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TBD6: Mystery Tramp —

February 8, 2013

Biggest Dickweed

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

I come to you this week with two bits of good news regarding The Biggest Loser.

First, episode five was the third most watched network show, while episode six (the episode I’m recapping today) was the fourth, dropping below 6 million viewers. And on Wikipedia, you can see a gradual decline in viewership since  the first episode. Also, nobody has updated the recaps on Wikipedia since the third episode.

So here’s to the continued disinterest in gladiatorial dieting.

Sláinte!

Bernard Black Drink

Click here for a drinky gif.

The second bit of good news will come as a relief to those of you who have found the lengths of these recaps insufferably long. Either this last episode so completely boring that I didn’t catching as much bullshit thanks to the mind-numbing monotony of it all, or else I’ve become so psychologically calloused by the first five episodes that I’m desensitized.

Of course, there’s the alternative theory that the show gets slightly less terrible as the episodes progress toward thinner contests. But rest assured, there’s still plenty of terrible to be had, even though the worst of it may have passed.

Whatever the case, it has resulted in a significantly shorter recap. So here’s to sparse words and saved time.

OBAMA-IRELAND/

For those few sadistic bastards who seem to enjoy endless streams of coverage, I hope you find this post no less enjoyable than the previous recaps, in spite of its brevity.

Down to Business

As always, Allison Sweeney begins the show by telling us what we missed from the last episode. Personally, I don’t miss any of it and have no interest in reliving the previous episode once I’ve flushed it from my mind. But occasionally they phrase something intriguingly. For example, Sweeney says, “While Danni thrived, the Blue team cracked.”

I love that they push this narrative. Not that the Blue team dominated the weigh-in by losing an average of 4% of their collective body weight versus the blue’s team’s 3%, but that they “cracked up” If “cracking up” leads to these kind of results, I’m surprised they aren’t encouraging them to be even bigger slackers.

But the truth is that regardless of how much they slack off in the gym, the real secret to Biggest Loser‘s weight loss results is a 1,200-calorie or less diet. In reality, it doesn’t matter how much or little they work out so much as how much or little they eat. Don’t get me wrong, exercise contributes a bit to the equation, but when it comes to weight loss you get more bang for your buck through caloric restriction. More moderate approaches yield more moderate results, but TBL doesn’t do “moderate.”

So this is why they rarely show the contestants eating. I can count the scenes of them eating on one hand. During last week’s episode there’s one instance after they went grocery shopping on a budget and one when the math-challenged chef showed them how to ruin a sweet potato. The only other time we see them eat is during the Yoplait Smoothie infomercial in episode 4.

The fact is, if they showed what TBL contestants really ate on a daily basis, people would be shocked.

The amount of caloric restriction necessary to lose between 3% and 4% body weight per week is severe. No sensible human being would think that eating so little can be healthy. And the problem is that the changes they make to achieve their weight loss are pretty much the changes they”ll need to maintain in order to keep the weight off.

So rather than focus on eating, they focus on workouts, which results in these bizarre assertions that the Red team is busting ass while the Blue team is slacking, yet the Blue team loses significantly more weight.

But there’s no drama to be had in success, so the summary focuses on the team dynamics, rather than their actual outcomes.

The show show finally begins with the contestants entering the gym where they find three dice with their pictures from week one on it.

Dice

Somebody says, “Damn Gina” because she looks different than her picture.

Die

Upon seeing the other die with his picture on it, Jackson mocks himself by saying, “Look at my sad, fat face.”

Then Jackson tells the camera, “That Jackson on the die couldn’t finish a workout without vomiting and he’s a completely different person now. I have more stamina, I have more energy, I feel a lot better. The change is dramatic. The change is unreal.”

Jackson Pukes

“Yakety yak, here’s my snack.”

Amazing. You may recall that two episodes ago, Jackson commented on how he was dealing with the fact that he kept throwing up during workouts:

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.

Then in the last episode‘s initial recap, Sweeney says that “Jackson fought through his sickness to take the lead.”

Now, Jackson tells us that not only has he pushed past and fought through his sickness, but that the guy who was throwing up in the middle of workouts? Totally different person. Now Jackson is a lean, mean not-puking-all-over-the-place machine.

We also learn that this is the halfway point for the show, and Allison suggests the contestants pat themselves on the back. Of course, several do so literally and Jackson says, “I can actually reach my back now.”

I find all this “former self” bashing to be intriguing. Up to this point, quite a few of the contestants have shared how society treats them and how they’ve been mistreated and disrespected by others. Now that they’ve lost 30, 40, 50 pounds, they really do treat those “before” pictures of themselves as though its another person. And not only that, but they seem to take pleasure in mocking and disrespecting that “other” person, even though it’s the exact same person from six weeks ago.

It’s as if they are so relieved to have the burden of stigma slowly lifted from their shoulders that they can finally join the “other side” and take part in the mockery themselves. And so, the fat jokes flow freely.

Sweeney then goes on to explain the “theme” of the episode, as well as the story behind the dice:

This season you are leading by example. All of your are the face of weight loss for America this week. Only one of you will be facing the scale for your team. The trick is, you won’t know who it is until the weigh-in. Your fate will be in the hands of your trainers, literally. They will decide whose weight counts by a roll of the dice.

At this point, you have to wonder if they’ve introduced this new twist in the game because Danni is the sole member of the White team left. It would make logistical sense, but they never cop to it.

Jackson then says to the camera, “One person from our team is going to decide the fate for everyone on our team. I could be in trouble because they didn’t perform the way they could have. And that’s scary.”

Once more, despite all the past precedent of just this season alone, the dominant belief is that the people who work the hardest lose the most weight and those who don’t “perform the way they could have” will jeopardize their chances on the scale.

Has a week gone by yet that this hasn’t been disproven?

So, after explaining the dice, Allison asks Gina what she’s thinking. Gina, you may recall, is the woman who Bob seems to really enjoy harassing. She’s also the woman who said the previous week, ““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.” She repeatedly asserts that she’s half-assing it, which drives Bob up the wall. And yet, Gina is also the person who lost the second highest percentage of body weight that week at 9 pounds.

