Fat Stigma- Biggest Loser

(Spoiler…this will be probably be the most controversial post I’ve ever done. Oh well.  Hopefully it will make you think)

Find this barbaric? horrible? demeaning?  Think we’ve come so far? Think we are so much more civilized now?

Don’t be too sure…

Barely clothed fat people on display for all to gawk at and criticize…look familiar? At least the fat lady wasn’t criticized for losing 22 lbs instead of 32…

Put all the glossy tags on it you want, exploitation is still exploitation.   People on the Biggest Loser are treated as a loser if they are heavy and they are not being set up for life-long HEALTH but only quick, 10 week weight loss success.

One example is “Kai Hibbard who lost 118 pounds on the show. She later blogged that she ate only asparagus, endured colonics and went through 6-hour stretches in a sauna to dehydrate herself enough to lose 19 pounds for the season finale. She jokingly said the entire weight rebounded to her rear end almost immediately.

“I left with a very poor mental body image, I found myself loathing what I looked like the more weight I dropped because of the pressure on me. And I found myself doing things like considering coffee a meal. And because of the mentality that I was surrounded with, and the pressure that was given at that show, it was considered acceptable to behave that way.”

Hibbard claims that contestants on the show were pressured to exercise even when severely injured, and to diet by dehydration. She says they were also told to ignore the advice of nutritionists and listen to the show’s trainers.”

Feel so inspired anymore? Let’s watch people starve themselves, fun!

I agree with this blog by Pat Barone CPCC, PCC entitled Why I Hate the Biggest Loser

“The contestants are being used. Yes, they might make a little money (Did not the world’s fatest mother make money? Does that somehow make it right?). They might rent some weight loss on the scale. But I’m already seeing a lot of them on Twitter talking about regain. I’m sure they didn’t know the truth before they started.

They let their desperation get to them. And nothing good is ever created out of desperation. The big winners here are the show’s producers and network. They’re making big bucks. Why should they care about the legacy of regained weight and broken bodies they leave behind them?”

I also agree with Barone about the negative effects of competition on weight loss:

“The truth is, contests can bring out the competitive streak in people but it cannot be maintained for very long. If you are a competitive type, use it elsewhere in life. When it comes to your body, be simple and healthy and keep moving.”

I have seen this over the past 2 years time and time again.  I work hard and have success but somehow it still feels like failure because it doesn’t match up with somebody else I know who has lost double, in half the time.  Particularly when I used to watch any diet themed show instead of feeling motivated I felt terrible. What  a horrible person I must be to still be over weight?  I must have to starve myself because pushing to the point of exhaustion obviously isn’t working…

But it is working.  I have made huge strides even though I have not lost much weight this year.  If I was going on scale alone I would be off the show darn quick; however, I am no longer a diabetic risk, my measurements have all improved, my self confidence and energy have gotten better and I have created a whole new life of swimming.

In my opinion shows like the Biggest Loser help to reinforce idiot opinions like the infamous Maura Kelly from Marie Claire (who I have quoted several times on this blog) who believes that if only fat people would “psych themselves up for the long process of slimming down” this pesky problem of obesity would go away.

Maura Kelly was just obnoxious enough to say what many people believe- that weight loss is purely a matter of will power and that those who fail are ‘boob tube’ watchers who are in the same league with heroine addicts and meth users:

“I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.”

To the Maura Kelly’s out there how would you like to give up every minute of your free time, feel pain on a daily basis, be ostracized from social situations and parties, all the while defending yourself as a vibrant worthwhile person, and finally to be outright mocked because of a health struggle you face?

Someone I love used to think it was funny to video tape fat people at public events and laugh at the way they ‘waddled around’. Is this not the same as those who gawked at the world’s fattest mother?  Is gawking in the safety of our home somehow better than purchasing a ticket to view in person?

Thankfully I have tons of support as well but it is a tough road. Make no mistake about it- while my life expectancy may have been shorter a few years ago, it certainly has not gotten easier or less challenging.

