Editor's note: This piece was written shortly after the end of the original TBL. Thought this piece was appropriate in this setting.
As "The Biggest Loser" has come to a close, and Ryan walks off with his $250,000 grand prize, it should also be clear that anyone who loses a bunch of weight can call themselves "The Biggest Loser." Of course, it’s a lot easier to do it when losing weight is your only focus in life.
In watching the 12 contestants on this reality show struggle to lose weight, it was easy to sympathize with their struggles at temptation, exercise, and more temptation. But it would seem from my spot on the couch that losing weight would be easy on a reality show, because all they had to do is exercise and eat well.
Gee, get up. Then eat, then exercise. Rest, exercise, eat lunch. Exercise after lunch. Spend the afternoon doing a challenge, which features exercise. Talk to the camera. Eat dinner, and then exercise more. Go to sleep. Repeat next day.
In the real world, you have to wrestle with deadlines at work, the stress of commuting, and having tasty, high-fat, high-calorie food all around you. Oh, and no $250,000 prize to entice you to do well.
Yes, the contestants were faced with temptations of cupcakes. And plates of their favorite foods. But they had the best weapon to convince them not to eat the treat: cameras broadcasting their behavior. If you eat a donut in real life, nobody will say anything if there are no witnesses.
Perhaps as a concession to this vibe, the show had the final three contestants — Gary and Kelly along with Ryan — spend the last 12 weeks of the contest in the real world. But it was television’s version of the “real world.” There wasn’t a ranch, and yes, they had to worry about the pressures of a job and family. But they still had the $250,000 incentive and the pressure of TV cameras helping them to do well if for nothing else than not to suffer humiliation on national TV.
The glare of the lights of being on TV does add some pressure. What if you had a donut — on TV? When the game started, the 12 were faced with their favorite foods. Ryan, who ended up winning, was the only one who grabbed from the pile. His demon was donuts, which he confessed to eating in the car.
Yet Ryan was the winner, though it seemed like all he did after leaving the ranch was exercise, go to work, and exercise some more. That is not a realistic situation for most people.
The 12 contestants had more subtle, and more effective assistance. One huge advantage for the contestants was being on teams. Having a great support system is vital. On the show, the 12 contestants were divided into the Blue Team and Red Team. Each person had 5 instant teammates who wanted them to lose as much weight as possible.
Many who try dieting in real life do have support systems. But they aren't in your face 24 hours a day, making sure you stick with it. In true reality, we often have people who love us who mean well, but say things like, "Oh, you can have just one." Nobody ever said that at the ranch.
If you don't have a constant in-your-face teammate, you can have a visible sign of what you are trying to do. It could be a picture of the "fat you" in a swimsuit. It could be a picture of clothes you want to wear.
During the penultimate episode, each of the 3 finalists received a ring, with "The Biggest Loser" engraved on the ring. The ring appeared to be a reward for finishing in the Top 3. But it also was a symbol of what they've accomplished, and a reminder of why they shouldn't fall back into their old diet and exercise habits.
The rings were certainly large enough so that when worn, it would be a highly visible reminder that maybe they don't have to eat that donut (though ironically, rings are shaped like donuts).
So if you are going to do it in real life, the good news is “no cameras.” That’s also the bad news. Losing weight in real life is much harder than it is on TV. Yet, when you do it, the reward is much greater. You can follow any diet you want, and rent any exercise video you choose. But ultimately, if you are going to lose weight, you have to find the motivational factor that works best for you. It would help if $250,000 was on the line, but it could come from friends you haven't seen in a long time, praising how you look. Just don’t wait for a game show to come along to help you get started.