Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Biggest loser - not?

Again we return to the controversial TV show everyone hates to watch. That's because Eric Chopin, one of the winners of the "Biggest Loser" who lost the most amount of weight, appeared on the Oprah show yesterday.Oprah had invited him a few months ago to one of her "amazing weight loss shows" to tell his weight loss story. But he declined the offer, saying he couldn't get off from work.

"I lied about that" he told Oprah yesterday. The truth was Eric Chopin has regained 107 lbs of the 214 lbs he initially lost. He said he decided to reveal the truth to his fans after Oprah's courageous move of revealing her 40 lb weight gain (which she has exploited in her "O" magazine as well as the last two weeks of her show and I guess plans webcasts as well - leave it to Oprah to dis-arm the tabloids while upping the ratings of her show... no wonder she's one of the richest people in the country - she's very clever to say the least!)

How did Eric gain the weight? Well, he didn't really know - it just crept up on him, he said. Perhaps the fact that he wasn't working out 5 hours a day like he was on the "Biggest Loser" ranch, helped.

In an earlier interview which I did blog about, I said Eric looked like he had gained some and then, he told the interviewer that when he was on "The Biggest Loser" that WAS his job but once he got back into the REAL world, he didn't have the time or energy to exercise all those hours a day.

On Oprah, Eric looked ashamed of himself, the old "I did this to myself" and Oprah, now the world's most renown expert on "falling off the wagon" consoled him that 2009 would be a better year and she said it shouldn't be about the number on the scale (which is a laugh because of course, that's ALL what it's about).

But should Eric or any of the "Biggest losers" who were unable to maintain the loss really be blamed? It's quite possible that the only thing "they did to themselves" was offer themselves up to be on the show.

Perhaps everyone should take a second look at the methods used in the "Biggest Loser" show. The people do back breaking workouts for several hours a day, and they also cut the calories (they wear counters which log their steps - these are uploaded into the computer and then, they have to log their food).

Eric told Oprah that he hating working out but he was athletic in High School. Oprah has always hated working out so she commiserated there. "Does anyone LIKE working out?" she asked, grimacing and the audience laughed.

But I have often wondered if those personal trainers on the "Biggest Loser" by putting these people through such pain (in order to win the show) have turned these people AGAINST working out for life... Workouts became for them, nothing BUT pain (the latest "biggest loser", a 30 some year old, told "The Today Show" that just before she won the show, she had packed all her bags to go home because she couldn't take it any longer and her young body hurt all over). But workouts shouldn't BE pain... aerobic workouts are supposed to be pleasant and can be fun. In the normal schema, workouts are NOT for "losing weight" but for health and as an aging person, I can attest to the fact that my hubby and my workout habits HAVE kept us healthier despite some health issues we have.

Eric told Oprah that people had warned him that keeping the weight off is the hardest part. He said he had scoffed at the warnings saying "you ever lose 214 lbs in 6 months?" but added that he found out those who had warned him were right.

After mistreating his body as the show did, it's not surprising that he regained but I don't feel HE should be blamed but rather the show. And yet, people keep lining up to BE on the show and they talk about "saving their lives".

Killing their metabolisms and working out for 5 hours a day doesn't sound life saving to me. On the contrary.

In the Game show hearings (the $64,000 question show in which contestants were given the answers), in defense, the TV exec told the Congress members that he didn't see what the problem was. "People won money, contestants had fun and the audience was entertained - everyone won!" Few seemed to realize the deceit involved could become a slippery slope into shows in which really nobody won and people COULD be hurt.

Perhaps we have arrived there with shows which exploit human beings.


Rachel said...

The first season's winner regained 32 pounds in the five days after the show's end simply because he was so dangerously dehydrated. Oh, and he was also peeing blood.

And yet people still seem to think that this is a "reality" TV show?

kcd said...

this is very well thought out commentary, sue. thanks for writing it.

Darrke said...

"But I have often wondered if those personal trainers on the "Biggest Loser" by putting these people through such pain (in order to win the show) have turned these people AGAINST working out for life... "

Reminds me of being in the military with all the yelling and not good for you exercise. Don't get me wrong. I think exercise is good. I am the one freak that likes to exercise I guess.

But it's taken a long time to determine what that word means. I love to walk, bike, swim, etc. BUT... I hated PE. I hated the physical training in the military. And I would definately hate the workouts on the biggest loser.

I think you are right on about the way they put these folks through hell to lose so much weight so fast. On one show they were doing their computer thing and the contestant had eaten about 600 calories that day. WAY too low...

I had to laugh last week when one of them was talking about how they lost so much weight just by "doing things the right way".

Glad to see other people are noticing the same things! (Sorry to be so long-winded...)

Cherie said...

I'm glad to finally see some of the real truth come out about The Biggest Loser show. What is so sad to me is to see Eric blame himself rather than realizing what an impossible senerio and standard the show's trainers, producers, etc. create. And they make it seem like anyone can also do it at home. Like last season's runner-up Vicky was only able to see her kids for a couple of minutes a day after she got home from the ranch--yeah like that is healthy and maintainable.

