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True confessions: The Biggest Loser

True confession time: I watch The Biggest Loser.

There isn't a lot of TV-time for me these days and while I have routinely professed my love and adoration for the entire Law and Order franchise, there are a select few shows that comprise my guilty pleasures.

And Tuesday night is Biggest Loser night. Blame my running friends who were watching the show last year. I watched to keep up with their conversation. And now I'm hooked.

Granted, there are things which annoy me about the show. First, it's two hours with far too many commercial breaks. Speaking of commercials the product placement segments are obvious. And some of the "dramatic" moments are painfully contrived.

The contradiction of the show is while helping people change their lives and lose weight it's also a game. There are winners at the end with money (and future potential earnings as spokespeople and minor celebrities) on the line. This brings out some nasty game-playing reality-show techniques. It also can create some unrealistic expectations. Contestants are worried about "pulling a big number" at each weekly weigh-in with the hopes of staying in the game. But individual bodies are different and can respond differently to weight loss, new diet and four-hour exercise sessions. And losing eight pounds a week through diet and exercise is not the norm. My hope is that people at home aren't discouraged with "low numbers" if they are trying to get their weight and health under control.

Ah, but rant over.

Because I do like the show.

And things about last night's episode made me smile -- especially as one team of contestants was sent home for a week to try and "go it alone" while another team got to stay on the Biggest Loser Ranch with full access to the trainers and support staff of the show.

There were the obligatory "going out to eat in a restaurant" scenes where the contestants went with family and friends to their old haunts. Surprisingly, they all seemed to steer clear of temptation, ordering chicken and fish with no oil and butter and steamed vegetables. But what was interesting was their reactions to what their significant others were eating. Armed with knowledge about food and health choices, they were aghast at the appetizers dripping in fat. And they were disappointed in what their loved ones were ordering -- their usual fare that was unhealthy and borderline gluttonous in its portion size. In fact, I believe one woman admitted she was a bit disgusted.

Where was the support? Where was the solidarity? A healthy lifestyle change needs a solid circle of support. Perhaps that was a good take-away lesson for the family and friends at home. Still, the players who went home all continued to lose weight without access to the NBC-show amenities -- except for Daniel.

He was my other favorite moment on the show.

The 20-year old gained a pound in his week at home despite keeping faithful to his workouts and eating healthy. But Daniel faced emotional issues -- his own personal ones. Back at the Biggest Loser ranch, he had a breakdown on the treadmill with trainer Jillian Michaels. Daniel had realized that his mom was trying to help him all the years of growing up when she would do things like question his eating choices. Daniel, however, interpreted his mother's concern differently, thinking he just wasn't good enough. Why couldn't his mother love him the way he was? But in that epiphany, he understood that she did love him -- and she was showing that love by trying to help him be happy and healthy. 

It's just the surface, but it was a big moment for young Daniel, who entered the Biggest Loser family last year at 454 pounds and is back for his second chance. There are issues in his life that Daniel has never dealt with that he "buried under 454 pounds."

The game-playing and the challenges and the screaming trainers create drama that make for interesting television. But watching the transformation of some of the contestants, like Daniel, is inspirational and heartwarming.

And it's why it stays one of my guilty pleasures.

---Amy Moritz
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