingo’s family can’t be doing too badly if, when Bob inspects their refrigerator, they’re buying almond milk in addition to cow’s milk.
Bob approves the family’s refrigerator and we can all exhale a big sigh of relief.
After a brief discussion with the family, Biingo says to the camera, “With being heavier, I do get the insults and I feel down in my heart it really does hurt.” Cut to clips of Biingo being a terrible athlete and gorging on ice cream:
Just like last week’s clip of Sunny snarfing a spoonful of Nutella, I have to remind myself that this is not a clip from Biingo’s memory. Whatever Biggest Loser film crew was on hand gave Biingo instructions to gorge on food for the camera. But it’s used in such a way to suggest that this behavior is normal for Biingo and Sunny.
Bingo continues, “And I know I can do something about it, but I haven’t. I just want to be a normal kid of normal weight that doesn’t get made fun of.”
Hey Biingo, if you ever read this, you are a normal kid and your weight has nothing to do with it. The fact that you get made fun of is a problem with society, not you. You don’t have to “do something” about it. Society does. If you want to get healthy, great, but don’t do it because you think that’s to solution to being bullied. Stopping bullies is the solution to being bullied.
Then Bob uses this one family as a case study in how poor people should stop being so fat. Bob says to the camera, “I was really impressed with Biingo’s family. With the recession they have definitely felt the heat from it and millions of families can relate to this.” Except for the big, fancy house, but still… “But they weren’t going to let this recession get the best of them. To me, that is so honorable because you’re just going to decide, I’m going to do whatever it takes to provide for my family.” Like paying twice as much for almond milk.
But rest assured, poor people, Bob knows it’s hard to get healthy on one thin dime, so he turns to our new role models to help us solve the intractable problem of healthy food costing more: “And now, let me ask you,” he says to Biingo’s mom. “How are you able to manage buying healthier on the budget that you’re on right now?”
Oh, this will be awesome. We’ve got real people who are really poor giving other poor people practical, every day advice on how to eat healthier for less. What do you have for us, Biingo’s mom?
“It’s just number 1, we don’t eat out nearly like we did,” she says. “I mean, we would eat fast food all the time.”
Bob joins in. “You’ve done these little, simple things I’ve learned in just the short period of time I’ve been here, like bringing healthier things in, not going to fast food restaurants.”
“Yeah, it’s a lifestyle change and you have to look at it as what’s most important to you and your family,” Biingo’s mom nods.
And Bob brings it all back home. “That’s good. That’s what families do, just find a way to make it work.”
That’s your advice for families on a budget? Don’t eat out and bring healthier things in? First of all, I can feed, and satisfy, a hungry family of 5 on McDonald’s for less than $10 if need be. How much do you think it cost for that salad Biingo didn’t eat? If you want to save money and have something that tastes good, you can’t beat fast food (and no, hippies, rice and beans is not a cheap and tasty meal to most people). In order to cook a healthy AND delicious meal, it takes more time, money and education than a fast food meal.
Would it be great if all families could do that? I give that an emphatic YES! But it is beyond absurd to pretend that Biingo’s family has just solved the problem of unhealthy food being cheaper than healthy food.
Bob’s visit to Biingo is broken up by a visit to Dolvett’s Red team in the gym, where Jackson tells the camera about their first day without a trainer. Then we get a teaser before commercial break where Jeff is doing that thing where they whip the chains up and down.
And Jillian is yelling at Jeff, “Be the man that you should be! Be the man that you should be!” Oh boy, I can’t wait for that!
After commercial break, Jackson tells the camera, “Last week, I was getting pulled from last chance workouts because I couldn’t stop throwing up.” Dickweed. “So personally, I have to show my team that I’m pulling my weight.”
And how does Jackson do that? He puts on Dolvett’s douchebag hat and starts barking orders like a drill sergeant. It’s kind of nice to see Jackson becoming so confident, but at the same time, tone it down Il Duce.
Now, we get to peek in on Jillian and her visit to Sunny. And once again, we get to see that the pretty nice home that one of the kids lives in.
Jillian tells the camera, “I’m finally getting a chance to sit down with Sunny alone, so I want to get to the bottom of what is really at the heart of her weight issues.” For Jillian and her fellow trainers, there’s always something at the heart of our weight issues, and if they ask enough questions, they’re going to tell you what it is.
“Tell me,” Jillian says to Sunny. “What’s a day like for you?”
“Sometimes it can get pretty exhausting,” Sunny says. “I come home from school and then I’ll go to choir practice or voice lessons, tennis. Then I’ll have to do my workout after that. On top of that, I have to deal with my weight. That affects everything.”
So, a typical day for Sunny seems pretty packed full of activities, including *GASP* exercise. She plays tennis. Fascinating. She’s a vegetarian who plays tennis, but still, Jillian has to fix her. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but this expectation Jillian has for Sunny goes into the category of “dealing with my weight” that affects everything Sunny does.
Sunny then says to the camera, “I’m always stressed out because I have so many assignments to complete.” Then we see a clip of Sunny eating.
As she eats, we hear her say, “When I’m tired, when I’m stressed, I’ve always turned to food to make me feel better.”
I’ve written about this in my in depth analysis of calories in, calories out, but it’s worth mentioning here. Stress and fatigue are two surefire ways to trigger the release of ghrelin (the hormone that signals hunger) and suppress leptin (the hormone that signals satisfaction). When you are stressed or tired, eating lowers ghrelin and raises leptin, and leptin, in turn, suppresses cortisol (the stress hormone).
