I am a diligent, consumed, and unashamed fan of The Biggest Loser. What can I say? I’m a sucker for an inspiring transformation, and love tuning in each week to see contestants change their lives. That said, I have an understanding that the edited final version that we see is far from the grueling, exhausting and largely uneventful time that these contestants are spending on the ranch. (Somewhat unrelated: For one of the more scathing criticisms of just how much of a halo the show presents, read here.)

Last night, the stark contrast between the ranch we see and the real one occurred to me while watching an argument go down between two contestants. To make a long and not terribly interesting story short, I learned from a former contestant via Twitter that headphones are allowed on the ranch, but not while cameras on. In 14 seasons of watching the show, I had no idea that was the case until I asked. Viewers have never been able to see that side of the workouts. What we see as their journey, is really only a fraction of what really goes on.

Think about how this applies in our everyday lives. We sometimes wonder why our coworkers seem to have more time than we do. The single among us sometimes compare ourselves to a friend who always seems to have someone in his or her life. Facebook (I think you all know what I mean here). Why is it so easy to feel like someone else has it better? Highlight reel syndrome.


I thought about this earlier today when I finally dragged myself to the gym this morning. Feeling demoralized and unmotivated, I marveled at how everyone else seemed to effortlessly find themselves on the treadmill or the elliptical. A few hours later, I read this article about the filming of last year’s Nike “Greatness” Super Bowl ad. To sum up, Buzzfeed posits that because the young man in the ad threw up before filming it, any inspiration that was garnered from watching the ad was invalid. As I read on, I got more and more frustrated: “Just because it wasn’t easy doesn’t mean it didn’t matter!” “So what if the real story doesn’t mirror the final edit? That doesn’t make it less inspiring!” And then it clicked. I saw my story the same way. More importantly, I saw the story of the people that surrounded me at the gym a little more clearly.

At one point or another, we’ve all been convinced that someone else has it easier. But today’s train of thought arrived at this station of thought: your struggles, insecurities and breakdowns are the “making of”. The “behind the scenes”, the “gag reel”. But when you look back on it with the benefit of hindsight, good humor, and a touch of forgetfulness, it has the potential to be a fantastic final edit. And in the meantime…understand the missteps, think about them as you prepare for the next tape, and work at making the next take better than the last.

What areas of your life are most susceptible to “highlight reel syndrome”? How do you overcome it? How have your outtakes made your final cut better?

3 thoughts on ““Highlight Reel” Syndrome

  1. I’ve been getting in to biometrics lately and realigning my thoughts and mind to help make every action I take an action that makes me a stronger and better version of myself. I’ve really tuned out other people in that respect. Meaning I no longer compare anything about myself to them, highlights, gags, or otherwise.

    This approach is extremely freeing and can feel a bit scary at first, but it has allowed me unfettered pursuit of my passions. It also has allowed me to be free with myself and not get down on myself when I make mistakes or something doesn’t go as planned. I am able to learn from that, and use that knowledge to make me stronger and better, and formulate a new course of action without worrying about who saw me fail and what they might be saying about it.

    Being able to avoid the social constructs of what is success, what is attractive, what is powerful, what is smart, etc… and just be free in body and mind has been a very long journey, but finally getting there is the greatest feeling I’ve ever experienced.

  2. Wayne, I agree with you here. Biometrics and mindfulness make the process of “running your own race” much easier. But even with more attention to at this point in my life than ever before, we falter at times. Seeing it in color (TV) helped me realize that. Here’s to the continued pursuit of stronger and better! šŸ™‚

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