The Biggest Loser Makes Me Cry

Every time. It’s embarrassing. I only ever see it at the gym, so I’ll be galumphing along on the treadmill with tears streaming down my face. I suspect this is mostly leftover ugly-kid-jr.-high-school trauma, but there might be a Mormon element, too, in the stark conflict between the “natural man” and the will. The communal aspect of the struggle resonates somehow, too–a small (er, in numbers) band of the righteous fighting together against the powers of evil and donuts, casting out the wicked from their midst as necessary (but afterwards showing forth an increase of love!).

I’ve probably overthought this. But it’s Friday–seems like a good day to talk about TV if you want to.


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ve become a fan of The Biggest Loser. I watched it this whole season, which was my first. It is really an inspiring show. (And a lot of the people who have competed on the show have been Mormons, including two of the couples from this season.) The transformations are magical to behold.

  2. ….The Biggest Loser makes me cry, too. It’s a little bit embarrassing, perhaps, but I just love it. :) Perhaps it’s not so much a Mormon element, as it is a universal human element–to conquer your demons and rise triumphant, etc.

  3. Fat people make me cry too.

  4. If we’re allowed to talk about any TV, not just TBL, can I just say that there was something about this week’s Lost — specifically Jacob and his Nemesis — that seemed to resonate with my Mormon brain. Can’t quite pin it down though.

  5. I don’t watch much TV, but happened to catch the season finale on Sunday. I’ll admit it, I totally cried. Weight is one of those demons that seems utterly unconquerable, yet here were all these people who made jaw-dropping transformations. No magic, just a lot of treadmills and exercise balls and free weights. Incredible!! And they just seemed so happy. Seeing other people exuberantly happy when I’m kinda going through a rough patch always hugely brightens my day.

  6. Randy B. says:

    Lost rocked this week. I hadn’t tried to think of it in Mormon terms. Perhaps Jacob and his Nemesis are like Jesus and Satan fighting out the battle in heaven. Not sure who’s who, though.

  7. I saw the last 15 minutes of the Biggest Loser series and it made me cry. I also saw the last 15 minutes of Lost and it looked like the same things going on when I quit after watching three seasons (people holding guns on each other, people falling in big holes and being alive at the bottom, magnets pulling stuff around, people sad/angry they’d been misunderstood an lashing out against those that brought them harm). Really glad I quit. How about DollHouse? Now that’s a show.

  8. Mark B. says:

    Other than the New York Mets, the only things I remember seeing on TV this week were the last 20 minutes of My Cousin Vinny–terrific courtroom scene–and the last few minutes of Benny and Joon–great fun watching Johnny Depp swinging past the window. And a great song from The Proclaimers over the credits, which the stupid TV station covered with a teaser for the late news. Grrrrr.

  9. Scott B says:

    “No magic, just a lot of treadmills and exercise balls and free weights.”

    Umm…I personally would call near unlimited access to personal trainers, equipment, time for exercise, and the motivation that comes with being featured on TV a clear form of “magic”.

    Sorry–I just don’t find the results shocking at all.

  10. Whoa, SteveP, you’ve seriously missed out if your putting your nose up at Lost.

  11. Scott, I absolutely agree that the conditions are impossible to replicate in normal life. But the change is still remarkable. Losing 10-20lbs a week for weeks on end is pretty impressive regardless of trainers, etc.

  12. we just discovered TBL. We don’t have tv so we watch videos and clips online. I find it very motivational to see people change.

  13. Scott B says:

    The change is remarkable, yes. But it’s playing with a stacked deck of cards, and thus unimpressive. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if they didn’t lose lots of weight?

    I can honestly imagine that an extremely overweight person might look at that show, see the results, and be discouraged rather than inspired upon realizing that slimming down to such a form requires resources they will never, ever have.

  14. SteveP –

    TBL has been interesting and inspiring. My wife got me sucked into it as well.


    You may have a point about Lost but I love it anyway. In fact they sort of address your point in the first five minutes of this week’s season finale and broaden the scope of the show by quite a bit. Id you need a religious angle, think Jacob vs. Esau or God vs. Satan as recorded in Job.

    Give it another chance.

  15. SteveP,
    Lost has improved since the third season. It’s actually focused now.
    I’ll have to check Dollhouse out.

  16. I find the will-power and motivation, as well as the personal transformation of these individuals, very inspiring. What I don’t find inspiring is the feature of the program that Cynthia observed:

    #11 – “Losing 10-20lbs a week for weeks on end is pretty impressive regardless of trainers, etc.”

    Impressive, yet extremely unhealthy for the average person, as any doctor or dietician will tell you. Unless you are morbidly obese and your doctor is prescribing extreme weight loss and monitoring you closely, losing anything more than 2 lbs/week can be harmful to your health.

  17. I like The Biggest Loser, too. Scott, they have had contestants in the past who haven’t lost much weight, and they had a couple this season. Aubrey, Laura, and David all didn’t lose much weight after leaving campus, and David was still over 300 lbs at the finale. They also don’t show the past winners who gained most or all of their weight back, which would include I think Ryan (the first Mormon winner) and Matt.

