Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reason # 7: Biggest Loser - Rundown of Ranch Life

I don’t know about you, but I am always rooting for the underdog. Whether it was Davidson last year in the NCAA tournament, Jamal in the “hot seat” during Slumdog Millionaire, or the Biggest Loser contestants at their weekly weigh-ins, I am on the edge of my seat, cheering, rooting, and praying for victory!

Biggest Loser (BL) is a reality show where obese contestants compete against each other to lose weight the fastest for a grand prize of $250,000. NBC devotes TWO hours to the show on Tuesday nights which is just a glimpse of its success. (Note: DVRing is recommended). Not only do I find myself recapping the previous night episode with my mother weekly, but a Wednesday morning BL recap is discussed every morning in my office over coffee and spreadsheets. It is humorous how much we support the contestants for their willpower and persistence(-8lbs, you go Blue team!), and how much we blast those who can not drop the weight (merely 1 pound, Silver team, really?)
Led by trainers, the teams diet, exercise, and try to outplay, outwit, and outskinny each other. Contestants not only endure grueling workouts, but weekly have to “face” the scale in a public weigh-in wearing only spandex shorts and sports bra. I was interested in what a day/week was on “the ranch”, so I researched for some answers:

Work out: Approximately six hours a day, including one to two hours of intense cardio work on the treadmill or stair machine depending on how fit they are. Women typically burn 4,000 calories a day, and men work off an astounding 6,000 calories.

Food: Everyone is given a calorie budget (about 1,200 calories for women and 1,800 for men), recipes, and a list of forbidden foods. They are not allowed any white flour, white sugar, butter, or anything that contains those ingredients. Contestants are encouraged to eat something every four hours, which is about four or five small meals throughout the day.

Questions I had:

Do the contestants receive counseling while on the ranch?
No, Jillian and Bob are the only counselors. Over the past six seasons, Jillian and Bob have helped 114 people lose more than 10,000 pounds.

“Bob has said that he now understands this is why he was put on the planet,” Jillian says. “I feel similarly.” Aw (so eudaimonic!)
Are the contestants checked to see if they hydrated before weigh-ins?
Apparently there are penalties if tests show contestants are too dehydrated. None have been reported thus far.

When contestants are sent home do they have personal trainers?
Once contestants are home, they still have access to medical staff from show, and Bob and Jillian. The gym company that is the sponsor gives them free membership – but no training. However, many trainers in the communities where the contestants live donate training sessions.

I would be concerned that contestants are going to drastic measures before the finale for the $250,000 prize. Does this happen?
Apparently some contestants go to extreme measures to drop the weight such as fasting, asparagus binges (asparagus, a mild diuretic, temporarily reduces weight) and all-coffee strategies. Runner-up, Kai Hibbard, an aerobic instructor in Alaska says she spent the night before her final weigh-in hopping in and out of sauna for six hours, consumed only sugar-free Jell-O for several days and wolfed down asparagus, which is a natural diuretic.

Aside from the drastic measures at the finale, the show transforms people’s lives for the better, creates a new way of life, and proves the effects of exercise and healthy eating. Ali Vincent, first female winner of Biggest Loser says she never really knew the woman she once was, and she’s vowed to never lose herself again. “I just promised myself never again will I forget who I am and what I deserve to have…and that’s health and that’s happiness.”

SIDE NOTE: Recent Biggest Loser eliminee Dane Patterson, did not complete the full marathon in Arizona in 3 hours and 53 minutes. He in fact only ran 23 miles. He ran 17 miles before receiving a ride from the field producer for 3 miles before rejoining the race at the 20 mile mark whereupon he completed the race. Still a tremendous feat, but get it right NBC producers!

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