TBD5: Abracadabra —
Trigger warning: This post thoroughly discusses an episode of The Biggest Loser, including the abusive bullshit as well as the weigh-ins.
What do you do when you need to disprove a common belief, but the evidence is controversial at best and common sense at worst?
Well, you could comb through the literature for all the support you can muster, unless, of course, you’re interested in funding a study that may or may not further your cause.
Or you could perform some misdirection, some sleight of hand and rely on the audience’s inattention to detail and short attention span to “prove” your point. And if anyone manipulates those two central audience weaknesses, it’s The Biggest Loser.
And in today’s episode, The Biggest Loser is going to “prove” that you can eat healthy on a budget.
Of course, it depends entirely on your definition of healthy.
And if anyone uses a fucked up definition of healthy, it’s The Biggest Loser.
For example, in the intro to the show, we hear Allison Sweeney summarize the previous week when she says, “And Jackson fought through his sickness to take the lead.”
No, Jackson did not “fight through his sickness,” he was forced to workout at an unhealthy intensity in spite of passing out and puking repeatedly. Yes, odds are that by the fourth week of sadistic training, a person may stop throwing up, but that isn’t the same as “fighting through sickness.” That’s just made-for-TV stupid.
Then Sweeney says, “While Danni is desperate —” and at these words, we see the following clip of Danni walking backward on the treadmill, then as she tries to turn around, falls and grabs her knee in pain.“— to keep the White team alive and to keep Jillian from leaving the ranch with her.”
Notice the emphasis on Jillian. This will be a recurring motif throughout this episode.
As the show begins, we see Danni tearing up over Pam’s departure.
“She made every workout feel like I wasn’t alone, you know?” Danni sobbed. “And that’s always been a problem of mine. I’ve always been afraid I’m going to be alone, so…”
The real sleight of hand in this episode is that although the focus of the show is ostensibly about eating healthy on a budget, the actual message being driven home is the perception of a fat life filled with loneliness and isolation.
As Danni says to the camera, “One of my biggest fears is living life alone. I feel like if I’m not 100% happy with myself, how can I be happy with anyone else? And this week is really going to force me to confront that.”
And while these feelings are valid for an individual such as Danni (especially considering the fat-hating environment we living in), broadcasting those feelings in this way normalizes them in an unhealthy way. When you have a show featuring nothing but self-loathing fatties, it teaches people that this is just how fatties are.
But the truth is that you could easily make a show about insecure thin people or insecure muscular people or insecure anyone. There are plenty of confident fat people who do not engage in self-inflicted isolation, which is frequently the case for insecure people.
And this is why the magic trick that The Biggest Loser performs is so disturbing. You know who loves magic tricks? Kids. And thanks to Dr. Splenda and First Lady Michelle Obama, families have been encouraged to let their kids absorb these testimonies of self-loathing wrapped up in their “health” message.
Great job, ladies.
“With Pam gone, it’s just me and Jill.” Cut to flashback of Jillian being a dickweed.
After Danni gets ready for the following week, we see Jackson, Joe and the others coming into the kitchen. We hear Jackson’s voiceover saying, “After our workouts, you’ve been completely drained, so by the time I’m done with my workout I’m starving and I have to get back into the kitchen and eat.”
Up to this point, the unanswered question has been, “What do they eat and how much?” And today’s show offers us the most detailed glimpse at the diet necessary to achieve Biggest Loser-sized results.
“I’m gonna do soup,” Jackson says.
Hear that everyone? The key to Jackson’s 40-pound weight loss is soup! Based on previous product placements, I’d bet Progresso.
“Eating healthy is key,” Lisa says to the camera. “Dolvett has talked to us since day one about how weigh-ins are won just as much in the kitchen as they are in the gym.” And that’s why it’s so fucking weird that 90-95% of the show revolves around the gym.
Back in the kitchen, we hear Joe sharing an inside joke. “More fish, Jackson.”
“More fish,” Jackson laughs, then opens an empty cabinet.
“There’s no fish,” Jeff says, opening an empty refrigerator. “There’s no anything in here.”
“Why is everything empty?” Jackson asks. “There’s no food.”
The only thing left is coffee and condiments, according to Jeff. Then they find a note.
To the camera, Danni says, “I just finished a workout and I’m like I just want food right now, I’m starving. And they taught us to eat right after a workout, but there’s no food, and then Jackson finds this lovely little note from Alley and I’m like oh great.” Ah yes, the “fill your tank while the motor’s running” theory of weight loss. Kinda like the myth that eating right before bed is somehow worse for you. For the most part, when you eat does not help you lose weight. Eating regularly is about the only solid advice I know of with regards to the times we eat.
According to the note, Sweeney wants them to meet her at the grocery store down the street.
Jackson, pretending he’s not part of a television show with dozens of crew members lurking about, asks, “How did that little woman take all that food?”
Then Mike says what we all could expect somebody on this show to say: “Man, you got ten overweight people, you don’t mess with our food.” But for the record, a person of any size who is starving after an intense workout would be pretty pissed to find their cabinets empty.
When they get to the store, Allison presents their challenge:
Most Americans need to shop for themselves and their families on a budget. Many believe that eating healthy is too expensive and today you’re going to prove them wrong. We’re giving you each $10 dollars a day. You’re going to buy a week’s worth of food. It’s up to you to make the right decisions based on what you’ve learned so far. And if you go over budget, whatever’s left in your cart will have to be put back.
You hear that, you poverty-stricken sissies? You think you’ve got it bad? Our contestants get just $10 a day to feed themselves! We’ll show you how it’s done.
Here’s where definitions get important. On The Biggest Loser ranch, “healthy” food is defined two ways: 1) lots of fruits and vegetables, lean meats and healthy fats… whole grains don’t seem to be emphasized on the show much, and 2) the fewest amount of calories as possible.
Personally, I define healthy foods similar to the first point: in general, fresh foods are healthier for you than processed foods. But a healthy diet, IMO, is one that balances those healthy foods with less healthy foods in a way that respects our natural cravings and satisfaction. Prior to the 1970s, the fact that people were skinny wasn’t because they never ate cake. Because as long as people could afford delicious foods, they have enjoyed them as a family.
What’s different now is the democratization of food: more people can enjoy a variety of appealing foods, including those in poverty. I would bet dollars to donuts that contemporary obesity rates are no worse than the obesity rates among the privileged and powerful of any century.
In any case, my main problem is that TBL includes a caloric emphasis on “healthy” foods. Their goal is to consume as few calories as possible because it is caloric restriction, not caloric expenditure (i.e., exercise), that drives weight loss.
So, yes, if your goal is to eat as few calories as possible, then for $10 a day, I could assemble a “healthy” Biggest Loser-approved diet from a grocery store. But what does this “healthy” diet really look like?
First, some perspective: in the famous Minnesota Starvation Experiment, the subjects started out within the “normal” weight range. For example, here’s a photo showing a subject after a months of starvation.
And here’s another, Sam Legg.
You’d call those two subjects healthy, right? Well guess how many calories they were eating during the three month maintenance phase at the beginning of the experiment.
Answer: 3,200 calories.
And yet an active fat person who admits to eating 3,200 calories would be instructed to eat much less.
During the semi-starvation phase, subjects ate 1,800, which is the starting point for most modern American weight loss diets. Former contestant Kai Hibbard told Golda Poretsky she ate about 1,000 per day.
So, securing 1,000 calories on $10 a day is not that big a challenge.
But that’s also not the challenge of the working poor, and simplifying the act of securing and providing food for your family is not the same as winning a game show challenge. For an awesome overview of why this “proof” is sloppy BS, check out Michelle Allison’s post on the hierarchy of nutritional needs.
And if you weren’t aware that this “proof” was nothing more than a game, Sweeney lays out the stakes:
Not only will you have to budget your money, but like millions of people across America, you will also have to budget your time. You will have just 15 minutes from the time I say go until you reach the register. So, shop wisely.
