On to part 2 of this amazing tale of tired feet, sore backs, and shattered dreams. I feel duty bound to tell you at this point that there may, indeed, be a part 3. I didn’t deliberately deceive y’all yesterday when I said I had to break it into 2 parts, I’m just a real wordy bitch. Apologies in advance if that happens.
So I left off yesterday as we were ushered to the hospital cafeteria, goodie bags in hand, to fill out our official Biggest Loser applications. It was well after lunch by this time and, to add insult to serious foot injury, the grill was closed. Either that or the 684 contestants who were in front of us ate all the food and they had to close up shop. I didn’t ask – partially because I was trying not to gag over the stench of the only food they were still serving: Subway. Sorry, Jared…your food smells like vinaigrette mixed with ass.
None of us had thought to bring snacks either. Imagine that: over a thousand fat people in the same place and no food. Well played, Subway. I’d brought some carrot sticks with me, but they were long gone. Normally I would have brought a backpack full of partially hydrogenated nummies, but ya know, I thought I needed to bring rabbit food to show the producers how good I was at liking healthy food. Because my giant ass was proof that I loved nothing more than a good salad after a stressful day, right?
I sat there with my 8 new BFF’s, feeling more hungry than I could ever remember, trying to keep my hand from trembling as I filled out my application (just in case they were also judging on penmanship). I didn’t even think about the goodie bag until one of the guys in my group grumbled, “Oh great…I bet these taste good.” I looked up to find him holding a bag of something called Protein Crisps. The look on his face was priceless.
Volunteers were stationed at the cafeteria entrance, calling out contestant numbers in sets of 5 every few minutes. They called out #548 and I looked down at my contestant number. #649. Awesome. I was going to be in Subway Stinkland for a while.
After a while, we became restless. Our applications were completed with what we were all certain were perfect, heart-wrenching answers to all the producer’s questions. They were bound to pick at least one of us. Our goodie bags had been plundered. Protein Crisps, a pen with the hospital’s logo on it, a message pad that said “Biggest Loser’ on it. Nothing fabulous. And no, no one touched their Protein Crisps. Later that night I would carefully open the packet of crisps and offer one to our dog, Kokopelli. She turned her nose up at it. That dog would eat her own yard biscuits, but those Protein Crisps were just gross.
Before long, sitting hurt just as much as standing. Every part of my body was throbbing and in pain. Finally, they called #648…which was one of my BFF’s. Then #649. We were told to stand in a hallway, which we did with barely concealed excitement. The rest of our friends soon joined us and the line began slowly moving. We had no idea where we were going, but we were certain that our final destination was just around the corner. Then we rounded the corner.
At least 200 people were lined up down a long hallway in front of us. Jesus. How long was this going to go on? And now we were standing again, feet throbbing, with clunky goodie bags and applications to hold onto. At least this line seemed to be moving faster, though. The line seemed to end at a pair of elegant wood doors at the end of the hall. I pictured a poshly decorated doctor’s conference room on the other side with a shiny black table, around which were seated a handful of Biggest Loser casting directors and producers. The Promised Land.
We were positively wiggly by the time we got to those doors. They were letting in groups of 10. We were next. They opened the doors and we rushed forward, but instead of finding ourselves in front of a bunch of Biggest Loser casting honchos we found ourselves in a huge auditorium. A volunteer just inside the door told us to find seats.
We found seats off to the side in a little overflow section of folding chairs. I looked around and my heart sank. There had to be at least 600 people in that auditorium. We looked at each other in disbelief. We were exhausted and hungry. I would have cut a bitch for a half of a granola bar. We thought we were at the end, yet there were still hundreds of people in front of us. At that point, it felt like we were in the middle of some cruel joke. Morale was starting to fade.
At least there was something to occupy our thoughts this time. There was a woman on stage at a podium, speaking about her amazing weight loss success. Everyone was riveted by her story. Her “before” picture was projected on the screen behind her along with the Biggest Loser logo. It was hard to believe that this skinny woman speaking to us had ever been overweight. When her presentation ended she opened things up for questions and hands shot up all over the auditorium.
“What did you do to lose that much weight?” Girl-in-green-dress asked.
The answer was something like “Blah blah blah, portion control, blah blah blah…eating healthy food…”
Yeah. That’s not what we wanted to know. We’re professional fatties. We’ve read a million books about portion contorl. Besides, it felt like she was side-stepping something.
“How did you lose the weight?” came the next question from chick-with-red-hair.
“Blah blah blah…get in the right mindset…blah blah blah…hard work…”
No. That’s not what we’re asking. We’ve heard this shit a million times. We’re still fat.
Finally, someone with balls stands up. Blue-shirt-guy says, “How specifically did you succeed this time after so many failed attempts to lose weight?”