Sunny continues telling Jillian, “I’ve literally been waking up at 3 o’clock every morning and doing homework, and like, my test grades are falling.” This, right here, is a bigger drag on Sunny’s health than her weight and may even be contributing to any fluctuations in her weight. The solution is not to deal with these issues so Sunny can get skinny, but to deal with these issues because it’s not healthy for a child to be so tired and stressed.
Jillian says to the camera, “Sunny is a great kid, she’s incredibly smart, she’s sweet, she’s sensitive, but she’s cracking under the pressure.” Exactly. She’s got too much shit going on for a girl her age.
Sunny says to Jillian, “I feel as if I’m missing out on just being a regular teenager.” Personally, I’m curious whether it’s the packed schedule that’s responsible for this feeling, rather than the weight (which is what most people would assume).
Jillian continues talking to the camera. “Whenever you deal with issues like this, kids that are overweight or adults that are morbidly obese, you can make all kinds of excuses from access to money, time, but at the end of the day, people that don’t have the money, the time or the access can still maintain their health, so what is really the problem here? It’s obviously something deeper.”
To quote the ancient, sage philosopher Q-bert:
Really, Jillian? You think we haven’t gone deep enough into this problem? Because I’m pretty sure the problem is that she’s doing too much. These aren’t excuses: Sunny is getting up at 3 a.m. to do homework. That is the problem, and going deeper won’t yield better results. But let’s see where she’s going with her pseudo-psychiatric nonsense.
Jillian asks Sunny, “Why have you spread yourself so thin?”
Sunny explains that she feels pressure as an only child to become a doctor. Plus, she feels the pressure of being stereotyped as “this studious Indian kid.” Okay, that explains the motivation behind her busy schedule. But let’s dig deeper, shall we Jillian?
“Why are you not doing what you want to do?”
“I’m scared,” Sunny says.
It’s interesting to me that those last three exchanges about being scared of failing are word for word the exact same thing Pam said when Jillian asked her why she wasn’t doing what Jillian wanted her to do. Fear of failing seems to be a common motif among participants in Biggest Loser.
So, now it’s time for Jillian to tie all of this up into why Sunny’s fat, which she explains to the camera. “Reality is, she doesn’t pursue her dreams because she’s afraid it will disappoint her family. So she keeps the weight on and blames it on the weight so she doesn’t have to be angry at her family for pressuring her into being something she doesn’t want to be.”
Really Jillian? That’s your theory? Sunny’s subconscious is keeping her fat so she doesn’t have to pursue her dreams and disappoint her family? Really?
Man, with that kind of probing analysis, I’m shocked that NBC cancelled Losing It with Jillian after just seven episodes.
Sunny laments, “It’s just a position I’ve fallen into and it’s hard to get out now.”
Now it’s time for Jillian to lay the psychological smackdown “There’s one way to get out.” Gnaw your arm off. “Do you want to know what it is?” Not really. “You need to get over your fear that by you pursuing the life you want that will not leave you alone, that will not make you unimportant, and that will not make you unlovable.” Oh, hey, for once, Jillian and I agree on something… briefly. “When you believe that, you won’t be afraid to shed the weight and follow the path that you want. If there’s something that you’re passionate about, you need to do it.”
Allow me to give Jillian an aneurysm by editing her comment into something that Fat Acceptance can rally around:
You need to get over your fear that by you pursuing the life you want that will not leave you alone, that will not make you unimportant, and that will not make you unlovable. When you believe that, you won’t be afraid. Follow the path that you want. If there’s something that you’re passionate about, you need to do it.
Sunny responds to Jillian by saying, “I just want to try some new things.”
And Jillian asks, “Would you feel comfortable talking to your mom about this?”
After a commercial break, we see Sunny say again, “I think I’m scared.”
Jillian tells the camera, “Sunny feels like her whole life is predetermined and preplanned, so she needs to try new things to figure out who she is and what she wants to do and be. And that’s why I’ve got something fresh and fun planned for her.”
Sunny’s problem? Sunny feels like her whole life is predetermined and preplanned.
Jillian’s solution? I’ve got something fresh and fun planned for her
I can’t wait to find out what Jillian has planned for Sunny to replace all the horrible preplanned activities her parents chose. If Jillian’s right, then Sunny will stop being stressed and tired, which makes her fat so she can… um… well, quite frankly, this is where Jillian’s theory breaks down for me. All I know is that Sunny’s being fat on purpose for terrible reasons, and Jillian wants her to stop it.
One last thing to observe about this exchange: at no point does Jillian actually ask Sunny what she wants to do. Even though Jillian encourages Sunny to “Follow the path that you want,” she never attempts to find out what path Sunny wants to follow.
That brings us to Dolvett and Lindsay. And to be quite honest, between the three trainers, Dolvett seems the least douchiest, due partially to the fact that he isn’t yet hocking diet pills like Jillian and Bob. But he’s also noticeably less cruel in his workout “motivation” style. Don’t get me wrong, he has his dickweed moments, like last week, but he’s tame by comparison to Jillian and Bob.
Lindsay’s house is more modest than the other kids, but it seems pretty nice for California and its ridiculous home prices.
Dolvett sits down with Lindsay, her mom and her sister (the one who signed her up for the show). Dolvett asks what they’ve been doing. Lindsay and her mom get up at 5 a.m. for a two-mile run, then she rides bikes with her sister in the evening. Dolvett praises them for being active as a family. Then Lindsay’s sister says, “She’s a role model now.”