Despite having an average weekly weight loss of over 4%, Gina continually degrades herself and is, in turn, degraded by Bob for not working hard enough. So, when Sweeney asks her opinion, you know it’s going to be negative.

“I hope it’s not me, honestly,” Gina says, being completely rational. “I mean, I’m going to work as hard as I can, but I don’t want that pressure. I don’t want that pressure. I don’t know. I don’t know what I think right now.”

Exactly. To have the entire team’s fate resting on your shoulders would be a lot of pressure. Considering that some of the contestants, like Alex, have struggled to lose 2% per week despite being lauded for their hard work, there’s this unpredictable nature to the weigh-ins that makes the process nerve-wracking when everyone’s weight counts. At least then, if Gina only lost 2 pounds, the rest of her team could smooth out that small amount and they could still win.

In fact, that’s what has happened for the Blue team since the beginning. Despite Alex’s small weight losses, the Blue team hadn’t lost a weigh-in going into episode 6 because they average out the team. So, what Gina says is a completely natural and valid concern.

Of course, Bob makes a face, and after Sweeney asks him to elaborate, Bob’s happy to open his big, fat mouth.

Backhand Him Gina

Do it, Gina!
Just pop your fist right up into his face.

It’s annoying to hear her say that. It’s like, I don’t know what else she needs to be able to achieve to be able feel like, you know what, I can handle this. Because if I was one of them I’d be like this, let it be me, I want it to be me. Why doesn’t Gina feel that way? It’s annoying. And then she’s going to start to cry.

Yeah, Gina, why can’t you be like Bob, who has never been fat in his entire life (or I’m sure we’d hear about it ad infinitum like Jillian’s high school fatness)? Why can’t you be like Bob, whose only real pressure comes in the form of deciding which contestant to harass?

So, yes, Gina starts to cry and she says, “Yes because every time I say something you say exactly the opposite.”

“That’s right,” Bob says proudly.

“And I’m supposed to say what I feel,” Gina sobs.

We then see Jeff say to the camera, “I looked and Gina had tears coming out of her eyes, and Bob was kind of giving her that look like, you better stop crying before I give you something to cry about.”

Now Bob swings into Über-douche mode.

Just like you said last night when you got up on the scale and you’re like I don’t deserve the weight loss. I mean, this is how you feel about things.

And then we see the clip from last week, where Gina actually says, “I don’t really feel like I deserve to be here, but…”

Now, this phrase does  not seem to be in reference to the weight that she lost. After all, she lost 9 pounds and everyone, including Gina, was shocked that she lost so much considering how much time she and Bob both spent complaining about her performance. Throughout the last episode, Bob repeatedly told the team that they were all set up to fail and admonished them for half-assing it.

In fact, before last week’s weigh in she told 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.” So, Bob spent the week reinforcing the idea that they’re going to lose, lose, lose, and Gina was queen of the losers because of her performance.

And yet somehow she lost a lot of weight (*cough*caloricrestriction*cough*). So it seems that what Gina is actually saying is that she doesn’t deserve to be on the ranch because she didn’t put the work in that she put in. Not that she didn’t deserve the weight loss itself so much as she didn’t deserve to be continuing on the ranch because of her effort.

So, after Gina says she doesn’t deserve to be here in the flashback clip, Bob rolls eyes

Bob-Eye-Roll

“Oh no, demon entering me.”
[Click for the full possession.]

“So, it’s like, you can cry, but it’s not going to get any kind of response out of me.” Largely because he’s an asshole, as explained on To the best of our KNOWLEDGE.

“I don’t expect any response out of you,” Gina shoots back. “You rip my ass to shreds every time I see your face.”

“Well, you need to be able to handle it,” Bob snipes.

Yeah, Gina, why can’t you just handle the fact that Bob is an insecure bully who loves to harass you until you cry? Geez, it’s like you haven’t been picked on relentlessly since grade school.

One interesting side note that I noticed about this scene was Bob’s t-shirt, which has the following logo on the front:

Elliptical Fail

Okay, so if you use the elliptical, you’re a failure? I had to find out more about this shirt because the message seemed counterintuitive to me. As a result, I found a similar logo:

Fail Image

And when I did a reverse image search, I kept seeing this image popping up on pages talking about CrossFit, an intense strength and conditioning program that has been called cult-like by its own supporters. I also kept seeing the phrase “US Weekly + elliptical” associated with this image.

It turns out that when you Google “US Weekly + elliptical,” there’s a bit of a meme about how pathetic it is for women (in particular) to use the elliptical while reading “US Weekly.”

The thinking goes that if you are able to read a magazine while using the elliptical, then you aren’t working hard enough to do any good. Now, personally, I’ve tried reading while using the elliptical and it is pretty hard to do so while you’re bouncing up and down. I gave it up and now just watch the TVs at the front of the gym.

But to say that reading is somehow a metric of insufficient exercise is ridiculous. You know how you tell if you’re getting a good cardio workout or not? You monitor your heart rate. If you get your heart rate up to to it’s optimal level for your age, then you’re getting sufficient exercise. But even walking with an elevated heart rate (which doesn’t take much to accomplish, depending on your current state of fitness) is good for your body.

The idea that Bob Harper wore a shirt mocking people who use the elliptical is just plain stupid. Yeah, great idea, let’s insult people who are trying to get active. Great plan!

It’s this kind of elitist, “go big or go home” attitude that turns people off of exercise completely. In fact, researchers have found that The Biggest Loser “may result in lower motivation to participate [in exercise]because of the anticipation of an unpleasant experience.”

Most people simply do not have the time for Biggest Loser-style 4-6 hour workouts of such high intensity. Particularly right from the get-go, as TBL contestants do. And there is zero evidence that any other real-life compatible weight loss regimen produces better results than the standard 5-10% of starting weight after one year for those lucky few who stick with the program.