He got applause from the crowd. We were all losing patience with this chick and her sketchy answers. You’re in a room full of your fellow fatties, lady…spill the details already. We eagerly awaited her reply.
“I had gastric bypass surgery here at the hospital.”
She clicked the remote in her hand and the slide changed from her “after” picture to one containing information about the hospital’s weight loss surgery programs.
My chin just about hit the floor. Everybody’s chins just about hit the floor. I was wrong about blue-shirt-guy having balls…because this chick had big brass ones. So did the hospital. What marketing genius.
No wonder the hospital volunteered to host the auditions. What do you do with a thousand captive fatties, most (if not all) of whom are not going to get picked for the Biggest Loser? You make them sit and listen to presentation after presentation about gastric bypass surgery. Well played, you sneaky-ass motherfuckers.
The auditorium booed her. Loudly. She tried to recover by continuing to talk over the booing. Eventually the crowd quieted down. Off to the side, a Biggest Loser production assistant approached the stage and the auditorium went wild. He stepped up to the microphone.
“We need numbers 438 through 447 out here in the hall please.”
What? They’re only in the 400’s? I was #648. Son of a bitch. Some of us were ready to cry. It was the day that never ended.
Back on stage, gastric-bypass-chick introduced the next presenter. Guess who it was? Dr. I-Forget-Her-Name, Chief Resident Hoo-Hah over…you guessed it…Bariatric Surgery.
Sigh. It was like being trapped in a timeshare meeting for fat people.
It was a collective slap in the face. The doctor gave her presentation. I didn’t hear much of it. I started texting Hot Mess Hubby in disgust. We had waited all eff’in day for a chance to have the shit kicked out of us on the Biggest Loser. We wanted to learn from top nutritionists, chefs, and personal trainers. We were auditioning for a reality show called The Biggest Loser, not Surgery Island.
The wheels of change finally began to turn in my rusty noggin when the next speaker was introduced. A psychologist came to speak about the mindset you need for success. She wasn’t pitching weight loss surgery, she was pitching something that every weight loss seeker needs whether they seek it through surgery or not: change. I wanted to hear the presentation…but I couldn’t. Because two of my fellow fatties, seated in front of me, wouldn’t stop chattering.
Between the two of them, I’m sure they had at least 600 pounds to lose. I was (and am) a pretty big girl…and these folks made me feel small. Each of them was seated across two folding chairs and they filled up the space. They definitely needed to be here with us – but they sat there laughing and chatting with each other, making fun of the doctor as she spoke. In fact, when the doctor started speaking about change management, the woman looked at the man and said “Yeah, yeah, yeah already. Too much work unless it’s for $250,000.”
Wow. Not ready for change. At all. I sat there, half listening to the presentation and half listening to them. I was heart sick for them. Maybe they were just as beat down with exhaustion as we were. Maybe they were just venting. But I wanted them to want to be there for more than just a $250,000 grand prize.
Their numbers were called and they stood up to go. Our section applauded for them and they both turned to us and smiled, saying thanks as they picked up their belongings. My heart really went out to this woman. Her weight was everywhere. It was pushing her cheeks up against her eyes. Her neck was a giant roll. Her face was so full that her chin had a tennis ball sized protrusion at the end of it. She wheezed when she moved to gather her things. I wanted to hug her and tell her to kick some ass when she got in front of those producers.
As I sat there watching her slowly waddle away, I realized…she’s me. She’s me.
Since I was a little girl, one of my most prominent features have been my “big, brown eyes”. Everyone has always complimented me on my eyes. But at 381 pounds, my eyes had stopped being a prominent feature. My face was puffy. My body was huge. If I kept up living as I was, my body would only be getting bigger. As my new BFF’s chatted easily with each other, I sat there feeling ashamed of myself. What had I done to myself? I was on the wrong road. Whether I miraculously made it on the show or not, something had to change. I sat there with my mind reeling, knowing there was more for me to discover in this new realization, but not wanting to think on it too much in this huge room full of people. I needed quiet time to really think this through.
They called our numbers and we bolted up and ran for the door. Finally. We were ushered down another hall and told to wait. The volunteer in charge of us assured us that we were almost there, but I was hesitant to believe her at this point. I wouldn’t have been too shocked if the next room included a panel of plastic surgeons to pitch tummy tucks for when we all hit our goal weights. This was not the day of promise and possibility that I thought it would be when I woke up. It was a day of exhaustion, realization, and hard lessons.
We stood in the hall together, excitedly chattering and taking pictures of our group, vowing to keep in touch. Some of us lived quite far from each other, but we promised to get together when we could – especially if one of us made it on the show, as we would want to have a watch party some night. It seemed our time together was finally coming to an end and it made me a little sad to think of it.
