I’ve noted over and over again that one of the things that helped me in my transformation was inspirational media. One of those media was The Biggest Loser. Now, a lot of people have problems with the Biggest Loser, what they choose to focus on, the unrealistic amount of weight loss that happens in a short amount of time, the sensationalization of weight loss, and while I agree with each of these points to a degree, the fact remains that these people are changing their lives through an amazing transformation and getting an amazing opportunity of having trainers, a gym facility, built in support of teammates, and nutrition education. Is the show exploitative? I don’t think I would argue that, it is a voluntary opportunity and I do not believe the contestants are taken advantage of in any way aside from editing to increase dramatic moments, etc., which is just part of cable television (sadly).
Now, watching BL this time around, my relationship with the show is very different. I still get very emotional when hearing the stories of people, some not unlike my own, struggling with some of the same issues I have had in my life, and trying to lose a vast amount of weight, which I know from firsthand experience, can and probably will be the hardest thing that these people will ever do in their lifetime. One of the contestants this week blatantly walked off the ranch. She was not ready for change and said that doing the BL was far too hard on her emotionally. Given, Jillian is no walk in the park (I actually think she goes just a tad overboard for her training style, which I do support, but there are limits to all styles). I though about this woman a lot. It was obvious it was not just the workout getting in her way, but rather herself. It made me think about the times that I tried losing weight and failed. I’m not completely sure why those always happened, complacency for the most part. It was obvious that this woman had a lot of issues and her choice to leave may have been the best one, but these issues will come up, and if you watch the show or you are on your way to changing your life, realize that losing weight is more about unearthing your darkness, your fears, and the lowness you’ve been burying for so long. She was obviously not ready for this. This goes to show how deeply psychological issues of image can be in our society. Obviously, there is a physical health impact of being obese, and it is the primary reason we should be saving America from eating itself to death, but part of the mental ramifications of being obese is not because we feel like we are going to get diabetes, unfortunately, it is that we feel devalued and disrespected in our society, one whose obesity rates are rising, yet images of skinny beach blondes is increasing. How can we be a nation suffering from an obesity epidemic, yet have such low self-image – most of us are just like everyone else. Elaborate corporate advertising for one, but we need to realize, on our journey, if we want to give ourselves power, that we have to let go of some of the pressures we put on ourselves given by sources that mean nothing.
The same goes for those people in our lives who make us feel powerless and less than. On the show, there was a moment where Jillian is speaking with the child ambassadors, asking them what they tell themselves that are negative. One girl, Sunny, said that when she goes up on stage to sing, she thinks that everyone will be focusing on how huge she is and not her singing, and the people passing her in the halls are judging her. Jillian had a great moment where she talked about being bullied growing up as well, and said that the moment we stop letting their words dictate how we feel is the moment we give ourselves the power. That is the kind of thinking that is needed for transformation. The power that our past has over our future is often times far too great. I know I think back to being bullied in high school sometimes, wondering if things had been different if we had more money as a family, or I looked different, or I lived somewhere else, but the lessons I learned from that period of my life gave me the motivation I have today to do the things that I have done, and I turned that powerlessness into power to change my life, and that is one of the single hardest things that a person can ever do, and not everyone can succeed at it at a specific given time in their life.