I have a real problem with this. Lindsay is 13-years-old. She does not need to be a role model for other children, particularly when it comes to their health. That’s way too much pressure to put a young child, and it’s the kind of situation that sets a kid up for an eating disorder of one kind or another.
Dolvett then asks to speak alone with Lindsay, and when they others leave he says, “Tell me about when you tried out for the cheerleading squad and when you used to be bullied.”
Lindsay starts to choke up as she explains:
They would just say really hurtful names, like, mostly fat names. [Cut to shots of Lindsay watching cheerleaders from afar] They would just laugh and it hurt, and you can’t even focus because you feel uncomfortable in class and you feel like everyone’s just laughing at you. I would get really sad in class and I would just hold back the tears sometimes and I would just wait till I got home and just watch cartoons.
Then Dolvett says to the camera, “I think all of us have been bullied in some way. Kids can be cruel. But that impression on a small child’s mind on how they view themselves, I’m held responsible to help this young lady see herself in a different light. Period.”
Now this is true. While I believe that bullying has to stop, it’s not like a magic faucet you get to turn off in society. So, we have to shore up the self-confidence of our kids, and assure them that the opinions of others aren’t as important as they seem. Given my childhood, I should be WAAAAY more insecure than I already am (which is still quite a bit), but I had people in my life reassuring me that I was still awesome, regardless of what others said or did to me. If my mom couldn’t stop the bullies herself, she could at least remind me of what really matters. So, in this respect, I kind of like what Dolvett tries to say to Lindsay:
You have to know this. There’s no room in my book for bullying. There’s no excuse for it, or teasing or taunting anybody. There is nothing you cannot do.Don’t stop believing in yourself. Just keep smiling and you kill them with kindness. There are so many amazing things in front of you. I’m excited to know you.
He’s at least trying to build her up, rather than psychoanalyze her using Jillian’s Patented Soul-Searching Method . If I were to put Dolvett’s sentiment into two songs, they would be Ben Folds’ “Still Fighting It” and Wilco’s “What’s the World Got in Store.”
So my guard is down. Dolvett’s doing well. He seems to get it, like when he says to the camera, “I found out that Lindsay quit her cheerleading team in middle school because kids were making fun of her weight. This is pretty common for kids that are overweight. I feel the best way to restore her confidence is for her to face these problems head on.”
Awesome, Dolvett’s going to help Lindsay confront the bullies. Maybe tell them that she doesn’t deserve to be treated that way and that anyone can be a cheerleader if they work hard enough.
When they get to her school’s gym, Dolvett tells her he’s got a surprise and a bunch of cheerleaders enter from a side door cheering happily.
We hear Dolvett’s voiceover say, “This is the high school team that Lindsay desperately wants to be a part of.” We see Lindsay gape-jawed at the sight of the cheerleaders chanting “Don’t give up. Never give in. Fight to win.” Then Dolvett says to the camera, “In this moment, Lindsay saw herself out there.”
“I realize they’re telling me, never give up, always fight for your dreams, just go for it, and I love that,” Lindsay says to the camera. “These girls were really cheering for me. Everybody was just so welcoming, they were so nice to me and I just love it.”
Aaaaaaaaaaw, that’s so sweet. I can’t believe those cheerleaders would go from being bullies and jerks to cheering for Lindsay to never give up. Dolvett must have broken through to those cheerleaders as well, showing them the error of their ways.
Either that or the opportunity to cheer on national television was motivation enough to act like they suddenly care about the little fat girl whom they ostracized just the week before.
Dolvett tells the camera, “My goal is to open up Lindsay’s mind to what’s possible. Anything’s possible if you put your mind to it.” Well, anything’s possible when you have a camera crew. and a budget.
And what’s this “anything’s possible” stuff? Lindsay was on the cheerleading squad. She didn’t quit because she couldn’t do the moves, she quit because the other cheerleaders were making fun of her weight. So what is the “anything” that is “possible”? Cheerleading? Yeah, Lindsay knows. She did it.
No. The “anything” that Dolvett is talking about is losing weight so that she can join the cheerleading team without being made fun of. In other words, escaping the stigma, rather than eliminating the stigma.
At this point, two of the cheerleaders break off from the rest and sit down with Lindsay in the bleachers.
Cheerleader 1 says, “Are you excited for this really exciting journey you’re going to go on?” Um… journey? Because if they aren’t talking about a physical journey to another location, then I’m pretty sure this is a cheerleading cult.
“We’re excited for you,” Cheerleader 2 says with a 5,000 watt smile.
“I know,” Cheerleader 1 grins. “We’ll be watching you through the whole way.”
The whole way where?
Simple: the whole way to thin.
“My dream is to also be a cheerleader here,” Lindsay gushes.
“Just know that ‘can’t’ isn’t a word in a cheerleader’s vocabulary,” Cheerleader 2 says, without explaining how she declines invitations. “Like, don’t say you can’t because you can. Anything is possible. If you believe that you can do it.” Yeah, listen to that teenager’s sage advice.
“Just push through the pain and you’ll know, like, once it’s all done it will be so worth it,” Cheerleader 1 says, sowing the seeds of The Biggest Loser philosophy into the young girl’s head.
“I really look up to you guys right now,” Lindsay says, smiling broadly.
“Aaaaaaaaaw, thank you,” both cheerleaders cooed.
