By Matt Stone
I am not a proud owner of a television, but I was blessed to have my first Extreme Makeover experience last night. The show was incredibly bizarre. Even a casual observer could have pointed out the many holes in’the mainstream views on weight, food, appetite, and obesity. Like most?TV weight loss shows I have seen (not many, fortunately), it was a peculiar blend of sad, joyous, disturbing, dumb, inspiring, and delusional. Here are some interesting observations from the show and some discussion…
Meredith was adopted as an infant and lives with?her two non-birth parents and’their real, biological?daughter. The parents are relatively thin and their biological daughter is very thin. The family has a fridge?packed with delicious yummies like cookies and other junk foods, but only the adopted daughter is significantly overweight (along the same lines, I know an obese couple with an obese biological daughter who adopted an Asian kid as an infant?who is absolutely tiny, now age 10-ish).?One of the most interesting scenes is when the skinny?daughter is?confronting Meredith about her big weight loss kick. She’says something like “How is this going to be different?? I’ve seen you lose?weight?many times but you?always gain it back.”? The thin daughter also gets upset that she has to hide her cookies from Meredith so that Meredith’s binge trigger isn’t pushed.
Both fat and skinny people like cookies.Eating or not eating cookies isn’t the determinant of someone’s weight. Also,?losing weight is relatively easy and straightforward for most overweight people. Keeping it off is what so few succeed at doing, which weight loss?programs do NOT show. They instead leave it?on a triumphant high note and sell the happily-ever-after fantasy of self-starvation and unsustainable exercise regimens as a viable method for permanent weight loss, which research shows that it isn’t for the vast majority of people.Research actually shows that?engaging in intentional weight loss pursuits is a risk factor for obesity and may be one of its causes.
The show also reveals a picture captured by a private investigator of Meredith’s biological mother. As expected, her mother is morbidly obese, and her weight is distributed almost exactly like Meredith’s. None of this should come as a surprise considering obesity research and research on twins separated at birth in particular. Even with the power of environmental factors?on weight, twins almost always end up with similar weights, identical weight distribution, and the same rate of development in most physical departments. Heredity factors are by far the biggest influence over how a person looks when colliding with the modern diet/environment/etc.
Another part of the show that was comical in a tragic kind of way was Meredith, at 314 pounds, being forced to jog (and do a lot of deep knee-bending squatting and other exercises).Joggers that weigh 130 pounds have a high rate of injury to the knees, hips, ankles, and feet. How safe is that for a 314 pounder??In?incredibly unshocking fashion, Meredith starts having knee problems. She injects some cortisone and runs a marathon in extreme pain at still well over 200 pounds. Her regimen by the way involved 2-4 hours of cardio 6 days per week and weight training 3 times per week, all in a mad dash to lose the weight as quickly as possible (about a pound per day to start).
In the end Meredith manages to reach her dramatic goal weight of 155. Meredith, obsessed with her weight and a lifelong dieter, got a tattoo a while back on her belly that says:? “155 – Be it, Believe it.”? Or something like that. So it was very dramatic when the scale read exactly 155 (which I called while watching it). I’m sure the scale was rigged to read out exactly that number, or she was dehydrated immediately prior to the weigh-in to hit exactly that number for dramatic effect.
Shows like this, while they may delude you into feeling awed and inspired by the subject of the show, are pretty upsetting. They portray self-deprecating, hardcore dieting and exercise approaches as the solution to obesity, when they are confirmed to be part of the cause despite the few months or years that someone manages to keep those pounds off.No one has the answers, but certainly it must be better, if taking an “eat less, exercise more” approach, to do it in a more sustainable and comfortable way – finding the least amount of dietary and lifestyle change that still gets results.Instead of?going for the maximum amount of exercise one can endure without killing themselves, and the minimum amount of food they can bear to not eat, why not shoot for the?max amount of calories and minimum amount of exercise that still triggers weight loss?
But no, most?will watch the show, get inspired to the point of having unrealistic ideals, and go gung ho until they get sick,?injured, demoralized, or a combination of all three – all while priming themselves for future weight gain above and beyond their starting point due to the metabolic effects of such an approach. Even the ones’that do lose?all the weight they could ever want to lose will likely gain most (if not all and then some) of the weight they lost over time whether they continue to exercise a bunch and eat?nothing?but?lean protein and vegetables or not.
The show also strongly reinforces that FAT = piece of shit lazy ass blob lacking self control and discipline, and THIN = pure?awesomeness. This is the most deeply-disturbing aspect of all. Obesity is a condition, and?unlike other conditions,?all the blame is put on the person and everyone else has all the answers when in?reality the answers are very scarce. Everyone knows what’s best for a fat person!
Random thought:?Imagine a show where?African Americans are?yelled at for forgetting to put on sunscreen as the cause of their dark skin, then, after turning white, are congratulated and shown love and affection from their family members… and this is called success, inspiring millions of people to the point of tears.
Well, that’s all for now on that topic I guess. Meredith… Enjoy dedicating your whole life to your bodyweight, only to probably fail at controlling it?and beat yourself up over it – with some extra shame from being a semi-public figure poured over the top. Kind of like ol’ David Smith, another contestant on the show (that’s his after and after-after pic).Hey, you got a Wal-Mart gift card out of the deal so it was’totally worth it.Mark up another win for Wal-Mart and the diet gurus of the universe!Heroes!
Good reads on the subject of weight loss/obesity:
Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata
The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos
Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon
Fat: Fighting the Obesity Epidemic by Robert Pool
Big Fat Lies by Glenn Gaesser
Taking Up Space by Amber Rogers (Go Kaleo)
…and many others