With that said, I watched the show in a way I did, even 100 lbs. heavier, feeling inspired, happy that people want to give themselves their lives back, and feeling proud of the people working out, but during an application video by one contestant, I pondered the question of choice back and forth in my head. The contestant, TC, had been in a car accident with his son, and his seat broke, which crushed his son’s eye socket and head (he’s fine now), but he vowed to take off the weight after this happened. In an earlier segment of the video, he mentioned that this was the 4th time and 2nd year he was trying to get on the show. It made me think, this guy has been sitting at home for 2 years with guilt on his conscious with a vow to his son to lose weight, and he is just applying for a statistical pipe dream? I know this sounds incredibly harsh, but get off your ass dude. I realize it is not easy, maybe he tried and failed before, I don’t know all of his circumstances, but also I know that I saw tons of people posting on Chris Powell’s wall asking him to pick them for Extreme Makeover, which is EVEN a bigger statistical pipe dream (less people and must be morbidly obese). Believe me, BELIEVE ME, I realize it is hard to start, but I think these shows might be having a backwards effect on some people where they wait around waiting to get on one of them, thinking that the show is going to change their lives (which it might, if they EVER got picked). We cannot be waiting for Chris or Jillian or Dolvett or Bob, odds are we won’t make it to the ranch, and you will be instead dipping the chicken nuggets in the ranch while watching it from your couch. Now, I love these shows, they have given me incredible motivation, but if you are waiting 2 years to get on the show without making changes in your life, and there are tons of people out there that didn’t get the chance TC got (who actually went home this week), who are sitting at home waiting to win the lottery. You probably will not win the weight loss lottery, but the great thing is, you can win it on your own. Believe me, I know these are the same people who made the NY resolutions to “lose weight”, and the weekendless warriors to eat a few donuts while saying, “I wish I could lose weight”.
As harsh as that sounds (hey, it doesn’t sound 1% as harsh as Jillian!), it’s true. If it were not, we would not have an obesity problem, we WOULD HAVE HAD an obesity problem, one that was solved because everyone who watched BL was motivated to go to the gym themselves and everyone who watched EM threw out the donut and made a salad, but that is not the world we live in. We live in a world where being overweight is the norm. Just give a looksee at these stats :
Why is only 31% of American’s who are over 20 at a healthy weight (although this includes underweight, which is also not healthy, so let’s say 25%).
We’ve become overly sensitive to people. We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings by calling them fat, or assuming they want to lose weight. Maybe your 300 lb. mother or your 400 lb. father does not want to lose the weight, but what is the cost otherwise? There is certainly a public health policy cost, as the amount of tax money flowing into the medical industry is vast, and the highest number of medical related costs are associated with obesity-related preventable diseases such as cardiovascular health. Even further than that, it doesn’t take rocket science, it doesn’t take an overly educated individual to realize the benefits far extend that, but that isn’t the problem, is it? The problem is getting started, step 1. Well, prevention is a great step 1, and this season on the BL, they are tackling childhood obesity, so I hope that this has a positive effect on kids who watch the show to see some peers getting into shape. We speak even LESS about child obesity because it is ultra taboo, but our children will die before us if we do nothing as the obesity rates raise. Who is to gain from the increase of children destroying their health at such an early age, well marketers and makers of all that high fructose corn syrup. I don’t mean to sound like some anti-corporate, “the man” angry blogger, but the crisis is that children are more obese than they have ever been, and there is a reason for that. Maybe it’s generational, maybe it’s the parents of this generation, but something needs to be done at an activity level as well as a educational level.
So, another season has started, which is another opportunity for you to make a choice. You can sit on the couch, watch it, and eat pizza, or you can go to the gym, go for a run, eat some chicken, rice, and veggies, have a nice 1 scoop of low-fat frozen yogurt, and then watch the show.
At the end of the day, we have to make our own choices about what we do with our time on this Earth, what we want to look like, how healthy we want to be, and how we treat each other, but we also need to be able to accept the choices we’ve made, so make yourself proud, and be fierce because it is in there, I promise. For every single person who has made a dramatic change, they started not thinking they could do it, thinking they would fail, thinking they did not deserve it, and somewhere, on the way, they found the light to guide them through the rest of the tunnel, and even though the tunnel is filled with rocks to climb, bats to avoid, mirages, and dangers and fear that is still out of the lights radius, we are able to face the challenge, as the only other option is to sit there, in darkness, feeling the expansive nature of it, letting it consume us. So, grab your light, and realize that your scraped knees, your bruised elbows, and your bloody hands from pushing yourself down this cavernous journey will be worth it when you exit on the other side, the sun on your face, and the adventure of life awaiting you.