Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Unfolding to the Beauty Within
I was just thinking about last night’s episode of Biggest Loser, and wondering why it is we all have to suffer so much to reach that part of ourselves that is capable of self-nurturing – without having to go through hell to do it. I felt upset about both of the incidents that occurred last night, one with Migdalia, and the other with Melissa, both having been spurred, or caused, by Jillian.
First, her attack on Migdalia: although I realize Jillian was not, as Migdalia thought, calling her a “bad mother”, rather, I believe she was trying to say that we are destined to repeat the mistakes of our role models, if we don’t allow ourselves to understand what it is that makes us tick, and then do something about it. I am sure she was referring to Migdalia’s obesity, but also to her inability to express her emotions, and that this inability was greatly the cause of her obesity in the first place. So, on the surface, I agreed with Jillian. But she is like a bull in a china shop. What is it that makes her feel that it’s OK to beat the crap out of someone to get them to face their issues? She is not a therapist ( and would be a highly abusive one if she were) and has no right to play one; and it really infuriates me that, week after week , she does just that.
What she does have correct, I believe, is that no one has those kind of weight problems without a trunk full of issues. And often, I know, she has helped people work through them, Maria and her fear of water, is a case in point. But the fact that is she is down right brutal in the gym, and also, often in her approach toward people interpersonally (her treatment of Melissa, for example, when she didn’t believe that Melissa hadn’t intentionally “thrown” the weigh-in) is really disturbing to me. The only time she’s nice, is when she thinks she’s getting someone to “crack”, so that they will expose a raw nerve, and have a breakthrough in their emotional battle against the weight. She has the right idea, but the worst manner of going about it that I could ever imagine. This is emotional abuse, and for all these people, who have obviously suffered enough, I am disturbed to witness this, week after week.
In fact, I am deeply disturbed about the whole brutal approach to weight loss on the show. Imagine losing five pounds in one week and have that be cause for shame, because everyone around you is dropping ten, fifteen, even twenty pounds, in one week? It’s absolute insanity. Any qualified individual will tell you that weight loss, at that rate, is extremely bad for you; the body experiences it as starvation, how good can that be? And statistics tell us that the faster you lose the weight, the greater your chances of gaining it all back, and then some. It takes a slow, steady, profound change in lifestyle, and attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors – we are talking about radical life changes, from the ground up – to lose that kind of weight - and keep it off - this does not happen overnight. That’s why so many people who have lost significant amounts of weight, but have not changed radically from within, often gain all, or most of their weight back.
The science of weight loss has been revolutionized in the last five years, they are beginning to understand so much more about the chemistry in the body as it gains, or loses weight, and why; also the body’s reactions to certain foods, or food types, or the deprivation of certain foods. For instance, the attitude about fat in our diet has been completely revolutionized; we were always told, “stay away from fat!” But now they’re saying that we absolutely need fat in our diet in order to lose weight; it just has to be healthy fat, like olive oil, avacado, and even (gasp) coconut oil. But the medical science behind the show does not seem to keep up with this information. They are constantly recommending foods that are processed, not whole grain, artificial sweeteners, low fat or non fat (which the most modern research shows is bad, not only for your body, but makes losing weight, ultimately, more difficult.)
It may sound like I hate the show, I don’t, I am a devoted fan; but what I am attracted to is the personal transformation that happens inside of the people, the insights they have as to why they got so sick in the first place; and of course, the realization of personal life-dreams. It’s very uplifting and very inspiring in many, many ways. But it bothers me that the contestants feel that they deserve such brutal treatment. It’s amazing to me that some of them don’t get one look at the typical workout on the ranch and head for the hills. Not because they are weak, or wimps, but because they are too sane to participate in such insanity. Their brutal 4-6 hour daily work-outs would be killing for athletes, for people who have, in many cases, never exercised before, it could, literally, be deadly. Several of those older participants looked like they were ready to drop dead last season! I’ve only been watching the show for three seasons, and I’ve already seen two stress fractures that occurred – stress fractures! Not from falling down the stairs, or a car accident, but from exercise that was so stressful it cracked the participant’s bone! And realistically, how many of these people will be able to sustain these workouts in order to keep the weight off?
Am I the only one who is a little freaked out by this? Can’t we find a middle ground between deprivation and indulgence, which doesn’t involve walking through the fires of hell to get there? Can’t we suspend our national obsession with immediate gratification when it comes to matters of our health? How about working on the problem from the inside out, looking at what made us so sad, or angry, or grief-stricken that we ate our way into that state in the first place?