Ooooh! In one fell swoop, Allison Sweeney has dismissed lack of time and money as legitimate impediments to healthy eating.
So what do the contestants think?
“Ten dollars a day per person?” Mike laughs. “I can’t eat lunch on $10 a day. How am I going to eat three meals a day on $10?” True, if you aren’t poor, you can easily drop ten bucks at a fast food joint for lunch, but that’s also not reflective of the available deals that truly poor people can get from McDonald’s (a double cheeseburger for a dollar?).
Gina says, “I think it’s absolutely 100% cheaper to be unhealthy in America.” This is followed by a clip of her loading up her plate at a house party of some kind. We see Gina gesture to a bowl of fruit and say, “Eh, don’t want to fool with any fruit tonight. I’m gonna eat all the good stuff.” Cut to a shot of her plate.
“All of the unhealthy foods,” Gina says. “They just don’t cost near as much as the good food.”
As each of the contestants shares their opinions on the affordability of healthy foods, there’s a dark and dirty-looking flashback clip to their pre-TBL life where they’re gorging on one thing or another. And, of course, when we see Allison Sweeney, that paragon of virtue, standing before a vivid selection of fruits and vegetables.With five contestants, the Red team gets $350, the Blue team gets $280 and the White team (aka Danni) gets $70.
Danni breaks it down. “That’s less than $3.50 a meal and that’s not even including a snack. So I’m just thinking, is $70 going to be enough?”
To answer her question, yes, Danni, you can buy enough low-calorie foods for one week of dieting for $70. The real question is, can you feed normal people who eat like the subjects during the maintenance phase of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment for $70 a week and the answer gets a bit murkier.
As an example of what not to do, we hear from Lisa prior to TBL at her home. She demonstrates a typical dinner:
My kids are aspiring athletes. And they want to eat like athletes, but I don’t know how to do that. We have breakfast dinner a lot, we call it brinner. It’s our favorite at night. We have the sausage and then the eggs and pancakes and syrup because it’s quick and easy.
Back in the store, Lisa says, “Some of the go-to things, the filler things I would buy, I’m definitely not going to buy today because it’s definitely not on the plan. Lots of lean meats and lots of vegetables.”
We then hear from Danni, who was excited that she found a different brand of Greek yogurt that was 20 calories less for the same price and amount. Meanwhile, Gina offers the dieting maxim that you should avoid the center of the grocery store and stick to the “outside aisles.” In other words, the produce, meat, and dairy sections, and maybe the bakery if you can shield your eyes from the pastries.
In the end, the Red Team spent $276.67, the Blue team spent $348.85, and Danni spent $61.31.
Jackson’s exuberant about how “we are going to eat really well this week” and Mike plays the role of convert:
I went into this challenge thinking, “You know what? Eating healthy is pretty expensive, it’s pretty hard, but actually, you know, I’ve changed my mind about that.”
All because his team was able to budget their diet food for one week. Hooray!
Meanwhile, despite having $8 left to spend, Danni expressed confidence in her choices, “Quality-wise, I feel I did really good. I tried to keep with all lean, organic proteins, organic vegetables.” But it’s when she speaks to the camera that she torpedoes the claims being made:
It’s unfortunate that the junk foods, you know, the processed noodles and the stuff like that are a lot cheaper. And you know what? They are. But at the same time you have to look at what you’re putting in your body and that’s what I’ve learned here is that what you’re putting in your body pays out a lot more and you know what? If you find those places that have locally grown stuff, it’s not that expensive. [emphasis mine]
In other words, poor people can eat for cheaper if they live on ramen noodles and mac and cheese, but they should prioritize foods low-calorie, time-intensive foods like those shown on The Biggest Loser!
But what all did they buy? How much did they get? And, the biggest question I have: how many calories per person per day were they able to acquire. I eagerly anticipated a scene where we got to see exactly what the contestants bought, if only to serve as a guidepost for the viewers who want an example to follow.
Instead, we got platitudes, like when Danni says to Allison Sweeney, “I was weighing everything to make sure. Every ounce counts on that scale, every ounce counts in food too.”
Sweeney responds, “You’re going to have enough to eat, you’re not going to be hungry?”
Danni says, “No, I have lots of greens and lots of protein and that fills you.”
After a commercial break, we’re back at the house, where contestants begin bartering with the food they bought. Gina warns, “I really think that the lack of the food will cause some problems. Oh, this is going to be ugly.”
But at no point do we actually see the results of their shopping spree. We see them unpacking the groceries, but what exactly they bought for $10 a day remains a mystery. Fortunately, I screencapped all the shots of food so we could get a better idea of what they’re eating for the next week (all of the following links are for the food screencaps).
For example, we see Jeff (Blue) with a bag of 10(?) apples and a bag of 10(?) oranges; Danni has a bag full of broccoli; Francelina (Red) has two trays of fish; we see a shot of chicken breasts and onions; the Blue team eats chicken and tomatoes; the Red team eats a nice-looking salad; and a shot of the Red team’s fridge shows the bulk of their booty, which includes bags of salad, mushrooms, cucumbers, broccoli, bell peppers, roma tomatoes and eight cartons of eggs.
I absolutely believe that the teams were able to get all this food for $10 a day. No doubts in my mind at all.
But here’s where my doubts creep in: what’s the dressing on that salad? How are they seasoning that chicken?
Take a look at this shot of Michael cooking his chicken:
See what’s on the counter in from of Big Mike? I see some kind of seasoning salt, a half-empty bottle of (I’m assuming) olive oil, and a possibly pepper grinder.
Then there’s Alex, who enjoys her chicken with hot sauce:
Even more interesting than how these poor, impoverished contestants could afford hot sauce and seasonings, is the fact that subjects from the Minnesota Starvation Experiment had also compensated for their caloric restriction with “a marked increase in the use of salt and spices.” Because if you’re denied satisfaction, the next best thing is sensory overload.
So as we draw to the end of The Biggest Loser‘s definitive “proof” that eating healthy on a budget is just as easy as eating unhealthy, what have we learned? If you’re poor, it helps to live on a sound studio. It also helps to not tell people exactly what it is you were able to buy on $10 a day so we can compare the difference in value between grocery shopping and the dollar menus of fast food restaurants.
To add a little drama, the show zooms in on Gina and David speaking softly to each other.
With subtitles, we see David say, “There’s ten people in the house. Five of them are blue. The blue team is set up to fail.”
That’s it. That’s what David says.
And to be fair, he has a good reason for conspiring with Gina: they are the two oldest members of the Blue team, plus David has been injured since week one.
Of course, TBL has to turn up the drama by asking Mike what he thought. “I notice out of the corner of my eye that Gina and David were kind of whispering. I’m not quite sure what’s happening here.”
We then hear David say, “So, let me tell you something. If we lose this, one of us is going home.” Ooooooh, what a devious plot! Discussing their weaknesses as two players on the team.
“I see what’s going on,” Jeff says, cutting through the crap. “Gina and David are scared, so there’s a lot of whispering, which I find funny because why are we worrying about it now? We haven’t lost the weigh in. Stop putting bad karma in the air. Just leave it alone.”
Jeff understands what’s going on, but that doesn’t stop the show from exploiting this brief, unimportant moment for some high drama.
Back in the gym, the trainers make the case that the contestants need to turn it up a notch. For example, Dolvett puts on his badass jacket…
… and gets his scream on.
In his attempt to motivate, Dolvett pulls some choice motivational phrases out of his ass. I mean, there are the old standards like “This is a whole new frame of mind I need you to get into.” But what does he mean by “Don’t get settled in your laurels”? The idiom he’s looking for is “rest on your laurels” which refers to the laurel wreaths awarded to Olympic champions. I suppose you could build a house out of laurels and move in, but seems kind of a metaphorical stretch.
