Many times, I feel like my body is a walking billboard: “Hi, I'm lazy and have no willpower!”
Over the years, this has mattered to me to varying degrees. I've had my share of 2-a-day workouts while on a 1000 calorie diet. At the height of my concern for how strangers perceived me, it resulted in never eating in public, and learning how to wait until the end of the day to binge and hide the evidence. I've gained and lost chunks of 50-100 pounds no fewer than 4 times in my life. So clearly that means I can be super motivated and then I just get lazy – right?
Today there is a New York Times article that looks into a study from the journal Obesity, about what happens to contestants after losing lots of weight on “The Biggest Loser.” Not just “where are they now,” but in-depth scientific research of their metabolic rates post-filming. The article has made the rounds on social media, and I hope that many people read it (including you – go on, I'll wait for you to come back!) In summary, season 8 contestants from The Biggest Loser had their metabolic rates tested, and after such large weight losses (and for most – weight regains), their metabolic rate (how many calories their bodies burn at rest) drops below what it should be for their weight. The body makes it incredibly difficult to keep the weight off.
Despite spending billions of dollars on weight-loss drugs and dieting programs, even the most motivated are working against their own biology. (source)
I know there are many people reading this that can relate to feeling like failures after regaining weight. Despite the majority of people being medically considered overweight in this country, we continue to be bombarded with messages that fat is one of the worst things you can be. It's looked at as a physical representation of weakness, sloth, and lack of willpower. You can't look at a person and automatically tell if they're an asshole or they're a really shitty parent. But one glance at a waistline and people have been conditioned to find it acceptable to heap judgement upon the fatty.
Eventually, we start to believe this about ourselves – that we are weak and have no willpower. This is contrary to all the facts of what we know we've been doing to our bodies to try to control it. We must be in major denial. One contestant, Danny Cahill, said this in the article and I silently nodded my head in affirmation while reading:
I used to look at myself and think, ‘I am horrible, I am a monster, subhuman’ (source)
This blog started as a weight loss blog after a failed attempt at auditioning for The Biggest Loser. I auditioned again and got a little further through the casting process due to my video of fat stereotypes. Scenes included:
- Walking up a flight of stairs and showing how winded I was
- Eating the most fattening thing on a menu at a restaurant
- Standing in Rupp Arena saying how I never could go to a UK basketball game because my ass wouldn't fit in a seat
- Trying to get into a tiny convertible to demonstrate the “fat girl in a little car” concept
- Wedging myself into the door of a bathroom stall to demonstrate how being in public sucked
- Dancing to the theme song of the show in my bra and booty shorts to show that I'd be comfortable on their cattle scale in front of cameras
Since then, I've worked extremely hard on my health and fitness. Regular workouts are just part of my life. My Hashimotos (autoimmune hypothyroidism) is being treated. A lot of therapy and introspection later and I'm over 4 years binge-free. A lot of the time, I really love myself!
But then there are days that I don't want to face public judgement. Over the weekend, I went to see Amy Schumer at Rupp Arena, and my first thought jumped back to the last time I was there – taping my audition video for The Biggest Loser and not fitting in the seat. I still didn't fit well, but my anxiety was lowered as I had friends on each side of me so I didn't have to face the dirty looks from a stranger. The next day I needed to go pull some weeds in my front yard but a lot of neighbors were outside and I didn't want them to judge my appearance without makeup, hair in a ponytail, and in workout clothes. I ended up going out right before dark when most people were inside. (Sidenote: this little fear goes back to when I was in high school, running through the neighborhood – part of my 2-a-day workout routine – when someone drove by and threw water balloons at me.)
The point of all this rambling? I'm tired of feeling judged. I'll fully admit that a lot of the fear of judgement is in my head. But the fear is learned from actual experiences and stories of others.
This article today was somewhat a relief. Failure to lose weight (or keep weight off), isn't entirely down to laziness. Our bodies are working against us. We're not a bunch of delusional people.
This is a subset of the most successful dieters… if they don’t show a return to normal in metabolism, what hope is there for the rest of us?… The difficulty in keeping weight off reflects biology, not a pathological lack of willpower affecting two-thirds of the U.S.A. (source)
I hope that the visibility of this research brings about a few things:
- More public understanding/compassion about the struggle to lose weight
- Hope to people who thought they had to work out and eat like TBL contestants in order to be healthy
- Expanded research into factors of weight loss beyond calories in/calories out; and unicorn scenario: more research into the health of physically active obese people
- A broader shift towards body positivity and acceptance in the media
A girl can dream, right?
a little more kindness, a lot less judgement – towards ourselves and others
I was on a date recently and somehow weight struggles or exercise came up (I can't quite remember) and he said something like, “so you're having a plateau?” I cringed for a minute, and then unleashed my very complicated thoughts about weight. I explained how I want to focus on my health, not my weight; how for so many years I spent hating myself and thinking that weight loss was the answer to self-acceptance; that thinking about my weight instead of my health leads me to disordered thoughts that have the potential to lead me to destructive behavior. I was SO passionate about what I was saying because I didn't want to have to defend or apologize for my body. (Sidenote: He wasn't saying it in an asshole way, and surprisingly he didn't run for the hills afterwards. Though he did apologize for making me cry – apparently my eyes got watery when I was talking about it but I didn't realize it at the time. No tears were shed!)
I realize this post is long, but I had all the feels after reading this NYT story. The way the media is always giving us weight loss tips drives me batty. 5 ways to shed belly fat in 10 days! Get rock hard abs with 4 simple moves! 5 more headlines to make you feel like shit! It feels like it never ends. This small article and research might not lead to huge changes, but at least it will get people talking.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.
You might also like:
- Enough: Sometimes you need to give yourself a pep talk
- #TransparentTuesday: Still Enough – 1 year after the previous post, focusing on life progress instead of weight loss progress
- Push and Pull: Life requires a balance, and that shit is hard.
- What is the end game? It shouldn't be a number on the scale