Biggest Loser Finale: Shame on You, America

**Warning: this post contains spoilers for The Biggest Loser finale.**

The Biggest Loser season 15 finale aired live last night, and the results are controversial.  All three finalists lost incredible amounts of weight both on and off the Biggest Loser Ranch.  The winner, Rachel Frederickson, lost almost 60% of her original body weight, now weighing only 105 pounds.  According to the internet, she is 5’4.

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Immediately after she walked on stage, fans began weighing in with their opinions via social media:

“Rachel looks horrible.  I’m appalled.”

“She should be disqualified.”

“Rachel looks so bad!”

“Rachel went way too far!!  Way too thin…doesn’t look good.”

“She looks wrinkly and old.”

“She cheated!”

I have a few reactions to these comments that I’d like to share:

1. It’s not okay to criticize someone’s physical appearance, period.  Some of the contestants are still technically overweight; it wouldn’t have been acceptable when they walked on stage to say, “Eww, he didn’t lose enough weight.  He looks gross,”  or “I’m appalled by how fat she is.”  So why is it okay to say cruel things about someone for being thin?  There is no scenario in which it’s acceptable to say someone is “gross” because of their weight.  Rachel is a real person who will very likely see all those mean comments, and that makes me very sad.  Mean commenters, stop hiding behind the internet;  would you ever say those things to someone’s face?

2.  You have no idea.  You have no idea if she is at the appropriate weight for her body type.  You have no idea what she did to reach that weight.  You have no idea if she is struggling with an eating disorder.  You have no idea if she is simply trying to win the game and will regain a few pounds in the next month.  You just have no idea, so stop assuming and passing harsh judgments.

3.  What would you do?  At the risk of contradicting what I just said–I am not saying the following is what happened, but let’s speak hypothetically for a moment–if $250,000 were at stake, and you had no idea how much your competitors had lost, wouldn’t you be tempted to lose that extra 5 pounds on a temporary basis?  And yes, according to BMI standards, she is 5 pounds underweight.  I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do–in a perfect world a contestant on the Biggest Loser would reach their goal weight and say, “Oh, I don’t care about a quarter of a million dollars.”–but it is a game, and it’s a lot of money, and Rachel was competing against two big guys who had a lot of weight to lose.  It’s a game that, if you commented about it on any form of social media last night, you’ve probably been watching all season and applauding the weekly 10-lb losses.  It’s that kind of game.  She didn’t cheat; she won.

4.  “Lose weight, but not that much weight.”  Society, you are cruel.  What a horrible, yet perfect glimpse of our culture this situation provides.  We tell women (and men) that they need to look a certain way.  We shame them for carrying a few extra pounds, we cheer them on when they start to lose weight, and then we criticize them for being too thin.  Which way do you want it, America?

Don’t mishear me:  I’m not saying Rachel isn’t too thin, and I’m not saying that she is.  I’m not saying she set a good example, and I’m not saying she didn’t.  I don’t want to comment on Rachel’s weight at all.  Instead, I want all of us to examine our responses and ask ourselves, “Is this kind?  Am I being compassionate?  Am I speaking about her like she is a human?”

She is a real person with real feelings and real struggles.  If you are concerned about Rachel, pray for her.  Write her a letter and ask her how she’s doing.  Don’t call her “gross” on the internet.

I think we could all benefit from practicing a little more compassion.

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Bob Harper’s “Hit the Deck” Workout

On Monday night, Andrew and I sat down to watch our my favorite show, The Biggest Loser.  In case you aren’t a faithful viewer (although I can’t imagine that such a person exists…), this is how the show typically progresses:

When the show opens, the contestants are either in the gym walking effortlessly on a treadmill or standing around in the kitchen making breakfast.  There is likely some heavy product placement happening at this time.  Then, host Alison Sweeney enters the room and presents a challenge that will introduce some type of twist into the game–a temptation challenge that allows the person who eats the most donuts to rearrange the teams, a trivia game that gives the winning team a 5lb advantage on the scale, etc.  It could be anything.

