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The Biggest Loser: What It's Really Like

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Sunday

After breakfast, it's time to head to the airport. My daughter, 5, is splayed on her bed with the iPad, watching Taylor Swift videos. "Bye, Mom! See you in a week!" she says cheerfully. My 8-year-old son, however, looks bummed. I had braced for this ahead of time but still feel terrible. Part of me wants to say, "Never mind, I'll just stay home." Somehow, Rational Me muscles out Emotional Me. He and I talk about how I'll call every night and he can text anytime. He finally seems okay, but breaking our long hug kills me. I'm glad my sunglasses hide the tears in my eyes. My husband smiles, gives me a solid squeeze and says, "Go get 'em, killer."

Check-in at the resort consists of going over the week's menu with the dietician and being issued a big binder of nutrition info, recipes and worksheets. And, of course, weigh-in. Mercifully I'm not required to strip down to a sports bra and shorts like on TV. It's private, just a trainer and me on a futuristic scale that analyzes body fat and lean muscle percentages, among other things. She studies my numbers, takes measurements and informs me that I'm not adequately hydrated. This is not the least bit surprising, since I drink water rarely, if ever. For as long as I can remember, I've been guzzling diet soda morning, noon and night. And of course, at that moment, I would kill for one. Fat chance.

After dinner, we troop to orientation. Our first exercise class of the day is at 6 a.m. Attendance at scheduled workouts is mandatory and verified by our Biggest Loser lanyards, which we are to wear at all times. If you don't show up, a trainer will track you down to make sure you're okay, says the general manager. "Once we know you're fine, we'll encourage you to get right to class. After all, you came here for a reason," he points out, using a refrain that will be repeated over and over again (in a good way). The staff seems kind, genuine and approachable—but they also mean business. We all introduce ourselves and share goals, which range from the obvious, weight loss, to loftier ideals like living a longer, healthier life. Some people mention setting a better example for their kids. I'm down with that. In fact, my son and daughter are very much on my mind. I miss them so much.

Monday
I set the alarm for 5:30 a.m. but jolt awake at 5:22. My anxiety level is through the roof—I'm worried whether I can cut it here. I also desperately crave my usual morning jump start: an ice-cold diet soda. In the fitness studio, it's strangely quiet. I think everyone is wondering what's going down today and whether they can handle it. The workout is a reasonably gentle stretch class. Having all survived, we head to breakfast. Day one flies by in a blur of exercise, nutrition lectures and getting to know people. Age-wise, our group runs the gamut. Interspersed among a bunch of 30- and 40-something women like me are a teenager with his mom, a fistful of 20-somethings, even a few retirees. Some are quite overweight, others less so. Several are actually pretty fit and looking to go up a few rungs on the fitness ladder. It's an interesting mix.

After dinner, people mostly drift back to their rooms, wiped out from the day and well aware that we have to do it all again tomorrow, and the day after. Better not to think too far ahead here. Just one class at a time. Back in my room, I turn on the TV for background noise (it seems freakishly quiet without ambient kid sounds) and open my laptop. Bored, lonely, I troll Facebook for a while, then post this status: "I'm spending a week at a Biggest Loser Resort and have survived day one, so I guess that's something." This is news to most friends—I had only told my family and closest buddies. To my surprise, within minutes I am inundated with supportive comments, which boosts my morale. I call home and my kids sound happy and fine. Life is going on without me. Relieved, I fall asleep watching Food Network (ironic?) since I'm due back in the gym bright and early. Well, actually, it'll still be dark at 6 a.m.

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