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Thursday, February 22, 2018

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Host Alison Sweeney and guest Nastia Liukin

Host Alison Sweeney and guest Nastia Liukin

In last night’s episode of The Biggest Loser, Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin delivered an important message to the contestants. With a bright smile and her child athlete’s familiarity with total self-denial, she was a beacon of hope, a kindred spirit to our friends on their journeys. She was also there to address a crucial topic: food, which is something rarely discussed on the show. Aside from tossed-away tips and food-related challenges, America’s $100 million weight-loss juggernaut is mostly silent about what to eat while slimming.

However, Nastia had some helpful information: “Staying fit is a process and part of that is eating right and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The great thing about Subway is, it fits perfectly no matter what your needs are.”

You see, leaving the ranch loomed large on last night’s Biggest Loser.  With six contestants remaining and two of them about to go home, everyone began to worry about how they would fare outside of the show’s artificial bubble. Bob and Jillian decided it was time for a fireside chat.

“Contestants are going home soon. Historically speaking, it’s a really difficult transition for them,” said Jillian, with her trademark crooked smirk.

Bob went for a more colorful (and confusing) metaphor to describe the contestants’ situation: “You guys have pulled the curtain back. You’ve met the wizard….You have the strength. You have the knowledge. You can do it. If you decide you’re worth it enough to do it.”

But the soon-to-be-eliminated Mark voiced the fear that all the sweatshirt-clad were feeling:

“I honestly don’t know what to do when I get home.”

Ken Paves bringing all his talents to bear on Elizabeth for Makeover Week

Ken Paves bringing all his talents to bear on Elizabeth for Makeover Week

Biggest Loser Season 10 Episode 10

“It’s A Beautiful World We Live In”

Last night, while most American households watched Bristol Palin lose the Dancing With the Stars finale, some of us finally learned how to pronounce the name of Ken Paves, noted Jessica Simpson hanger-on (and creator of Simpson’s low-rent hair-extensions line).

It’s Pave-iss.

Ken was on hand to help the seven remaining Biggest Loser dieters because it was makeover week.

“I’m gonna be beautiful tomorrow,” declared a triumphant Elizabeth.

But was she really more beautiful in her strange new plus-size clothes? Stylists gave her a cheap-looking, printed-pattern sweater and office-worker slacks with an oddly placed thin belt, plus a long shirt which resembled a short skirt.

There’s a reason the average American woman wears a size 14, yet clothing above size 14 represents only 18 percent of sales: there are few great clothing options for plus-size women, a problem documented carefully in this New York Times Magazine piece.

So while Marc Jacobs’ business partner Robert Duffy tantalizingly tweets of a possible plus-size line, American women are relegated to low-cost, ill-fitting pieces from Lane Bryant or mega-expensive, loose-fitting therapist wear from J Jill or Eileen Fisher. In 2005, H&M discontinued plus-sizes entirely, while J. Crew and Ann Taylor recently moved them to online-only.

In the opening of last night’s “The Biggest Loser,” trainer Bob Harper challenged Patrick House, a 28 year old from Vicksburg, MS (starting weight: 400 pounds).

“Why do you wanna be here, Patrick?”

Patrick answered, “For my family. I’ve got two boys.”

“Time to make your sons proud.” Bob said off-camera, his voice beaming warmth like a bad lieutenant gone soft.

All eyes were on Patrick as this week’s episode of NBC’s hit show opened, since it was his shocking betrayal of supposed friend and partner Jesse last week that sent him home. Bob wanted answers; nay, America wanted answers.

Patrick explained, “I would have loved to have never had to vote Jesse out. But at the same time, he’s partnered with my biggest competition right now, standing between me and winning the Biggest Loser.”

Later we learn that Patrick is unemployed, and living off family loans.

1288189521-four-lokoWord in today’s New York Times that the FDA is ready to take a stand on alcohol-laced caffeinated energy drinks offers a good opportunity to consider the impact of media attention on health policy.

Media outlets have been full of stories for months about young people becoming seriously ill or even dying after ingesting the drinks. Most reports have centered on Four Loko, a fruit-flavored malt beverage with 12% alcohol content and caffeine equal of a cup of coffee. It’s known on some college campuses, “Coma in a Can.”

The FDA, which has never approved adding caffeine to alcoholic beverages, has been reviewing whether alcohol-caffeine energy drinks are safe and legal. The review began about a year ago at the urging of 18 state attorneys general.

Four Loko’s manufacturer “has said that drinking premixed alcohol and caffeine is no different from drinking a few glasses of wine with dinner and having coffee afterward,” notes the Times. The company, whose product had been widely available in the US, says it takes steps to prevent its products from getting into the hands of minors and complains that Four Loko is being targeted unfairly.

But the drumbeat of media reports has spurred state action ahead of an FDA ruling. Several states have banned the drinks; New York’s governor says his state will as well, and that state’s main beer distributors have agreed to stop delivering caffeinated alcoholic beverages to retailers.

On last night’s episode of NBC’s hit show “The Biggest Loser,” trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels were extremely disappointed in the terrible results their clients achieved the week before. “I want to see numbers on that scale that represent what Jillian and I are all about!” Bob exclaimed, yelling out into the gym, “I’m thinking I want to hurt someone I haven’t been able to hurt for a long time.” Contestants had trained at Camp Pendleton, the famed Marine training ground, and had mostly posted unacceptable weight loss of a pound or two for the week. In fact, three players gained weight for the week, unheard of in Biggest Loser history. It got Bob pissed, and it got us at the Center for Health, Media and Policy at Hunter College wondering: what the hell are they doing at that ranch? What goes on in their normal environment if a week at Camp Pendleton is like a week at the Cheesecake Factory? So we’re blogging The Biggest Loser this week and for the rest of the season to take a closer look, calling on experts from various health care professions to help us understand what this enormously popular and profitable expression of health issues is all about.

It’s a weird time to be a fat person in America. In an era when most of us strive to treat each other with sensitivity about a myriad of physical and cultural differences, overweight people, with their “self-created” problems, don’t rate much consideration. The fashion and entertainment industries are notorious for their plus-size unfriendly ways. Even against this background, the current cultural mood towards the heavy seems to be shifting into a harsher gear, seeing them increasingly as moral degenerates and a civic burden. The right predicted years ago that if cigarette smoking was culturally vilified, eventually twinkies would be too, and, for better or worse, they were right: NYC has banned trans fats and has floated taxing sugar-based drinks; many other municipalities are following suit. What was once a personal struggle to eat well has acquired new civic and moral weight. So, with our country agog about the obesity epidemic and its related health care costs, with Michelle Obama dedicating herself to helping all kids be as sleek and fit as Malia and Sasha, and with Mika Brzezinski smugly purring about her daily runs and abhorrence of carbs every morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, The Biggest Loser occupies a strange place in our current cultural landscape. With all due respect to the fat acceptance movement, most of us don’t dispute that being severely overweight is not healthy, but you have to wonder what’s going on when seven million people tune in weekly to cheer as the obese are pushed to exercise until they vomit or are hospitalized.