The Final Fifty

{March 8, 2013}   Forever changes, and nourishing the self.

In a bit of a discussion with a friend on Facebook right now. We’re discussing the relative merits (or lack their of) of The Biggest Loser. Now, I am not an expert at all, and I avoid watching that show, so I can’t refer to specific episodes or events aside from those I’ve read about elsewhere. I’ve seen a few episodes, and that was enough to teach me that the show is BAD NEWS, for a lot of reasons.

Some will argue that it teaches people that the only way to lose weight is a lot of hard work. And that’s true, but I think it’s message is way more damaging than that. It teaches that the way to lose weight is to do punishing amounts of exercise that you are not properly trained for. It teaches that only extreme efforts, extreme time commitments, extreme methods that fight your body rather than respect it are the ways to get healthy. They even have the trainers right there on camera, screaming abuse at the contestants and fat shaming them into pushing harder and harder. More than once, they’ve pushed contestants to the point of hospitalization. And you know what? It’s really damned hard to exercise when you’re in a hospital bed, or healing from an injury.

I think any responsible diet or exercise program has to start, first and foremost, with helping a person learn to love and respect their body. Fat shaming is totally counterintuitive, because when you view your body as an enemy, as something to work against, you will be willing to do unnecessarily dangerous things to change it into what society tells you it should look like. And even if you lose weight in a healthy way and make it to your goal, what then? You don’t suddenly flip a switch and learn to love your body now that it looks like you always wanted it to. Body hate runs far, far deeper than that, as I’ve been learning. And if you don’t address it, what then? What happens to those people when they get home and find that they don’t like themselves or their bodies any more than they did when they were heavier?

The largest amount of weight lost in a single week on TBL? 34 pounds. Roll that one around in your head for a bit. And yes, the contestants are under supervision of a doctor, but keep in mind that those doctors are hired and paid for by the TV show. They’re there to cover the shows ass. I don’t know of any competent medical professional who would encourage ANY of the things I’ve seen on that show, but especially not losing weight at that rate. When you lose weight at that speed, you lose bone material, and muscle, and it throws off your electrolyte numbers and can cause a whole host of other problems. In a strictly cosmetic sense, do you know what you end up with when you lose weight that quickly? A whole lot of extra, loose, baggy skin. I hope they’re budgeting for plastic surgery, because if they’re looking for a bikini body, that’s what it will take.

There’s also the fact that NONE of this is sustainable or compatible with leading a normal life. No one can train that much when they have a job and kids and family to worry about. Going to extremes to lose weight does not teach you to change your lifestyle in a healthy, sustainable fashion. If it’s extreme, then you can’t keep doing it forever. And getting healthy, at least in any lasting sense, means making permanent changes, not doing stupid things as a means to an end.

One of the things that makes me the most angry about the snake oil this show is selling is that they are tapping into the desperation of people in our society and turning a huge profit off ft it. The diet industry  is huge, and most of the products are geared toward making people think that weight loss is easy, or require just a little bit of this or that, or that this drink mix will make your body shed fat more efficiently, or whatever. They prey on the body loathing that is created when we’re pressured to look unnaturally thin. You can lose weight without spending any additional money whatsoever, especially once you realize that there IS no miracle cure out there that will make it happen any faster or easier.

Mostly, I’m concerned with what they’re teaching the people at home watching the show: that you have to totally disrupt your life and do dangerous things to lose weight. That losing 2 lbs per week is not successful weight loss. That getting healthy is totally compatible with feeling like shit about yourself. That losing weight is important enough to put your family, your job, your life on hold to make it happen. That being overweight is SO BAD that you would willingly endure being shamed on national television when you can’t meet the workout endurance of a trained athlete.

Me and DBF went grocery shopping last night, and true to plan we picked up broccoli and cauliflower, and also talked about getting some eggplant next time. My list keeps growing as I get braver about trying new things. I can’t wait to get some kale and try making a frittata like the one my roommate and her friend made the other day, though I think I might use squash or sweet potato instead of the regular potatoes, and put fewer onions in. I think I’ll make the broccoli tonight, with some chicken thighs. I’m excited, and I hope I like them!

I only managed about 35 minutes of ballet last night, partly because we were going out, and partly because my back has been giving me troubles. I’m not sure whether its the dancing or the bad sleeping owing to the arm brace, but I’m going to play tonight by ear, and maybe just do a bit of yoga before I have to leave for rehearsal. After rehearsal, we’ll be going out as a cast like we do every Friday. I’m excited to have more of Uno’s squash soup!! It’s so delicious.


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