But my favorite? “This is where the pain meets the pain!”
It’s like a pain-centric dating service.
What the hell does that mean? This is where the pain of a physical injury meets the pain-in-the-ass trainer who caused it?
Let me try some Dolvett motivational phrases:
- This is where the tears meet the tears!
- I want you to work until you work!
- This is where the rubber meets the other rubber!
Meanwhile, Bob seeks to convince his team that they’re fucked no matter what they do.
“I’ve been really thinking about the numbers,” Bob tells his team. “We are set up to absolutely lose this next weigh-in.”
The Bob tells the camera, “I am not being a pessimist here, I am being a realist.”
Yeah, Bob’s a realist, and it’s realistic to say that the Blue team is just a failure-in-waiting.
Bob desperately pleads with his team. “You guys have not seen the elimination room. You’ve not had to go to the voting booth. This week you absolutely will if you don’t start attacking this day today in a whole different way.” And as he makes this last point, Bob makes this weird up and down gesture repeatedly to drive home his point.“The intensity level’s got to go up another notch and I know that you can do it,” Bob tells them. “You got me?”
Okay, so Bob says that if they don’t up their intensity TODAY that they will lose. Got it? Hang on to this bit in your mind because you’ll want to remember it at weigh-in.
At this point, we see Alex on the treadmill next to Danni. Jillian is talking to Danni about her workout when Alex says in exasperation, “I’m working my ass off for nothing. But I don’t know what’s going on with my body. I don’t know anything.”
Alex is frustrated because she has “only” lost 23 pounds in four weeks, and just 4 pounds a week for the past two. These numbers have been disappointing both her and Bob, although Bob has repeatedly assured her that the numbers aren’t reflective of her effort. But in Biggest LoserLand, what matters isn’t your effort, but the ultimate outcome: weight loss.
And so, as the trainers try to reassure the contestants they think are working hard, they have to praise small losses, despite the negative impact to their overall game strategy.
Jillian tells Alex, “Look, in 18 days you’ve lost 8 pounds. In any other world you’d be over the moon. You’re losing your perspective.”
Read that again.
“Look, in 18 days you’ve lost 8 pounds. In any other world you’d be over the moon. You’re losing your perspective.”
So much to unpack from this short series of phrases.
- First, Jillian has just admitted on national television that it took 18 days to get from week 2 (when Alex weighed 225 pounds) to week 4 (when she weighed 217 pounds). That’s four days longer than real life.
- Second, Jillian admits that Biggest LoserLand is a whole other world, where losing four pounds in 2.5 weeks is a huge deal. And why is it a huge deal? Because four pounds is a lot of weight.
- Which brings us to the final point: Jillian admits that believing that the Biggest Loser is a realistic example of weight loss is tantamount to losing your perspective. Ya think? So why are we treating TBL like it’s our national health prescription, Mrs. Obama?
“It’s relaly frustrating to know that you’re giving your best and that your best doesn’t feel like it’s good enough,” Alex sobs. “It’s something that I’ve dealt with here on the ranch. It’s something that I’ve always dealt with at home.”
For the 50th time this season, we’re given a glimpse into the troubled souls of those who are eager to join the cast of Biggest Loser. In the first episode, Nathan and Cate talk about how worthless they’ve been made to feel all their lives; in the second episode, Danni needs to be reminded that she’s not pathetic and Pam is terrified of failure; in the third episode, Francelina’s reminded that she’s ruining her life, while Cate is ecstatic over Dolvett’s praise; and the fourth episode is all about the insecurities of the children on the show. Again, these are being broadcast as what fat people are: insecure and unlovable losers.
And so we get a flashback to Alex’s pre-TBL life, where she says, “My weight has affected my love life. How can I fully love someone if I don’t fully love myself. If I wouldn’t want myself, how could somebody else what me?”
While we’re hearing Alex feel sorry for herself, we’re treated to alternating shots of her looking sad and her stuffing her face (click for animated goodness).
“I don’t want to look back on life 20 years from now and say ‘Shoulda woulda coulda.’ I wanna know that it can be done.” That what can be done, Alex? That you can find love even though your fat? Yes, you absolutely can. Do you want to know if losing weight can be done? Sure, you can lock yourself on TBL ranch, but the odds of you keeping the weight off are stacked against you.
When we return to the treadmill, we hear Alex tell Jillian, “I really am giving up hope, honestly.”
Jillian tries to help. “That’s the worst thing that you should be doing right now.” Worse than bludgeoning you with a sledgehammer? “You shouldn’t be giving up hope. Okay?”
Alex says, “I need to go to the bathroom” because she’s had enough of your bullshit. Either that, or she wanted to cry in private.
When Bob enters the room, Jillian tells him, “Listen, you might need to talk to Alex. She just walked out of the gym and said she had to go to the bathroom. She’s like —”
And Bob gets pissed.
You can tell Bob’s pissed when he looks like a proctologist with a terribleidea.
“That’s what I’m sick of,” Bob seethes. “I’m sick of it.” We all are, Bob. We’re all sick of it. “She is giving me half-ass. She’s giving me 50%.” Uh-oh, Bob’s chosen his scapegoat. Remember, they need to turn up the intensity, or else they will lose the weigh-in and blood will be spilt.
“This girl lost four pounds last week,” said Special Agent Bob Harper of the Pretend FBI.
“Her numbers have been consistently low. This is her week to rise above and take no prisoners.” And slaughter marauding Frenchmen!
Oh… sorry, I got carried away.
So, Alex returns, visibly shaken and has obviously been crying.
Jillian tells Bob, “Your girl’s back.”
And Bob says to Alex, “I need to talk to you.
Cut to commercial break.
(Read this next part like you’re in 3rd grade and somebody just got called to the principal’s office.)
This means it’s time for a Biggest Loser Moment.
BLMs are a hallmark of the show. They usually happen after either an injury or someone “half-assin’ it” or Jillian has some pseudo-psychobabble theory she wants to peddle.. Cate had a BLM with Dolvett after she complained of severe shin pain. Danni and Pam had a BLM with Jillian after a dayful of “half-assin’ it.” Sunny’s time with Jillian began with one big BLM about how Jillian thinks Sunny stays fat so she can blame the fat for not doing what she wants and disappointing her parents. Meanwhile, Sunny believes she’s over-scheduled and stressed, which is contributing to her current weight.
Now, if you had to pick an explanation for Sunny’s weight (even if both choices are wrong), who are you going to believe? Occam’s razor, anyone?
BLMs give the trainers (particularly Jillian) a chance to pretend they actually care about the people they’re running into the ground. It starts out critical, they ask for the ultimate meaning behind their behavior. Tinkly music as the trainer softens their attention, until the problem has been identified and/or resolved. Then there’s a hug and onward and upward.
Stepping onto the porch, Bob asks Alex, “Okay what’s up? You’re dragging your feet. You got that look on your face that I know that look, so what’s up?”
“Nothing,” Alex said. “I already cried. it’s over.”
As she says this, we cut to Bob, who gets a look of astonishment on his face and then makes this obnoxious ear-poking gesture.“Am I hearing you? Am I hearing you right now? Are you kidding me?”
No, Bob, she’s not kidding you or your pleather shoulder and elbow patches. Alex feels hopeless because she has busted her ass for four weeks, or 37 days, and hasn’t seen the results that you told her to expect. And because of that hopelessness, she cried.
But because Bob is an insufferable twit, he instead chose to kick Alex while she was down.
You are 24 years old. You stood on that scale day one saying that you were disgusting and that you don’t want to feel this way any more. Are you going to let this place defeat you? Because this is the week — look at me — this week, your team needs you.
Alex needs to punch Bob Harper in the dick. Just haul back and coldcock him, literally.
