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Why men go topless at ‘Biggest Loser’ weigh-ins

Wondering about how a certain reality show pulled something off? Have a question about a certain contestant?

Whether it's “Survivor,” “American Idol,” “The Apprentice,” “Real World” or another show, send in your questions. Andy Dehnart, msnbc.com's Television Editor and creator of Reality Blurred, will try to answer them.

Q: Why are the men on the "Biggest Loser" required to take their shirts off? They surely don't weigh that much to make a difference in their weight because the women obviously must wear their tops! It gets a little embarrassing seeing the men's boobs hanging from their chests, especially the more weight they lose the more they show up sagging. Please let the men keep their shirts on! Linda W., Pensacola, Fla.

A: First, as we discussed a few years ago, "The Biggest Loser's" weigh-in ceremony is where the contestants first learn of their weight loss, but they are not standing on a real scale.

Instead, it is a prop, and the whole weigh-in ceremony is largely for show. The contestants are weighed in earlier, so whether they are naked or wearing winter clothing on that big scale won't affect their weight.

When I first read your question, my educated guess was that shirtlessness is a way to quickly and easily show the audience how much weight a contestant has lost. But since the contestants have now started to wear shirts again during the weigh-ins, that explanation doesn't really hold up.

Show representatives asked executive producer JD Roth to get an answer to your question, and he said that having the men remove their shirts — and having the women wear sports bras — is actually designed to help them with their weight loss. They may be embarrassed to strip in front of each other and the world, but that's the point.

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"Most of the time the contestants have not done this in front of a mirror or in the light of their own homes in years, and that shock to their system is usually a great wake-up call and great motivation to start losing weight," Roth said.

By the way, that clearly works both ways, as your question shows that we're uncomfortable as a society facing the reality of our weight. Not everyone is emaciated like fashion models or as buff and built as the cast of "The Real World." Plus, sagging skin may be unattractive by our standards, but it's a clear indication that "The Biggest Loser" contestants are losing weight, and I don't think we should shame them for that.

Q: I am curious about the current episode of "Big Brother." Why did one of the gay men leave the show and with almost no reason being given? I find it interesting that for the first gay couple on "Big Brother" that one of the gay men would disappear. What can you tell us? — Matt N., Wasilla, Alaska

A: When "Big Brother 9's" cast was announced, many fans and viewers were thrilled that the show would finally have more than one gay or lesbian cast member in the house. This season, as you pointed out, the cast has been coupled, paired with their alleged soul mates, including Neil and Joshuah.

But just two days after the show debuted, Neil left the house. The house guests had no idea why he left, and Joshuah simply said on TV — at the producers' prompting — that this was simply an "urgent personal matter."

Neil wrote on his MySpace blog about his departure, but did not give a specific reason. "This has been a difficult time for my family, which I am dealing with privately. The drama is slowly being resolved, and all is headed to a brighter place," he wrote. He added that "contrary to some web speculation, I was not let go for health reasons."

By the way, one of the cast members who's still in the house, James, has been featured in gay porn, which has led some fans to wonder about his sexual orientation, since he's paired with a female soul mate. Whether he did it for money or because he's interested in men, women or both, at least the house remains diverse in terms of its sexual experiences. And as the late-night footage on Showtime has shown, many of them are excited to continue to add to those experiences in the house.

Best reality TV host
Last week, Variety reported that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will likely soon add a new category to the Emmys: best reality TV host. Who do you think should win?

Of course, that question raises another: What exactly is a reality TV host? Ryan Seacrest definitely hosts "American Idol," but does Donald Trump host "The Apprentice"? And while Heidi Klum is listed as host of "Project Runway," she functions more like a judge and an MC at the runway shows, and Tim Gunn performs more hosting duties than she does.

Those questions aside, I think "Survivor" host Jeff Probst deserves to win the first reality TV host Emmy. He was the first modern reality show host and set the standard for everyone else who followed. And since the summer of 2000, he's grown into his role, presiding over "Survivor" in a way that makes him seem like both a viewer (he asks the questions we're thinking) and an objective third party.

Then again, Ryan Seacrest has proved himself to be a master of live TV on "American Idol," and all of the lame hosts on "Idol" clones have proven that his job is actually quite difficult.

Other contenders for me are "Amazing Race" host Phil Keoghan, whose droll manner was often the highlight of the show; "Dirty Jobs" host Mike Rowe, who is hysterical, witty and informative all at once; and "Hell's Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares" star Gordon Ramsay, who amusingly terrorizes people on his shows but also proves to be an affable, knowledgeable and even caring guy.

So who do you think should be nominated for best reality show host and why? Feel free to nominate former hosts — Brian Dunkelman, anyone? — or people who just loosely fit the definition. Be creative and persuasive, and send in your nominations. I'll print the best responses in a week or two.

is a writer and teacher who publishes , a daily summary of reality TV news.

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