And that’s about all I can stomach of this completely staged Fantasy of Being Thin that entices Lindsay with acceptance in exchange for her “pushing through the pain” on her “journey” to getting thin enough to actually earn their acceptance.
Once again, this is putting a lot of pressure on a kid. Now her entire school is watching her every move to make sure she gets and stays thin. Assuming she loses enough weight (and I am willing to wager that the show is leading up to Lindsay getting thin enough to become a cheerleader), she won’t be able to eat in public in peace until possibly college. If she so much as eats a cookie in public, some overzealous cheerleader will no doubt shame her into putting it down. Once again, this is a petri dish for an eating disorder.
The challenge is boring: running a 5k. The stakes are that the winning team gets $15,000 to split, second place gets $5,000, and third place gets $2,500. Of course, these big money stakes are brought to you by BodyMedia (another company to throw on the boycott list). Jeff makes a HI-larious joke, “Probably the only things I’ve ever run for are maybe first in line at the buffet.”
I once wrote about the very first episode of Season 8, the very first thing The Biggest Loser made the contestants do was run one mile up a beach, a difficult task for a sedentary person of any size. So, it was no shock that several contestants collapsed and that one had to be hospitalized for two weeks.
Unlike that season, these contestants would be running along the beach on hard surface. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be issues.
Jackson explains his struggle as he ran. “All of the sudden I feel my lungs tightening up and it’s almost like I’m being held underwater and I can’t breathe. And I’m like, ‘Oh no, this is not good.'”
Fortunately (?) for Jackson, Dr. Huzunga shows up.
Dr. H tells Jackson, “We’re going to get you a puffer in a couple of minutes.”
Okay, I’m not a medical professional, but wouldn’t it be best for Jackson to stop until he can get an inhaler? And where’s the damned medical crew that is supposed to be caring for the health and welfare of the contestants? A couple minutes away?
Jackson explains the plan in the meantime. “So I’ve just got to slow down and try to catch my breath, and it was difficult because no matter how deeply I breathed it felt like I wasn’t getting any air.” Yeah, it’s called exercise-induced asthma and it helps to stop exercising. “Then I get a couple of puffs in.” There ya go, Jackson.
We see Dr. Hozinga explain how to use inhaler then after Jackson takes a hit, Dr. H says, “Keep walking as fast as you can.” Yeah, God forbid you should lose a race because you’re suffocating.
Jackson tells the camera, “I start feeling better, my lungs start to relax a bit, and then I know that I have it.” I know that I have once again been convinced to put a game show before my own health.
In the end, Pam and Danni from Jillian’s White team wins and they get the money. Whoopie!
Meanwhile, Sunny arrives for Jillian’s big planned surprise that will free her from preplanned tyranny. We see signs for Pittsford Crew and then Jillian standing in an enormous garage filled with boats. Also, Jillian has a bullhorn. Jillian Michaels needs a bullhorn like a lion needs an amazing Ginsu knife.
As Sunny gets out of the car, Jillian says, “I thought after our talk last night that we might expand your horizons a little bit. Maybe we should do something that’s a team sport. Go outside, experience nature. Rowing. It’s a full body workout. This is gonna be good for you.”
Okay. Okay. Maybe I’m being too quick to judge. Maybe Jillian has a better explanation for why rowing is somehow going to make Sunny’s life less stressful and help her get more sleep. Jillian explains to the camera:
Sunny tells me that she wants to try new things, she wants to explore, she wants to be adventurous, so I thought we would try crew. It’s great, it’s a team sport, and at the end of the day, I’m not an experienced rower, so it’s going to be very fun for both of us. Exercise for kids should be fun and rowing just one of a hundred things I can think of that would be great for her to try.
The problem was not that Sunny doesn’t know that exercise can be fun or that she wants to try new things but she can’t. She was already playing tennis for fuck’s sake. The problem was that Sunny has so much going on in her life that she has to get up at 3 a.m. just to finish her homework, and she’s still failing her classes. How does rowing fix that, Jillian?
Just as with school-sponsored sports, rowing is a considerable time commitment for both the athletes and families.
Practice is five days a week (approximately 2 hours/day), and attendance is required for all practices and regattas. Regattas (4-5) are scheduled on weekends throughout the season and require a full day (or two) commitment at the regatta site.
Participating in multiple time-intensive activities – such as drama, dance and music programs, Scouts and even Drivers Ed – is not impossible while rowing, but requires special motivation and commitment. Think carefully of all commitments at home, school and other areas of your athlete’s life before he/she joins Pittsford Crew.
The physical demands of rowing and potential for injury preclude concurrent participation in any other sport.
Serious consideration should be given as to whether the necessary time commitment can be made before registering. Consequences of missing practices/regattas are determined at the discretion of the coaches.
The best part is that earlier, Jillian said that “people that don’t have the money, the time or the access can still maintain their health,” and dismissed any claims to contrary as “excuses.” So to prove her point, she chose a sport that can cost participants upwards of $1,000 per year in program fees, travel expenses, parent expenses and uniforms.
Sunny is a good sport:
I probably wouldn’t have tried something like this in the past because I would have been nervous that I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the rest of the team. And today I surprised myself and I did something I’m really proud of and it was cool to work with a team.
Don’t get me wrong, Sunny seems to really enjoy crew and maybe it will be her new favorite thing. But the problem, according to Sunny’s own words, was that all the preplanned activities were making her so busy that she was stressed. Crew does nothing to fix that.
So when they return to the house, Jillian helps Sunny have a heart-to-heart with her mom.