The volunteer came back to us, this time with the air of a boot camp drill instructor.
“Everyone in here, quickly!” She pointed to an open door that led to a small meeting room.
As we rushed towards the door, she stepped in before us. There was a lone man, very young, sitting at a small conference table. He had a Hollywood hipster look about him, one I was all too familiar with since I’m from southern California. He didn’t even look up. The volunteer drill instructor spoke next.
“Quickly, put your things on the floor against the wall and have a seat. Bring your applications. Hurry up now!”
We dropped our shit and ran to the table and sat. It was time to win a spot on the hottest reality show on tv. The volunteer stepped out and closed the door behind her. Finally, hipster boy spoke.
“Welcome, everyone. We only have two minutes together today, so I’ll make this quick. My name is (insert hipster doofus name) and I’m a casting assistant for the Biggest Loser. Going around the table, tell me your name and where you’re from.”
He pointed at the person on his left and said “Go.”
Like military recruits, we spouted off our names and where we were from. The only thing missing was “Sir, yes sir!” at the end. He sat there, slouched in his chair, unimpressed. Inside, I was thinking “Two minutes? Did he say we only have two minutes???”
“Pass me your applications.”
We passed them. What happened next was a real eye opener for me.
“Okay, I just have one question for the group. Why do you want to be on the Biggest Loser?” He made an open gesture at all of us and said, “Go!”
Like a crazed pack of monkeys, everyone started chattering at him at once. They were almost yelling over each other, each vying for his attention. It wasn’t a discussion, it was a shouting match…and he sat there slouching in his chair with a slight smile on his face as this display went on before him. I sat there with my mouth hanging open in amazement as my new BFF’s threw all decorum out the window and just yammered over each other like this was normal every day behavior. I started laughing. I couldn’t help it. Our group went from being BFF’s forever to a bunch of screaming degenerates who’d stab each other in the back for a shot at this guy’s attention. And he sat there gloating…as if we were all on Atkins and he had placed a single cupcake in the middle of the table. I can’t imagine that he was able to hear much of what any one person said. I couldn’t stop giggling to myself over the absurdity of it all. I couldn’t think of a single thing to say that warranted yelling it above everyone else. About 45 seconds into the melee, I heard myself say in my head “You are not the Biggest Loser.”
He held a hand up and there was instant silence. Hipster doofus had the power.
“Okay, we’re almost out of time. Quickly around the table: would you want Bob or Jillian…and why?”
Each person blurted out their answers one at a time. It was the only time I actually spoke while I was in that room.
Hipster boy explained that if we were selected to continue further we would get a call by 9 pm that night. I already knew the phone wasn’t going to ring at my house…and that was okay. I have a low threshold for crazy.
We hugged each other goodbye in the lobby and promised to let each other know if we got called. That night, I waited for the call that wasn’t coming and emailed the group at 9:05 pm to let them know I wasn’t selected. One of our group was chosen to go to a casting callback and another was asked to make a video tape and submit it. Despite that, neither was selected to go any further.
I spent the rest of the day overwhelmed with everything I was feeling. I was happy that I went, angry at the insensitive marketing done by the hospital, and absolutely aghast at the 2 minute brawl that ensued in that tiny little conference room. As much as I tried, I couldn’t fathom how anyone could glean enough information from that 2 minute shouting match in order to narrow down the contestant field. It seemed to me a process that was as ridiculous as it was futile. I would rather have been pitted against others in a more civilized forum – or even a physical challenge.
In the weeks that followed, I sent a few emails to my BFF’s to check on them. No one responded. We were strangers again as quickly as we were friends, which only added to the weirdness of the entire experience. Quite some time later, one of them found me on Facebook and we’ve stayed in touch…but everyone else is long gone. I wish them well.
I ached to the bone the following day from all the hours of standing on my feet. I was curious about the experiences of Biggest Loser contestants in a way I hadn’t been before. The casting call was an eye opener for me. I waited all day thinking I would have the chance to speak to a casting assistant for the show and instead I was thrown into a ridiculous situation. In this case, the reality of the reality show did not meet with my expectations – and I wanted to see if there was anything else about the Biggest Loser that I had misconceptions about.
There was, indeed – but that’s a story for tomorrow. It’s taken me over 3,000 words to tell you about the remainder of an amazing day…and I hope you’ve enjoyed it somehow. Tomorrow I’ll tell you what I learned in my search for answers. That will be Part 3. I doubt it will take 3,000 words…but like I said: I’m quite a wordy bitch.
I learned I wasn’t the Biggest Loser, but I also connected with the fact that I was on a dangerous path…and that I needed to find a way to change direction once and for all. This was the beginning of my beginning. This experience sent me looking not only for answers but solutions as well.
See you tomorrow. 🙂