“That’s bullshit,” Alex cries. “I have given this my all, Bob. I wake up early in the morning by myself, and I’m out here running and I lose four pounds and I don’t know what’s going on with my body. It’s pissing me off.”
Alex, the reason you’re busting your ass and starving yourself and you’re only losing four pounds a “week” is that calories in, calories out doesn’t work. Yes, if you starve yourself long enough, you will gradually push your weight down, but it is not as simple as calories in, calories out. And most research on weight loss supports that.
So when you’re promised that working hard and depriving yourself results in weight loss, it is disheartening to find it’s not true. And since you’re doing one of the most extreme programs a person can do to lose weight, you’re told to expect even more drastic results. So, up to this point, you have simply been experiencing what most dieters experience on the more modest programs that can fit into real life. And it’s also the reason why people give up on healthy habits.
But Bob doesn’t give a shit about that. He only cares that Alex stays motivated and in the game. And he will exploit anything he can to goad his pawns into playing. So, when Alex says she’s pissed, he exploits that.
“Good. that’s what I want to know,” Bob says. Then, putting his BS spin on it, continues, “This is where you’re going to find what Alex is really made out of. I need you to give it one bust-ass week like you’ve never done.” Yeah, swim the English Channel or climb Mount Everest.
“But I thought I was working hard and that’s the thing,” Alex said.
“I don’t want you to do what you’ve done for the past four weeks.” You mean the shit you told her to do? “I want you to do something different. Right now, you are fighting for your life here.” No, Bob, she’s not. And you admitted as much yourself when you reminded her of how disgusting she felt. She’s fighting for her self-worth because she thinks she has to lose weight in order to not feel disgusting and alone. “You need to tell me that you’re going to win this one.”
Alex says okay.
“No that’s not good enough,” Bob says because he’s an asshole. “Win this week. Do you hear me? Win it.”
Then Bob says to the camera, “This is the moment of truth for Alex.” But in this interview, I noticed something odd about Bob.
When the fuck is this from? He’s got a full fucking beard and in his Special Agent sweater, he just had some scruff. It’s like The Biggest Loser ranch defies the laws of time, space, and apparently the first law of thermodynamics.
“In the past she has tried and tried and given up when things don’t go her way. And if she doesn’t commit right here and right now, and trust the process she’s going to go back to her self-destructive ways that got her here in the first place.” Yeah, and God knows that after going to the ranch once you don’t want to have to go through it again.
Then Alex says to the camera, “Week after week it’s like no matter how hard you try the results just aren’t showing up. And so I’m really just trying to let that go and not let that affect me.” I guess it helps to have a big douchebag yell at you.
Back in the gym, the red team is working out. Jackson’s got his constipation face on.
Meanwhile, Lisa’s busting her ass.
And I noticed at this point the Planet Fitness machine behind them says the following:
And now we see the marketing tie-in for the long lamentations on the loneliness of fatties. “Is everyone disgusted by your horrible fatness? Join Planet Fitness. You belong!”
Then Lisa says to the camera, “I have to do things that I really don’t want to do, but I know I need to do to get the results I want.” Yeah, clearly that’s a fool-proof method.
And as Lisa lifts a weight between her legs, Dolvett says to her, “Think about that dress that you’re going to put on for your husband when you see him. How do you want that dress to fit? How do you want it to look? This is what you’re working towards.”
No, Dolvett, that’s not what she’s working toward. At least that’s not what she said in the first episode. “I didn’t come here to get skinny,” Lisa explained. “I came here to get strong.” And yet, to motivate Lisa while lifting weights (something you do to get strong, not skinny), Dolvett is motivating her with promises of a well-fitting dress.
And when we check in on the White team, Jillian tells the camera, “It’s week five and everybody’s gone home.” Her words are accompanied by a montage of the White team falling, quitting and crying. So, what has Jillian learned?
The only person who made it through standing is Danni. I used to force people through it. But I can’t go after Danni. There is no screaming and yelling with this girl. She falls to pieces. You want to see the Jillian that’s different from Jillian’s past? This is it, man.
I like how she blames this softened image on Danni, like everything was working so great with Jillian being an obnoxious asshole for four weeks.
Danni tells the camera, “It’s very different to see the softer side of Jill because at the beginning you saw the hardass, like in-your-face, get out of my gym, I don’t care about you. And the thing is, she may say she doesn’t care about you, but that woman does.”
No, Danni, she doesn’t. She only cares about the game. If she cared about you, then her bottom line would be you, but that’s not her self-admitted bottom line:
I never thought I would come back and see all but one member of my team gone at this point in the game. And the bottom line is that if Danni goes home this week, so do I. [emphasis mine]
Finally, we see Bob tell Alex, “You fuel every single day with anger.” Yeah, because that’s healthy.
Just so we don’t forget about the kids they’re saving, we get to see the trainers check in with them. For example, we see Dolvett ask Lindsay, “Are you excited about the cheerleading tryouts next season?” Once again, it’s worth mentioning that Lindsay only left the cheerleading team because she was being bullied for her weight. But the emphasis, particularly last week, was that Lindsay needed to lose weight so that she could qualify for cheerleading. Huge difference.
Then we get to hear from Sunny, who speaks to the insecurities of most teenage fat girls when she says to Jillian, “My dream at the end of all this is is to just fit into that perfect dress for prom.”
Then, to the camera she says, “That’s the ‘goal’ [in air quotes], but that’s really symbolic of gaining my confidence back.” No, Sunny, the dress is not a symbol of regaining confidence. The dress is a symbol that you have achieved a socially acceptable body size that will exempt you from criticism. That absence of criticism, not the size of your body, determines your level of confidence. If people aren’t haranguing you about your weight, you are free to love yourself more fully. And in your next breath, you nail it perfectly.
Sunny tells Jillian, “I’m just sick of walking into a store and not having anything fit and walking out feeling totally devastated and horrible about myself.” This is followed by a clip of Sunny looking stunning in a dress, but looking dejected nonetheless.Sunny, can’t you see how it is the external forces that are pushing you down? If you could go to a store and find a gorgeous dress that fits, would that change your feelings about yourself? Probably. The fact that your body limits your fashion choices is not a reflection of the inherent state of devastation and despair you feel as a fat person, it’s a reflection of the culture that says that a girl your size doesn’t need a gorgeous prom dress. And that is the real problem.
Finally, Biingo complains to Bob that he can’t play baseball because he injured his foot and has to wear one of those big, bulky boots, which slows him down. Despite this, Bob encourages Biingo to play baseball anyway, even if he’s slowed down by the boot. “Just because he has a boot on his foot doesn’t mean he can’t practice safely.”
Interestingly, Biingo has been complaining that he doesn’t play baseball because his weight slows him down and prevents him from being good at it. Well, Bob’s comment applies to Biingo’s weight as well. Just because he has more weight on his body doesn’t mean he can’t practice safely.
Biingo’s hesitation is not because he is unable to play, but because he is so self-conscious that his weight, or his boot, might slow him down. In both instances, we need to encourage Biingo to play anyway because children should not be afraid to play because they aren’t “good enough.” Play is for ALL kids, regardless of abilities and excluding them is the problem, not the weight itself.
Finally, after a brief workout session with the trainers, Dolvett recommends to the camera how to help kids get motivated. “It’s all about finding what these kids love and what they have a passion for.” Exactly. It’s not about losing weight, it’s about helping kids achieve their goals and their desires.
Then Bob fucks it up, “Be it joining the cheer squad, playing baseball or just trying to fit into the perfect prom dress.” One of these things is not like the other.
Sunny continues, “I imagine myself in this gorgeous dress and it’s not so much how I look. It’s the energy that I radiate. I have this new air of confidence. It would not be so bad to go to prom that way.”