Jillian begins the conversation by telling Sunny’s mom, “Since I’ve met your daughter she’s been telling me that the weight’s holding her back and I can’t do the things I really want to do. Yet the things that she wants to do don’t necessarily fall into alignment with the life that has been predetermined.”
Maybe I missed it, or maybe it was said off camera, but I don’t recall Sunny ever saying that her weight was holding her back. In fact, in the scenes where Sunny talks openly about her problems, it’s about the stress she’s feeling. And once Jillian steps aside, she says as much to her mom. Sunny talks about how she feels pressured to go to an Ivy League school and become a heart surgeon.
Then, interestingly, she says, “I feel as if the stress is making me put on weight.” That one observation from Sunny obliterates all the contortions Jillian goes through to support her fat narrative.
We then see Sunny say to the camera, “I’m always stressed out because I have so many assignments to complete and it can just really take a toll on my efforts to be healthy because when I’m tired and when I’m stressed I’ve always turned to food to make me feel better.”
Right now, Sunny is about 5,000 miles ahead of Jillian in terms of comprehending the situation in terms of how it’s affecting her health. Whether it makes her fat or not is irrelevant. If she’s stressed and tired because she has too much on her plate, then the answer is not to give her a new hobby that takes two hours a day of her time and limits the other activities she’s able to do. That’s just idiotic.
Of course, her mother is totally supportive and doesn’t want to pressure Sunny into doing what she doesn’t want to do. But then we get a shot of the mother telling the camera, “I’m afraid I’m not a good role model in many ways, maybe in terms of diet and exercise, but no matter what she does I want her to be happy doing it and her to be doing the best she can in her field.”
Jillian tells the mom, “But part of her fear is that if she doesn’t fit into this mold she’ll be a huge disappointment.”
Her mom says, “Sunny, I love you no matter what you do in life.”
Then Sunny says to the camera, “Taking that step toward a healthier lifestyle for myself really made me realize that there’s so many things I do want for myself and just because I don’t become that doctor doesn’t mean that I’m not somebody that my parents can be proud of. For the first time in a long time, I’m so excited to try new things and to find out who I really am. I’m excited to tell people that maybe I’m not who you think I am.”
I like Sunny. I think that of the three kids, she’s probably the one who will come out of this experience relatively unscathed. It may be because she’s older, but she also seems more secure in herself than the other two kids. For being 16, the insights that she brought to this superficial reality show are really uplifting in terms of the message it sends to kids. And it’s largely because she’s so young and she’s so confident in her abilities. Maybe not her body, but hopefully she’ll find that in time.
Another commercial break, another teaser of Jillian yelling “Be the man that you should be! Be the man that you should be!” at Jeff while he’s whippin’ it.
When they return from commercial, Bob and Biingo are at a Triple-A baseball stadium with some pitcher who inspires Biingo.
It’s pretty humdrum stuff, but there’s one thing worth noting. After Biingo plays some baseball with Bob and the pitcher, we hear Bob say to the camera:
The Biggest Loser is all about getting kids more active. And it’s up to us to show kids that being active can be fun and it doesn’t need to be like homework. Do I want Biingo to eat all of his vegetables? Of course I do. But if I can get Biingo running around a baseball field and having a really great time, I will take that over the food any day.
Hear that Biingo? You don’t have to get a salad you won’t eat anymore! You can eat like a normal kid who isn’t forced to get a salad for the camera when they go out to eat. Bob is essentially admitting that fitness trumps caloric restriction (aka, the thing that makes Biggest Loser contestants lose the weight) any day. Healthy eating is not the same as caloric restriction, and fitness is the best indicator of health.
The trainers return to the “ranch,” because they’re cowboys?
Jeff says to the camera, “We’ve kind of been missing our fearless leader. I’m definitely excited to get a last chance workout with him to shed whatever last couple of pounds we can.”
Exercise is not what makes a person lose weight, especially when you’re not doing it at the Biggest Loser ranch, for six hours a day. And even with the increased caloric expenditure, I would bet money that almost all of the contestants were the exact same weight before and after the last chance workout. It’s this weird fantasy people have that you get on the treadmill and the weight falls off. That’s just not how it works.
Elsewhere, Dolvett’s asking his team how it went. And out of nowhere, Dolvett says, “Let’s have some breakfast.”
Bear in mind that this is the fourth episode and they have yet to show us how the contestants eat, so I’m kind of eager to see what their diet looks like. As I said, unsustainable levels of caloric restriction is the way people lose weight, so what does a Biggest Loser contestant eat for breakfast to lose one pound a day?
Apparently, it’s a Yoplait Smoothie (boycott), according to the infomercial that ensued.
They each take about one drink before Dolvett says, “Guys, it’s been five whole days since I’ve worked with you. Last chance workout, let’s go!” Clap! Smoothie time’s over.
In the gym, Dolvett’s talking about how they have to make up for the previous week and that everybody has to be at their peak performance. Period. He praises Jackson for taking the reigns in his absence, but then he starts talking trash about Joe, who is 22 years older than Jackson.
Dolvett asks Joe, “What’s that speed on?”
“3.5,” Joe responds.
“Put it on 4.0,” Dolvett says, looking frustrated. Dolvett then tells the camera, “Joe comes from an athletic background. Joe’s accustomed to being in a gym. Jackson couldn’t be more the opposite.”
We then see Joe stepping off the treadmill, which makes Dolvett angry.
“Even if your toes fall off of the treadmill and fall on the ground, you do not pause.” Even if you’re lying on your side, do the Curly Shuffle. “Stand up tall.”
