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TV Review: The Biggest Loser

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This is the fifth season of The Biggest Loser, a show where competitors try to lose the most weight in order to receive the $250,000 prize. Alison Sweeney hosts the series, and contestants work out under the supervision of professional trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels.

This season, teams of two are competing against each other rather than individuals competing one-on-one. One of the reason behind this change is the theory that if one competes with someone from one's support system, once the individual has been eliminated they can continue on their weight-loss path, and help each other meet their goals. One team however, was made up of two complete strangers.

Each week couples, are voted off the show based on their weight loss and the votes of their peers. In episode five, the remaining couples were put either on the Blue Team (trained by Bob Harper) or the Black Team (trained by Jillian Michaels).

In this episode, chef Rocco DiSpirito was invited to judge a cook-off between the teams, with the winner based on taste and number of calories. The Black team won by preparing a three-course meal under 800 calories. They won a dinner cooked by Rocco and home videos sent from their families.

The home videos were very moving for each contestant. Bernie’s, however, was the best. His girlfriend’s video elicited the sweetest expression on him that I’ve ever seen on anyone. There was some momentary drama this week when Paul and Kelly (a divorced-but-still-friends couple) watched Kelly’s home video. Paul became momentarily jealous of the man in Kelly’s life. That drama, however, was quickly, and thankfully, stifled.

There were also some cut-throat, behind-the-scenes alliances formed, much to my disappointment. When the Blue team lost because the Black team lost more total weight, the Blue team was required to vote off a teammate. Earlier in the show, the audience had spent time with a mother-son couple, Jackie and Dan. Jackie made her team mates swear “on their children’s lives” that they would vote off Trent. However, at voting time, Jackie and Dan were the only ones to vote for Trent. Everyone else voted for Jackie. It wasn’t pretty.

The show is a great idea. Everyone who participates wins because from the outset they are taught about proper diet and exercise. Some people even work out up to six hours a day. The commitment from the members is awesome and I stood up and cheered at the weigh-in because everyone lost weight this week.

There are some definite concerns raised by this show, however. People are losing up to 13 pounds in one week. While the weight loss is positive, it creates false impressions for those viewing. First, is it healthy to lose that much weight in a week? I’ve always heard that it is not. Secondly, for those watching at home it creates a false sense of how much weight a person could/should lose in a week. The “slow and steady” path is not in this program’s purview.

Another aspect of the show that was truly disturbing to me is the “Temptation Round," which occurs every week. In this week's episode, one hundred 26-calorie chocolate-covered caramels were placed in front of each contestant. Whoever ate the most candy "won" and was able to switch a player from their own team with one from the opposing team. Mark ate 43 caramels and won. He kept the teams the same. Still, I was horrified that these people who are working so diligently to become healthier are being invited to binge in order to play a game. Bernie plastered them on his face, wanting to get “as close as possible to them” but he did not eat them.

Taking a second to look back at other weeks' Temptation Rounds is no better. In one week, each player was told they would have four minutes to eat as many calories as they could as a team in order to win $5,000. In another episode, 250 sodas were on the table for the contestants to drink in order to find the token that would give them a game advantage.

Overall, I think that this show is great. However, I think it loses a lot with the “Binge to Win” round and the speed with which they are encouraged/challenged to lose weight.

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About Alexandria Jackson