Today I’m ranting about Biggest Loser (the American version in particular because that’s the one that happened to make me really angry most recently)
Really, really angry. Let’s start at the beginning.
Auditions? Why do they THINK people are applying for the show? Is it because they already know they are quite good at doing 500 step-ups and are in with a chance of ‘WINNING’? Or is it because they think they need help? Perhaps more relevantly, is it because they think they need help to reach goals that are important to THEM and not so that they can conform with whatever society (television? Is there a difference these days?) tells them to look like.
Here’s what I’d do:
We’ll have a selection process and pick some nice rational people who genuinely want and need help and will go on to lead happier more productive lives than they would have been able to before. Lets throw in a disclaimer here that bothers mentioning that being thin will not actually cure any of the problems in their lives and that they’ll need to address these separately.
Reaching their goals will BE the prize rather than teaching people that money is the best reward for anything.
While you’re applying, get a note signed by your doctor that says ‘YES, I fully approve of this person participating in your show’.
THEN we’ll send everyone that makes it through the first stage of the selection process a nice helpful pack of information that includes a basic workout schedule: Have a short walk every day, try a few weights, here’s a voucher for a swimming session. Something that gets their basic health up to prepare them for what will be expected of them during the show and demonstrates that they have the commitment needed to go through with it.
LETS ALL COMPARE THIS to the current way they do it: Heres three people, lets see which one can do 500 step ups fastest? FIVE HUNDRED STEP UPS? I tried it and made it to 140 before my knees hurt. Imagine having 400lb of weight to lift on each step. This is not healthy by any stretch of the imagination and someone should arrest the people suggesting that it is.
YOU KNOW WHAT? We’ll send that pack to everyone who wants one, whether they made it or not.
Also we’ll see what they’re eating. If its 5 pies a day too many they’ll get a nice note saying ‘Look, lay off the pies and you’ll be fine’. If it’s regular food we’ll send the a longer note saying ‘Look dear, it’s genetic, go learn to love yourself the way you are. You’re great’. If they genuinely don’t know what they’re supposed to be eating stick them on the show. More on this later.
Eventually we’ll whittle (is that a word?) it down to the last 12 or so and ship them off to the ‘ranch’. Which, because this is to help people and is in itself part of the Prize it will be classier and have fancy hotel style rooms and maybe a lovely spa. I’ve never been to a spa but I hear they’re lovely.
Every week they’ll be expected to do more exercise than the last week and to run further/for longer. They will be encouraged to do as much of it as possible outside and to play games and team sports as well as mindlessly peddling an exercise bike while that woman yells at them to do it faster. We’ll have them pick a special project or activity that they can continue when they go home. Part of the prize will then be free membership/equipment, whether its football training, buying them a mountain bike, karate lessons, and so on.
Once in a while we’ll remind them that they’re here because they want to be and not because they’re not good enough to be somewhere else. We’ll check that they do still want to be here and make them a nice cup of tea.
How We’ll Make It a Competition:
Each week there will be a Percentage of Body Fat goal amount to lose so no-one misses out because they choose to bother with gaining muscles rather than just seeing how much ‘Weight’ they can lose. (Do you KNOW how much of the weight someone on a diet loses that is actually muscle and other tissue that they need rather than the dreaded ‘fat’? Nor do I but I’m pretty sure it’s upto about 40%.) The ‘winner’ of the week will be the person who meets their goals best. Everyone will be awarded points and NO-ONE WILL BE SENT HOME. Since we’re supposed to care about as many people as possible meeting their goals everyone will stay to the end or until they feel they need to quit to focus on something else in their life.
Maybe there’ll be extra points if they also win the best in their category, maybe four of them will be trying to run a certain distance and another four want to do some weights. I don’t know enough about exercise to comment so perhaps this is where the ‘trainers’ will earn their keep rather than just shouting at everyone who isn’t as scrawny as them.
Everyone will get points depending on how well they’ve been doing. The points will be out of twenty and one or two people will get the highest score thus being that weeks winner but this will not neccessarily be twenty out of twenty. If it rains and everyone decides to stay in and watch tv there will still be a winner (probably the guy who did weights whilst watching tv) but he won’t get as many points as if he’d put a full weeks worth of work in.
At the end of the twenty four weeks (because it’s unreasonable for people to regularly lose weight every single week what with giving them time to get over injuries and colds and things so we will be assessing them every two weeks) whoever has the most points will be the overall winner. Lets give them a fancy holiday.
Lets also point out that it’s possible to not look like some sort of exercisey stick insect and still actually be happy. Maybe we’ll feature some happy people who chose not to go on the show and turned out JUST FINE TOO.
OOOOH, THE THING THAT MAKES ME ANGRIEST: You know that bit when they stick them in a room full of doughnuts and then dare to tell them that whoever eats the most doughnuts gets to see their family? Surely EVERY SINGLE sane diet in the world addresses the problem of eating out, and party food, and cocktails, and anything sociable. And yes these do tend to involve large plates of cakes. Every sane diet gives people ways to cope with these events. Biggest Loser drums it into people that ‘whoever eats the most doughnuts gets to see their family’. What kind of link is that for people to make in their minds? Doughnuts= Happy family times? What an example to send them away with.
Instead, let’s give them a plate of doughnuts in the fridge at the start of the week along with the rest of the food. Whoever eats the best most balanced diet (that matches their individual nutritional plan including protein, fat, vitamins and whatever the rest of them are called) will win the weekly challenge.
We’ll get real chefs to teach them to cook delicious things every week rather than on a one-off special occasion and they will be able to go home and know what to do with a variety of vegetables. We’ll make sure that they know what sort of food to eat and we’ll make sure that it’s taught to them by nutrition experts and not whoever won the right to advertise their food products.
There will be a website where we can read these recipes too and learn more about how WE can start to do more exercise. The contestants will keep a blog where they can cry IF THEY WANT TO (rather than on live tv) but also talk about the bits that they do like, rather than subjecting them all to the heavy editing that completely distorts everyones perspective. There will be councilors available if they fancy a bit of a chat about any underlying issues and this will remain as confidential as they want it to be.
At the end of the 24 week programme everyone will go home happy and healthy, hoping to have inspired millions more people to do the same.
Channel whatever will be completely bankrupt because everyone will have switched over on the second week once they’ve realised that it’s actually just about regular people doing sensible things. We’d hope they turned it off and went outside for a bike ride, but they wont have done. ITV will have made millions from selling Fat Families to the biggest rival channel of whatever Biggest Loser is on.