Joe straightens his back, “I’m doing my best here.” Then he leans on the handles once.
“Stand up tall, baby. Look straight ahead,” he tells Joe. Then to the room. “Own this moment people. Own. This. Moment.” Be the treadmill.
Joe says to the camera after the workout, “Something behind my knee was not letting my leg work properly and it was really painful.” You mean to say you possibly had an injury and you didn’t stop? I’m shocked. What would make someone think they should keep walking even if something feels painful. “So after I was done with the treadmill I said, that’s it, I need to get out of here, I can’t have anybody yelling at me, and stretch a little bit. Try to get this pain out of my leg.”
If you’re working out at your home gym and you feel a pain behind your knee that won’t let your leg work properly, what would you do? Keep walking? Or would you get off the treadmill and stretch? Maybe do a workout that doesn’t hurt your leg?
Not on the ranch, though. On the ranch, you “push through the pain” because pain is your body’s way of saying, “I’m not really sure what’s going on here, so let that stranger tell you what to do.”
As Joe takes a break on the front porch of the gym, Dolvett tells the camera, “Joe will take an opportunity to go relax. He’s not comfortable pushing himself. But not on my watch.” No sirree bob.”You will push yourself. It’s the only way you’re going to be successful. Period.”
Dolvett is fond of saying “Period.” It’s like he doesn’t trust us to assume that his punctuation is there.
Dolvett follows Joe outside and asks, “Why are you out here? You know who should be out here right now? Jackson, or maybe one of the girls. Not the former athlete.” Yeah, Joe, what are you thinking? Athletes don’t rest when they feel pain. They just keep going until they tear their ACL.
Joe shares his athletic history and how his father’s second heart attack is his motivation for being there. As motivations go, this is actual health concerns are the best for ensuring long-term success with a fitness program. So although Joe may be committed to getting healthy, he may not be able to commit to 6 hour daily workouts so he can lose weight too.
Dolvett tells Joe, “I’ve been dying for some consistency from you, but I’m getting sick and tired of begging for it.”
Joe gives in, “Alright, I’ll stretch, I’m ready.”
Dolvett tells Joe, “There’s one trainer here. Don’t make me come chase you again.” As far as I could tell, nobody made Joe do anything, but okay.
The Joe tells the camera, “That’s what trainers do, they push you. So, he’s good at what he does, he’s pushing me beyond my limits, and now I just need to trust him and believe in him.” Like our Lord Jesus Christ.
We switch to Bob’s Blue team, where Gina tells the camera, “I haven’t felt well this week. My burns aren’t exactly what they should be and I needed today to be really, really good.”
I’m curious what her “burns” are? I’m assuming its the caloric expenditure estimated through body sensors. If so, then not getting the “burns” she wants may be her metabolism responding to the severe caloric deficits. But it’s a weird, vague comment.
We then see Gina struggling on some machine, and Bob tells her:
You’re not going home. You’re working your ass off, just like you’ve done every single week pulling those big-ass numbers, losing a pound a day. You just think, “I’m glad I’m at the point where I feel like I can’t go any longer.” [emphasis mine]
Once again, Bob references a pound a day, which is not a healthy rate to lose weight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and pretty much every medical expert in the country. One to two pounds per week is considered a healthy amount. But it’s worth noting that one pound a day seems like the gold standard in weight loss for the show.
But it’s when the focus turns to Jeff, that things get interesting.
Jeff says to the camera, “I’m excited to get in a last chance workout with Bob again. And I get stuck with Jillian.” We then see Jeff flipping huge tires (lifting with his back and not his legs) and getting yelled at by Jillian.
Then Jeff says the following, which makes me like him even more. “I don’t like Jillian’s style, I don’t like her method. The negative reinforcement thing, it doesn’t work for me. And other people give into it and buy into it. I don’t.”
Jillian complains about Jeff’s whippin’ it skills. “That sucks Jeff. Like the erg.”
And then Jeff snaps, and says, “Then put my on the erg if you want it done like the erg.”
I have no idea what the fuck and erg is, but I’m assuming it’s some kind of alien creature that you ride like a bucking bronco.
Jillian gets pissed. “What’s with the attitude?”
“What am I doing that’s not awesome?” Jeff asks. Then he turns on venom. “You act like we haven’t been here all week. You’re the one who hasn’t been here all week.”
Jillian starts to take the chains away from him. “Do what I ask for, Jeff. Do what I ask for. Whip it hard like I told you.”
And then, the words we’ve come to expect. “Be the [BLEEPING] man that you should be. Be the man that I expect you to be. Be the man that you can be.
Jillian whines to the camera, “Jeff was driving me up a wall today. I see a young kid with a chip on his shoulder the size of New York. He’s got an attitude and he half-asses nearly every single thing I ask him to do.”
Jillian then tells Jeff, “I don’t want you to hold back. You always preserve.”
” I don’t though,” Jeff objects.
“You do, babe,” Jillian says, trying to cool things down. “You always hold back. Always, just a little bit.”
“No I don’t,” Jeff says, getting pissed.
“Trust me.” Jillian knows all, sees all. “You do.”
“I don’t appreciate that either.” Atta boy Jeff.
Jillian, obviously flustered, says, “You don’t appreciate that you always have a [BLEEPING] attitude.”
“So do you,” Jeff sasses.
Jillian can barely stand it. “I’m your trainer!” she whine-rages.