And according to an article on Examiner, the “program” in this case seems to be a form of CrossFit.

People that don’t really know about CrossFit see the CrossFit Games, see athletes such as yourself that are just so strong. You’re unattainable to the average person… What I’ve really wanted to do is introduce middle America to CrossFit in a very scalable way.

Not only that, but the bunch of buff studs and studlettes from the second episode were the “best athletes in CrossFit.” These are the same people I made the steroid crack about, which I shouldn’t have done anyway. Bob made the “workout on steroids” comment and as someone who enjoys verbally jousting, it seemed a wide-open shot, but I shouldn’t have taken it, and for that, I’m sorry.

But before you start thinking that CrossFit will make you lose weight like the TBL contestants, keep in mind that CrossFit is designed to be done in as little as 20 minutes a day. Although CrossFit will help you build strength and endurance through grueling workouts, it won’t lead to Biggest Loser-sized weight loss results. As I will repeatedly assert throughout these recaps, weight loss is almost entirely achieved through caloric restriction, not working out.

But to get healthy, CrossFit is not your only option. Elliptical are an absolutely legitimate way to improve your health and the only thing you need to pay attention to while using the elliptical is your heart rate, not your reading material.

Building Momentum

Following Bob’s rant, he tells her, “Gina, we need to talk.”

You know what’s coming, don’t you?

That’s right, a Biggest Loser Moment™, or BLM. As I explained in the last recap:

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.

Bob explains this BLM to the camera, “What I need to do is kind of have this talk with Gina and just calm everything down because I really need her to know where I’m coming from in this situation and how I see Gina.”

Then to Gina he says, “You are the biggest threat in this house. And let me tell you, I’m afraid of a lot of people on our team right now if I roll the dice and their face comes up, but not yours. And that’s why I want you to stand there and go, ‘Afraid? I’m tired of being afraid. I’ve been afraid my whole life.’ You’re 47 years old. Bring it on.”

I realize Bob is just trying to motivate her to feel like she can do anything if she puts her mind to it, and yet I am beyond irritated that the “anything” to which he is encouraging her to aspire is essentially competitive dieting. And as has been proven again and again and again on this show, there is no correlation between how hard contestants work and the result they get on the scale.

“I have a hard time,” Gina says as the tinkly music begins. “My initial response is always to run myself into the ground.” Hey, don’t do that, Gina. That’s Bob’s job. “And to be less than I am. And I don’t know how to not do it.”

Then Gina says to the camera:

I’ve been paralyzed by fear about a lot of things for a very long time. I was voted one of Birmingham’s top attorneys and I couldn’t really revel in that success because of how horrible I felt about the way that I looked. When you have such a burden that’s just literally weighing you down every day, it’s hard to be happy about anything else. Bob sees me so differently than I see myself. I would love to see myself the way that Bob sees me.

I’m losing track of the number of contestants who have admitted to feeling so shitty about themselves, but if I had to guess I’d say nearly all of them. Then again, you must feel pretty shitty if you are willing to subject yourself to Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels for weeks on end.

What Gina describes are the effects of stigmatization. She’s a successful, talented woman who should have no problem holding her head  high, yet because she felt horrible about the way she looked, she couldn’t enjoy an award she earned. I wonder how many of Birmingham’s top male attorneys would feel the same way if they weighed similar to Gina.

Gina, the fear is not a natural byproduct of being fat. You have been taught your entire life that it is, though, and so you have internalized that stigma-induced fear. Whether you lose weight or not, you are still a brilliant, successful attorney, and that’s what really matters.

But let’s not focus on who you are inside. Instead, let’s focus on the stigma, shall we, Bob?

Don’t come from a place of fear because you know that fear is the main problem that brought you into this house. I want you to start feeling the same way I feel about you. That’s what I’m saying. And I will challenge you every time you open your mouth. I will, I promise you. I’m not going to let up on you. Not for one minute.

Yes, fear is the main problem that brought Gina to Biggest Loser. Because you have to be a complete chickenshit to be willing to subject yourself to Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels for weeks on end.

We’re starting to build a decent profile of the average Biggest Loser contestant: they feel so shitty about themselves, but they’re so desperate to escape the stigma that they summon the courage to be verbally abused  by Bob and Jillian.

HUG!

Hug Win

“C’mere you fearful bastard.”

And you’ll notice that on the back of Bob’s shirt is the other half of the CrossFit message.

Win

Got that, America?

Elliptical = Fail

Weightlifting = Win

Fitness elitism. Nice.

Finally, Bob says to the camera, “This week is going to be the perfect way to get Gina to step up to the plate and lead by example.”

Got that, America? Gina is going to step up to the plate and lead by example, the theme, and title, of this episode.

And as they wrap up the BLM, we see them walking away together as Bob says, “I was not gonna let up.”

“You’re mean,” Gina tells him.

“I’m not mean,” Bob replies.

Sorry Bob, even the First Lady agrees, you’re an asshole.

Back in the gym, Danni tells the camera, “I’m only representing myself. If I go up against some of the heavy hitters when the dice rolls, I need to make sure that I will have a number that can compare.” Never forget, effort = weight loss.

As Blue team works out, Bob tells them, “There is a reason why the blue team has made it through every single weigh in and it’s because you guys bust your ass and you work hard.”

Yeah! The Blue team survived those weigh-ins because they bust their asses… you know, like last week when he spent the entire show whinging about how everybody was half-assing it?

Meanwhile, Dolvett has someone he’s going to focus on. “Now Jackson is the one I’m worried about. If his mind isn’t in the game, then we have something to worry about.” Uh-oh… sounds like somebody’s in the market for a BLM.

Jackson says to the camera, “There is pressure that everyone’s counting on me. Probably throughout my whole life, my biggest fear is that I’m going to let someone down.”

Then we see Dolvett yellin at Jackson for him to finish finish FINISH! But Jackson is faltering and he finally starts to leave the gym, holding a hand to his lips. Dolvett tells him to keep going, but Jackson says “Hm-mmm” as in “no.”

