Wednesday, October 12, 2011

BIGGEST LOSER: Has "Battle of the Ages" Set Seniors Up To Fail?

      In past columns I’ve written about NBC’s “The Biggest Loser “ reality series.  I find it interesting, and inspiring, to watch obese contestants lose excess pounds and change their lives. But this season, “Battle of the Ages,” is discouraging for those of us who are over 50. 
Teams were divided by age: those who were age 20-30, those in their 30s and 40s, and an older team of age 50 and up. Right off the bat, it was apparent that the deck was stacked against  the seniors.  From everything I’ve read, after age 45, the body’s  metabolism slows, so it doesn’t burn calories as rapidly.  Older bodies don’t recover as easily from a grueling workout. As a group, they haven’t been able to perform the intense physical challenges as well as the younger groups.
I know in my own case, I wish I was as strong, flexible and fast as I was in my 20s! I remember one day when I ran a 5k in the morning, went skiing for the rest of the day, and went out dancing that night, and wasn't even sore the next day.  Those days are long gone.

I’m not saying that seniors can’t lose weight; after all, last season’s at-home winner was Deni Hill, who was 59 years old.  I’m just saying that it’s not fair to group all the seniors together and expect them to compete on the same physical level as the younger teams, whose members are seeing double-digit weight loss nearly every week.

Last Tuesday, Becky lost just two pounds —  trainer Anna Kournikova’s false eyelashes probably weigh more than that. 

The first two weeks, the older (blue) team lost the weigh-in because its members couldn’t lose a bigger percentage of weight than the younger teams. They quickly lost two of their five members. Then “Coach Mike” had a huge week, losing 17 pounds and saving the team from having to eliminate another player.
“Age is just a number,” he said.  “Age doesn’t matter. Anyone can do it.”

But, in the next episode, Mike was sent packing after pulling down just five pounds. As the team’s strongest player, Mike’s exit leaves just two blue teammates, who are basically sitting ducks. Even if the teams get switched up, the bonds and loyalties are already formed among the other teams, and it will be hard for those two to foster new relationships.

There’s been an added twist — the winner of the Biggest Loser marathon gets an automatic spot in the finale. But, even then, most 60-year-olds would are at a disadvantage racing 26 miles against the younger folks. 

If age were the only factor, the 20-somethings would be in the lead all the time. But, the black team — the 30-and 40-somethings — are dominating the weigh-ins and physical challenges.  The black team seems to have some mentally and physically tough players. One is a former NFL lineman (who seems to bond a lot better than Olympic athlete Rulon Gardner did last season). And, they have veteran trainer Bob Harper!  

In this last episode, I really enjoyed seeing Anna Kournikova running her team through tennis drills, and Bob Harper’s team doing pool exercises. It’s great to see exercise that doesn’t necessarily take place in the gym, and to get some other workout ideas.

But if things don’t get switched up soon, there won’t be a lot of surprises left this season, since the blue  team is on a downward spiral and the black team seems invincible.

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