SueW said...

kcd, thanks for your kind comment on my blog! Rachel, I'm not surprised at the first season's winner's problems after the show. I believe he's also regained all his weight, according to one website. It's reality but the reality part (what happens after) is often skipped. Sue

Pete Thomas said...


Lovely bit of commentary. Now can we all use our mental muscles to MAYBE consider that AFTER the show the media highlights the failures and poor examples. And that might make for even better publicity.

After all, keeping the weight off is boring. And commentary like this is just what the media want. Way to minimize success.


Pete Thomas


SueW said...

PETE, No one is minimizing anyone's success on the show and the media does NOT minimize success - on the contrary, the media tends to hide those who regain. The only reason Eric Chopin was on the Oprah show is because HE REQUESTED IT i.e.you think the media didn't know that he had regained? Sure they did but they hid it until HE came out in the open. And whether you keep off the weight is important, and not that you lost it. Fact remains, that the methods used to "crash" off weight on the "Biggest Loser" show are NOT healthy at all and are NOT teaching those folks a HEALTHY lifestyle and thus, I suspect within a few years, most will regain unless they FIND THEIR OWN healthy program. And Fact remains that the show is exploiting and humiliating fat people and that's the bottom line. I understand you participated and I'm not disrespecting anyone who participates but shows like this do not do anything but encourage disrespect of people of size. Yesterday's show was sad - when Joelle almost took the $25K to quit the show, Bob the trainer, worked hard to sour the other candidates on her including humiliating her in front of the other candidates so that the minute she loses less weight, she will get kicked off and you think that is right? Why did he judge her for being tempted to take the money - she is poor and desperately needs the money. And when she SAYS she cannot do any more, chances are she should stop there. You mentioned all kinds of surgery on your site. You don't think perhaps the methods used on the show (working out 6-8 hours a day) didn't contribute to your injuries? Commentary like mine is NOT what the media wants... the media wants people to "believe" that what the "Biggest Loser" is doing is healthy but it is NOT healthy, and it is not right to regularly humiliate ANY group of people. If those were gay people on the show being humiliated for their lifestyle, you think for a MINUTE that show would stay on the air? Is being fat really more of a choice than being gay? I don't think so... Rudy Leibel says our size is 40 to 80 percent genetically determined. Sorry but your message hit a sensitive spot in me. I wish you the best.

Pete Thomas said...

You are doing such a poor job in your analysis. The media does want to see failure. It is a great contrast to success and much more salacious. It does not take a giant leap of intelligence to see this. Look at the local news or national news – How much positive vs negative news do you see? The media thrive on success and more so on FAILURE! One successful author I know says ANY publicity is good publicity. He FRAMED BAD reviews of his book! Be assured – your blog qualifies as good publicity.

More than anything you make the horrible mistake of thinking you have ANY idea what really happens behind the scenes on the Biggest Loser or on places like Oprah.

So let me educate you a little – Oprah called Eric – Remember! He turned her down initially. It is a known fact that contestants regularly turn down the media ‘When they start gaining their weight back’. You just don’t know that because your not knowledgeable enough on these things. So let me help you.

Oprah called a lot of us a few months back and those of us familiar with the process KNEW exactly where the show was going. The most recent set of contestants would be featured due to their current popularity and the old contestants that would be featured would be those who were struggling! I knew within the first 3 minutes of the conversation with a producer that I was not going to be asked on. It happened as soon as the interviewer found out I could still wear the suit I wore to the finale. Misery loves company. My opinion - Oprah wanted company in her own struggles (or rather her producers choose to portray it as such). O is struggling and does not need anyone telling her to suck it up, literally or figuratively, and get back on track with practical solutions. Plus it is easier to sell more weight loss stuff than weight maintenance stuff.

Also you have done ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE analysis in the past on the Biggest Loser (even quoting Susan Powter?! Come on!). You do not have access to the contestants before and after body fat scans, the before and after blood pressure readings or anything else to come CLOSE to doing a proper analysis. And I will leave you to your ignorance on that one and I will just continue to laugh from a distance. After quoting Susan Powter I almost expect you to quote this other phd who said all we lose is water weight – LOL!

As far as the most recent show here is a little tid-bit for you. They regularly take 1200 hours of footage and reduce it to 2 hours. What does that tell you? NOTHING! That is why YOU can’t analyze the show correctly. You have no ideal what goes on behind the scenes or gets left on the editing floor. You just don’t know. So to say that Joelle should stop or to pretend that you know more than you are shown is ignorance (but makes for a good read!) I guess the BASICS of medical research get thrown out the window when you personally don’t like something. In the case of BL I guess you prefer to go with anecdotal evidence.

Answer this ONE question intelligently (meaning medically or from research – not anecdotally) –

WHY is the type of weight loss on the show unhealthy? Here is my prediction – you will talk in circles around this question without providing one single fact or piece of evidence. No one ever does.

