#hashtagged

by MrsFatass on February 4, 2014

I’m writing this with The Biggest Loser finale playing in the background. This show is big news where I live right now. One of the contestants is local, and since being eliminated, he’s been working out at the gym where I worked before opening trio. I’ve met him. He is nice and personable and is certainly working hard, and the Facebook page this gym has created for the party that will celebrate him this weekend states a 150 pound weight loss for him since June.

Since June. Seven months. Both forever and no time at all.

Look, I want to love this show. I want to be as excited as my former colleagues who are no doubt having an awesome time enjoying the Biggest Loser celebrity status that has surrounded them for the last few months. I want see the men and women cross the stage tonight and not think about the articles I’ve read about the anguished lengths they go to in order to hide the loose skin that hangs on them after rapid, major weight loss. I want to listen to their taglines full of gratitude for the ‘second chances’ they were given by the show and not want to remind them that there are real life loved ones and trainers and support systems that will give them  chances and encouragement and support even without cameras in their faces. I want to watch with a hopeful heart that they all really do realize that losing weight does not equate to finding happiness, and all of the jump squats or marathon training in the world won’t fix what was broken inside of them that lead them to be so severely overweight in the first place.

But I just can’t quiet the cynic.

A few days ago I posted a status update on Facebook. It said “You can always tell when the Spartans lose a game because Facebook grows eerily silent.”

Somebody I was connected to commented on my post, and then within seconds posted their own status update: #sadforthosewhofindjoyinotherslosses.

Yep. I was hashtagged. HASHTAGGED! Holy crapballs!

I ruminated on that for a long time. I just couldn’t figure out what to do about it. I mean, in one respect it didn’t bother me because it came from a person who OFFline has been toxic to my family and me many times.  And in many ways. And on many forms of social media. (#GrantedMyselfPermissionToUnfriend  #ShouldHaveDoneItYearsAgo #3Strikes) But to think I am the kind of person who finds JOY in others LOSSES? Is ridiculous. It is one of those statements that are laden with meaning, but meaning that has nothing to do with the actual words that were said.

You know?

Anyway, I’d pretty much decided to drop it. Until tonight. While watching The Biggest Loser. While I’m wondering why I just can’t get on the bandwagon and cheer for these folks without feeling kind of queasy and uneasy about the whole dog and pony show. And then it just kind of dawned on me why I can’t:

#BecauseIDoNotFindJoyInOtherPeoplesLosses

The part of losing weight that is the most difficult isn’t in the getting it off. It’s in the keeping it off. And maintenance? Just isn’t sexy. Nor is it easy. (Nor is it the subject of a popular television show). Yet it’s the point in which many of us fail in our journey. It’s when we stare down the demons. Handle the really tough stuff. Turn ‘dieting’ into living a healthier lifestyle.

And very often it’s when we realize we aren’t necessarily any happier, more fulfilled, more self-confident, or any more emotionally healthy at our thinnest than we were at our fattest.

I’ve known people who would have done just about anything to get on this show. People who pinned every single hope they had of becoming healthy on being selected to be a contestant on The Biggest Loser. People who were so convinced that being on the ranch was the only way they could possibly get on top of the mountain they were trying to climb that they did dangerous things – like purposely putting on even more weight so they might be more attractive to producers  - and coming away from the whole process just wrecked.

I’ve also had casual, social-media based interactions with a few former contestants. There are many who put all some weight back on. Who say the show abandoned them when the season ended. Who ‘expose’ all the ways that being on the show isn’t ‘real’ and who are pretty much back where they started.

I am uncomfortable as I watch this big finale because anyone who has any kind of experience at all with losing weight knows that this isn’t really a finale at all. It’s really just the beginning. We’re cheering for them like they’re done when we know darn well they have just barely gotten started. It’s not that I don’t want to cheer them on, it’s just that I want to cheer for the right thing. At the right time. So, while their accomplishment awesome and amazing in the short term, this kind of weight loss has an incredibly low success rate even when you do it under the healthiest of circumstances. But when you do it in a fishbowl where all of the resources that allowed you to do it in 7 months disappear and it’s just you? Well. It seems like we are applauding their setup for failure. And contrary to what you may have read about me on The Facebook, that’s just not the kind of girl I am.