To the camera, Jackson explains his hesitation. “My health hasn’t been the best through the workouts. I’ll have to stop and that throws off my momentum and I feel like I’m down again. Why can’t I just do the exercises? Everyone else is doing it. What’s wrong with me?”

He’ll have to stop? Stop for what? What’s wrong with Jackson? He has to blow chunks.

Blowing Chunks

The discrete eruption robs Jillian
of her vomitous joy.

Hey, remember that one time when Jackson said, “That Jackson on the die couldn’t finish a workout without vomiting and he’s a completely different person now.” Yeah, the old Jackson would just puke any ol’ place. This new Jackson seems shyer and prefers to puke behind boxes.

So Dolvett asks Jackson, “What’s wrong?”

Jackson says, “I’m just so sick, I’m throwing up all the time. Like I just want to get through a workout and not throw up. I feel like I’m letting my team down when I can’t finish a workout. I feel like I’m letting myself down when I can’t finish a workout.”

Everybody’s at a loss for words. Why is Jackson throwing up so much? It’s gotta be something psychological, right? Well, it turns out that CrossFit Santa Cruz knows quite a bit about what Jackson’s going through:

For over a decade at CF, hurling has been unofficially viewed as somewhat of a badge of honor with a pet name, photos, and T-shirts to commemorate the event.  However, vomiting is at least an abuse to the sensitive esophageal lining highly intolerant of acid baths and possibly, when a frequent event, causing inflammatory damage to that important sphincter separating the stomach from the esophagus. Damage of the lower esophageal sphincter muscle leads to reflux and consistent irritation of the esophagus leads to at least inflammation and at worst esophageal ulcers.

Additionally, intense exercise causes decreased blood flow (ischemia) to the gastric mucosa–swimmers have known this for as long as I can remember.  The result may be nausea, which at some point may progress to vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea—more than just impaired digestion. These symptoms can be severely and even critically compounded when hot weather and dehydration are thrown into the mix.

Without sufficient blood supply the GI tract simply can’t function as designed, rejects its stomach contents, and in some cases the contents of the intestinal tract (diarrhea).  The ischemia achieved by athletes in long endurance events also compromises the intestinal barrier, contributing to and compounding the GI symptoms. [emphasis mine]

Since episode one, we’ve seen enough of Jackson’s stomach contents to get a good idea of how frequently this is happening. So what’s the solution, according to CrossFit Santa Cruz?

Dial it back.   As you will see in a report from Dr. Lon Kilgore, our bodies can adjust to this challenge—the annoying nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, if we back off intensity when the first symptoms of nausea appear.

Just back off a bit and see if you’re OK.  Don’t push it to meet Pukie; he’s not worth it.

Fascinating. It turns out that even CrossFit knows when to turn it down a notch. Meanwhile, you’ve got Dolvett telling Jackson from the very beginning, “You throw up, you keep going, you throw up, you keep going. Eventually, you’re going to stop throwing up, but you always go brother.” Brilliant.

So, now’s the moment when Jackson tells the camera all about the stigma that has brought him to this point:

There is part of me that needs the approval of others. As a kid, I thought a lot of the times that I wasn’t good enough for this world and I’ve tried so hard to get past that, but I’ve conditioned since I was a kid to focus on that. And that’s something that I’m still trying to break.

Being heavy as a kid is the easiest thing to be made fun of for. Because everyone thinks it’s okay to make fun of the fat kid. Every day I would come home from school crying. And it never felt like I was good enough. I never felt like was smart enough. I never felt like I belonged anywhere. I felt like I was completely worthless. Like my life had no meaning.

Gee, could any of this have contributed to Jackson’s antipathy toward his body? Making the escape from stigma the motivation for losing weight is very troubling to me, largely because it’s such an arbitrary standard to meet. Rather than look at the evidence, which says that 5% to 10% is enough to improve your health, thereby putting lifestyle changes into a realistic context, Biggest Loser pushes for the kind of weight loss that takes people out of the line of fire when it comes to stigma. But losing 100 pounds is much different than maintaining a 100 pound weight loss, and as we all know, the odds of doing that are astronomical.

And once you regain some of the weight, the stigma returns, reinforcing negative feelings and leading to abandonment of the lifestyle. But promoting modest changes and modest losses gives people a better sense of what to expect in real life, rather than on a game show. Realistic expectations won’t take you out of stigma’s line of sight, but perhaps by focusing on health rather than weight, the stigma will affect you less.

Jackson tells Dolvett, “I won’t try out for plays or things that I want to do because I’m so nervous about what everyone’s going to think of my size.”

Then Dolvett says to Jackson:

I have so much respect for you. Ever since I’ve met you you’ve never done one thing halfway. But good for you for not having the easy road. Because I don’t respect easy. There’s going to be another bully, Jackson. There’s going to be somebody cackling in the background when you’re trying to do your plan. All of those things are going to happen, Jackson. But you’re good enough. You are good enough.

This little confidence booster of Dolvett’s is true whether you’re losing weight or not. Regardless of what the bullies say, fat or thin, you are good enough.

“Let me hear you say it,” Dolvett tells him.

“I’m good enough,” Jackson says.

Dolvett presses him to say it again, and Jackson does, triumphantly.

And then, of course, there’s the HUG!

Finally, Dolvett tells us, “Progressively, he’s becoming a better version of himself.”

Yes, bit by bit, Jackson is vomiting out all of his worst character traits.

*sigh*

Set It and Forget It

When we return, the show checks in on the kids. Dolvett introduces the segment:

It’s extremely important that we have these children this season. Childhood obesity is a huge epidemic. And these kids, they’re going to inspire kids who have been bullied, kids that have struggled with their weight, kids who don’t have the answers. But more importantly parents who don’t have the answers to give to their kids.

Because if there’s one thing The Biggest Loser knows, it’s bullying.

Bully Poster

By the way, you can buy that Jillian Michaels’ bully poster on Amazon. Yeah! I know!

