With Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition, it is not a house being made over, but a human being. A trainer starts with an obese person and hopes to end up with a healthy weight one.
Where other shows feature teams of experts, here the focus is just two people. The trainer, Chris Powell, and his client. Chris Powell vaulted to fame when he helped out David Smith, who at the time was 630 pounds. He lost 401 pounds over 26 months to end up at 229 pounds. After the rounds of media, Chris was soon offered his own TV show to do the same with other morbidly obese people.
As a sad side note, David Smith has since gained 300 of those pounds back. So it was not a permanent weight loss.
So, on to his current projects. In each case Chris sets out a year goal, helps the person get started, and then stays in contact with them while they do the rest on their own.
The episode we watched featured Tony Mims, a 49 year old man who weighed 398 pounds. He was planning to get married and wanted to start his new life with a healthier body.
Tony certainly had a lot to shoulder. He had left his two alcoholic parents at age 14. One of his children has cerebral palsy and passed away during the year of effort. He broke up with his girlfriend, too, which left him homeless. He was unemployed.
I watched this with my boyfriend. We've both seen Biggest Loser for many years as well as numerous other documentaries on weight loss. So we are quite familiar with the style of show.
Our first impression was that Chris was not as comfortable as other hosts with the supportive language. There were several times that we cringed at the way he phrased something. He would say "don't listen to your body" which goes against much of what we believe in. We would say you should always listen to your body - and then objectively evaluate its message.
Also, I was not enthusiastic about the idea that Chris would pummel him for 90 days then abandon him. Chris didn't even know where the guy was half the time. Tony absolutely gets a lot of credit for plowing through the project on his own - but I'm not comfortable with that idea. I think ongoing support is important.
It also felt that the show turned into a soap opera, not about the weight loss, but about traumas and troubles. We got barely a minute about how to eat healthy foods which mostly seemed a promotion for the resort center. There was a glimpse of Chris telling Tony to run on the treadmill. But really that was it.
As an example, Tony's fiance clearly had some weight issues of her own. And Chris knew it was important to include her - but he never did. Instead, she ended up feeling alienated. It wasn't fair to expect Tony to know how to include her - he was in serious trouble himself. He was just keeping his own head out of the water. So Tony's fiance was imperfect of her handling of the stress, certainly - but the end result is that Tony left her and promptly started seeing someone else. Judging by comments at the funeral there wasn't much time between the two. If I was the fiance I'd be pretty disappointed watching this episode, how they are fairly snarky about her and she has no way to respond or present her side.
She wanted help, too. Instead she had her fiance that she loved taken from her and then has to watch him promptly propose to another woman.
I also am fairly uncomfortable with the plan of quick-weight-loss-then-surgery. Surely the body can take some time to get used to its new shape and we have seen on many other shows that the body will naturally readjust to its new shape. But they're going for the quick-fix here, which I am not a fan of. They want everything to fit neatly within the one year cycle.
Absolutely I am proud of Tony and what he accomplished. He had a lot of suffering to shoulder. He faced it head-on. He was not getting support either from his home or from the TV crew. He sat on the stairs at Christmas dinner eating his healthy food despite being antagonized about it. He worked out in the parking lot if that was all he could do. He kept at it. But I think the show could have done a FAR better job of supporting him along the way, in so many ways.