Then, it gets better. Bob says to the camera, “When I see Jillian yelling at Jeff because she feels like he’s not giving her all, I know Jeff. And I feel like it’s only four weeks and I believe that he can handle anything, it’s just, a little bit of moderation here.”
WHAT THE FUCK?
Bob Harper as the voice of reason? Really? Are we watching Bizzaro Biggest Loser?
“You know what Jeff?” Jillian huffs. “Go back to Bob.”
“Okay fine, whatever,” Jeff says, walking away.
Then Bob arrives and asks Jillian, “What’s going on?”
Jillian calls in the waaaaaaaaaahmbulance. “He phones it in all the time. And when I call him out on phoning in I get more attitude.”
Both Jeff and Bob look incredulous.
“I see him right now, he’s got more,” Jillian whinges on. “I’m done wanting it for you. You’re right Jeff, you’ve given 100%, God bless. You could win the whole show if you got your [BLEEP] together.”
The shots of Bob’s face during this exchange are priceless.Jillian continues to complain to the camera, “My disappointment with Jeff is that if he get out of his own way he could actually have a pretty great life. He’s a good looking kid, he’s a smart kid, he’s a strong kid, but he really is his own worst enemy.”
I know, right? Jeff would have such a perfect life if he would just let her plan it like she’s done for Sunny.
“You know what?” Jillian says to Jeff and Bob. “I don’t give a crap. What do I care?”
Yes, Jillian, why do you care?
“That’s fine,” Jeff dismisses her.
“Don’t say you don’t give a crap,” Bob objects.
“I don’t,” Jillian says, as though this is Jeff’s loss. “Any more.”
“You do,” Bob protests. “You absolutely do give a crap.”
“No, trust me, I don’t.”I trust you, Jillian. I trust that you have never given a crap and you never will.
Bob says to the camera, “Here’s the thing about Jillian. When I see her yelling and screaming it’s because she does care.” Isn’t the “I yell and scream at you because I love you” defense typically the domain of abusive spouses? “That’s why you came back. You care.” That and they cancelled your sit-com pilot, “Here Comes Jillian!”
Finally, Jillian says to the camera, “I want these guys to earn it. Don’t act like it’s a punishment. Show up every day and own this opportunity because that’s what it is, an opportunity.” An opportunity to get treated like crap by some of the premiere douchebags and dickweeds in the industry.
Impotent with rage, Jillian turns to her other contestants. And as I paused the show so I could transcribe more words, I stumbled upon the single greatest screencap this show has ever produced.
So, I just had to make an animate gif of Mike bludgeoning Jillian with a sledgehammer.
If you think society’s standards are arbitrary, wait until you hear about this weigh in. Some of it can be seen in the previous episodes, but nowhere is it more evident than in the way the trainers praise or admonish their team as they weigh in. You can check out the weight loss stats on Wikipedia if you are so inclined.
First up is Alex, the contestant who probably gets the least amount of screen time of all the contestants, including David, the injured guy. Alex lost four pounds, and she laments, “I try to do everything I’m told. I eat the way I’m supposed to eat. I work out when I’m supposed to work out.” She lost the exact same amount the week before. Despite her best efforts, she can’t lose at a rate of one pound per day.
Bob jumps to her defense. “It’s not because of her effort.” We heard Dolvett say the exact same thing to his three contestants who lost two pounds each the week before. “This girl is putting in week after week, and Jillian and I were just standing her going she deserves a good number this week.” So by Bob and Jillian’s own admission, Alex did everything “right” in order to lose more than four pounds, and yet…
Bob says to the camera, “There’s something going on with this girl, I’ve got to get to the bottom of this because four pounds is not going to help her team and it’s definitely not going to help her.” Notice the order: team, then her. But also notice, Bob attributes the fact that this woman who put in the work hasn’t lost “enough” weight to some kind of psychological issue, or what they seem to refer to as a “block.” No, it’s not the body’s natural defense mechanisms preventing ideal contestants into fat-burning machines, it’s the “block.” It’s a convenient way to distract away from failure in the face of great effort.
We then get to Jeff, the troublemaker. Allison Sweeney asks Jeff how he feels about his chances. “I don’t feel confident,” he says. “Me and Jill really got into it. She wasn’t happy with apparently the performance that she was getting from me out of the last chance workout. But there’s no pleading your case at this point. What’s done is done and the scale’s going to tell what you did.”
I love the mixed messages (and by love, I mean hate). Bob tells Alex that her “small” weight loss doesn’t reflect her effort, yet Jeff says that the scale tells you how much effort you put into the week. Turns out, Jeff put in six pounds worth of effort, which seems to displease Bob.
And of course, Jillian rolls her eyes.
Sweeney asks how he feels. “It’s not really what I wanted,” Jeff tells her. “It’s a loss, so you gotta be happy about that. But I was really hoping for a double digit of some kind.” Jeff has nearly lost a pound a day, yet he’s still disappointed.
Sweeney then asks him, “What do you think attributed to losing six pounds?” As if she doesn’t know.
“I’m not really sure,” Jeff shrugged. “Jillian kind of called me on my [BLEEP]shit a little bit. I’m kind of the person that you can’t really come at me like that because I’m going to fight you right back.” I like people like that. I hope he keeps calling Jillian on her bullshit as well.
“Sweetie, I’m seeing you sell yourself short a lot,” Jillian gloats, victorious in righteously telling Jeff how hard he sucks. “I think you’ve had some ups and downs. But I feel like if you can get yourself in a headspace where you are owning it and you are controlling it you’ll have better consistency, and you can make this opportunity your own. Make it your own. Make it what you want it to be.” If Jeff could do that, he would probably make it without Jillian there to piss on his parade.
