Biggest Losers?

My supervisor casually mentioned the other day that there was a “Biggest Loser” contest, and I had no idea what she meant at first. Then I realized – the company is having a diet competition. Well I simply said “Oh, I wouldn’t be interested in that,” which she already knows very well. She tried to interest me by saying the prize was $500. Well, thanks – I know she is concerned about my finances, and I appreciate it. But that is not the answer. Then I asked if she was interested, maybe that’s why she mentioned it. She expressed some annoyance that since we’re some of the only people on our shift, she wouldn’t have anyone to do it with so she wasn’t going to. At least I think that was the implication. Later, in a separate incident, a young man who I also work closely with came out with a jelly donut, and I knew the day guy had come back with a dozen really good gourmet donuts, and it looked plump and wonderful. I wasn’t hungry but I never get donuts, so I said “T, go get me one of those, please!” For some reason he decided to get fresh with me and told me to go get it myself. I playfully argued back that I had ordered his dinner for him and brought him things that he never ate, and he argued back all the things he does for me, and finally I trumped him. I pointed at him and said, “Do you have any idea what it’s like to be a fat woman asking for a donut?”Well my supervisor was shocked into a brief laugh – for some reason I guess no one expects you to say something like that. But it’s sort of true – once in a while you just don’t feel like asking a man for a donut, you know? If they were set out in my office, yeah, but it’s in the next room. Well, he countered that he didn’t know what it was like to be a fat woman but he did know what it was like to be a fat man and a fat kid, etc. Which was fair, so I said “Ok, I don’t care; I’m not ashamed to go get a damn donut.” He was actually happy – I think HE was embarrassed and he admiringly said, “See, I knew you don’t care what nobody says.” So he might have needed some inspiration too. I went, but there were no jelly left, so punchline is I never got the donut. But the actual point is she – my supervisor – only mentions being fat in hushed tones and I think it was kind of shocking, even though I’ve been really clear on this, that I really am not embarrassed about myself. That I don’t mind bringing up my size because it’s really obvious and people need to stop being so obsessed with it anyway.

So what does this all have to do with the picture? I was looking up a picture to go with “Biggest Loser” and came across this story. Featuring that woman. My first thought was “I love the blouse” and second was “she’s in this topic because she’s fat and fat people are in topics because they’re on a diet.” Ok that wasn’t precisely my second thought but I’m not telling you exactly what it was, so there.

But it was sadly exactly true. There are some really sad things in there. She’s on a show they call “The Biggest Loser” which is a really wonderful, not shitty name at all. Or concept. I think the losers are the people who make the show. She’s a size 27 (and she finds gorgeous clothes in that size, even if I wouldn’t wear a revealing blouse like that ’cause I’m shy that way and much older than her). She’s on this humiliating crash diet to fit into her wedding dress. They talk to her fiance.

Whereas nutritionists and community health experts have blasted The Biggest Loser boot camp as a humiliating exercise that sets up the contestants for failure and depression, Geoff shrugs and says: “I don’t want to say this is her last chance . . . but it’s probably her best chance.”

Nutritionists and health experts acknowledge that this thing is a disaster for human beings. Humiliating, depressing, and ultimately doomed. And this man who loves this woman can only shrug and say it’s her best chance? At what? Depression, failure and humiliation? Why? Do you love her?

Geoff…knows that Cat has by now lost a chunk of weight.

“Even the contestants who get thrown off in the first week lose weight,” he says.

So what? She is a size 27. If dieting worked as is claimed, it would take 80 weeks at least for her to get down to maybe 150 pounds. In one week, what can you possibly lose that matters unless you are two pounds ‘overweight’? It would probably take a year before the weight loss was noticeable, and that’s making the false assumption that dieting works like it’s supposed to.

He’s not praying for a hard-bellied babe. All he wants is for Cat to slim to the point where she can safely have a baby and live a long and healthy life. “I don’t want to lose her,” he says.

Who has told her or him that she can’t “safely” have a baby or live a long healthy life? She doesn’t look sick – just fat. Maybe she is, but sick people can’t participate in grueling self-torture exercises for television, so I doubt it. She might be sick afterwards, though. Or after she yo-yos around a while because everyone is telling her she can’t be fat and have a life. Someone please take this young man and shake him for me!

Then her twin sister gets in the act, and this makes me angry. The fiance is bad enough, but this is worse.

Says Melissa: “They get us to stand side by side and go, ‘Oh yeah, you’ve got the same eyes.’ I want my twin back.”

Melissa says the family has tried staging interventions without success. “There were times when we’d all be together and decide it was time to talk about Cat’s weight, but she wouldn’t be in it and the discussions always turned heated,” she says.

“She just wasn’t ready . . . it was like she wasn’t seeing how big she was. At the same time, there are four girls in the family and she’s the only one without a baby . . . and that hurts her.”

You want your twin back to reflect you and your self-image. You have your twin, but she needs to look different. Maybe you’re afraid you will end up looking like her because of genetics. You would stage interventions for her with your family? How cruel can you possibly be? Nowhere – please note that nowhere – is it suggested that she is stuffing herself full of deadly toxins (or, food). No one has mentioned her habits at all, just the fact that she is big. And in denial or something. (Why does she have to shrink to make you happy? Why don’t you accept her as she is?) It is just implied that since she is fat, she must be gorging herself to the busting point every single day year after year. But no one has said anything like that. They have said she’s big, she doesn’t fit a dress, she didn’t respond to family gangpiling, she makes her twin insecure and she doesn’t have a baby, but not that she is playing Nintendo all day and stuffing garbage bags of Doritos down her throat. So why do they think that eating is the problem, therefore not eating will solve it? Where is that logic from?