    I think the most helpful episodes of TBL are the ones where they’re locked out of the gym and forced to improvise workout equipment. That’s the info that’s helpful for people with few resources.

  18. I’m a lukewarm fan of TBL, but mostly because they stretch the episodes out f-a-r t-o-o l-o-n-g. And they repeat segments after every commercial. And they repeat segments after every commercial.

    But aside from that, I like it, and I’ll confess I have a bit of a thing for Jillian. Grrr.

    As far as TV, though, I’m just all up and giddy that So You Think You Can Dance starts next week.

    Maybe I should be posting this under another name…

  19. Scott B says:

    “the first Mormon winner”

    There is more than one Mormon winner?


  20. > *sigh*

    Scott sighs just so he can hold back the tears.

  21. This makes me vury vury sad.

  22. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 3
    What are fat people?

  23. Peter LLC says:

    I would like to participate in this discussion. What books do you recommend starting with?

  24. Definitely Pet Sematary (Stephen King). Or maybe Twilight.

  25. Aaron Brown says:

    Speaking of recent TV programs, do you all like fishsticks?


  26. Natalie says:

    I just don’t see the appeal of Biggest Loser. On the other hand, I just started watching Battlestar Galactica on DVD, which is excellent.

  27. “Losing 10-20lbs a week for weeks on end is pretty impressive.”

    I too disagree with this statement. Not only is losing so rapidly unhealthy, but it isn’t particularly impressive. It’s sort of a parlor trick, honestly.

    What’s impressive is making decisions day in and day out that slowly change one’s behavior, actually creating a new lifestyle little by little.

  28. Rebecca says:

    As someone who has worked hard for the past two years to lose 40 pounds, I find the TBL both inspiring and frustrating. I cry sometimes because I can identify with the process. But when I only lose .25 pounds in a week and they lost 20, then I want to throw things at the tv. I really wish TBL would do more to teach eating in real life–it seems like all the food stuff they show are advertisements/product placements. But still I watch.

    PS, I was glad Mike didn’t win. I thought it would be Tara, but Helen deserved it.

  29. Rebecca,

    You’re probably going to keep that 40 pounds off. Most of those folks will gain that weight. You’ve learned over time how to lose weight. They’ve just been through boot camp…they can’t live the rest of their lives like that.

  30. Gain that weight BACK, I mean.

  31. Morgan Lee says:

    To clarify, the contestants on TBL only lose 10 to 20 pounds their first week on the ranch. After that, the pace slows dramatically. Most weeks, most of the contestants lose 3 to 8 pounds, with the occasional spectacular week of a 10 pound loss. I realize that these numbers still exceed those recommended by conventional wisdom, but you have to remember that these people (at least from this season that just finished, which is the only one I have seen) are carrying 150 to 200 pounds of excess weight. They would probably lose a steady 5 pounds a week just by eating right and never even stepping into a gym.

    I can appreciate the criticism that the show offers contestants a phenomenal amount of time and access that the average person losing weight on his own does not have. But I think the more important point to take from the show is that, whatever their advantages, the contestants still had to work to drop the weight. Cutting calories and getting exercise does the trick. That’s the magic.

    As someone who has gained 25 pounds since moving to Utah 8 months ago, I particularly found Tara inspiring. She’s such an unstoppable badass.

  32. To everyone who says it can’t be done outside the context of the Biggest Loser “Ranch”, two thoughts:
    1. I used to weigh 345 lbs, now I fluctuate between 220 and 235 (was down to 205 at one point). I lost about 90 lbs of that in six months while in law school. I ran like a maniac lifted weights, and didn’t eat, just like the contestants (no trainer, thought). So spare me.
    2. Consider that Jerry, who was the “at home” winner, was only on the ranch for 2 weeks and lost almost half his body weight. Sure, he’s probably retired, but that goes to show that the motivation and self control are more important than the trainers.
    3. Having lost the weight (and kept it off for three years now), I wish that younger fat people, if they really can’t lose weight while going to school or working, don’t just take six-eight months off and move in with their parents to spend their full time losing weight. Losing 100-150 lbs is a lot more important for your lifelong happiness than 12 credit hours or $20-30k of lost earnings could ever be (especially if you are a young single sister).

  33. That was three thoughts I guess. I couldn’t stop myself once I got going…

  34. Aaron Brown,

    Yes I do, but I don’t get it… and I am a genious, I am the voice of this generation!

  35. Kevin Barney says:

    Morgan Lee, I love your characterization of Tara as an unstoppable badass. Exactly right. She was my favorite.

    And I too wish they would do a (much) better job of showing us what these people are eating. From watching the show we get a sense for the heavy commitment to exercise involved, but what are they eating? Except for the odd product placement, they never show us. That’s something they ought to fix.

  36. jjohnsen says:

    “Speaking of recent TV programs, do you all like fishsticks?”

    No, only because I’m heterosexual.

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