Saturday, 8 February 2014

Fat Woman and the Biggest Loser

Fat Woman was made aware of the television programme "The Biggest Loser" by people in her Twitter feed. A large number of the people Fat Woman follows on Twitter are keen on health, fitness and weight loss. These people called The Biggest Loser "inspirational" and were very positive about how it was helping fat people to become healthy. In short, the people Fat Woman thought of as her Health At Every Size community thought that The Biggest Loser was a good thing. 

Fat Woman fails to see how anyone could think that The Biggest Loser was a good thing. Right from the word go Fat Woman was reminded of stories of how people would visit Bedlam to watch the insane and even poke the inhabitants with sticks to get them to react. "Look! Fatties! Let's make them dance!" The utter lack of respect for the contestants was obvious from the minute they were made to appear showing areas of their body they would usually have covered. Fat Woman has been absorbing the messages from the world around her that her body is disgusting and should be changed since she was in the infant school, and there was no way that making contestants stand topless, or in the case of the women with bras on, was a positive display on the part of The Biggest Loser. It wasn't a celebration of diversity, it was an invitation to point and laugh at the different. Wearing something form-fitting would have shown the volume of the fat on the contestants without adding the humiliation of near nakedness and without showing up how none of the contestants had the perfect unmarked skin that people are used to seeing portrayed on television. Of course, most people don't have perfect unmarked skin, but you never see that kind of normal on TV, everyone has body make up to hide stretch marks and varicose veins. That wasn't offered to the Biggest Loser contestants.

The stories of unhealthy behaviour now leaking out about the practises at The Biggest Loser don't surprise Fat Woman in the slightest. The name of the show itself is all about weight loss, not functional fitness or body fat percentage. Fat Woman felt at her healthiest last year when she was training for strength and her body fat percentage was lower than it had ever been, but that meant fuck all when it came to lowering her actual weight.  Fat Woman is determined that when she reaches 30% body fat (the top end of the healthy 'normal' for women her age) she will start training for strength again. To make a show all about weight loss without even using a compensatory algorithm for differences in height and gender is fallacious and unhealthy in itself. Fat Woman wonders what people watching the show were thinking. Did they think that because these people were really, really fat that somehow normal rules on healthy behaviour did not apply? Is body fat so demonized that people think fat people need to get it off, off, off at any cost? Probably. Anyway, it should have been obvious by now to everyone watching that The Biggest Loser wasn't taking a person-centred, caring approach to its contestants. Surely you'd have to have dehumanised the contestants into "fatties" (as opposed to "fat people") to think that they should be treated the way they were?

Fat Woman was spurred on to write this particular post when the world erupted at the sight of Rachel Frederickson, winner of season 15 of The Biggest Loser. Rachel turned up at the last TV show having lost almost 60% of her bodyweight and weighing just 105lb. Rachel looked like the ideal body type that is presented to women every single day by images on TV, on the Internet and in print. Thin, delicate, fragile, Rachel looked perfect, according to the world around her. Fat Woman is amazed at all the people saying that Rachel had gone "too far". What part of the entire television series did they think wouldn't lead someone to this result? If you give fat people the tools to make changes to their bodies why on earth would they stop before they reached perfect? The whole TV series is based on the idea that more weight loss is better. If you watched the TV series you bought into this, you endorsed it, so who are you to say that Rachel has gone too far? First you sat there in judgement and said Rachel was too fat, then you sit there in judgement and say she's too thin. It would have been better if you hadn't sat there and judged in the first place. You, the people who turned in week after week, are to blame for this state of affairs. Had you all turned over when the exploitation started this wouldn't have happened.

Fat Woman can say now that if she had found herself on a path to being that thin she'd take it, even if she couldn't deadlift big weights any more. The world is a much nicer place for thin women than is for fat women, and even at her current weight Fat Woman can see the difference in the way she is treated. This makes Fat Woman doubly thankful for the people who have always loved her as a person, never mind what her bodyweight was. As it is, Fat Woman doesn't have the option to do what Rachel did; Fat Woman's mental safeguards stop her, her need for balance in her life stops her, and her intrinsic belief that she is a good and worthy person no matter what her bodyweight stops her from taking the steps to make such rapid weight loss happen. Fat Woman would still take that option if there was a magic wand to bring it about. 

Rachel Frederickson may have developed an eating disorder of some kind, or she may just have learned to control her body using the methods available to her. The question for Fat Woman is not whether or not Rachel is healthy, but why the hell people are buying into this exploitation and calling it "inspiration". 

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