Yesterday in response to my blog about why Michelle Obama had made a mistake by declaring the Biggest Loser contestants role models of health when they admit to working out against doctors orders, ignoring the advice of nutritionists, and manipulating their weight through over and under hydration in ways that have caused them to lose their hair, lose their periods and urinate blood, I received this response [Trigger warning: I find the comment is rude, paternalistic, wildly assumptive, and advocates interventions that are not evidence-based. If you don’t want to deal with it you can skip the block quotes.]
What athlete or person in training hasn’t pushed themselves past these limits that are supposedly so bad? I’m not a huge fan of the show “Biggest Loser” because it’s reality garbage but the episodes I have seen just seem to be highlighting what needs to be done to get results. When I see people working out so hard they’re collapsing and throwing up I think, that makes sense. Growing up as a competitive athlete that’s exactly what you had to do to get results. That’s what people still do to get results. Weight loss is no exception just because it starts from a place of emotional woe. Marathoners train until they lose their periods, have blood in their urine and their hair falls out. They’re usually not obese either. Maybe we should stop making excuses for all the overweight children and adults and say that any publicity of physical training, healthy eating and goal setting is a step in the right direction. Even though it comes at a physical price. The fact that “Biggest Loser” contestants are being considered for role models as opposed to professional and collegiate athletes says a lot about what obese people are watching. Perhaps we could do more just by cutting out some tv time and going to an athletic event. You have to walk around and stand to watch a golf match. Could be a good place to start. Also, at what point did we start considering exercise and low calorie eating unhealthy? As defined by?
Let’s break it on down:
When I see people working out so hard they’re collapsing and throwing up I think, that makes sense. Growing up as a competitive athlete that’s exactly what you had to do to get results. That’s what people still do to get results. Weight loss is no exception just because it starts from a place of emotional woe. Marathoners train until they lose their periods, have blood in their urine and their hair falls out. They’re usually not obese either.
Let’s get some perspective: If you call every doctor in the country and say “I am vomiting, collapsing, and experiencing hair loss, bloody urine and amenorrhea.” not a single one will say “Wow, sounds like you are the absolute picture of health. Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!” There is a massive danger in confusing athletic pursuits with health. I know several Iron Man Triathletes and every one is clear that what they did wasn’t healthy. Elite marathoners drop dead of heart attacks and suffer lifelong joint injuries as a result of their training, and VERY few athletes train to the point that they experience these extreme side effects, not to mention that they are training for sport specific achievement – not health or body size. There is not even a correlational link between vomiting, collapsing, urinating blood, balding, amenorrhea and better lifelong health.
I didn’t just grow up as a competitive athlete – I’m STILL a competitive athlete and I train way past what I would need for just good metabolic health because I want my body to do things outside of the norm. Nobody needs to be able to do the splits or do 2 minute intervals at 95% of their maximum heart rate to be healthy. In fact many professional athletes end up crippled at a relatively young age. Don’t confuse health and athletic pursuit – research shows us that simple healthy habits like eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and walking moderately 30 minutes a day 5 days a week leads to health for bodies of every size. No losing your period, peeing blood, or balding required.
As for weight loss coming from a place of emotional turmoil – that turmoil typically comes from being the victim of a tremendous amount of social stigma, and the cure for social stigma is ending social stigma – not making fat people pee blood.
Let’s talk about results: Athletic work improves athletic performance in most people. Healthy habits increase health in most people. Weight loss fails for most people. One of these things is not like the others, one of these things does not belong (With apologies to Sesame Street.) The methods used by The Biggest Loser are NEVER necessary – almost everyone is able to achieve short term weight loss without going to the extremes used by the Biggest Loser. It doesn’t matter though because only about 5% of people are able to maintain their weight loss over time, so the “result” of your method is that the overwhelming majority of people will end up as heavy or heavier than they were, and subject to the injuries and health issues that come with training like an elite athlete and weight cycling. Weight loss, regardless of the means taken, does not meet the criteria for evidence based medicine. Prescribing an intervention that fails 95% of the time and telling people that anyone who tries hard enough can succeed does not meet the requirements of informed consent. The “results” here are either negative or “not typical”.