AND smart woman, my need for ankle surgery came about in 2008 when I took up playing basketball with 20 year olds. Again a cursory analysis is not good analysis. Ask more questions instead of using assumption – we all know where that gets us don’t we.

I get research delivered to my inbox all the time that takes about the genetic link to obesity. Fact is you CAN overcome your genes. Well, unless you prefer to just ACCEPT your condition and stay the way you are which I guess your comment leads you to believe. I guess you focus your research in that direction.

In the end I must compliment you. You believe that size does not matter and it is ok to be morbidly obese. To that end your blog is consistent as you go on promoting that belief and providing no practical information for health or wellness – however you would define it. I think I should even back link to you as you do a good job with the focus of your blog.

SueW said...


Your comment had so much in it that I decided to dedicate a new blog to it... so watch for it. (I'm writing it now).

One thing I'll say here... you seem so angry and I wonder about that. If being slim and staying close to goal is so wonderful and you are so happy, why do you seem so angry? Perhaps you envy those who remained fat in a way because they can do what you no longer can do, i.e. enjoy food. Just a thought. Weight loss is NO panacea and for many it may not even BE a solution.

Anyway, I appreciate your taking the time to write to me even if you are insulting in places (why is that necessary, I wonder) and will try to address your issues in my new blog which I am about to write RIGHT NOW. By the time, you see this, it may be already written. Best, Sue

wriggles said...

'But workouts shouldn't BE pain... aerobic workouts are supposed to be pleasant and can be fun. In the normal schema, workouts are NOT for "losing weight" but for health'

I think you've really put your finger on it, using activity to lose and maintain weight loss is likely to lead to self abuse, because it changes the nature of that activity.

And you're right that guy Pete sounds so angry, the 'healthy living' people almost always do.

Maybe it's because they hate what they are doing to themselves.

Rachel said...

Pete, I'd like to see you address this piece, written by he BL season one winner. And civilly, please.

sandy41jt said...

I have to agree with Sue ~ for LONG term success, you have to have eating habits that match the amount of cardio you are performing. I am now 50 years old I lost 82 pounds in 8 months by eating 5 small meals a day and doing only 30 - 45 minutes of speed WALKING on my treadmill each day. It doesn't take HOURS at the gym away from your kids - it doesn't take the killer workouts that I see repeatedly on the BL. (And I'm speaking as a fan of the BL - only because I get involved in the whole relationship issues more than anything else - and I enjoy getting different work out ideas). I believe Pete is not speaking from experience, only because he just recently won. Let's talk to him again in 2 years and see where's he's at on the scale.

A good healthy balanced life style is what it takes to remain healthy and at a good weight level. You just have to find that balance.

Bethany said...

I don't think it's fair to blame the show or Eric. Why does anyone have to blame anyone or anything? the point is, He knew what he was signing up for, the show isn't hiding their "secret revolutionary code for getting thin" and their not giving them insane crash-course diets that so many of us leap into when we find out it will help us lose all this weight without effort.

They crash-course exercise them to death, this is quite obvious. But don't shoot the trainers yet. They're teaching them proper eating habits and exercises and I also get that they're teaching them that simply enough, if you are active throughout the day and eat right, you'll be fine.

So of course people will gain weight when they leave the biggest loser show. It's implementing that change that they have taught you and it's hard to do. It's hard to make a life change and stick to it. Most people who gain weight aren't flukes who just "happen" to gain weight. There's always a reason. So learn the reason, and find a way of working it out so you don't gain all the weight back.

I loved Eric on Season 3, and I still do. But look at the fact that he's trying to make himself healthy again, rather than giving up like he did last time.

That's the difference from before and that is the success.

Why does no one look at that?

SueW said...

I don't think anyone is blaming Eric (by the way, a recent article announced that Ryan Benson, the Biggest Loser of the first season i.e. the guy who used the same methods he used in wrestling to crash up a bunch of weight to win most of which he gained back the week after the final - that guy, has regained all of the weight). Eric IS healthy, he exercises and eats well. Some of which he might have learned on the BL. The contestants are all heavily supervised by a doctor as well but many of them seem to go home, injured which I feel isn't good. The latest BL book "6 weeks to a healthier you" actually has some good health hints in it and the first BL book in which Bob details the diet (I also read that one) has a sensible program in it which he emphasizes is NOT the one followed in the BL - "After all," Bob explains, "It IS a competition". I think the biggest danger is people thinking that weight will drop off of them like it does on the BL. The other thing is Pete asked a question about why is quick weight loss unhealthy and the answer is that the body can only process 2 lbs of fat a week so anything over 2 lbs isn't fat that is lost. Muscle weighs heavy but is very compact so when you lose muscle, you don't lose a lot of inches which is why if you do a side by side comparison the folks on the BL who are very large don't look a lot smaller (they camouflage this with having them wear teashirts in the end episodes of the show so it looks like a bigger difference.) Pete really changed his lifestyle and is vigilant on a daily basis, I'm sure which is very commendable. And I think we all get to love the contestants in watching the show - we just have to realize that reality TV is not reality.