It’s easy to support them now. But where are we all going to be a year from now? We’re not going to be there when the new-car smell fades and real life sinks in. When the now-contestants slip back into the anonymity of their real-lives, and when they tire of disappearing to the gym for hours a day. When there isn’t anyone to scream at them to work out until they barf. When their mates or spouses are tired of all of the focus and attention it takes. When the families or friends aren’t really on board with all of the ‘healthy changes’ and become catalysts for the bad habits to start creeping back in. When there isn’t the promise of a pile of money and temporary fame keeping them motivated to cook every day and pack their lunches and take a pass on that second or third beer while they are watching the football game.

I really don’t understand why the show has to focus so much on extreme losses so quickly, except that it is probably too cumbersome to film a group losing the healthy 2 or so pounds a week. And I don’t know why they don’t do more to work with former contestants – both those who have maintained and those who haven’t – because it seems a natural way to grow The Biggest Loser brand. Except maybe to do that means to highlight what is wrong with the process in the first place.

But I do know that when I met the contestant from my town, we talked for a minute about trio fitness, and I welcomed him to come in any time. Maybe someday when the fanfare fades, and he’s working on maintaining this amazing loss, and it’s hard, and he’s discouraged or burned out or bored or thinking people don’t remember his name, maybe if there ever comes a time where he finds himself in a struggle, he’ll remember our conversation and find his way into our studio. Or any studio. I just hope when he needs it, he has a place that will find joy in helping him lose.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Melissa (@TheDailyMel) February 5, 2014 at 12:20 am

Even though I’ve watched most seasons of The Biggest Loser, I’ve always felt it was a horribly unrealistic situation that set the contestants up for trouble when it came time for maintenance. People in “real life” simply do not have four to six hours per day to spend in a gym and once their bodies have gotten used to that level of activity during the whole competition, that’s what the body will expect for maintenance. Not only that, but it also sets an unrealistic expectation for the average person of what a “normal” weight loss on a weekly basis should be. People think if they start watching what they eat and exercising that they should be dropping 7-10 pounds per week and that’s simply not the way it works. I have to remind myself of this fact on a regular basis so that I don’t start grumbling when I have a week where I lose “only” a pound. Great post, Sue!!

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Debbie Whitley February 5, 2014 at 12:42 am

The hardest part is the keeping it off….when the excitement of losing wears off, when stress begins to build and your favorite way of dealing with that stress is a mega bag of peanut M&Ms, dark chocolate of course. If we could find a way to keep that mind set, to keep that drive going, but all too soon the gas runs out for some of us and we just get tired of trying, or is there something in our life, our past that makes us just too afraid to get to an ideal weight….hmmmm…I had said if I ever lost weight I would never gain it back…I was down about 60 lbs and am now about 20 from being where I started… how did I let it happen?, who was not there to snatch that bag of Oreos out of my milky fingers from the dunking?…because it’s not their job..it’s mine, until I realize that the weight around my midsection is a kin to dynamite strapped to my body I will not see the need to lose and keep the weight off…only when I die at a much too young age of heart disease will it be too late to do anything about it then…motivation I need you,

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Grace February 5, 2014 at 12:55 am

I SO agree…I stopped watching BL a few years back because something didn’t feel right.

There was so much game playing and extreme measures taken to the point that I would worry for the health of some of the contestants. The extreme exercising that resulted in injuries, fainting, etc, and then they were belittled into continuing to exercise even when injured. There was never any consideration given for the starting weight or sex of a contestant…i.e. the larger contestants and the men…and the fact that those people were bound to lose faster and lose comparatively higher percentages of weight. How can a person who is only 50 lbs overweight lose at the same rate as someone who is 150 lbs overweight? It was fun to see the transformations, but then I would hear horror stories about how it was accomplished; or how the people would regain the weight because the underlying issues were never really dealt with (in spite of Jillian or Bob having heart-to-heart talks with a contestant that supposedly would result in a “breakthrough”…believe me, I’ve been in therapy for 5 years and still dealing with issues. The idea that one conversation will result in a mental/emotional cure is just ridiculous).