During their brief visit, the trainers tell the kids that they want them to lead by example and help their friends lead a healthy lifestyle. So, Sunny plans to lead a gym class doing circuits of exercises, Biingo wants to get more kids to join his activity club, and Lindsay is going to give an anti-bullying talk to her classmates.

While I have no problem with the kids doing these things on their own, I’m still incredibly troubled by the idea that they are setting up these still-developing kids as role models for other kids their age. Yeah, they can help get out the message of eating healthy and exercising, but “role models”? That’s a huge burden to put on a child.

Back at the ranch, the contestants face the challenge of the week, a balance beam gauntlet. Once the cross the Pit of Despair, they must chose a plate with a number on it representing the amount of calories in one of the pictures of food on the other side of the balance beam.

Unlike previous challenges, only one contestant will compete, chosen by a roll of the dice. The winning team gets letters from home. Just to drive home the emotional stakes, Sweeney asks Michael, who is missing his nine-month-old’s developmental milestones to be on the show, what a letter from home would mean for him.

Gauntlet

This segment provided endless shots
of fatties getting knocked into the abyss.

While an interesting game, it’s pseudo-educational. After all, while Danni’s describing her strategy for placing the plates, she says, “The cheese ravioli and meatballs really threw me off because, you know, pasta’s aren’t really great for you.”

Hear that, Italy? You’re a bunch of unhealthy assholes!

This is what passes for “teaching nutrition” on Biggest Loser.

After the challenge, which Danni wins, we cut to commercial break. “Coming up next,” Sweeney says. “Sunny, Biingo and Lindsay prove they can lead by example.”

And then they do. The only thing that seemed interesting to me about this segment was that Lindsay gave her anti-bullying talk to a group that included kids who had bullied her, and for that she deserves mad props. But whether her experience on The Biggest Loser inoculates her from further bullying remains to be seen. After all, when the cameras are off and the kids are back in their element, what then?

Back at the ranch, victorious in her challenge, Danni reads a letter from her dad out loud to the camera, and the entire time I’m just thinking how wrong it is to be prying into this very personal moment. But what’s reality TV if not voyeuristic?

Back at the gym, Alex says she’s worried about being the person chosen to represent the team in the weigh-in. As you may recall, last week’s fifty episode focused on the fact that at Alex lost just four pounds at the third and fourth episode weigh-ins. This is in spite of the fact that both Bob and Alex said she busted her ass. She also says she ate the way she was told, and yet… calories in, calories out?

But in that episode she won the title of Biggest Loser with 10 pounds, or 4.6%, which reinforced the idea that if you aren’t getting the results you expect, just keep trying because you will eventually lose greater amounts of weight.

Hard work = weight loss * eventually

So, after Alex vents, Jeff tries to reassure her and the Blue team:

Once the dice gets rolled, then whoever’s face is showing, if you can honestly say you’ve pushed through whatever you had to push through and you did whatever you had to do, the numbers will come.

Clearly, the hard work = weight loss equation has worked so well for Alex in the past.

After that, we get to learn a little more about David.

You see, David was a glutton.

David Gluttony

It’s kind of hard to tell, but that’s actually a shoe.
David also had a serious case of pica.

“I’m supposed to be able to protect these people,” David says as a clip of Flashback David shakes his head slightly. “And here I am shoving tons and tons of food into my belly and I’m ashamed of it.”

After David’s story, we hear Danni tell the camera, “My biggest fear is standing on that scale and thinking I could have done more.” Because more work = more weight loss.

Then Joe tells the camera, “There’s no excuses, this hurts that hurts. We’re going to work through it.” You may recall that in episode 4, Joe was the one who had a pain behind his leg that made walking the treadmill difficult, which led to a BLM with Dolvett. As we’ve seen repeatedly, Biggest Loser encourages contestants to “work through the pain,” even to the point where David suffered a stress fracture during the first episode, though we don’t see what happens. We only see David in the second episode on crutches.

And in the last episode, Dr. Quackenfraud tried to lay some of the blame on the fat around David’s knee, while Bob attempted a BLM to prove that the injury was somehow caused by David repressing his feelings… until the pressure cracked his spongy bone, I guess. Bob didn’t seem too concerned with typing up the loose ends of his explanation. Nevertheless, these fascinating theories ignored the fact that David had already injured the meniscus in that knee during a previous treadmill accident. If David got medical help for that injury, then it would have been discovered during the exhaustive background and medical checks they must perform on potential contestants.

In spite of this, TBL wanted David to “push through the pain” until he wound up on crutches for six weeks.

Sidenote: Even so, David managed to lose an impressive amount of weight. To put it in perspective, while Alex lost a scoche less than 2% of her starting weight by the end of episode 4, David lost 3.75%. Now, if hard work = weight loss, then how is it that the young girl who busted her ass lost so much less than the injured, older man?

(Pssssssssssssssssssssttt… the answer is severe caloric restriction.)

Joe’s comment that pain is an excuse that you work through is what injured David in the first place. Pushing through the pain is a great way to push yourself right into traction.

After thoroughly discussing how excited they were to be picked as the sacrificial lamb, we go to an infomercial for Brita water filters. Biingo’s school got a bunch of gym equipment, plus cool water bottles from Brita. You should buy them too.

Then, we see Jillian and Danni at Subway. Because even though processed food is terrible for you, there are certain processed foods that get the TBL Seal of Approval. Jillian explains:

I took you to Subway for a couple of reasons. Number 1, it’s accessible to you pretty much everywhere in the country. Number 2, it’s affordable. And number 3, it’s a much better option than any place you’re going to go to with all the burgers and the fries and all that junk. The cool thing is you can order off the Fresh Fit menu, right? You have over two million options to make a sandwich that’s going to fit your needs and your mood and it’s going to be on your diet, which is really important.

Literally two million options? I’m impressed. I could eat at Subway every day for over ~5,400 years and never get the same thing twice.