Overweight people have many good qualities.  Why not help them to overcome a health challenge like we would any other disease or difficulty?  Why? Because that can’t be done in a 10 week film schedule.

Can’t you see that diet shows like the Biggest Loser fan the flame fat stigma and prejudice? Idiots like Maura Kelly are allowed to perpetuate their bigotry but even worse they are lauded for their benevolence to these poor fat people.  At least Kelly was so outright in her views that she received backlash.  Most people carefully couch their condescension in the guise of ‘the battle against obesity’. Really dig down deep there is a disgust of fatness and fat people at the core.

In the 1800’s there was a woman named Sara Baartman who was dragged around as a literal freak show because of her large behind (as well as other female anatomy).  (today she’d be a Kardashian…just saying). People gawked and mocked and even came to view her preserved remains because of their large size (she died at only 25).

Again, we think we are so much more civilized today and perhaps we don’t go so far but the motivations can often be the same…There can be a perverse human pleasure in seeing others fail but this  is not reality (and I say that being a reality TV fan in some cases- for instance,Amazing Race) and it is certainly not sympathetic.  I’m so tired of weight being used as a judge of someone’s character.  Its not!

On the Biggest Loser we see:

“the on-screen manipulation of them, which is sometimes brutal to watch (like our fascination with watching a train wreck) – but you don’t see the offscreen “revving up” process that happens right before they shoot. Manipulation is cheap, dirty and disrespectful. I don’t like to witness it. “

Barone says it well

“Losing weight just means the number on the scale changes.(What I would give if the world understood this, especially men) And that can be extremely unhealthy. Millions of people have mastered losing weight. They just haven’t mastered the regain phase that comes right on the heels of “losing weight.”

Obviously, I have no problem with people losing fat, but the American focus on losing weight is out of control and causing weight regain with ever increasing speed. (New studies report yo-yoing is more dangerous to overall health than staying heavy.)”

I agree.  This has been something I’ve wanted to say for some time but because of my many friends who love the show I have been hesitant.  With this season starting once again I just couldn’t hold my tongue any longer. I’m tired of having to defend myself because of my weight and feeling guilt for what seems to be such slow success.

I’m tired of living up to some image shown on TV- both the false success and the shameful beginning.  I am tired of feeling ashamed of my weight.  I am where I am and if that makes me a loser in the minds of NBC or Maura Kelly so be it. Good riddens!

7 thoughts on “Fat Stigma- Biggest Loser

  1. Interesting perspective. I’ve never thought of it this way. The truth is, I’ve only watched a handful of episodes, so I haven’t thought much about it at all. When I have thought about it, my main question was, “How can they possibly lose that much weight that quickly and remain safe?”

    You bring up some really good points. I, too, struggle with weight. I’ve lost 20 pounds this year, but it’s been a constant effort. And I’m always concerned that I’m going to put it right back on. I think I’m lucky, though. For me, the formula seems pretty simple. I watch what I eat and exercise more and the weight comes off. I know other people who don’t seem to have it that easy.

    Good luck with your continued efforts. I know first hand how difficult losing weight is. 🙂

    1. Congrats on your success this year! I like your phrase ‘constant effort’. It really is. I went on a business trip and then was sick at the end of October and missed 2 weeks of training- gained 10 lbs. People who haven’t experienced the process have no idea what an intense commitment body change (the term I like to use instead of weight loss) really is.
      This is why The Biggest Loser makes me so mad. It reconfirms the perception that weight loss is easy and that if only the fat people would get off the couch their problems would go away. So many people think that. I wish I could have those people shadow my life over the last 2 years. I think they’d have a different viewpoint on the reality of weight loss!
      I suppose in the end I shouldn’t care what the world things about my weight but it’s hard to not let it get to me every now and then- especially when it is touted as something that is supposed to inspire me!
      At least I have the support of my family and friends whether I am fat or not. Thanks for your support as well.

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