Anyway, sorry to ramble…but I’ve been lurking for a while and BL has always been a sore subject for me. BTW, I have NEVER got the impression that you are the type of person who would get joy out of the “misfortunes” of others. (Saying something like that is just nasty and designed to make you feel guilty or defensive.) You seem like the kind of person who provides a safe, encouraging, accepting atmosphere to exercise. If I were in your town, I’d come to your classes! :-)

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Kirsten Shaw February 5, 2014 at 6:35 am

I’ll admit it. I loves me some Biggest Loser. But mostly because I love seeing the ah ha moments that some contestants have on their journey. I personally would never want to be a contestant, and I do think most won’t maintain because they aren’t developing the skill set to maintain their loss once they’re back out of their Biggest Loser fish bowl. It’s taken me years to get to the weight loss I’ve achieved and I’m far from done, but watching the show, for me personally, humanizes all of the hard parts of weight loss and maintenance that have to do with food. I wish then all success on their journeys. But more importantly, I wish them the power of grace and self-forgiveness when the inevitably struggle. Great post!! JugHugs!!

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Kirsten Shaw February 5, 2014 at 6:37 am

I’ll admit it. I loves me some Biggest Loser. But mostly because I love seeing the ah ha moments that some contestants have on their journey. I personally would never want to be a contestant, and I do think most won’t maintain because they aren’t developing the skill set to maintain their loss once they’re back out of their Biggest Loser fish bowl. It’s taken me years to get to the weight loss I’ve achieved and I’m far from done, but watching the show, for me personally, humanizes all of the hard parts of weight loss and maintenance that have nothing to do with food. I wish then all success on their journeys. But more importantly, I wish them the power of grace and self-forgiveness when the inevitably struggle. Great post!! JugHugs!!

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Jobi February 5, 2014 at 7:21 am

Turn this into a positive: you DO find joy in others losses – whether it be through losses of weight, inches, bad habits (#teamtrio). Your eyes twinkle when you see your students start to transform and let go of those barriers that have been preventing them from reaching their goals. You ARE a motivator, an inspiration, a friend, a badass!!

#perspective
#theirloss

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Thea @ It's Me Vs. Me February 5, 2014 at 8:08 am

I haven’t watched BL in a few seasons because it just got to be too much. For some on the show, it became more about winning the show than changing their lives in a positive way. But it’s going to take a lot before that show makes any changes. And you’re right about highlighting past contestants who have gained the weight back. They always seem to make it about what the person did wrong as opposed to how BL was a disservice to the person.

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Ivey February 5, 2014 at 11:09 am

Totally agree with Jobi….

#yourock
#teamtrio
#cherrysquirt
#namastebitches

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Jen February 5, 2014 at 8:14 pm

I like watching the show because many of the contestants do seem to get something useful out of it. They become more confident, learn to express their needs, and find ways to grow that they thought were closed to them. They seem so desperate at the beginning that any change seems like a good change. But then again, there are people like Rachel or Eric or Matt who seem to be harmed by it. I’d love it if they could keep the positive elements of the show and throw away the bad stuff, but that wouldn’t be as marketable.

I wrote a quick review this morning and then went back and reworked it to make sure that it was clear that I wasn’t judging Rachel, I was just concerned.

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Miss_Smilla February 6, 2014 at 11:04 am

The format of the BL is obviously geared to what gets the most ratings. I find it it very voyeuristic in a ‘omg, look how overweight / fat they are, how did they get like that??’ (and I have to admit I also did this, whilst sat on the sofa eating cookies, go figure…) and find the focus on when they don’t lose weight is basically penalising / shaming them. There’s some really good messages in there, such as focus on easy changes you can make to diet / lifestyle to help you on your way, and what mentally drives a lot of your eating, but these are buried underneath the extreme losses and crazy exercise regimes that just are not sustainable when you hit real life. Again, the former does not make as good tv as the latter.
In a way I have to admire the balls of people who go on the BL, or maybe sympathise with them that they feel this is their last / only chance to have successful weight loss. As someone who’s battled to keep my weight ‘normal’ for much of my life, I’ve hated every time anyone has focused on my weight, how much weight I’ve put or lost, or called me out on what I’m eating and my exercise regime. I simply cannot imagine having to go through that in front of a national and syndicated worldwide tv audience!