Considering Sunny’s admission that trying on dresses makes her feel devastated and horrible about herself, I’d say that the confidence is directly tied to how she looks. Sunny is simply trying to justify what is essentially a superficial goal as something deeper and more meaningful. But it’s not. It’s a simple problem: fat girls have a shitty selection of prom dresses and it makes them feel like shit. Period.
I hope that Sunny learns about fatshion and learns to embrace her body as it is. If she stays active and eats healthy, but doesn’t lose an ounce, then finding a style that fits her will go a long way toward bridging the gap in confidence that she has.
Back at the ranch, the contestants get a special visit. Dolvett explains:
One of the biggest complaints about eating healthy is not only that I can’t afford it, but also taste. So today we brought in Biggest Loser Chef Devin Alexander to show that you don’t have to sacrifice flavor for health.
Devin is slim and cheery and she immediately seeks to ease their concerns about the “health” food she’s promoting. “I get it,” she says to the camera. “I’m not a tofu and carrot sticks chef. I’m a healthy comfort food chef.”
Okay, so now we get to learn the secret to assembling that $10 a day shopping list into a tasty alternative to cheeseburgers.
Devin asks the group if anyone has kids, and Lisa says that she has a family of six. “That’s great,” Devin chirps, “because the dishes I’m making today are all under $20 and feed six people. And the best part? Twenty minutes in your kitchen can literally save you three hours on a treadmill.”
In order to prove her point, Devin says that she lost 70 pounds and has kept it off for 20 years. “I swear I’d weigh 400 pounds if I didn’t cook.” No, you wouldn’t.
We then hear Jackson say to the camera, “Okay, where did you lose 70 pounds because you look amazing.” Where did she lose the weight from? Um… all over… that’s how being fat usually works. “But that definitely makes it more relatable because obviously she’s a chef, she’s a foodie, she loves food. So that’s encouraging to know that she was in our shoes once and she knows what we’re going through.”
Ah, yes, it’s so relatable when you find one successful person out of the millions who attempt to lose weight and keep it off. I’m so inspired.
So, based on the show’s theme (eating healthy on a budget), I assume that Devin is going to take the ingredients that the teams bought so she can create new and exciting dishes from the eight cartons of eggs, bags of salad and chicken breasts, right?
Wrong. Devin brought her own ingredients to make a Southwest Loaded Sweet Potato, which includes red salsa, turkey, green salsa, and fat free Greek yogurt (plus, you have to buy some fajita seasoning, according to the recipe).
Naturally, some of the contestants threw up in their mouths. But Devin defends her creation:
I can stand up there and say, “Oh, use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream,” and you see people sort of go “uh huh, uh huh, crazy perky chef girl.” But when you get those combinations that win, it’s amazing the difference it can make in people’s lives.
Okay, let’s set aside my initial reaction that mixing salsa and Greek yogurt into a sweet potato is a natural ipecac. The point is that this is one of the dishes that is supposed to feed a family of six for under $20, right?
At $4 a serving, this would be $24 for a family of six. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but for people who are really, truly on a budget, that’s a big deal. And this one sweet potato would be your entire meal. As Danni pointed out, on a $10 budget, that would put you at around $3.33 per meal. So, yeah, you could allocate your funds toward a lunch or dinner of this monstrosity, or you could get a double cheeseburger and a large fries for less than $4 at McDonald’s AND have it be fast, satisfying and delicious.
And notice once again that the emphasis is on calories because calories are the way we determine healthfulness in Biggest LoserLand.
When Devin leaves, Mike says something fascinating:
I’m so glad that we had Devin here today. It really added a little creativity to some of our cooking because one of the things that came up is just the monotony of what we eat. And so I’m really excited about trying those dishes out. [emphasis mine]
Given that we’ve only seen ONE meal that the contestants have eaten for the entire five week period, this comment is rather cryptic. What is their usual diet like, I wonder, that Mike admits it’s monotonous? I thought eating healthy was exciting and awesome.
Aaaaaaaaaaaah, but that’s just what you say to entice people to start a diet. When you’re actually trying to lose Biggest Loser-sized amounts of weight, the reality is that severe caloric restriction requires monotony and blandness. You can film contestants eating made-for-TV meals, but when the cameras are off and they’re eating to win, the result is much less exciting.
Back in the gym, Bob is gauging the temperature of his team. “Before we start, how are we feeling today?”
Gina openly expresses her concern. “I’m ashamed of the week. I mean, I’m ashamed. There were nights where I just couldn’t get it going, but I’m worried about myself.”
Of course, Bob rolls his eyes.
Uh-oh, first Alex and now Gina. Bob said they had to raise their intensity all week or they would lose, so it’s not looking good for the Blue team. And Bob tells them as much:
The only way the Blue team is going to stand a chance of not going into that voting booth is no questioning, just do exactly as you’re told, and everything will be fine.
That’s right. Freethinking is the devil’s Twinkie. Just obey Bob absolutely, and you’ll be a fat-burning machine, except for those weeks when you’re not, in which case your obedience is appreciated and the weight loss failure swept under the rug.
Now Bob starts to get snippy. “I guess my question to the five of you: do any of you want to make it to the end?”
“Of course we do,” Gina snipes back.
“You’re the one who wasn’t commited this week,” Bob whines. “Those are your words.”
“I’ll keep my mouth shut next time,” Gina says curtly. I like Gina. I like the fact that she and Jeff push back against the douchebaggery.
“No, no, I’m asking you,” Bob insists.
But Gina’s done with Bob. “I’m not doing this today,” she says, walking away. “I’m going to work this out. And I’m not doing this with you today Bob.” Yay Gina!
To the camera, she says, “It’s been a hard week. There’s been a lot of game playing going on.” And by “game playing” she means that brief conversation she had with David about their vulnerability. But, yeah, amp up the drama TBL. “But also, there’s an enormous amount of pressure that I need to pull another big number. A pressure that I’ve put on myself and pressure that I feel Bob has put on us. And it’s tremendous.”
So while Alex feels pressure to put up a big number after two weeks of disappointing losses, Gina also feels that same pressure to keep up her consistent weight loss. Up to this point, Gina has lost an average of over 4% at each weigh-in, which is ENORMOUS. By comparison, Alex has lost an average of 2.5%.
Still being pursued by Bob, Gina says, “Bob, there’s a lot shit going on in this house this week.”
“And a lot is going to happen next week and the week after that too,” Bob says, as though this solves everything.
“Can’t you just wait and see what the weight is?” Yeah, Bob, seriously, WTF?
“You’re the one who told me to be worried.”
“Did I exercise at the intensity I did last week? No, I didn’t. I didn’t have it this week.” Uh oh, that’s a surefire sign that Gina’s going to fail big time this week, right?
“I need you to have it every single day,” Bob insists. “But what I’m saying is, don’t let that pressure get the better of you.”
“Well, it did.” Attagirl Gina. Sometimes pressure gets the best of you, and having Bob bark down your snorkel won’t help.
Then Bob says to the camera, “Whether it’s the pressure of being on the scale or back at home being a lawyer or a mother, she is going to have to learn how to handle pressure because it’s everywhere.”
Okay, but when you make health all about weight loss, then you’re compounding that pressure. For many people, working out is a way of relieving stress. And the best way to destroy the natural, stress-relieving properties of exercise is to tell the world that working out hard will lead to weight loss, when it doesn’t.
Finally, we see Lisa say to the camera, “You never feel safe. If you feel safe, then I think you’re in trouble. I have to put everything I have into every moment I have in the gym all the time.”
Again, make a mental note of this comment: Gina admits to half-assing it all week, while Lisa has been hypervigilant about giving it her all day after day, week after week.
Do Do That Voodoo
As we approach the challenge portion of the show, Allison Sweeney says to the contestants, “Before we get started, I want to hear how the food situation is.”
