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The Biggest Loser’s failed challenge

October 13, 2010

There are a number of reasons I don’t like a lot of what gets passed off as entertainment on television these days and one of those reasons was in last night’s episode of The Biggest Loser. I like the concept of the show. I like the inspiration I feel watching determined people work toward extraordinary lifestyle changes, and I think their courage is admirable to say the least, but I don’t like that the show is crafted and presented as a game show and contestants are forced to balance their determination against winning the game.

Last night, contestants were given a ‘Temptation Challenge’. This challenge was touted as the biggest prize ever awarded on the show. I’m not a regular watcher; I like watching at the beginning of the season and again at the end to see the dramatic changes in the contestants, and I like tuning in now and then to see the exercise routines, so I’m not familiar with the types of challenges on the show, but my understanding is that these types of challenges are the norm.

Options in last night’s ‘Temptation Challenge’ were to either sit out the challenge, staying true to your goal of learning new behaviors and regaining your life, or to participate in the challenge and eat as many frosted cupcakes as necessary to find the one cupcake that held the valuable reward: a one-pound weight advantage token that will grow by one pound each week it isn’t used. 

Four of the 14 contestants chose to take part in the ‘Temptation Challenge’ and ate the frosted cupcakes. Four people were willing to toss their goals of weight loss and new lives out the window in pursuit of a token that might get them farther in a game. I wondered what the lesson was here. Were we learning that taking the easy path to success is the correct choice in life – regardless of the possible consequences, or that winning a game is ultimately more important than successfully losing weight and changing one’s life? In the end everything was alright because the lesson we learned was about temptations and celebrity chef Curtis Stone taught everyone how to make low-calorie desserts at home so we know what to do when we’re faced with life’s frosted cupcake dilemmas and want to retreat to the comfort of the kitchen. No reason to meditate or look to other food choices when there’s a 100-calorie sweet treat in the refrigerator.

Life is full of temptations. Some of those temptations are good and some are not-so-good, and my belief is the way to deal with the not-so-good temptations in our lives isn’t by giving into them and indulging them, or taking shortcuts around them and then justifying our decision. We don’t learn to stop smoking, or change any harmful behavior, by smoking, or indulging the behavior on occasion. We don’t learn to change eating habits by looking for a magic pill in the shape of a ‘Temptation Challenge’ victory.

The ‘Temptation Challenge’ also bothered me for another reason, which is that it played into what I believe is a common belief that the quick fix is the good solution. A token, earned from eating, which allows someone to last longer in a game designed to help someone eat less and learn new ways to eat healthier, isn’t a very practical way of learning a new behavior. I also don’t think it makes for very rewarding television.

Bottom line, this is a game show and not a reality show. While the best player will win, I hope they’re all able to achieve their weight loss goals and succeed with the lifestyle changes they’re working toward.

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