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Alison Phillips February 7, 2014 at 5:40 am

You know, until I read your post, I never really thought about TBL like that. Or what the contestants actually go through before, during and after the show. I have to agree with you. How DO you take pleasure in the “losing” when it’s all about the maintenance thereafter?

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Mitzi May February 7, 2014 at 9:35 am

To be fair, your facebook comment was not very kind. Instead of taking a moment to congratulate your winning team, the excellent way they played, or even criticize the game play of the other team, you took that moment to take a cheap shot at the fans that support the Spartans. So yeah, the hashtag comment was called for, since you appeared in that moment to be getting a lot of joy out of the loss of others. And no, I am not the person who posted the hashtag, just someone who thinks that when you post rude comments you shouldn’t act surprised when someone calls you on it.

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Cathy February 8, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Well, my first intention after reading this was to thank you for opening my eyes yet again. I love the way your posts challenge me into thinking about things from so many different angles. I honestly never once gave any thought to some of the issues you raised about the Biggest Loser until someone from our town became a contestant. Your compassion shows in this piece and the fact that you so genuinely care about people is the reason why you have so many loyal friends, readers, and now clients. What you all do at trio is truly amazing, from your accessible classes to your charity work. All of it. You are getting this very very right.

But then I read the comment from Mitzi,and it really is too bad she missed the point of your post. To make it about sports team banter seems silly. And, for the record, I follow you on facebook and I saw the post about that team. It was gentle. Your posts are always laced with love and gentleness. Anyone who knows you knows this about you. You wear your heart on your sleeve.

Don’t let the haters bring you down, Sue.

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Karen February 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm

OMFG are you kidding me? Really, Mitzi, taking her thoughtful post and turning it into a comment about SPORTS TEAM CRAP TALK? Do you think everybody deserves a trophy too? So dumb. Two things are obvious to me: 1. You must know the person that Sue called out (which is fine because everyone is entitled to have somebody sticking up for them I guess) and 2. You seriously don’t know Sue at all. Because if you did you’d know that there isn’t anyone that is more willing to go out of her way to help somebody else, to build someone up who is down, who is positive even though hard or painful times, or who has more forgiveness in her heart even after shes been hurt. I have known her to give some pretty serious knuckleheads a second chance at something and never hold a grudge. So if she’s holding on to something here – whatever that person’s 3 strikes were – they must have been real whoppers. Because Sue is the real deal. Not just when it’s easy or convenient or fun. That chick is loyal. So you all being sensitive over a comment about sports craptalk on facebook is more revealing about you all than about my friend.

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Erika s February 8, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I don’t perticully like that show, it’s far to hyped up for my liking, I agree that the hard part is keeping the weight off not losing it. Don’t get me started with Hashtags! I understand the concept behind it but come on how silly do people sound using it! Rant over! thanks for sharing.

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Leesa Raven February 8, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Long time lurker, first time commenter.
And when I say LONG time lurker, I mean that I’ve been around since your shart story, hemorrhoid story, all of the letters and conversations with your children, when you got your Zumba license. And The Wall, which was the first post of yours I read and it moved me so much that I backed up and started from the beginning. So yes, this makes me sound like more of a stalker than a reader probably, but it is what it is.

I’m going to join the others in responding more to the commenter Mitzy May than the actual post, because even though I’ve never met you, you’re kind of like a friend I’ve known a while. And the thing is, regardless of whether or not someone thinks a Facebook comment is rude, you as a writer poke fun of yourself more than anyone. You have never used your blog as a platform to make people look bad or rally troops against somebody. You’re raw and real here, and I can only assume that’s the way you are on any of your other networks.

And even if you weren’t, your blog (or Facebook or whatever) is yours to write what you wish. If you wanted to make it your platform to bitch about anything or anyone you wanted to, you could because this is your space. But you don’t. And you don’t use names or really any identifying information at all, and it seems like you only use aspects of situations that are organic or necessary to the story you are telling – which is usually about you. So I guess if these couple of sentences in a post about something that really has nothing to do with those sentences is getting a rise out of a person to the extent of Mitzy May, well, let me just say that I hope you’re not spending even one second being concerned about it.