Once the challenge is complete, we see the contestants break the news to their trainers that they have no gym access for the week or that they ate 23 double cheeseburgers (but have a 2lb advantage!)  The trainers are astounded.  Every time.  They had no idea this twist would be thrown into the game this week.

They somehow make do, and the contestants workout, learn about healthy living, and have tearful breakthroughs with Jillian Michaels.

Next comes a second, physical challenge that no doubt required a team of civil engineers to construct: one member of each team is harnessed in and suspended 20 ft in the air and from their aerial view must guide their teammates through a goo-filled maze; each contestant holds a rope that’s connected to a pulley system that is holding their trainer on a platform, and if they all let go, their trainer will will fall into hot lava a swimming pool. This could go on for hours.

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The show ends with the weigh-in and one person being sent home, but immediately before that, the contestants endure the Last Chance Workout.  Basically, the trainers kick their butts in the gym.  No fewer than two contestants will cry, fall off a treadmill, and/or vomit.  Jillian Michaels will likely be on someone as they do push ups or push a giant tire across the room, and Bob Harper will be laughing at the crazy workout he has dreamed up for his team.

I was quite intrigued by Bob’s Last Chance Workout this week.  It looked grueling.  I decided to give it a try.

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Bob Harper’s “Hit the Deck” Workout

Equipment needed: deck of cards

He started with a deck of cards and assigned a different exercise to each suit.  Then he drew the cards, one-by-one, and the contestants had to do the exercise and number of repetitions indicated by the card (with face cards being 10.)  For example, a jack of hearts meant 10 push ups, and a nine of clubs meant nine burpees.

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I couldn’t remember exactly which exercises were assigned to each suit, so I modified:

Diamonds= Sit ups

Spades= Squats

Hearts= Push ups

Clubs= Burpees

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It took me roughly 30 minutes to make it through the deck/workout, stopping briefly a few times for water.  For the sit ups I used our ugly ottoman to hold my feet– it’s just heavy enough to provide some resistance, but light enough that I had to use my abs rather than my legs ;-).  If you have something you can tuck your feet under, I’d recommend using it; if not, crunches will get the job done.  When I’d finished, I didn’t feel as rough as TBL contestants looked, but it was definitely a good workout!  The cards are shuffled (obviously), but for each exercise you’re doing 5 sets of 10 repetitions (that’s a lot in and of itself) plus 1 set of 9, 8, 7…2.  By the end, my burpees were nothing to be proud of, and I may have done a few sets of “girl” push ups.

Will I do it again?  Absolutely.  Not this week–my chest is going to be sore for a few days, I think– but it’s an excellent workout to shake up my routine a bit.

Bob Harper, you ‘da’ man.

The Biggest Loser Premiere

Monday morning as I ate my breakfast, I scrolled through my Facebook news feed and caught up on events from the previous twelve hours.  Andrew sat on the couch three feet away watching ESPN.  It was a pretty typical weekday morning scene at the Storey house.

“Oh!  Jillian posted a picture of her friends watching the Biggest Loser premiere last night!”

Andrew, who had just finished his breakfast, stood up, walked over to where I sat, kissed my forehead, and said, “Catherine, Jillian Michaels is not your friend.”

Harsh words for 7:30 on a Monday morning.

For those of you who don’t know, Jillian Michaels is a trainer on NBC’s show The Biggest Loser.  She’s earned the title “TV’s toughest trainer” by her drill sergeant-like training style that brings about serious results on TBL.  I am mildly obsessed with both her and the show.

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Season 14 of TBL premiered Sunday, and our friends Mallory and Brad came over to watch.  Years ago, before we were old and married, Mallory and I were room mates and used to watch TBL faithfully each week.  And like any dedicated fan, we had the gear, which we both wore proudly this Sunday :DSCN7108

(Take 1, Andrew: “You look a little bit crazy.”  Take 2, Andrew: “You still look a little bit crazy.)

We laughed, we cried, we snacked on gluten-free vegetable muffins that Mallory made (Brad would not take responsibility for them… the taste wasn’t bad, but the consistency was that of broccoli soup ;))  All in all, it was a fantastic night…

…even if Jillian Michaels is not actually my friend.