Maybe we should stop making excuses for all the overweight children and adults and say that any publicity of physical training, healthy eating and goal setting is a step in the right direction. Even though it comes at a physical price.
This is the voice of obesity hysteria talking, and that voice is condescending and wrong. Nobody is asking anyone to make excuses – fat people don’t need your excuses, your pity, or your opinion. We are as disinterested in you running our lives as I imagine you are in us running yours. How out of touch would one have to be to think that we aren’t deluged with the message that we should be eating healthy and exercising? The assumption, often made by people who eat less healthy and exercise less than us, that we aren’t already doing it. The idea that our bodies deserve to be abused because of their size is patently ridiculous. My fat body is not an indication that I have a problem, that I want or need your assistance, or that I care what you think.
The fact that “Biggest Loser” contestants are being considered for role models as opposed to professional and collegiate athletes says a lot about what obese people are watching. Perhaps we could do more just by cutting out some tv time and going to an athletic event. You have to walk around and stand to watch a golf match. Could be a good place to start.
This paragraph is just a lump of erroneous assumption. Michelle Obama said that the Biggest Loser contestants were role models – which says something about Michelle Obama and nothing about what obese people are watching. Fat people can choose our own role models – we don’t need your help. The assumption that fat people watch tv and don’t do sports is convenient for the obesity hysteria myth but not accurate. Maybe we could do more just by ending weight stigma and weight bullying and making sure that everyone has access to safe movement options that they enjoy (which includes the ability to leave the house in a bathing suit completely certain that we will not be ridiculed, shamed, or stigmatized) and then we can each worry about our own health and butt the hell out of other people’s lives.
Also, at what point did we start considering exercise and low calorie eating unhealthy? As defined by?
This is a fine attempt at oversimplification but I’m not buying it. What I said I considered unhealthy was telling kids and adults that they should make role models out of people who allow themselves to be treated as “sub-human”, ignore the advice of doctors and dieticians, over and under hydrate to the point of urinating blood, vomit, collapse, go bald, etc. all to manipulate their weight for the express purpose winning a game show and, as previously mentioned, with an almost 100% chance that they’ll gain it all back. Nobody said exercise was unhealthy, suggesting otherwise is idiotic.
I find that people who want to make wild assumptions about others people and tell them what they have to do are much less enthusiastic about someone getting to make wild assumptions about them and tell them what they have to do. I believe that people get to prioritize health in whatever way they choose and they get to choose their path to reach those goals in concert with the health professionals who, you guessed it, they choose. It’s dangerous and nonsensical to prescribe for one group of people what we diagnose as a sickness in another group, and when I was thinner and acting exactly like the contestants on the Biggest Loser I was (rightly) hospitalized for an eating disorder. Because eating 1000 calories and working out 5-8 hours a day has nothing to do with health no matter what size you are.
Because of the obesity hysteria people have abandoned logic and good sense and truly believe that I would be healthier if I was vomiting, collapsing, peeing blood and losing my hair and my period. The number of so-called health experts and health care professionals who are buying into the hysteria and providing advice that is not evidence based while lying about the likelihood of success, while allowing the diet and pharmaceutical industries to make a fortune off the lies, means that I no longer trust them. I have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours reading the research so that I can take charge of my health. I shouldn’t have had to do it, I should be able to trust doctors and healthcare professionals but I can’t so I logged the hours and did the work to take charge of my health. So you’ll have to sell your hysteria somewhere else because we’re all stocked up with research here.
Join the Club – Support the Work!
I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, please consider a paid subscription (it works like a fan club where you get extras, discounts on stuff, free subscriber meet-ups etc.) or a one-time contribution. The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post. Thanks for reading! ~Ragen