Losing Big Weight Gains Ratings for NBC

By Cindy Bishop on 12/05/2005
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NBC (a network w/ lackluster ratings), is a big winner with The Biggest Loser.  So, why did this show bring in such impressive ratings for its finale last Wednesday night?  One might argue the spectacle of witnessing dramatic and inspirational human transformation – or simply the spectacle.

NBC executives announced last year that their show would inspire millions of fat Americans to get off the couch and get fit, the old fashioned way – through diet and exercise.  However, the last time I checked, most over-fat Americans aren’t weighing themselves on a gigantic scale in front of millions of television viewers wearing spandex 4 sizes to small (to magnify their obesity) or, in the case of the men, with shirts off so cameras could zoom in on their stretch marks and girth – all for a potential payout of a quarter million dollars.

When attempting to lose weight or get healthy, most of us don’t get up in the morning to a buffet of doughnuts and pizza just to ‘tempt our resolve’, or compete in daily relay races which might include downing milk shake shots.  On the fitness side of things, getting ‘off the couch’ is a far cry from intense (at times seemingly dangerous) workouts conducted daily by two celebrity fitness trainers for hours on end.

And the message?  Fat people are willing to trade their dignity for a chance at losing weight because that’s how desperately they want it, and NBC is just cynical and greedy enough to make it happen.  How inspirational.

MattI debated whether I’d comment on “The Biggest Loser”, because there is so much about the premise of this show I found distasteful.  But, after witnessing at least part of the finale last week, no matter how manipulative I may have found the show to be, I couldn’t help but be happy for all of the contestants (who lost hundreds of pounds).  Most of them making mind-blowing transformations in their bodies and no doubt most of them transformed emotionally.  And for someone who’s been there, it was hard not to feel empathy, sympathy and joy all at once for these folks.  Watching their pure elation, joy and sense of accomplishment left me feeling nothing but happy for them.

The question is, will NBC have the guts to do a five year follow up and just to see how they coped in the real world.  For their sake, I hope they stay fit and healthy because we’d all want that for them, no matter how they got there.

To get more insight into the ‘The Biggest Loser’, check out these articles in The Yale Daily News and The Connecticut Post.

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4 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Lori says:

    Okay…I’ll admit it…I’m a Biggest Loser junkie. I see it more as an inspiration to people to change their lives with intelligent eating and exercise. The doctor on the show this season is from my area – it was just pure joy to see him doing this for his patients and his family. I would want him to be my doctor since he has been through what I have been going through. His final transformation was just truly amazing. I agree that NBC does exploit these people butyou look below the surface and what this has done for their lives, there is value.

    I did read that the scale was fake. The contestants are weighed ahead but do not learn their weight until they get on the “big” scale. That way, the show can create the most “drama” by ordering the weighing of the contestants.

  • Cindy says:

    ‘Doc’, what a great guy he seemed to be. His transformation was amazing. Again, I didn’t see all the shows, but those I watched focused on the drama and the rugged workouts and not much on the eating or lifestyle practice they were espousing. I just hope for the sake of all the contestants they find a way to integrate what they learned into a normal eating and fitness plan at home, so they don’t hit a wall. Living in the real world is a far cry from a television show. Could anything be less ‘real’ than ‘reality TV’? :-)

  • Elmay says:

    I got hooked on TBL this fall also.

    I’m 44 years old and on September 1 this year, I was at 45% body fat and weighed 310 pounds. I’ve been overweight my whole life although when I was younger, I was able to be very active. (I played volleyball and basketball on my high school team, hiked and backpacked in the summer, etc…) My dad had a triple bypass this summer and I decided that was enough of a wakeup call — the day after I got home from visting him in the hospital, I signed up with a personal trainer at a local gym and have been working out and eating better ever since. According to my trainer and the scales at the gym, I’ve lost 27.5 pounds so far, and the majority of that is fat. Better yet, for the first time in my life I’m losing weight in a way that feels sustainable for the rest of my life.

    I’ve become intrigued by others who manage to make lifestyle changes that enable them to lose such significant amounts of weight. My eventual goal is approx. 20% body fat — I’m not sure what weight that will be — around 200 pounds or so at my current LBM level but it may end up being lower.

    I started watching TBL about mid-season. It was inspiring to see what those folks could do physically and how much additional they did on their own in the 5 months between the end of filming and last week’s live finale. I’m sure that some of it was staged to make things more dramatic, but a lot of what happened seemed quite real. I learned some things from watching it, and in fact, found out about fitwoman from a link on the TBL discussion board at NBC :).

    From the reading I’ve done so far, it seems like it is very rare for someone who is 100+ pounds “overweight” to be able to lose it in the first place, let alone keep it off. I applaud the accomplishments of the folks on this show and wish them all the best in continuing in good health!

  • Cindy says:

    Hi Elmay, thanks for stopping by and sharing your story on our blog. Congratulations to you!! I understand how you feel about getting a wake up call. All too often I think it’s something dramatic that gets us thinking more seriously about our health and mortality. Sounds like you are doing all the right things and the fact that you’re feeling like its a lifestyle you can live with is really the key, because its not just what you’re doing now, but what you (or any of us), can keep doing the rest of our lives. I’m happy for you! Please drop by again and share how you’re doing, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

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