So, Danni gets a 6-inch turkey with lettuce and tomato on wheat, and she asks the sandwich artist to scoop out the bread, which causes Jillian to gush and call Danni “teacher’s pet.” And as Jillian watches Danni eat, she tells her, “Even though you’re on your diet, you don’t have to sacrifice flavor, you know what I mean?” Yeah, you mean we have to dig out the fuckin’ bread from our sandwich like we’re building a lunch meat canoe.

Then Jillian says to the camera, “Danni passed the sandwich test with flying colors. She made great choices and now it’s time for our last chance workout.” I wonder what kind of grade Jillian would give her if Danni went up to the counter and said, “I want a 12-inch meatball sub on Cinnabon bread with extra cheese and extra mayo.”

The last chance workout is the trainers’ last chance to convince everyone involved that working hard equals weight loss. Like when Bob says, “This last chance workout I’m going to run the blue team into the ground and get every calorie burned that I possibly can get burned.” See Gina, it’s Bob’s job to run you into the ground, not yours.

Wanna see something weird? Ya see that shirt? I recognized it from one of the “talking to camera” scenes from the last episode.

Bob's Plaid Shirt

Red and black plaid flannel is
Bob’s signature look.

At first, I figured it was shot on the same day, but with a different outer garment to make it look different. But his beard is different too. Bob loves flannel!

The other last chance workouts was Dolvett’s red team boxing with Laila Ali, but that was boring. Jillian took Danni to a parkour workout facility. Parkour is awesome, and Danni does some of

Danni some parkour, but the big challenge is to flip off a 10-foot wall into a pit foam, which looks super fun. But she says she’s scared. Then we get a Danni flashback where she says, “One of my biggest fears is living life alone. I’m tired of regretting certain decisions of my life because my weight held me back from something. And I just feel like I let the little things go and I’m tired of letting them go.”

No, Danni, your weight hasn’t held you back. Your fear of the stigma held you back. There are fat people who can flip off walls too. There are fat people who fall in love too. You didn’t have to wait until you lost weight to stop letting the little things go. You could have done it without going on Biggest Loser.

Danni then says to the camera, “Fear is just something you have to face and get over.”

Next thing you know, Danni does a flip off the wall into the blue foam.

Then we see Danni tell Jillian, “I can’t believe I jumped from that.”

“You faced your fear,” Jillian tells her. “Every single time you stretch that emotional fabric and you challenge yourself, it never comes back quite so tightly.” I think that’s true, and that’s how you would get over your fear of weight stigma as well. But then Jillian ruins the sentiment by saying, “Now let’s hope that it shows up on the scale.” Because that’s the real value of overcoming your fears.

Confirmation Bias

Allison is waiting for the contestants at the weigh-in, the dice standing ominously by. “While all of you are here on the ranch, millions of Americans are looking to you to set an example,” Allison said, rehashing the theme. “They want you to succeed, they need you to succeed.” No, they do not need them to succeed. “But not as much as the people on your team.”

Building up to the dice role, Danni tells the camera, “I don’t want it to be Joe because statistically he’s been their top person.”

Joe? You mean the guy who Dolvett nicknamed “Pause” because he’s such a slacker? The guy who Dolvett reamed in episode 4 for losing “only 7 pounds”? I’m having a hard time tracking who’s awesome and who’s not in this show.

But Jillian seems to agree with Danni. “Of all the people I would not have wanted her to have to weigh-in against, Joe is on the top of that list,” Jillian says.

Guess whose face comes up on the die.

So, as we wait for Joe’s verdict, we find out that Jackson loses one pound. Ouch.

Dolvett says to Jackson, “I’m equally as upset because I know it does not reflect all the hard work that you put in this week, all the breakthroughs that you had this week. It does not say at all the work you gave me this week. And I’m not listening to that. I see it, but I don’t see it.” Here we are again, face to face with the complete annihilation of a flawed premise. Yet, I guarantee that episode 7 will talk about how hard work = weight loss.

Jackson then says to the camera, “I didn’t expect a one. I feel I worked so much harder,” Jackson said, his voice starting to crack, “I deserved so much more than that. Just some sort of reward for all the work I put in this week and it didn’t feel like that’s what I got.” And that’s especially true when you’re told over and over and over and over again that you get out of it what you put into it. That may true of life in general, but it sure as shit ain’t true regarding weight loss.

Then Dolvett says to the camera, “If Jackson just lost one, there’s no telling what Francelina’s going to do, or Joe for that matter. What is Joe going to give me, zero?” Yeah, Joe, you fucking choad, what’s your fucking problem? Dumbass. I wish you never came here, you guy who everyone else considers to be the top competitor.

After Francelina weighs in seven pounds liker, Sweeney says to Joe, “You have one teammate with a shockingly low number. Your other teammate is shocked by her high number. How does that make you feel?”

Joe says, “It doesn’t match for Jackson. But for Francelina I’m hoping that my numbers match what she worked out because we worked out side by side.” Same work = same weight loss. “So I’m just hoping and praying that those numbers reflect how hard we worked. It’s nerve-wracking.”

In the end, Joe loses eight pounds, or 2.68%, and Dolvett makes this face:

DolvettSmirk

Typically, this would seem like a “Dat ass” face.
Not here, though.

Just one pound more than the previous week, and Dolvett seems pleased. Interesting.

Danni’s up next and she has lose at least six pounds. As she walks up to the scale, Jillian whispers, “There’s no way she’s going to beat that number.”

Bob whispers back, “She looks good.” Is Bob getting frisky?

“She’s not beating that number,” Jillian says bitterly. “She needs six pounds. She’s not going to get six pounds after a nine. There will be no way.”

But… what about hard work = weight loss? Didn’t Danni bust her ass all week? Won’t her workouts reflect the effort she put in? Is it really as random as losing a lot one week and losing a little the next?

Nope. In the end, Danni loses six pounds, or 2.88%, to take first place.

Jillian is effusive.

I have no idea how you did that. You have no business getting that number after that nine. I don’t know who you think you are. You deserve it, you did everything right. Good job bud, I cannot believe it.

It’s weird how Jillian goes from being so negative to so supportive of hard work = weight loss, which is the standard belief. But she does, and there you have it.

