Another season of Biggest Loser has begun and the internet is ablaze with people challenging themselves to keep up with the contestants – but is that even possible? And did I really just write ‘ablaze’? Here’s the problem, when the casual viewer watches the Biggest Loser, and other shows like it, they assume the timing is exactly what the show claims or insinuates. When we watch Survivor or the Apprentice, we believe that every episode represents a week on the island or under the Donald, when in reality, each of those shows film the entire season in about 30-40 days. In other words, each of those ‘weeks’ actually is about 2-3 days. No wonder they seem so fried on the Apprentice! The same is true of weight loss shows, but in the opposite direction. Can anyone pick out the problem in the above video clip from the season two finale of Biggest Loser? Let me give you a hint; the season had the contestants on the ranch for eleven weeks (77 days), but Caroline Rhea (the host of seasons 1-3), makes the statement that the final three lasted 97 days before being sent home to prepare for the finale. 97 days, or one day short of 14 weeks, was not an accidental statement – she read from a teleprompter, and it was an accurate statement, one that I never noticed until I returned from the ranch after my mid-season reappearance with five other at-home contestants.
What you need to understand is that I was desperate to get a place back on the ranch after being sent home on day one, but I knew if I got there I had to at least be competitive with the men still remaining. So I tracked my progress against the men of season two (the website was still up at that time with all of their weekly results; it was taken down once my season premiered), and I just couldn’t keep up. Every week I feel farther and farther behind, and I was killing myself. I did everything right. So when I got the call eight weeks into the competition that they were flying me out to the ranch, I was hopeful but assumed I was going to be woefully behind the contestants on the ranch. Boy was I wrong! Not only was my percentage better than all of them, I had lost 81 pounds at that point (not bad for eight weeks!), which was higher than any of them had lost either! But my biggest surprise? The episodes we were filming would air as week seven. It’s literally not humanly possible to lose the amount of weight I, or any of the contestants, had lost at that point in seven weeks because it had taken us eight weeks of killing ourselves to pull it off. Same with the week eleven results of season two – because those results were actually the result of fourteen weeks on the ranch, as revealed by Caroline Rhea in the finale. I’m not saying this to take away the magic – reality TV is not reality. We all know that – you don’t realize how much that is true until you’re actually on a show, but deep down we all know it. It’s inspired by reality, but exaggerated. One of the producers even warned us of that before filming began – that they would make the good look great and the bad look awful. Otherwise, it’s just real life and that’s not actually interesting enough for television! But here’s what is real: the reactions, the emotional journey of losing the weight, and however long it took to get there, the weight loss. The show IS inspirational, and use it for that, but don’t base your weight loss expectations and goals on what you see on the screen because even the contestants, with time off from the real world, celebrity trainers and the weight loss wonderland that is the ranch, can’t pull it off in the time it appears to be! You can do more than you think you are capable, but set yourself up with realistic expectations!