Gina pipes up first. “I’m scared to death about the food situation. I like fish and we didn’t have a really good selection of fish. So I should have a good number at weigh-in because I don’t know how much more I have left to eat.”
Another cryptic comment that seems to suggest that the “$10 a week” plan isn’t really working. But since we don’t get to see how the contestants use their food, let alone see how stretched thin their supplies are, we’re left to speculate that Gina is concerned about a shortage.
Once again, with $10 a day per person you can buy enough processed and fast foods to feed to a family of any size for a full week. Yet here on the show that “proves” otherwise, a contestant seems to suggest that they’re eating less than normal because she is uncertain how much food she has left.
Jeff disagrees, telling Sweeney, “Everyone seems to have what they need so far. I mean, we have fish and we have shrimp.” Shrimp? Really? Because the average cost of shrimp is between $5 and $18 per pound. In fact, according to “How Much Does it Cost,” buying shrimp is one of the least economical things you can do:
Eating shrimp on a regular basis is definitely not ideal if the shrimp is not readily available in your location. You may want to make sure that shrimp is not part of your regular dinner plans. If you are trying to save money, only purchase shrimp for special occasions.
Now, maybe it’s a little more affordable in California, but is this really a model of affordable shopping for the rest of the country? I don’t think so.
So, for the challenge we learn that the winner gets 10 one-year memberships to Planet Fitness and a choice between either a two-pound advantage or the chance to call home.
At this point, Lisa tells the camera about how much she misses her family, as we see a shot of them walking together:
I find this part clip intriguing because clearly Lisa is capable of walking some distance through a park, but we are told that she is not able to do things with her family that she would otherwise be able to do if she were thinner. More on that later.
The challenge itself is that the contestants must swim across a pond to retrieve “coins” (which are really five-pound weights) and then swim to their team’s fountain to throw them in. There are ten coins per team member (though David is still not cleared to compete). And once again, Danni is on her own.
But Danni manages to take, and keep, the lead throughout the race. Sweeney calls the play-by-play, and it seems that the Red team is neck-and-neck with Danni up to the final moment. In fact, it’s between Lisa and Danni on the final stretch. We an aerial view of Danni and Lisa competing right up to the moment where Danni reaches her fountain first and wins the challenge.
Except, there’s one little problem.
In the overhead shots, as they are building tension going into commercial break, Lisa is clearly in the lead.
In fact, Lisa is damn near touching her fountain at one point, while Danni seems to be quite a few feet away from hers.
What in the world is happening here? Did Lisa have a last minute cramp that prevented her from winning? Did Danni turn on her rocket boosters? What the hell?
If they did cheat and let Danni win the challenge despite Lisa being the clear winner, then the only explanation I can think of is that they wanted to give Danni an edge going into the weigh-in. Why would she need an edge? Well, as has been mentioned twice already, if Danni loses, Jillian goes home. And, inexplicably as it may seem, Jillian is a very, very popular part of this show.
And so, Danni takes 2 pound advantage instead calling home.
Another inexplicably popular member of the show is Dr. Hozonga. And as we enter his office, Bob tells the camera:
David’s been on crutches for weeks now and, as much as I’m concerned about the Blue team, I’ve got to see what’s going on with him right now. If we’re going to avoid elimination this week, we’re going to have to pull together and do everything that we can because we cannot be one man down.
Yet another weak link in the Blue team. David’s injury means he can’t work as intensely as the rest of the team, which obviously means that he can’t lose as much weight, right? After all, working hard = weight loss, right?
So Dr. Hyzanga approaches an MRI image of David’s knee and explains to both Bob and David what is happening.
We said about a month ago that you had a problem there. You know, there’s several different things that orthopedically that can happen when you start up with vigorous exercise and this is the MRI that we took. The first thing that jumps out at you is look at how much fat is on the side of the knee because that’s an area where there should just be skin on bone. But on the inside there’s this spongy bone and you’ve got little tiny cracks in the spongy bone. So that’s something that we have to take very seriously, obviously. Never had anything like that before?
I love the bizarre obfuscation here. Dr. Hizenga explains that when you start a vigorous exercise routine it can do “several different things” to your knee, which makes it sound obvious that he was injured thanks to the intense workouts. But then, he goes on to explain how the fat around the knee is “the first thing that jumps out at you.” It’s like he’s suggesting that, in reality, it’s all the knee fat that is really responsible. After all, fat causes everything bad in our health, right? Why not a knee injury?
David gives some background. “A few years ago I had an injury to the meniscus on the knee on that same leg, and it was actually on a treadmill at the same time when that happened.”
Then Bob chimes in. “I wish, as your coach, that I would have known about this injury before. You not telling me about this previous injury put us at a huge disadvantage.” And so they have successfully shifted the blame from the orthopedic stress of starting a vigorous exercise routine to David’s nondisclosure.
See, it’s not Bob’s fault that David cracked his spongy bone… if only they had known about David’s medical history, Bob wouldn’t have pushed David so far, right?
Except, aren’t all the contestants given a thorough medical examination and background check before being allowed to join? Are we to believe that Dr. Huzanga’s team did not request David’s full medical records for review? Are we to believe that nobody on The Biggest Loser‘s medical team was aware of this previous injury?
I call bullshit.
I firmly believe that they were aware of this injury and chose David anyway for reasons that will soon become obvious.
“I just didn’t even consider it,” David says, acquiescing to the blame.
“But you do agree, though,” Bob probes, “you have a hard time asking for what you need.”
What? What the fuck does this have to do with that? What does David’s previous injury, which surely turned up in the thorough medical examinations they give potential contestants, have to do with whether David has “a hard time asking for what he needs.”
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, yes, now I see what’s going on here. We’re about to embark on another BLM. See the telltale signs? We start with one problem (an injury) and we pivot to another unrelated problem (psychological issues).
“Call it pride if you want to,” David explains. “I don’t like asking for help, I don’t want the attention of everybody and act like this is just an excuse not to work as hard or whatever.”
Gee, where would David get the idea that complaining about pain would be dismissed as an excuse to not work hard? It’s like he is scared that if he so much as mentions the physical discomfort he feels, someone will lecture him on his psychological issues, rather than address the physical discomfort.
“David, when are you going to be enough,” Bob says. “We’ve got to get to the point in your life that you’re just like, you know what? I’m just as good and my feelings are just as valid, as important, as everyone else’s.”
Hey Bob, that’s exactly what Fat Acceptance is trying to promote: the idea that the feelings of fat people are just as valid as everyone else’s. Unfortunately, your show undermines that.
Then Bob says to the camera, “David not being open about his feelings really upsets me because it’s a symptom for a bigger issue.” Of course it is. This isn’t about an overlooked knee injury that led to David’s knee cracking. It’s about some deeper issue that Bob’s going to dig up. “He’s doing an amazing job working through his physical issues, but if he doesn’t work through his emotional issues no amount of weight loss is going to matter because he’s either going to gain it all back or it’s going to manifest in some other part of his life.” Yeah, like how his emotional issues have manifested in his knee.
“You know, here’s the thing,” David says. “I don’t very often let my emotions just really show.”
“I know,” Bob says, because he knows all and sees all. “I see it in you every single day. Where are all these feelings?”
“You know where they are, Bob.”
“No, I need you to tell me where they are David” because if you don’t tell me, then we can’t exploit them for the audience.
And so, David talks about his family.
In particular, he focuses on his daughter Tiffany, who has Rett Syndrome, which is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes physical and mental disabilities. According to David, his daughter has the mental capacity of a toddler and that he has to physically care for her.
“If I don’t take care of myself it’s just going to get worse and worse and more and more difficult for me to do those simple things for her,” David tells the camera.
Then Bob tells the camera, “If he doesn’t lose weight, he’s afraid of failing his family.”