” There’s a reason why Jeff is here,” Bob says. “Does he have a lot to do? Yeah, he’s got a lot to do and he’s got a lot to change and we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. We have to really make sure that his intensity level is there. I wanna make sure that he’s completely committed and devoted to what he needs to be doing every single day.”
Okay, so got that?
Alex’s four pound loss: “It’s not because of her effort. This girl is putting in week after week.”
Jeff’s six pounds loss: “We have to really make sure that his intensity level is there. I wanna make sure that he’s completely committed and devoted to what he needs to be doing every single day.”
The Blue team ends up losing 2.75% of their starting weight.
The Red team is up next, and Dolvett says to the camera, “I’m a lot more confident going into this weigh in than I was last week. These guys are dialed in, they’re passionate. My biggest concern this week is Joe. Please no more low numbers.”
Come on Joe, don’t be a dick. Make Dolvett proud!
After a full week of slacking off and sneaking in breaks and not giving 1,895%, Joe loses seven pounds. Holy crap! If Alex’s four pound loss is in direct opposition to the effort she put in that week, then Joe’s is too! What is happening? This must be Bizarro Biggest Loser, where the slackers lose more weight than the hardcore athletes! Quick, somebody explain how disappointing this is!
Joe starts, “I wanted double digits and after running that 5k, I thought I lost that in one day. But seven pounds, at least I’m staying consistent. I want to be on the higher end of the consistency side.”
And now, Dolvett’s got the big bring-down:
Joe being the biggest guy on my team, I anticipated a double digit number from him. This week has been a challenge for Joe and I. Joe has a positive attitude, but not necessarily a lot of fire just yet. My fear is that Joe will go back to a comfort level instead of falling in love with training, falling in love with having a healthy lifestyle, so I need a little bit more out of you, buddy.
Actually Dolvett, if you’re concerned about people no falling in love with training and healthy lifestyles, you may want to look in the mirror. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff has a great piece on how Biggest Loser actually discourages viewers from exercising. According to Dr. Freedhoff, “the authors of this study suggest the possibility that watching The Biggest Loser, ‘may result in lower motivation to participate because of the anticipation of an unpleasant experience.'”
So Dolvett complains to the camera, “Joe, you’re one of the biggest guys on my team and you only lose 7 pounds. Joe was supposed to set a tone of double digits. I’m extremely worried right now.”
Yeah, Joe, quit being such a dick!
Joe slinks off the platform in shame. Then comes Francelina and after the obligatory tension-filled music, we see that she’s lost six pounds, a full one pound less than Joe!
Oh man, Dolvett’s really going to lay into her. A second weigh-in with a single-digit weight loss? His team is fucked and it’s all Francelina’s fault!
Wait… do you hear that? It sounds like… like… tinkly music. It’s the tinkly music they play when something magical is going to happen.
“Every week you’re successful,” Dolvett smiles warmly. “You’re dedicated and I love to see you blossom. I’m proud of you, sweetheart, keep going.”
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaw, group hug!
And then Lisa loses nine pounds and Dolvett exclaims “That’s unbelievable!”
It is, Dolvett. It’s absolutely unbelievable that Joe is a disappointment at seven pounds, but Francelina and Lisa are awesome. That totally makes sense.
In the end, the Red team lost 3.16%.
Finally, Jillian’s White team has to lose at least 13 pounds to stay in the game. If they lose 12 pounds or less, the person who loses the least will automatically go home.
Danni lost six pounds.
Pam lost three.
At 2.05%, the White team has been decimated almost completely.
There’s a lot of cry because Pam seems pretty cool, and then she’s gone. During her exit interview, Pam excuses Jillian’s shitty workouts. “You need it to be that hard to make this transformation as quickly and to get it.” Yes, that’s how you get the transformation on Biggest Loser, but that’s not the same as what you do for long-term health. Why? Just ask the majority of former TBL contestants who have gained the weight back.
Pam then says to the camera, “America, next time you see me I’m going to be that ‘Damn Girl.’ The one that the guys see when they walk down the street and they go ‘Damn girl!” In the words of Crow T. Robot, “Aim high sister!” “I’m going to be that sexy, strong, confident woman I came here to become.” Pam, despite your lack of body confidence, you were already strong and confident in your own way. Body confidence is not something you have to suffer Jillian’s wrath for. Anyone can have it.
We then see Pam having lost 55 pounds, and going ice skating with her daughter (which she never could have done when she was fat) and getting a makeover and having her family tell her she’s hot. Once again, she makes the “Damn girl” comment. Then she says, “Just to be able to feel good about myself for the first time in my life has been so incredible.”
It is incredible, Pam, but all the time you felt terrible about yourself was purely self-inflicted. You could have been that sexy, strong, confident woman all along.
And so, in honor of Pam, who I like and respect, especially for pushing back against being treated like shit, I’d like to name Jillian Michaels this week’s Biggest Dickweed. Congratulations, Jillian, for not really listening to Sunny and adding more to her hectic schedule; for being a raging butthole toward Jeff; and for slowly driving your team into the ground, you are this week’s Biggest Dickweed.
- Prequel — Paging Dr. Dolgoff
- Episode 1 — The Biggest Dickweed
- Episode 2 — Reclaiming Worth
- Episode 3 — Crossfire Hurricane