The downside to down sizing

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?


3 thoughts on “The downside to down sizing

  1. I read a few highlights, and it’s not at all surprising. The methods used on that show are extreme and generally considered to be unsafe, and the contestants aren’t given the skills they need to continue to be successful after the show is open. It’s that old line, “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.” That show is a diet, not a lifestyle change, so the people just go back to what they did before. I definitely think that some people are just more biologically prone to being fat or skinny or whatever, but I don’t think it’s the ultimate determining factor. It just means that some people unfortunately have to work A LOT harder to achieve the same gains as others, which blows.

  2. I did read the articles on the study and I don’t think they were very good and would like to read the study itself. I think that any extremes in diet or exercise are bad news and will have negative impacts on your body and mind…not just your metabolism….BL has done a lot of people a disservice on a number of levels and it’s unfortunate at best.

    As for weight loss/powerlessness…I felt that way for along time…but at some point with therapy, age and self compassion, something clicked for me. I finally embraced what my body is and the amazing things it does and has done…that I will never look like fitness model or do what is necessary to come close and I am ok with that…finally…and it took the pressure off…and that doesn’t mean my weight doesn’t fluctuate and I wouldn’t mind dropping a few lbs, but it doesn’t consume me anymore after doing so for most of my life.

    I also finally made the proverbial connection that my weight is something I have struggled with since I was six years old and it will continue to be a struggle for the rest of my life. As a result, I try to be diligent in keeping it in check. It is far from easy, but it does become a bit of a habit over time…and I found once I stopped being angry that I can’t eat whatever and be a size zero, it became sooo much easier….and my weight more or less stays the same.

    I don’t know if any of this helps. I hope it does.

  3. Who are the jerks commenting on your weight?! That’s not okay – even complimenting someone on weight LOSS implies that you needed to lose in the first place, and will no longer look “great” if you gain at all. Not cool.

    Have you read any of Isabel Foxen Duke’s work? I find her blog posts are helpful sometimes.

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