And this is why the producers chose David in spite of his previous knee injury. David has a compelling story. He’s a police officer who cares for his disabled daughter and that is his primary motivation for losing weight. It’s touching, it’s inspiring, and it makes for great television.
But in order to make the audience aware of David’s story, you need a BLM to bring it out. Bob knows the story, but he is teasing it out of David by way of this knee injury. It’s convoluted and confusing, but that’s how they do it.
“This is where your real change and your real transformation is going to happen,” Bob says. “Like, what are you doing with all that?”
“I keep it,” David says, tearing up.
“And what’s that doing for you David?”
“Well, physically, you know what it’s done.”
Of course Bob knows. Bob knows all.
Repressing all these feelings that are inside of you, the more that you hold onto them, the more it’s going to activate all these destructive things in your life and it has to go somewhere. And it’s not just about losing weight right now because for you it’s a lot bigger than that, David. You’re a smart, smart man. You can handle this.
No, it’s never about losing weight. I mean, if it was just about losing weight, then they wouldn’t have started David and his knee injury on low impact exercises that may yield a lesser calorie burn, but spared his body, right?
Dr. H chimes in with “It’s okay to ask for help instead to give it all the time. It’s okay to not have all the answers.”
“And I know that you can do it,” Bob assures him. “I really do.”
Finally, we see David say to the camera, “It’s good to have a good direction. So far, I’ve really not known where to go. To face my emotions and to face what’s inside. It’s probably going to be a long road.”
And by addressing David’s psychological issues, his knee has miraculously been healed and he’s allowed to compete at full intensity once again.
Set Up to Fail
And now another segment with Biggest Loser Chef Devin Alexander to show some PTA moms how to cook healthy on a budget. Her recipe? Piled High Supreme Breakfast Pizza. The ingredients include Roma tomatoes, basil leaves, garlic cloves, whole grain English muffins, olive oil spray, Jennie-O Turkey Store Turkey Bacon and Sausage Breakfast Links, liquid egg whites, frozen mixed bell peppers and onions, and finely shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese.
Wow! That is one cheap breakfast. Hey people on a budget, why don’t you prioritize your grocery budget to include more Jennie-O products instead of Buddig meats? I mean, not only are you feeding your body healthfully, but for all that money, you’re only eating 300 calories. What a deal!
Back at the ranch, it’s last chance workout time. As Danni approaches Jillian, she says “What’s going on skinny?” Danni tells her that she won the challenge and got the two-pound advantage thanks to her magic swim fins. Jillian freaks out.
We then hear her explain to the camera, “I’ve got this superstition that you win a challenge, you lose a weigh-in. So while I’m thrilled that she has the two-pound advantage I’m going ‘oh my gosh, we’re for sure losing the weigh-in.’ And if she goes home, I go home.”
Once again, we can’t talk about Danni’s week without emphasizing that Jillian’s neck is on the line. It’s actually the third time it’s been mentioned, which shows just how important this is to everyone involved.
As Jillian talks to the camera in her own super-cool leather(?) jacket with popped collars, she says “The only pressure that’s on Danni this week is Danni.”
Meanwhile, the Red team is sitting pretty.
Lisa tells the camera, “I think we’re going into the last chance workout really good. From week 1 where I didn’t know if I could make it through and just wishing for it to end. Now, week 5, I just feel more confident.”
Once again, Lisa says she’s busting her ass like never before.
Dolvett tells the asks the group, “What number do you want to see on the scale? How hard are you willing to work for this last chance opportunity?” Contrast this with the time three of his contestants lost two pounds each and he said, “those numbers are not reflective of the work that’s put in.”
As Francelina works out, Dolvett tells her, “Last chance workout, I want double digits.”
I get so confused. Dolvett is the more sensible trainer on the show and frequently says things like “It’s not about the weight.” But at the same time, he stresses the importance of getting a double digit loss here, and elsewhere. You can’t have it both ways.
Elsewhere, the Blue team is still in huge trouble. Gina and Alex were half-assing it, and David’s emotional issues have physically disabled him. Fortunately, there’s still Mike and Jeff, who can make up for their slackerness.
Except Mike says, “Walking into this last chance workout, I’m not feeling tip top.” Uh oh. “This has been a rough week for the blue team and not just in the gym.” Yeah, there was not brief conversation that has somehow become high drama.
“Okay, before we start,” Bob says to the team, “do you feel like you’ve been doing everything that needed to be done every single day?” Because, remember, if they don’t do everything that needs to be done, they are set up to lose.
“There were two days where my intensity was not where you would have liked it to have been,” says Jeff.
FUCK! That’s all five members of the Blue team who are sabotaging Bob’s chances of winning. Assholes.
“That’s big,” Bob says. Then he turns to Gina. “What about you?”
“I’m just being completely honest with you, Bob.” And we know how well that goes over. “I’m worried. I’m not gonna hit the high numbers that I’ve been hitting. I’d be surprised if I do.” Because if effort = weight loss, then Gina should know how her weight is doing.
“It just sounds like thoughts are everywhere but where I wanted your thoughts to be this week.” Again, obeying Bob is the key to winning, and the entire Blue team has failed. “We need to get this last chance workout going. Sweat’s the name of the game today.”
As Bob tries to motivate his team, he scream, “This needs to feel like the most miserable thing you’ve done in your entire life right now! You need to feel like you are dying through every part of your workout!”
That sounds delightful. I’m shocked — SHOCKED! — that messages such as this are somehow leading to viewers of Biggest Loser to have such a negative view of exercise.
As Alex walks around a trail, Bob tells her, “Do not walk. You want to see my head blow off my shoulders, then walk.” Please, Alex, keep walking. I do want to see that.
And just to ensure that he perpetuates the myth that exercise = weight loss, Bob says, “We still have time before you’ve got to get on that scale.”
Bob then points to Gina, who is doubled over. “Look at her,” he says. “That’s what I’m looking for.”
Alex says to the camera, “I’m just trying to give it the best I can and hopefully my work will reflect on the scale.” This time. Two weeks of giving her best didn’t, so why not keep beating your head against a wall?
Then we hear David
I can’t speak for my entire team, but for me there is a sense of foreboding. I think if I were some of the other people on the team I would look and say that David is the oldest guy on the team, he’s the lightest guy on the team, he’s the most crippled guy on the team. And so if I don’t pull a big number and I don’t get immunity and we lose the weigh-in, I’m out.
But that foreboding is quickly dissipated in the shower spray of Mike’s gastronomic eruption.
Back to Dolvett, where he tells his team, “You’ve proven a very important thing. On a limited amount of money and a limited amount of time, there’s no excuse to make good choices. It’s a great lesson this week. I’m proud of each of you.”
Of course, they haven’t actually proven this. They’ve hinted at it by showing them buying groceries and eating one meal, but the spoken and unspoken reality is more difficult. Back in reality, where people aren’t treated like lab rats, you’ll find a different story.
“No matter what happens on that scale,” Dolvett tells them, “the work you put in this week is phenomenal.”
Reversal of Fortune
Back in the weigh-in room, Allison Sweeney summarizes the lesson. “This week you had to live healthy on a budget.” Or so we’ve been told. “In the real world, most people have to crunch numbers to get by, but here, the number that matters most are the numbers on that scale.” And why? Because it’s a fucking game show.
Sweeney asks Dolvett how the week went:
The Red team gave it their all this week. It’s probably sounding like an echo that they give it their all every week. But let’s be honest, it gets harder every week, it doesn’t necessarily get easier. And I can attest to the fact that they were pushed this week. Pushed extremely hard. But they stepped up and I’m proud of them. [emphasis mine]
What a great message to send to the public: not only is exercise miserable when you start, but it gets harder every week. Oooooh, sign me up for that.
Also note that Dolvett is proud of his team’s efforts and he believes he pushed them extremely hard and that they stepped up. So, more effort in week 5 than the previous weeks. Let’s see what it yields.
