Back in the day, I used to sit on the couch, eat ice cream, and watch ‘The Biggest Loser.’ I was envious of these people–they were doing it!! They were actually losing weight!! And it was happening fast…even MORE enviable. I wanted to get on that show and change my life in a matter of months. It looked so easy in some respects.
Then in 2010 when I began my own health transformation, I still watched ‘The Biggest Loser’ but began to change my thinking about it. I would think to myself “Sure, if I could work out all day and have my food fixed for me, I could lose weight that fast, too.” I began to understand that what those people were doing and being subjected to was not sustainable or really teaching them anything. HOW they were losing weight wasn’t what they would do IN REAL LIFE! You remember seeing the episodes where they would go home for a bit and then the next weigh-in most, if not all, would gain weight. That’s because they hadn’t been given the tools or learned the habits to do this in the terms of their own life.
Finally, I reached the point where I wouldn’t watch ‘The Biggest Loser.’ By this time I had reached my weight loss goal and was a newly certified trainer…and my opinions and my approach to losing weight and regaining health were now firmly cemented. I was (and AM!) a huge proponent and believer of slow, habitual change…of not simply changing what you eat, but how you think and learning WHY and WHEN you behave the way you do.
I happen to believe our culture abhors fat. In fact, I believe being fat is probably the one bias left out there that goes unchecked. We’ve got all sorts of laws in place that disallow prejudice/discrimination of any sort: religion, creed, nationality, race, sexual orientation, gender. It’s clear that in “polite company” you don’t openly discredit/discriminate anyone based on these factors…or let these factors be of bias when employing someone. (Let me be clear–while there are laws in place to ensure non-discrimination I know it still happens and exists. That is not my topic here.) However, our culture openly allows us to say all manner of disparaging remarks about fat people or hold bias based on someone’s weight.
I know body shaming is a hot topic right now–as it should be. But I’m going out on a limb and saying to be “shamed” for being too skinny isn’t at all the same thing as how vehemently people are shamed for being fat. Being skinny with no curves and being told “real women have curves” is a different sort of put down than “My god, how does someone allow herself to get like that??” Many people tend to believe if you are fat you are lazy, slovenly, and unmotivated. Sorry (not sorry!) but this implies that a person’s character has a direct relation to their weight…waaaayyy different than being told you need curves…which is a body appearance assault, not a character assault.
“The Biggest Loser”, IMPO, is one of the biggest offenders of fat shaming. I happen to think “The Biggest Loser” was cloaked as an inspirational weight loss show that put heavy people on display.
Don’t think so??
Why did all the weigh-ins have to be done with sports bras (women) and no t-shirts (men)? Why did they all line-up for weigh-in with shirts on, only to strip them off to head to the scale? It seems to me, the show wanted to give the viewers the sensationalism of seeing fat. Why couldn’t the contestants simply just weigh in without having to show their body?? You know that answer just as well as I do–it makes for better TV when you can see and ridicule the fat people!
And, here’s another question I have. Why on the final weigh-in did the contestants all have on full shirts or tank tops? I’m trying to recall, but I’m pretty sure all the finale episodes had the contestants wearing shirts. Why?? Because when you lose hundreds of pounds you have excess skin…but showing off THAT skin (as opposed to the fat skin) wouldn’t make for good viewing! Grrrr….
This week there has been a host of articles making the rounds about how most of the contestants have gained the weight back and are having serious issues with hunger despite eating and exercising in a healthy manner. Several have been involved in studies about obesity and it has come to light that their metabolism is SLOWER than when they were heavy…their bodies are fighting for them to gain weight. In addition, their leptin levels are extremely low or nonexistent in many of the contestants profiled. (Leptin is our “stop eating” hormone…it signals when we are full. Low leptin means our body never gets the “I’m full” signal. You can see how this would be problematic.)
Bottom line: severe calorie restriction coupled with extreme and lengthy daily exercise for the purpose of radical weight loss has devastating effects on our metabolism and hormones!
I’m so angry!!
I don’t believe for one second that the creators of this show did it for the common good…to make a positive difference in people’s lives. The contestants on the show were desperate, and I can remember feeling that way myself. They wanted something…anything!…to reverse the problem and lose the weight. Sadly, all parties involved now see that high restriction over a short course doesn’t equal long-term health or maintenance.
On a personal level, I continue to advocate and encourage you to stop the madness! Get off the hamster wheel and accept that what took YEARS to acquire (pounds gained) will take YEARS to lose. Change your thinking and do it for your health, not simply to weigh less or be smaller. Key into your body and HOW IT FEELS when you eat and move. Learn as you go, adjust accordingly, and results will come.
On a broader, cultural level we need to stop this business of “appearance is everything” and quick-fix, fast-result marketing! How do we do that?
First, stop watching shows that sensationalize improving health and/or weight loss. Shows like “My Diet Is Better Than Yours” and “STRONG” are two others that are doing the exact type of thing “The Biggest Loser” did–capitalizing on people/viewers who want to see quick results, capitalizing on viewers and a culture that revere a lean and thin body, perpetuating the idea that changing your body and health can be done in 12 weeks, and perpetuating the idea of “following a plan” rather than doing the tough work of self-discovery.
Second, stop buying anything that is about getting your body “presentable” for the season/a swimsuit/an event/a sexy dress – OR- that shows you only a singular physique as healthy and strong.
Third, question “fat” imaging or commentary. Why is it funny to show the fat person in a movie/TV show/cartoon tripping or huffing along or trying to zip up their clothes or bending over and having their clothes split? It happens to skinny people, too. Why is it necessary to point out if someone is fat? We don’t point out when someone is skinny! Stop making comments about appearance in general…what does it matter?!? Just learn to be kind and get to know people…make your determinations about people based on their character versus what they look like.
I’m tired, soooo very tired, of our culture. Time to step up and change it! I’m going to be investing in things that promote what I want to see. I’m going to be changing my commentary and unquestioned acceptance of how fat images are used in our media. My hope is by the time my girls reach adulthood that they won’t be bombarded with airbrushed images of sameness and will understand that health AND humans come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and looks. And wouldn’t that be awesome?! 🙂
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