I had written earlier in the viewing season about one of my guilty reality show favorites, NBC’s The Biggest Loser. How I enjoyed watching it because it did not demean the participants or force them to eat horse rectum for cash. That I wished more of our nation’s obese adults - 25% of the population - would get on board and mirror what the TV trainers were teaching to the lucky participants.
And yes, I did call them lucky.
That comments threw many readers who emailed to ask how I could call a “bunch of fat rejects” (I am quoting here), lucky? My answer was simple: Out of 150,000 applicants, 14 were lucky enough to be chosen to head to the isolation of “the ranch” where they would not only reap the benefits of two personal trainers, but have three months, in a very controlled, supportive environment, in which to change their lives forever.
How many of us are ever that lucky?
Well, as the season played out, I watched each Tuesday night, literally being moved to tears each time they showed the progress of the person who had been voted off that week. There is simply no way to write off, discount or not be moved by someone who has literally worked their ass off and lost the equivalent of a full grown man from their body.
Sure, there were several contestants who did not merit tears at their departure, or for any progress. Like any cross section of human beings, there were bad attitudes, difficult personalities and whiners. And face it, it’s hard to like a whiner even under the best of circumstances.
Last evening was the culmination of series 2, the episode last week being the one in which the final three were chosen and then sent back to their normal lives for three months to continue on their own in their quest to be The Biggest Loser and collect the top prize of $250,000.
As the live finale began, I was excited to see how all the contestants had fared since being eliminated. Then host Caroline Rhea came out and I got momentarily confused. I swear her head looked like it had gained all the weight the contestants had lost - with hair worthy of a guest shot in a Working Girl movie remake - and make-up which certainly had those tuning in a bit late wondering if they had somehow stumbled upon The Biggest Drag Queen instead of The Biggest Loser.
But I digress...
No, actually I don’t.
Caroline, honey, get a new stylist and for God’s sake, if those contestants can drop 827 pounds, maybe you should give some thought to emulating their new lifestyles. You seem to be getting bigger in each episode.
OK, now I digress...
Watching the eliminated contestants compete for a runner up prize of $100K was as humbling as it was inspiring.
Take Jeff, the physician who, at 370 pounds, had lost all credibility with his patients. After all, it is kind of hard to take health advice from man who is as wide as he is tall. He lost an incredible 217 pounds. And he gained an untold number of years to live and watch his four beautiful daughters grow up.
Then there was mom of two, Jen, who started her journey at 267 and now weighs 176! And Shannon, who wanted to be an inspiration to her young daughter, went to the ranch weighing in at 257 pounds, but showed up for last night’s weigh-in at 149 - a whopping 108 pound loss - that’s me and my dog!
Especially awe-inspiring were police officer Mark, who initially weighed 358, leaving barely an inch between his stomach and his patrol car steering wheel, and Pete, the largest contestant at 401 pounds. Mark dropped an amazing 193 pounds, or 46.09% of his body weight and lost out on the $100K prize by only .04% by Pete who worked off an incredible 216 pounds, or 46.13%.
I reiterate the word inspiring - these people are. Pete’s wife was finally motivated by his incredible determination and will power, and showed up last evening 70 pounds slimmer and healthier.
And healthier is the part that I hope gets through to the millions of people just like Pete and Mark and Suzanne and Andrea who watch this show. Yes, the weight loss is fantastic and looks wonderful, but the changes on the inside are the one that truly count. These people have added years back onto their lives, have gained immeasurably in terms of self confidence and increased self esteem.
There is no dollar amount that can be placed on what they have gained.
That being said, it was even more exciting to see the final three come out. You simply would not know they were the same people had there not been a split screen showing their initial arrival at the ranch. They were toned, vibrant, alive - all things they were not at their initial weights.
Seth, a new Dad, started out at 291, emerging from his fat cocoon at a sleek, muscular, happy 168. Suzie, who had begun the journey at 227, is now a toned, tanned 132. And Matt, the former athlete, who had sulked his way through much of the series, had dropped the word “former” and was once again wrestling - he won the top prize at 182 pounds - having lost a life altering 157.
I am happy for them all, not just for the stellar weight losses they achieved with the help of the trainers and controlled environment, but because they are living new lives, on their own, fully committed to their futures and determined to never be “those” people again.
They have traded quantity in pounds for quality in life.
And if they can do it - so can you. If you have not been a viewer of this show up to now, start. If you weigh as much as these people did in the beginning, head over to NBC.com and apply for the next season. And even if you are just someone who is simply struggling to lose the proverbial five pounds in time to fit into that sparkly New Year’s dress or smaller jeans - take a virtual walk over to The Biggest Loser site and check out what is possible when you set your mind and heart to it.
Five pounds will suddenly be a breeze to lose when you see the before/after photos of someone who has lost one hundred eighty-five of them.
My congratulations to them all - these biggest losers are all ginormous winners.