Then Danni says, “I really psyched myself out and I’m kind of mad at myself now because I know that I did that work, and I’m just glad it reflects and you know, we are here to lose weight.” Now, when the two sides of the equation, hard work and weight loss, align, it’s like a damned miracle. Everyone seems shocked that something spouted like a lost proverb actually worked. It’s kind of funny.

Finally, onto the blue team, where Gina says to Sweeney, “I’ve worked harder this week than I have any other week.” That’s great, especially since Bob predicted this week would be Gina’s opportunity to lead by example and it sounds like she did.

Except, it seems that saying you’re awesome, and having others say you’re awesome is the kiss of death.

Case in point: for the first time since she began on the show, Gina lost less than seven pounds. In fact, it was a measly four, or 2%.

Looking defeated, Gina says, “I was hoping for a bigger number, but I’m always hoping for a bigger number, though.”

Bob tries to cheer her up. “She’s had huge numbers every single week, it’s not the best number that she’s ever done, but…”

“It’s the worst number I’ve ever done,” Gina says.

“But you’re in the hundreds now,” Bob chips in more good news. “You just have to realize that you’re just not going to see the numbers that you saw before. It’s just going to get tougher.”

Tougher? But what about calories in, calories out?

Finally, Gina says to the camera, “Four pounds is the least amount I’ve lost on the ranch, but this week I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’m a pretty tough broad.” You also learned that the week you work the hardest is the week you lose the least.

Then, as Gina comes down off the scale, Bob and Gina move to hug, and this happens:

Spankin-Time

Bob’s gonna get ‘im some.
[Click for full ass-grabbiness.]

I also created a faster version if you prefer. Of course, what they don’t show on screen is Dolvett’s response.

DolvettSmirk

Alex is up next, after being the hero of the last episode. She loses three pounds, sighing, “”It’s a process. One week will be good, the next week will be bad, so hopefully next week will be good.” What a process.

Then straight to Michael, who lost eight pounds, followed by Davis who loses three. And Bob has a major eye spasm.

His Eyes Have Snapped

OH GOD!!!
HIS EYE MUSCLES HAVE SNAPPED!

“I don’t have an answer for that,” David says.

“I just think, when it comes to David at this point,” Bob says in frustration, “we’re at that halfway mark and the intensity, because of his injury, albeit strong, it’s not on a level with everyone else in the house. So, I was expecting this.”

David says to the camera, “I am shocked to see that number. And work that hard and see [garbled mix of words]. I mean, I lost three pounds in a week. Anybody in the world would be happy with that, but not compared to what I’ve done. Ya know, not here.” You may recall in the previous episode that Jillian tried to reassure Alex about her low weight loss by saying, “Look, in 18 days you’ve lost 8 pounds. In any other world you’d be over the moon. You’re losing your perspective.”

Finally, Jeff, the one who’s weight counts, gets up on the scale. Then Bob says to the camera, “I am seeing low numbers all around for the Blue team, which makes me very, very nervous for Jeff.”

Jeff has to lose more than eight pounds, but in the end he loses just six, or 1.82%. He says, “I would have liked to carry my team to victory. But unfortunately that’s not the case.” As a result, the Blue team goes into the elimination room. And guess who gets picked off.

David Crutches

Farewell, sweet gimp.

 

After the sad goodbyes, we find out that David lost 87 pounds and looks less fat in his uniform. Congratulations David.

This episode bored me, and I fear they will only grow increasingly boring from here.

In spite of this fact, the Biggest Dickweed was clearly Bob Harper for rolling his eyes like a petulant, sophomoric maître d.

If you think this is wrong, sign the petition to stop Biggest Loser and join our boycott.

Previous recaps

16 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2013 7:23 pm

    Something I’ve noticed which is not a good phenomenon: the more I read these, the more I get angry at the trainers, but also the contestants.

    My process of thought as I read: What kind of pathetic fucking asshole are you, that you willingly submit yourself to this kind of brutality and pain in the name of being a few sizes thinner? Grow a pair and tell them to fuck off!

    … I realize that rationally that isn’t fair, and yet I can’t stop the irritation. I basically just want to slap everyone involved in that show right now.

    • The Real Cie permalink
      February 9, 2013 1:45 pm

      I wonder that myself. Why would you willingly subject yourself to this shit? I feel the same way about shows such as “Hoarders?” I struggle with hoarding myself (items, not animals.) It’s a form of OCD. I am trying to get rid of a storage unit full of probably mostly unnecessary items because it costs me $2000 a year to keep it. It’s a battle for me to throw away stuff that I know most people would not have a problem with. Why in the hell would I invite people into my admissibly messy home and open myself up for ridicule by the entire world? I don’t get it! Also, such a program is incredibly triggering to me.
      Let’s see–now that I’m not suicidal, how can I really quickly make myself suicidal again. Oh, I know! Why don’t I call the Hoarders people, and get on The Biggest Dickweed? That ought to throw me right back into self-harm and self-hate. Wow, what a plan!
      By the way, that last paragraph was sarcasm. I promised I’d tell you when I do that, because I have a habit of doing it and you had mentioned having problems recognizing sarcasm. :-)

      • Kala permalink
        February 9, 2013 10:20 pm

        Well I’d argue with Hoarders, the bulk of the people featured are quite impoverished. A show like Hoarders may be the only way their family can afford the quality of treatment, the proper cleanup, and a possible remodeling (I’ve seen more than once that the folks with the really disgusting homes, usually the animal hoarders, get new furniture and such.

        So it’s kind of hard. It’s definitely TV that’s made for the purpose of being freak porn, which is problematic, but at the same time, they do seem fairly serious about helping the participants. The show has been on for some time, and I haven’t heard anything particularly negative about the after-show results (unlike The Biggest Loser, for example). Enlighten me if you’ve seen anything about it.

        • The Real Cie permalink
          February 12, 2013 4:01 pm

          I don’t think they’re as evil as The Biggest Loser in their behavior, but I do think that it’s mainly there to exploit people who have a psychological problem for the entertainment of the masses. I honestly find it too triggering to watch all the way through, so this is my perception.

