Monday, April 19, 2010

Steppin' on the Scale

If I were to say to you “Sam is the inspiration, he’s never going to get voted out.” Would you have any idea what I was talking about? Not unless you watch “Biggest Loser.” Clearly one of the most popular shows in prime time. Or at least, one of the most popular shows in the Burnett household.

“Biggest Loser” is a show about losing so much weight that you can change your life and your health for the better. But part of the show’s attraction are the challenges – which are unusually physical -- and the “game playing” – which is all about psychological warfare.

In past seasons the contestants, whether couples (parent/child, married) or singles, tried their best to figure out how they could ultimately be the Biggest Loser. There were people you rooted for because they seemed nice, or worked harder than others, or had great personalities. In our house, we picked two or three a season and invested all our energy in them. Sometimes they were finalists, sometimes they were eliminated almost immediately. We have been big fans of all the Tongan cousins because they had to change their lives and their culture norms. I remember a joke I heard years ago about how young Tongan women were thin and gorgeous until they were eaten by older Tongan women. Or some such thing. (It was funny at the time).

This season has been different. First of all, the contestants went before their entire community of friends and family and pledged that they would lose hundreds of pounds. To be that obese and stand almost undressed before all those people and have it televised – could not have been easy. It had to be embarrassing and humiliating to admit that you were gargantuan in front of the viewing public. But that act of raw courage gave you a sense of how brave these people were. And we liked most of them, almost immediately.

The woman we didn’t like the most was a “game” player. Not only did she try to sabotage all the other contestants, but she also tried to do her husband in. She was ‘offed’ pretty early. But her husband remained. And once he was eliminated, (which was partly due to her conniving), she was given the opportunity to reenter the program by winning a challenge. So he was out and, much to the disdain of everyone on the show, she was back. It didn’t last for long. Because this group of contestants was different from preceding seasons, the participants had no patience for anyone who “played a game” instead of encouraging contestants -- their newly formed friends, to lose weight and change their lives. So when the choice about who to eliminate was between someone who tried to play with their psyche’s and someone who provided inspiration, they chose to keep the person who (they felt) cared about them and was an inspiration. (That was the aforementioned Sam.)

It’s hard to know who will be the biggest loser. We love almost all the contestants who remain – it’s hard to cheer for just one. But what we have learned through their difficult challenges and interpersonal relationships, is that it's possible to be a winner (maybe not “The biggest Loser” ) by demonstrating respect for human accomplishment and respect for yourself and your colleagues. We're just sayin'.. Iris

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