The Trouble with Weight Loss in our Culture

I’ve watched The Biggest Loser and other weight loss shows and I was pondering today as to what my issue with them is and I think it’s this:

I have no issue with people choosing what size they want their body to be, for whatever reason they want to choose.  It’s not my job to tell someone that they are too thin, too fat, etc.  My problem is that so often in these shows (and when I see people lose weight), they talk about how they "didn’t love themselves" and "couldn’t be proud of themselves" but now, since they’ve lost the weight, they love themselves and are proud of themselves.  

I have some huge concerns about that – what if something happens and they gain back the weight?  I’m guessing that they’ll gain back the self-loathing with a big side of failure to go with it.

Let’s teach people to love themselves for who they are, not the size of their body.  Then, if they choose to gain weight, lose weight, or stay the same, they still have solid self-esteem no matter what.

Am I just crazy?

Published in: on December 16, 2008 at 10:14 am  Comments (6)  

6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I think you have a slightly more unique perspective than a lot of these contestants.

    Typically, they are overweight AND unhealthy/out of shape.

    You are a beautiful plus-sized woman, AND you’re healthy and in shape.

    Take the overweight or plus-sized out of the picture – and I think that’s the key.

    There is something about feeling unhealthy and unable to do small physical tasks without being out of breath or uncomfortable…that would make me start to loathe my body.

    If they chose contestants that were in better shape (but also overweight), I think the views would be different.

    • That being said, I totally agree with you and feel that most issues with/in American (pop) culture can be dealt with if we adopt some educational reform.

      In this case, I 100% agree that we need to teach people to love themselves first and foremost.

      But with the demographic that watches these shows…along with the demographic they are attracting as “contestants” – I don’t think they’re after that. And that’s sad.

      • I absolutely agree with what you said in the first post – and I hadn’t really considered it from that perspective…I think maybe because when they talk about finally liking themselves it usually has to do with the dress size that they are wearing or how they look, as opposed to how they feel or what they can do.

        I’ve totally dealt with body loathing issues when I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do, but I guess I’m lucky enough to realize the difference.

        I thinks that’s why I’m excited about the dance classes, because they are about what bodies can do, not how bodies are shaped.

  2. My problem with shows like the Biggest Loser is that they’re mean and promote a lot of bad stereotypes (There was one episode where they filled a room with donuts and there were three donuts with keys baked inside and the contestants had to search through all the donuts). X-Weighted is another show I have serious issues with.

    A few years ago, there was actually an interesting Canadian show called “Taking it Off”. No gimmicks, just six people who were trying to lose weight and who were making decisions – some bad, some good – on their own. It was really good. Sadly, it was cancelled and replaced with X-Weighted.

    In regards to Haldira’s comments: There is something about feeling unhealthy and unable to do small physical tasks without being out of breath or uncomfortable…that would make me start to loathe my body.

    That’s true. I’ve actually been there – which is one of the reasons I will never tell someone that they shouldn’t try to loose weight. The problem is that this line is different for everyone and I find that the North American public seems to think that this state is reached long before it is. While the Biggest Loser does ten to pick from extremes, other diet shows pick people who only have twenty-40 pounds to loose.

    • I think too that our society (including medical professionals) make “losing weight” the miracle cure for all kinds of things – from lack of stamina to inflexibility to diabetes. Instead of focusing on activity and lifestyle, all we seem to care about is shrinking someone’s ass – that’s what is frustrating to me. This leads people to do crazy UNHEALTHY things in the name of losing weight so that they can be “healthier” (slimfast anyone?)

  3. It’s a really vicious cycle.

    I believe a lot of people who are fat, or just somehow “physically different” grow up with an amount of ridicule that does not allow them to develop healthy habits, both mental and physical. I think the time in someone’s life that they develop an unhealthy body image is really crucial as to how they deal with it, along with the support system of friends and loved ones that teach them how to deal with that treatment and ridicule.

    Some people learn to deal with their personal body image better than others, learning to accept themselves and develop healthy mental and physical habits. Others have grown up in environments that didn’t teach and/or allow healthy habits to cope with being “different” or treated differently, which leads to low self-confidence, no self-esteem, and other social issues, as well as the constant cycle of bad habit after bad habit trying to fix whatever they (or those around them) feel is “wrong”.

    Not only do I feel being healthy important, but encouraging people to be healthy in environments that are non-judgmental are vital to so many people who can’t face a doctor, gym, or mirror. I feel like we, as a society, shut down when it comes to encouraging fat people to take charge of their life, their mind, their body and their health, because it’s so much easier to blame the fat people for being lazy or slow or gluttonous or ugly or “not good enough”. With these sorts of messages being thrown at us from all angles, I’m certainly not surprised at how so many people feel losing weight is the “ultimate fix”.


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