By now I’m sure everyone’s heard of the study regarding contestants on the Biggest Loser. [As an aside, I found it interesting that they looked at these former contestants who drastically cut their caloric intake and drastically increased their exercise–I’d actually be interested to see the changes in their bodies compared to people who suffer from anorexia or bulimia, but I guess we can save that for another day.]
On blogs about fitness and weight loss, the narrative goes something like this: I weighed x amount, I transformed myself and my eating habits gradually (or quickly) and now I weigh x-n, here’s my journey. I contribute to that narrative. 4 years ago, I weighed myself and I started dieting and exercising in an effort to lose weight. It made me uncomfortable being heavy, I felt self-conscious about myself. There were a lot of other stress factors in my life at the time that lead to my binge eating, something I’ve always struggled with, but the weight gain had been happening over a series of years. This 2012 effort marked my second major weight loss in my life after I dropped 40 lbs in high school 10 years earlier.
The hardest part of weight loss, especially the second time around, is that it’s never feels permanent. Like with running, there’s always a fear that the gains will go away if you don’t remain constantly vigilant. It’s difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t been there, who hasn’t regained. The Biggest Loser study hit home for me in that I’m in the process of regaining the weight I lost, despite my efforts to regain control over my food consumption and exercise more. “I’m trying!” I frequently proclaim to family and friends who notice my weight gain, trying to assure them that I’m a good fatty trying to lose again, I swear.
There is a sense of powerlessness over my inability to control my own body better that makes me feel as though it doesn’t matter if I eat well or if I exercise because in the end, I will still be overweight, I will still be obese, and this is the be-all end-all. This study seems to highlight that for me. It’s about obesity, not quality of life. I come away from it feeling like in the end, I will have a low quality of life at a high weight regardless of other factors like a healthy diet and regular exercise; that obesity and fatness is something to be cured when it seems like, maybe, fatness it just a variation in bodies the same as skin color or height. Do we have to cure shortness?
The questions there gnaw at me, because now I feel as though I need to be cured. That I’m like cancer. I know others who are naturally thin, and they admit it. They can eat whatever they want and they are just thin and always have been. They’ve never struggled with their weight. When I hear that I am something to be cured because I can never be like them, I feel a despair and futility about my body that’s perhaps more unhealthy than being overweight, fat, or obese in the first place. I desperately want to exercise some sense of control over my life and myself in a way that I feel unable to lately, and that, too, terrifies me as I feel myself clutching at sand that just goes straight through my fingers.
And all of this reminds me why I always hated the Biggest Loser.
Anyone else read that article or study?