Joe loses 11 pounds and Dolvett’s ecstatic:
I’ve been on top of Joe since I met him because he got the nickname Pause and he’s always that guy who takes a break and I told him that he doesn’t want to be here. And I told him that he’s not focused enough. He showed me a different version of himself this week and I think 11 pounds is a testament to say when you believe in yourself and you work hard, this is what happens. The light bulb came on and you’re a better man for it. [emphasis mine]
Alright, Joe proved the hard work = weight loss theory. Way to go, Joe!
But then we get to Lisa, who has been confident in her performance throughout this show. In fact, at the weigh-in she tells Sweeney, “We put in extra time this week and we did things harder than we have since we got here, so I have to be confident that that’s going to be okay.”
Lisa loses 5 pounds.
What? How can one of the most driven members of the team lose the least amount of weight? It boggles the mind. It’s as if working out isn’t actually the driving force behind weight loss. Weird.
Dolvett absolves her. “I gotta be honest with you, I’m proud of that number. You give me everything I need, week to week to week. And it’s good to see you transform and become who you want to be. It’s an honor to train you.”
Hey Dolvett, you better be careful or you’re going to get whiplash from all that flip-flopping.
Overall, the Red team loses 2.97%. The week before they lost 3.16%. It’s so weird how the Red team lost less weight during the week they turned it up a notch.
Next up, the lazy slackers from team Blue. Bob’s been warning them all week that if they didn’t perform to their highest ability, they would absolutely, positively lose this weigh-in. They were set up to fail from the beginning and, based on their own words, every single member of the Blue team did not put in their all.
Gina goes first, telling the camera, “I feel like I’m walking to my death march, based on just what Bob’s been telling us all week, that we’re set up to lose the weigh-in. I’m praying I haven’t gained weight.” So expectations are low.
Gina tells Allison, “Physically it’s been hard for me. Obviously I’ve been homesick. The food situation. I’m very nervous. And I just hope I have a number that’s big enough to keep me here.”
In fact, Gina lost nine pounds for the second week in a row. What a slacker!
And, of course, Bob is immediately proud of that slothful woman:
Gina was dealing with a lot this week and like I was pressing every one of her buttons as much as I could. You’re in One-derland [weighing less than 200 pounds]. One-derland on The Biggest Loser is a huge, huge deal. So you need to stand there and be proud of what you’ve been able to accomplish.
Sorry Bob, you’re just in Der-land.
One by one, the terrible Blue team steps onto the scale. David loses 10 pounds and Bob reminds him of their BLM:
We all have demons. And David’s been living with a lot of demons and just trying to stuff them down and stuff them down. And what I want you to do is really think about what we talked about and put them to rest.
Mike and Jeff both lose 13 pounds.
And then there’s Alex.
“Alex deserves to get up there and not have to have a proud smile, you know what I mean?” Bob says.
To the camera, Bob says, “Alex is baffling to me, I keep expecting a great number from her every single week and it just does not happen. This girl has not hit a double digit since she’s been here.”
Bob is baffled because Bob firmly believes that effort = weight loss, and Alex’s effort suggested big numbers, and yet she loses “just” four pounds.
Alex says to the camera, “I need to know finally that my best is good enough. That my all means something.” Of course, it would mean something in the real world if effort = effort, and not some asinine assumption about the way our body works.
As Alex stands on the scale, we hear the kind of tension-filled glory music typically reserved for epic films of renowned achievements. And when the scale finally stops, VICTORY!
Alex loses 10 pounds.
“This is my first double digit number,” Alex cries, while Sweeney emotes.
“And you deserve to have that feeling,” Bob tells her. “You deserve to have that feeling that everyone else in this room has had. This is what happens: you find yourself in this house when you just let your walls come down.”
“My best was finally good enough,” Alex sobs.
Ah, so up to this point, all of the work that Alex put in without seeing a double digit number has not been good enough. Why? Because your work is only good enough if it proves that effort = weight loss.
We then see Bob say to the camera, “Okay, so maybe I was a little paranoid about this week. But you know what, if that’s what it takes to get everyone’s intensity levels up so no one goes home, I don’t regret one minute of it.”
In the end, the Blue team lost 3.90%, putting them way ahead of the harder-working Red team. Not only that, but whereas in previous weeks Bob has had nothing but praise for the intensity level and work that his team put in, this was the week that his team was sabotaging it’s best efforts.
It’s worth noting that in week three they lost 2.81%, while in week four they lost 2.75%. So, the Red team dials up its intensity and loses less weight, while the Blue team does less work and loses more weight
ARE WE SEEING A FUCKING PATTERN YET?
Finally, Danni has to lose more than 4 pounds. And what’s at stake?
Dolvett explains. “This is crazy. If Danni goes home, so does Jillian Michaels after her first season back on this show. Jillian built this house. This can’t be happening.” OH GOD NO! THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!
Meanwhile, Jillian begins to second-guess her less intensive strategy. “I did something different this week. I didn’t go crazy or push the way that I normally would have in the past. And I’m not hating myself for that. We’re going to lose this weigh-in, and if we do, she’s not the only one going home.”
And yet, without Jillian’s brutality, Danni manages to lose 9 pounds, giving her an astonishing loss of 4.95%. It makes you wonder what her team would look like today if she wasn’t such an asshole the first few weeks.
Jillian speaks of her emotion. “I personally, seriously want to cry, because I wanted so hard to give it to her and just trust her with it, and say, okay, I need you to do this and this and this, and if you tell me that this part is too hard, then I’m going to listen to you. And I’m proud of you, man.”
That’s so weird. It’s like people don’t have to be treated like crap to be motivated. Who’dathunkit.
Now comes the tiny violins for Jillian. “As a trainer, this job is hard.” To quote a certain hardass from the second episode, “It’s not that hard, dude.” “It has its ups, it has its downs, it has a lot of downs. But like life, you get up every day and you fight and you fail and you get back up and you fight and you fail, and then tonight happens and it makes it all worth it.”
In the end, the Red team loses despite turning it up so many notches. Joe has immunity because he lost the most. Lisa gets voted out.
Back home, we learn that Lisa has lost a total of 70 pounds and that she’s teaching her mentally disabled students how to cook healthy, which is cool.
But then we see her with her family and one of her kids says, “I love that mom can go snowshoeing with us.”
Likewise, her husband says, “I love that Lisa can participate in a way that she hasn’t been able to.” We then see them sledding down a hill.
Recall the clip of Lisa walking with her family through a park? Now, how likely is it that Lisa is also unable to snowshoe? Or sled? Lisa’s starting weight was 246 pounds and she’s 5’7″. I’m the same height and 265 pounds and yet, somehow, miraculously, I took my kids sledding a few weeks back without any issues.
I even walked up the hill by myself and everything!
It’s amazing what a person can accomplish when they stop believing the messages that their bodies aren’t good enough, that they’re too lazy, too fat, too unhealthy to participate in life.
If there’s one thing you are going to learn from Biggest Loser, it should be that getting active does not mean getting slim. It means moving your body in a way that feels good and helps you stay strong.
You don’t have to subject yourself to The Biggest Loser treatment to start living. Life is available to you right now, you just have to grab it and go.
With all that being said, this week’s Biggest Dickweed is most definitely Bob Harper, who motivates people by telling them they should feel like they’re dying or that they’ll be disgusting if they quit. Plus, there’s just something a little extra dickweed-y about making the injury he inflicted on David into his own fault, as well as opportunistically psychoanalyzing a physical ailment as a psychological block. Fuck you, Bob Harper, because you are The Biggest Dickweed.
- Prequel — Paging Dr. Dolgoff
- Episode 1 — The Biggest Dickweed
- Episode 2 — Reclaiming Worth
- Episode 3 — Crossfire Hurricane
- Episode 4 — Cognitive Dissonance