Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fat and Back: Watch out, I'm gettin' my rant on

I watched a show on TLC the other day called Fat and Back. I found it to be truly appalling to the extent that I felt like I needed to address it on here. It really got my goat (I was just looking for an excuse to use that phrase). Basically the show chronicled this woman in the U.K. who was out to prove that all fat people are simply lazy and all it takes to lose weight is moving more and eating less. So she purposely gained 43 lbs to go from 125 lbs to 168 lbs in 3 months, and then tried to lose the same amount of weight in 3 months. Her weight loss plan involved her taking 20,000 steps a day and still eating what she wanted when she was hungry, but just keep it to about 1700 calories a day. And she got a group of 4 people ranging in size from a little chubby to pretty overweight to follow her plan as well.

Here's the thing: I don't disagree with her that a major part of losing weight simply involves moving more and eating less. In fact, I get annoyed when some people ask me how I lost weight and I pretty much give them the same answer (that I work out a lot and eat a clean diet) and they act disappointed upon hearing there is no quick fix. I even agree with her weight loss plan. It seems totally doable. My problem with her is that she is seriously oversimplifying the issues associated with obesity. She also has seemingly no empathy or compassion at all for overweight people, believing that all of them are fat because they choose to eat a ton and be lazy all the time.

There are multiple issues I want to address about this show and this woman and I think probably the most efficient thing to do would be to lay it out in bulleted format (ya'll know I'm serious if I'm breaking out the bullets).

  • This woman completely disregards the fact that there is a world of difference between a woman that has been thin her entire life purposely gaining over 40 lbs in a short period of time by eating an extreme amount of junk food and then deciding to lose the weight, and someone who has been overweight their entire life and slowly packed on the pounds every year. I'll be the first to say that I hate it when people use genetics as an excuse for their weight, but the truth is that genetics does play a role. Actually, about 30% of a role to be precise and scientific. My entire family has had weight problems, past and present. Does this mean I can't be thin? No, it doesn't, but what it does mean is that I will always have to work harder at being thin than someone who is graced with better genes than I am. I had a friend in college who never worked out at and ate crap all the time. She weighed 105 lbs. Seriously.
  • She also disregards any other emotional issues associated with obesity. Many seriously obese people have equally serious emotional eating issues and emotional issues in general, like poor self esteem. They don't eat that stuff only because they have no self control. They don't not exercise purely out of laziness. I am an emotional eater myself. I know all about using food not as a substance that tastes good, but as a band-aid to deal with issues you just feel you can't deal with any other way. And I know all about not exercising,  not because I was super lazy, but because I basically just felt like I wasn't worth the effort.
  • Yet another area she disregards is health and knowledge about health. She started this process healthy. And when she gained 40 lbs, she was still relatively healthy, as 168 lbs is not seriously obese or even seriously overweight. And what's more is, she had knowledge about healthy eating. Many overweight people not only have serious health issues that make exercise very difficult (I know at my heaviest, my joints hurt so much that even walking short distances was difficult at first), but also have very little knowledge about a healthy diet. When you have eaten junk your entire life, it's quite difficult to suddenly know all there is to know about eating clean. Not that they can't learn or also find some exercise that they can do, but just that it is irrational to compare that person with this woman that starts out at a totally different place. 
  • I feel like it is offensive to act like weighing 168 lbs is a grotesquely overweight amount. I currently weight about 159 lbs. I've worked my ass off to get there (literally). Are there parts of my body I'm not a fan of? Most definitely. Do I feel like I still have about 20 lbs to lose? Also a yes. But I don't feel like I'm grossly overweight the way that woman was acting. And to compare her weighing 168 lbs and someone who weighs over 300 is laughable in its absurdity. It's just not the same at all. 
  • She stated that you can't be overweight and healthy. To a certain extent, I agree with that. If you weight 300 lbs and believe you are healthy, you are deluding yourself. If you don't have health problems now, it's just a matter of time. But she seemed to believe that being healthy at 168 lbs was impossible. I weigh just under 10 lbs less than that. And I am perfectly aware that by the BMI standards, I am still overweight, even obese, because according to the BMI, I should ideally weigh 105 lbs. If I weighed 105 lbs, I would be sick and anorexic looking (but that is another rant entirely). But I am also extremely healthy and fit, much more so than many people who are thinner than I am. Weight isn't the only thing that matters in health.
  • There was no mention at all that her "Fat Club" (seriously, that's what she called the group of people that followed her plan) had significantly less success than she did at losing weight, despite several of them having much more weight to lose and so should have consequently lost more weight than she did. She seemed to regard them losing any weight at all as proof that her hypothesis was correct, when really I think it seemed to prove that while chronically overweight people can lose weight, it is a very different matter for them to lose weight than for someone like her to lose weight. And also, on a tangent, I find the name "Fat Club" extremely offensive.
  • She is an advocate of just telling random people on the street that they're fat, and even worse, telling overweight kids that they're fat. I guess she hasn't done much research, but fat-shaming has been proven not to work. People don't lose weight because they are made to feel worthless by others because of their weight. They decide to lose weight because they decided they were worth something. I find cruelty like hers completely disgusting. Childhood obesity is a topic that must be addressed, but in a much more compassionate and constructive way than by informing kids that they are fat. That's not helpful; that's schoolyard bullying. 
Basically, I am so disgusted by this woman mainly because she thinks she knows someone purely because of a number on the scale. She doesn't know these people. She doesn't know their stories, their problems, their work ethic, their successes, their eating habits, or anything else. They could be truly wonderful, hard-working people who happen to have a weight problem. Are there lazy fat people in the world? Sure, I'll be the first to admit it. But there are lazy thin people too, just like there are thin people who eat junk food all the time. On a personal note (and a braggy one too lol), I graduated as valedictorian from high school and magna cum laude from college.You don't accomplish those things being lazy and undisciplined. But hey, I weighed an average of about 230 lbs during that time too.  You just can't look at someone and know all about them. It's not right to make such a broad generalization that all fat people are lazy bums with no self-control.

Of course I understand that there is no way for me to be objective about this show. I'm not oblivious to that fact. I am always going to have more compassion and empathy for overweight people than the average joe simply because I've been there myself. I'm glad for that. I think people are more apt to ask me for help because they know I have been in their shoes. But this woman has not ever walked in these particular shoes. She may believe she has simply because she put on some weight for 3 months, but she has no idea. All she proved on her show was that she is a cruel, ignorant person who makes snap judgements about people under the guise of trying to "help" them.  And while that makes me mad, on a deeper level, it's really just sad for her. I would hate to be that kind of human being.  

1 comment:

  1. Great piece. I agree losing my weight and keeping it off takes a lot of work. Thanks.Susan