Also, why does her sister point out her not having a baby as anything to do with her being fat? She is engaged to be married. She is clearly not having a problem getting a man because of her fat. She is not married yet, therefore perhaps she is sad that she hasn’t gotten to this stage, but would like to do it in that order? Get married and then have a baby? What does any of that have to do with being fat? It is not suggested that she was trying to get pregnant before her wedding – in fact, I highly doubt it since she is trying to lose weight to fit in a wedding dress, not get a pregnant belly.

Saddest of all is that it seems clear she was resisting others’ bullying efforts to get her to conform to their ideas, even though if they bothered to learn they would know how tortuous diets are, and how futile in the long run. How, in fact, dangerous they are to one’s health. But instead of learning, they ran with the “common knowledge” and pressured her for years until she finally caved in and is subjecting herself to a brutal starvation diet and punishing exercise regimen as well as public humiliation. I can’t finish it. If there’s anything worse on the second page, maybe I don’t want to know.

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8 comments on “Biggest Losers?

  1. anniemcphee says:

    Gah! I SUCK at HTML apparently. BL, I do want black with violet text as my signature; any possibility of helping this helpless HTML idiot one more time? Thanks.

  2. richie79 says:

    Not that it has any bearing on anything, but I think she’s cute. So sad that the guy who’s actually marrying her seems to think she’d be cuter if she changed herself. I’ve never understood that; wouldn’t he just be better off going out and finding himself someone he could accept as she is? I mean, it’s not like there aren’t 160m other women in the US alone.

    Oh but I forgot, it’s not just about how she looks, it’s about her health. The ability to ‘safely’ have a baby and not drop dead before she’s 35. That’s one of the things that bugs me most about this stupid epi-panic of bad science and worse reportage, that people who once might have been able to resist all that social pressure to consider what they see in the mirror ugly and ‘unfanciable’ (as my ex once referred to me) now have an entirely new form of guilt to contend with – that like smokers and alcoholics, their selfish lifestyle habits are turning them into ticking time bombs liable to croak at any moment. And the sad thing is, I believe that those applying this pressure actually genuinely believe they’re looking out for their fat sibling / spouse / colleague, because after all they read all about how fat causes infertility and cancer and diabetes in a broadsheet or maybe even the National Geographic, and whilst beauty is only skin deep, for them this is about health, a ‘real’ concern even amongst those who normally set little store by what others think of them.

    As for the ‘Biggest Loser’ Office Edition (TM) I recently received an ‘Healthy Workplaces’ questionnaire from my employer Occupational Health people enquiring about how measures such as this and other ‘incentives’ would be received were the Council to roll them out across its various buildings. The survey design was atrocious, full of leading questions and few opportunities to disagree with the principle of using the workplace for intrusive and potentially divisive weight-loss initiatives, but on the couple of open-ended ones I really let rip about how an employer has no right to dictate a person’s lifestyle if it doesn’t impact upon performance, liberally supported with JFS articles and other links. Maybe my answers, respectful and reasonable as they were, will land me in the boss’s office, but on the other hand, maybe it’ll make someone sit up and think; the idea that such interventions are acceptable and appropriate seems to have gained so much unquestioned acceptance amongst public health types and other misguided do-goods that perhaps they actually need someone to help them take a few steps back. After all, it’s highly unlikely they’ll have their ideas challenged by their colleagues in the field anytime soon.

  3. thesapphirekat says:

    This girl is a natural beauty! I mean she looks GREAT in her outfit, she has a healthy glow, hair is beautiful, face and features are beautiful, skin is flawless, great style. She looks perfect in every way! Interventions? What is wrong with people?!

    By the way…that is a gorgeous top she is wearing. Oh to be young again and have clothing choices like that!
    Kat

  4. bigliberty says:

    Sorry, I didn’t see this until today! Fixed it, though. ;)

  5. anniemcphee says:

    Ooh, this is nice!!! Thanks!! Must be this swanky awesome new format you’ve got us here! :)

  6. anniemcphee says:

    Richie, I so agree with you; I think she’s really cute, and dammit, she’s got nice clothes too! As Kat says, oh to be young like that and have such pretty things :D That’s why I said she looks so healthy – it’s that nice, smooth, vibrant youth – why on earth people are gangpiling to humiliate and degrade her, I can’t imagine.

  7. gabfly says:

    Love the article. This whole workplace fitness emphasis makes me feel like we’re on the verge of being communist China. We’ll have mandatory workplace fitness classes, etc. On another topic, I have found that speaking aloud about one’s fatness and owning it does make others especially disturbed. They have the right to bring it up when they’re concerned, in hushed tones, naturally, but we have to act like we’re humiliated by it. It’s quite empowering to do what you’ve done.

  8. anniemcphee says:

    Why thank you, gabfly, I appreciate that. I brought it right back down to the bare bones of fat acceptance, using only a few known truths – that diets do not work as claimed, etc. Start back near square one, and hope that newbies get to see it. The rest of us tend to go, “What a beautiful blouse/girl” lol :D

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