of the fittest. "People think, 'Here's a show that's gonna make fun of fat people.' It is not that at all," says Bob Harper, one of the physical trainers on NBC's The Biggest Loser
. "It is about making it possible to go back into their lives and to survive and thrive with what they've learned here." What the dozen overweight dieters on this nine-episode reality series first have to learn is to make it through daily workout regimens that leave some of them in tears. But perhaps the biggest challenge for the contestants' (who compete in two teams, Red and Blue) is the weekly weigh-in, when the team that collectively sheds the fewest pounds has to vote out one member (on the Oct. 19 opener, Dana, a Nashville receptionist, was sent packing). The last contestant remaining will walk away with $250,000—and, likely, a newfound self-confidence. "You can't get any braver," says host Caroline Rhea, "than going on national television to be weighed."
THE BLUE TEAM
Trainer Bob Harper, 39, who has worked with Ben Stiller and Gwyneth Paltrow
, calls himself "Richard Simmons for a new generation. I'm caring and hands-on. At the end of our hikes, we go in the hot tub and meditate."
"I want to swim and do triathlons," says this Los Angeles writer, "things that don't require strength as much as endurance."
One diet incentive for the Franklin, Mass., pharmaceutical sales rep: "I'd love to be able to wear a two-piece bathing suit."
"I would like to be able to take surfing lessons with my kids," says the Brooklyn business owner, "and also beat my wife at tennis."
KELLY MAC, 31
Fat hasn't been funny for this stand-up comic from Belmont, Mass. "I would love to buy any kind of outfit I want."
The Nashville accountant says, "I want to run a lap with the kids" he coaches in Little League football.
THE RED TEAM
"I'm the more militant coach," says Jillian Michaels, 30, who has trained David Geffen and Amber Tamblyn. "We start with an hour of cardio on an empty stomach [to] burn more fat and do two to four hours of training a day."
This Boston real estate developer has a modest goal: "Being able to tie my shoes without losing my breath or turning purple."
KELLY M., 28
I'd like to go to bar," says the Coopersburg, Pa., schoolteacher, "and approach a guy for the first time in my life."
The Slatington, Pa., marketing employee says losing weight would enable him "to walk around with more confidence."
"I'd love to go up to every ex-boyfriend who called me fat or big," says the Orlando saleswoman, "and say, look at me now!' "
"I'd like to ride a roller coaster," says the Spokane, Wash., DVD producer. "Normally the seat belt doesn't fit. It's embarrassing."
"I want to run with shorts and a sports bra," says this Westminster, Calif., child-care provider, "without my sides jiggling."