Is it weird that I feel the need to stick up for you like I know you in real life? Maybe it is. But you’ve bared it all here, and write your stories in a way that makes beautiful points – usually at your own expense. This person is so way off about you.

Oh and PS. We know you’ve had a hard time the last year or so with something which you wrote about a little bit, but without a whole lot of specificity. I actually had it in me to write you an email saying it was a sucky thing to do to your readers to shut us out. But then a couple of weeks ago you said that only parts of that story belonged to you, and publishing it here would have bigger ramifications that your kids someday uncovering a story you wrote about a thrombosed hemmorhoid. And you made me understand. I’m glad you’re back though. Still a fan of the snark and I have to say also a fan of the new ‘edge’.

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MrsFatass February 8, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Okay everyone. I need to interject here. I appreciate so much that folks are willing to support me when they think I need it. I really do. But seriously? This is just a comment on a blog post. Did Misti May miss the point of what I wrote? Who knows. That’s not what she chose to comment on, the overriding point of the post. What she did choose to comment on was my statement about how quiet my Facebook stream gets when the Spartans lose a game, and you know, it’s a free country.

Am I sorry I said it? Well, no, I’m not. While I am totally willing to examine my words or actions and try to admit mistakes and make amends, I have decided that, to me, this Facebook comment doesn’t really seem to reach “fall on my sword” status. Where there are sports, there will be jokes. And being that I’m both a fan of the University of Michigan and the Detroit Lions, I have been on the receiving end of these kinds of jokes countless times, and look at me, I’m still standing. When I posted that status update on Facebook, my intent was not to knock the Spartan Nation. It was humor and it was me saying something about my Spartan friends TO my Spartan friends. Because, believe it or not, I do have many Spartan friends, and for 364 days a year it actually works just fine.

And no, I’m not sorry for using my comment and the resulting hashtag as the thing that brought my post into focus. I didn’t ‘out’ anybody, violate anyone’s privacy, or otherwise disrespect anyone. I took a piece of information and used it to tell a story about me and my perspective. It’s kind of what I do.

So I am not going to tell anyone what they can comment on when they come read my post, but I am just saying that in terms of Mitzi’s comment and the reactions to it, I think the subject has been covered. I encourage you all to move past that and see if there is something about the greater theme of the post that is left to be said.

Xoxo,
Sue

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Sheri Garland March 19, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Read your next blog about my fitness pal just yesterday and fell in love with the cutthroat honesty that you write with. Not trying to come off creepy stalker at all but you (among a few others) are a huge inspiration to me in my battle to lose eighty pounds and be healthy for myself, my children and and future grandchildren I have. The fact that you don’t pull punches, don’t expect people to live on celery and be ecstatic and appreciate when people have your back but don’t cry in a corner when “called out” is what inspires me about you. Plan to read as much of your work today as I can because I reinjured my knee and ankle doing couch to 5k yesterday so am laid up. Limited activity for a few days. BUT while before that would’ve stopped me and I’d have drown my sorrows in a bag of cheetos and a box of thin mints reading the real struggles of someone else who no matter the setback keeps fighting? I cannot eat cheetos and cookies in the face of that. Reading your blog and seeing your progress as I log that forbidden second cup of coffee (I limit myself to one cream and sugar packed caffeine shot a day) on mfp makes me sigh and look at my ab lounger, silently telling myself to get off my fat ass and do something today so I don’t lose the progress I’ve made.
Thank you for that. And thank you for not watching shows like the biggest loser that are unrealistic and, well, bad for people who have a lot to lose and are overwhelmed by the number. I was in tears over eighty, which for some is a drop in the bucket, I know! Extreme weight loss shows, reality tv, the media….blah,blah,blah. They all give us an unrealistic view of not only weight loss but how we are supposed to look. I am so thankful for people like you who keep us rooted in reality. Bless you for that and for supporting people who are trying to make a lifestyle change. You’re awesome.

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