Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Beefing Up Ratings

Morning, All. Got back from Pilates and I am running a bit of laundry before I skip over to the office. I wanted to share some that crossed my mind, and I offer it for your consideration because it impacts how we partake of media.

Now, stop that thought right now. I am not the sort of believer who immediately assumes that everything on TV or Radio is evil and immoral and therefore must be banished to the department of the Ninth Circle. However, I am no one's fool either; I recognize that the products of any culture at any time in history enshrine particular beliefs as good and worthy of imitation. Spike Lee's Bamboozled comes to mind as a demonstration how Step'n Fetchit was a riot in one time and is the symbol (rightly so) of oppression and hatred in the next. The point is, we all have brains and brain stems and that means we need to use them and evaluate what goes into said brain and brain stems vis a vis the media.

Here's the second part of the shameful confessions. I really like Reality Television. Let me focus that thought: I like reality competition shows. I am a huge fan of Project Runway because I can't figure out how a bolt of cloth becomes a dress, or a jacket, or whatever else pops out of their muy creative minds. That show spurred my interest in fashion and trying to understand that industry, given that fashion is (say it with me) an expression of what a culture finds attractive and important. See it all comes back to the philosophical transcendentals: the true, the good, the beautiful. There is another show that I obcessed over and still kinda do -- I have the soundtrack. Since ditching cable at the rectory, and living an hour from OKC means no reception, I haven't seen the premiere but I am curious anyway. I want to see Biggest Loser - Family Edition.

That show, at one time, was four shades of awesome. The main reason I loved it was the fact that you had to accomplish something to win. That by itself made it great to watch. Granted, the twists were often times weird, and let's face it, there is a cruel, snickering-in-the-back-of-the-bus-at-the-fatty-boom-be-latey quality to the show given that morbidly obese folks are expected to weigh in on a LIVESTOCK scale and go about without a shirt. When I was the contestants' size, and yes, I started on Weight Watchers at 375.6 lbs., I couldn't tolerate people looking at me, much less without a shirt. But all told, it was a good bit of inspirational television. You had the sense that you could do something to make you feel proud.

After my own work on Weight Watchers, though, my attitude has shifted. First, I watched the show with a clear understanding that there was no way to post those kinds of losses without dedicating major time and effort. I recall, overhearing last season, that the contestants were on about 1250 calories and were exercising 4-6 hours A DAY. It doesn't take a nutritional counselor to know that's messed up. I had to put into terms I could understand.

On program, you can exchange exercise for food. You don't have to, it's an option (In the interest of full disclosure, I have to eat my activity or I don't lose. It's akin to having a slow metabolism but a high caloric need.) It's exchanged one for one depending on duration, intensity, and your body weight. So, at my heaviest, the program allotted 44 daily points and since I generally used all of my 35 bonus points durinng the week, let's just estimate that on average, I was eating 50 points per day without adding anything for exercise. If I did the same exercise as those folks do on the show while on program, even at the lowest intensity, I would get back 31 points! Since the folks on the show are sweating and dropping like the Battan Death March, I would suspect the intensity in MUCH higher. At high intensity, it would be 109 points. So, simply put, if I had done that, I could have eaten threefold what I was and probably still would have lost. Those contestants must be going into shock.

Second, Valerie Frankel's book reminded me that since it is too easy, it won't last. I was thinking about contestant Matt. He is one of those guys who is a nice guy, but because our society sends the message that nice guys should be crapped on, he projects the image of burly defender of all. It's like an armor pack so that people can't hurt him. As you watched the show, the way the producers portrayed him, you just knew there were some emotional and mental issues that needed working as much as, or more than, the exercise and eating issues. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, he put much of the weight back on, at least according to Frankel. (It's a long shot but if you are reading this, Matt, or if anybody reading this knows Matt, pass on a good word from one former heavy guy to another. You can do it, sir. Don't get thin; get healthy.) For me, ninety percent of this is mental. I had to compel myself to drive to Shawnee for Pilates and it was worth it. The hard part was reminding myself of why it is a good thing to do.

Third, and this is the reason for the post. I was reading through my Entertainment Weekly and in the weekly TV roundup section, the writers mentioned the return of Biggest Loser. In the brief article they mention that one of the couples (spoiler alert!) loses 47 pounds this week. That is the equivalent of a negative energy intake of 164,500 calories. I can't begin to figure out how that is going to happen, but I'll tell you what it isn't. It's not sane or rational. How could anyone expect to keep that up? I lost 6 pounds last week (yah!) but I don't expect that this week. I messed up yesterday, and I am going to be working hard to post a loss of any kind, but if I don't, I know why I didn't. Even writing that makes me want to find a chocolate bar. (I know, all kinds of messed up.) Are those contestants being equipped to handle the failures as well as the successes? And that is when the creepy thought crossed my mind.

What if Biggest Loser is trying to really amp up ratings by inflating the losses? I am going to be happy with eight-tenths of a pound loss for next week. But with all the money going into a popular television show, you have to imagine the temptation is real and raw.

1 comment:

Biteofpunkinpie said...

I have watched the show in the past, but haven't caught any this season. I think that the overall idea behind the show must be "teach them how hard it would be if they had to do it again". There's an emotional side to all that they do, aside from the low calorie intake and the hours of exercise. They go well over a month without seeing or talking to their loved ones. Yikes. As a mom, I know all too well the amount that a child can change, develop, grow in just a month. I don't think that that overall message is one that actually works though. From what I've 'heard' most contestants wind up gaining a signficant portion of the weight they lost back. The really aren't teaching the contestants the skills to succeed long term. As the old fable teaches us: slow and steady wins the race.