Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What's Wrong With "Biggest Loser", 3 of 3

This is part 3 in a series of three articles discussing the TV show "Biggest Loser".

If you wish to read them in order, you may start here.


As I said in my previous posts, by now I'm sure you've all heard the media hype surrounding "Biggest Loser" and their most recent winner. 

Rather than discuss Rachel Frederickson's win, I have created this 3 part series to talk about "Biggest Loser" as a whole.  Or, more specifically, I want to spend some time talking about what's wrong with the show.  I know I've ranted about the show here and here, but this time I want to take a more logical approach.

There are a variety of things I could talk about regarding this topic, but to keep the discussion from getting too long, and to help keep myself on point, I am going to focus on three topics:

(1) "Healthy" Weight Loss - or, more specifically, what amount of weight is too much for a person to lose over a set period of time

(2) Why people watch this show - IE entertainment versus inspiration

(3) The mental impact of one's weight on their life

Since these are all rather weighty topics, I am going to roll them out one day at a time on this blog.  And I'm going to keep the discussion rather serious (sorry to those of you who enjoy my snarky or offbeat humor).

Today, I will conclude with point #3 above.  You can see the other two discussions by clicking on the link referenced at the top of this post.


What is the Mental Impact of One's Weight on their Life?

If you've made it this far in my series of discussions about "Biggest Loser", you may have noticed one thing in particular about how I've structured the discussion.

Although she was the tipping point for getting me to write this series, I've never once discussed Rachel Frederickson's change (aside from the actual number itself), and I've always brought the discussion back to my weight loss, using it as an example of how "Biggest Loser" works.

You might wonder why I've structured my discussions in such a way, and today's title hints at why.  If you, like me, struggle/struggled with your weight - you know exactly where I'm going.  For those of you who have never known the TRUE challenge of having a healthy relationship with food, today's topic may be an eye opener for you.

Today I'm want to touch on my self identity, and how it has been shaped due to my weight, past and future.

Before I get too deep into this subject, I'm going to flat out tell you there is an entire spectrum of eating issues and disorders.  And I am nowhere near any dangerous end of any spectrum, nor am I an expert on any of them.

In fact, if you want a real eye opener, try reading TRexRunner's "Life with ED" series.  She is a beautiful young woman who struggles a very scary battle with her own brain in regards to how much food she can (or can't) eat, as well as body dysmorphia and other issues - which she fights like a champ.

Anyway, what I want to talk about is me and how being overweight has impacted me mentally over the course of my life.

As I sit here trying to determine how to structure this topic, in fact, I'm already feeling overwhelmed emotionally.  I don't know where to start, or how to even separate out my past sadness from what I want to tell you now. 

It's so hard to explain to someone else why you became overweight to begin with, and how it's shaped your life to current day.

Yes, it's true.  I can't blame my weight in years past on anyone but myself.  I got fat from eating junk and not controlling portions, and I'm not trying to pass the buck and say "I was sad, and I got even more fat".  But there's so much more than the physical part of "being" fat.  There's the emotional impact it has on you, and that stays with you for the rest of your life, regardless of how much weight you lose (or gain).

I don't even know how else to put it.  Because...

How do you explain having grown up being called an ... "elephant"?

How do you put into words the anxiety you feel when someone says they mailed you something in a size medium and you've convinced yourself it won't fit because in you're head you're still an extra large?

How can you make someone else understand how easy it is to drown your own self hatred and disgust in another bowl of junk food?

All of this, and more, is true - even from an early age, I have struggled with my weight, which for years and years filtered into my own self perception of worth. 

Even as recent as last summer, I actually broke down in tears because I achieved something I thought I could never do.

But that's just it - I've realized something in the last two years.  I can do it.  I HAVE done it.  And I'm stronger for it. 

And yet, all it takes is one "you need to lose weight" comment from a doctor, or the old man in front of me at Subway stating that my foot long sandwich is too big for a girl like me (yes, this happened, just last fall!!) to bring all my insecurities flooding back.  Fortunately, I'm at a point in my life where I know I'm better than that, and with a deep breath, I let those insecurities go and move on.  But it took me 30 years to get to that point.  Others are not that lucky.

All of this is why I do not wish to write an entire blog focused on Rachel's win.  I know exactly how a person's weight can impact their every day life - be they thin OR fat.  It's important to recognize that  Rachel's journey is her own.  And we don't know what is going on in her head that brought her to where she is, or where she might be going.  We can only send her positive hopes that wherever she lands, it is in a healthy place - FOR HER.

And it's for this reason that we need to take the focus off of her, and anyone else on "Biggest Loser" for that matter.  "Biggest Loser" only emphasizes the basics of weight loss.  What average people don't realize is, most overweight people aren't overweight for the simple reason of caloric intake. 

Yes, it is quite simple to control your caloric intake and exercise.  And it seems like anyone who is overweight should be able to figure that math out.  But that's all surface level stuff.  What you're not addressing is all the stuff that's simmering down below.

You're not seeing the Natalie that's spent years being judged for being overweight, being called an "elephant" at age 10 and 110 pounds, who as an adult turns to eating as a way to drown sorrows and stress.

You're also not understanding that your helpful tips or snarky comments to overweight Natalie about weight loss and working out only cause her to further spiral into a pit of self pity.

And by throwing overweight Natalie into a program like "Biggest Loser", and not addressing the mental health that accompanies the physical health, you are always going to end up with an end result the same.

A person's journey into a healthier them should be taken slowly.  Executed in such a way that they can start to tie their eating and exercise habits in with healthy mental habits.  And it should be done in a positive and uplifting way.  This will allow them to maintain it for the rest of their life - not the fast fix that is "Biggest Loser".


  1. I think what a lot of people also don't realize is that the numbers are actually the easiest part. It's easy to know that the recipe for good health and weight loss is to be more active and to eat more healthfully. The hard part is EXECUTION. If it were that easy to execute, then we would all look like Victoria's Secret lingerie models. And the execution part is all mental. For me, the mental part is the most difficult challenge. I have been my own worst enemy on more occasions than I can count. (Although, the comments and insinuations from others that I've received in the past certainly don't help, either!)

    1. It's true - execution is hard.

      But learning to accept yourself as a person who is worth working for is more important. If you see yourself as worth working on, then the next few steps are a bit easier. I think many overweight (or underweight) people struggle with this point.

      And, regardless of how much "work" you do, you also have to accept that your body is a certain type. As long as you're healthy, it's OK if you don't look like a VS model. ;-) I don't know that "Biggest Loser" ever really touches on that - they just seem so caught up on achieving a thin body... and not necessarily a realistic body.