  2. vesta44 permalink
    February 9, 2013 12:37 am

    CC – after as many seasons as TBDW has been on, and how these people who sign up for the show know they’re going to be treated, I feel pretty much the same way you do. It’s not something about myself that I like, but FFS. It’s like these people are saying “Look, life and the world have treated me badly because of my weight, but they haven’t treated me badly enough to make me want to diet and exercise to get thin, so I’ll sign up for TBDW and let the trainers treat me even worse than the rest of the world does. That will motivate me to starve myself, exercise like a hamster on speed, and do things that endanger my health so I can get skinny and healthy.” The amount of hatred these people must feel for themselves has to be enormous for them to think this is a good idea and something they deserve.
    I’m sorry, as much as there are still days that I hate my body and that I wish to all the gods that exist that I could lose weight, I do not hate myself enough to put up with the bullshit from TBDW and their trainers (if one of them so much as tried to put me down for ANY reason, that person would be told to eat shit and bark at the moon and I would be gone so fast their heads would spin).

    • The Real Cie permalink
      February 9, 2013 1:48 pm

      I don’t know if this is an apt comparison, but I find myself thinking that opening oneself up for abuse based on body size is a lot like these programs to “cure” homosexuality. I think it might be the same mentality. I haven’t been shamed enough yet for it to be effective. Please, turn the shame up to 666. That ought to make me change successfully!

  3. The Real Cie permalink
    February 9, 2013 1:46 am

    Reading these is a little masochistic, but I do love the way you right so I just, you know, push through the pain.
    The Biggest Butthole’s prison guards certainly do love puke, don’t they? Would someone please remind me what about bulimia is healthy?

    • The Real Cie permalink
      February 9, 2013 1:49 am

      That should be WRITE, not right. But what you write is right.
      I have been extremely exhausted. So exhausted that when my alarm goes off at 7 PM to cue me to get up and go in for my water workout, I just lie there and listen to the damn thing for 20 minutes and think “oh, fuck, kill me now.” Consequently, I’ve not worked out in the past couple of nights, and my fibromyalgia is being a real Jillian.
      Fortunately I’ve managed to arrange myself a four day weekend away from The Joint (my place of employment) so hopefully I can recover a bit.
      Doesn’t help that my mother is being a colossal See You Next Tuesday lately. I hate to admit it, but even though I’m nearly 50 years old, sometimes she can still push my buttons.

  4. violetyoshi permalink
    February 9, 2013 2:00 am

    So Jillian admits she’s a bully. Wow, well I’ll be..

    • Rubyfruit permalink
      February 10, 2013 2:30 am

      That’s what I said when I saw that picture. “Wow, that’s…overt”.

  5. February 9, 2013 3:19 am

    I find the ‘switching sides’ phenomenon very interesting. These people are here because they’re so stigmatised that they are prepared to put up with being treated this way on TBL, but they are quick to join the side of the bullies re their fat bodies. The way to reduce stigma is clearly to change yourself, and if you don’t, then obviously you’re just asking for it. Very sad.

    Love this, Atchka: “the fear is not a natural byproduct of being fat. You have been taught your entire life that it is, though, and so you have internalized that stigma-induced fear.”

  6. Mulberry permalink
    February 9, 2013 4:17 pm

    I daresay that the type of people who would fight back are not the ones chosen to be on the program. Or perhaps they are not applying in the first place.

    • The Real Cie permalink
      February 12, 2013 4:03 pm

      Agreed. I remember a classmate during my nursing clinicals gushing about how Jillian “fixes” people and my snarling that I didn’t need to be fixed. I was only at the beginning of size acceptance then, but I knew for sure that The Biggest Dickweed was pure evil.

  7. Kala permalink
    February 9, 2013 10:14 pm

    Ugh Crossfit, what a fantastic way to get an injury. Their trainers get a certification for lifting that requires far too little training experience. You basically have fitness hobbyists with only the smallest inkling of experience in weight lifting, getting certs to teach other people how to do it wrong. They have people doing Olympic lifts, with poor form and too much weight. I have a friend who is a serious weightlifting hobbyist, he thinks Crossfit is an abomination.

  8. Marilyn permalink
    February 12, 2013 7:52 am

    The biggest problem with BL and there are many is that the trainers make people work through their injuries. Some of the injuries on BL are quite serious and could leave permanent damage. I don’t know anything about Crossfit. I don’t like that they push people past their limits since that is likely to cause injuries. I’ve met too many people with exercise related injuries and they often don’t heal completely. I might exercise a lot, but most of it is low intensity. I would never push myself the way people on BL are pushed. No one should be pushed that harder by a trainer. It’s not safe.

  9. LittleBigGirl permalink
    February 24, 2013 8:28 pm

    What makes me want to rip my fucking brain out of my head is the fact that other people watch this show and they don’t see this. They don’t see the manipulation, the disconnect, the hypocrisy, the flip-flopping, the stupid product placement or the overall lack of food.
    I’ve previously admitted to originally drinking the BL kool-aid, but I couldn’t maintain it because 1) I think logically and 2) they just wouldn’t stop setting off my bullshit meter.
    You should exercise while injured – bullshit. You should have people yell abuse at you to motivate you – bullshit.
    The worst thing for me: the fact that everyone ignores the laws of weight loss whenever it doesn’t fit their narrative. TBL actually *proves* that “eat less / exercise more” is BULLSHIT – that is literally all the contestants do, so the law of what “everybody knows” about weight loss states that they should all be losing steadily and uniformly. They are in a controlled environment. They can’t cheat. And the ones who “slack-off” (aka shown some restraint and sanity) have lost more than the ones who bust their ass!

    Oh wait. Does this mean…health is actually a multifaceted issue separate from weight, the human body is unbelievably complex, and no weight-loss method can be guaranteed to work effectively or permanently for anyone?
    Huh. Imagine that. /sarcasm.

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