My Beef with The Biggest Loser

the biggest loser logo

In a culture where obesity is a bit of an epidemic, efforts to encourage healthy and active lifestyles have captured the center stage of the public eye. Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, The American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart event, and any of the various runs, walks, bikes, or swims for charity organized around the country put a premium on exercise and healthy eating. Children and adults of all age find their place in these activities, and I commend every person that has taken the opportunity to participate in these events.

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Michelle Obama participating in her Let’s Move! campaign

Another result of the fight against obesity is more financially- and media-driven: the weight loss comptetition and weigh loss programs. NOTICE: I am not criticizing the overarching message of these organizations; I feel that their core philosophies, provided that they revolve around adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes eating well and exercising often, are appropriate for the American public.

breast cancer walk

But I draw the line at The Biggest Loser.

Granted, it takes a group of people who are unhealthily overweight and obese and put them through a competition that demands good results in order for them to succeed in the capacity of the show. Some of the changes that these people make to their lives are challenging and by no means casual decisions. However, I can’t help but feel that the wrong message is being communicated to the American public in a subliminal way. We are told that to change our lives for the better, we simply need to put our bodies through incredible amounts of stress and lose a lot of weight in a short period of time and voila! We are svelte, we are happy, and life goes on.

It reminds me of one of my earlier blog posts where I discussed the use of exercise videos. While the workouts provided in these videos are incredibly difficult and will probably lead to improvement in strength, agility, and physical appearance, these videos do not mention some very key information about the human body. First, the body is adaptable, and will require harder and harder workouts to see increased results.

One of many exercise videos

One of many exercise videos

Second, and most importantly, being healthy is not a goal — it is a lifelong process.  You can’t be expected to see lasting results when you shock your system with copious amounts of exercise and a diet that is nearly impossible to maintain over a long period of time. Even Rachel Frederickson, the latest winner of The Biggest Loser (criticized for how unnaturally skinny she looked), has seemed to filled out since the finale weigh-in.

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Rachel Frederickson, winner of The Biggest Loser 2013, immediately following the finale

So here are my tips, from one person who has struggled with maintaining a healthy lifestyle and body image:

  1. Begin a routine small, then work your way up. If you never work out, start by convincing yourself to get to the gym or outside three times a week, then make room when you can for more exercise.
  2. Eat a healthy, manageable diet. If you cut out one of the major food groups, I will send you a virtual head-shake. Eat moderately, watch the bad foods, and keep track of what you eat.
  3. Get creative. Competitive? Organize pick-up games with friends. Busy? Do some yoga and run up and down staircasese if you have them. The world is your oyster!
  4. Please, please please appreciate what you can do. Your body is awesome; tell yourself that sometimes, and demand it to be more awesome next time.
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Love yourself!

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Real Women — who are they?

I came across this short piece written by a Kristen Hedges, writer for MindBodyGreen, a holistic health coach, and a yoga/meditation instructor. I would really recommend this as a read for everyone to take a look at, because it made me realize how exclusive my thinking can be in my day to day living.

Look, a real woman! Blog writer Kristen Hedges

Look, a real woman! Blog writer Kristen Hedges

I come from a family where the women are proud heiresess of our Eastern European and Scandinavian heritage. We have well-defined hips and legs strong enough to kick a tree down. As a result of this upbringing, I grew up with an unconscious…aversion to body types that were conventionally beautiful, simply because it would cause too much mental trauma to convince myself that I could ever attain such skinny legs and petite bone structure. Rather than appreciate the female body in every form and shape, I spent a lot of time envying certain bodies, judging those around me on a scale that would ultimately dictate how I would initially interact with these women.

Another REAL woman, Lolo Jones! She's a bobsledder now, too.

Another REAL woman, Lolo Jones! She’s a bobsledder now, too.

How mentally exhausting, to feel like you are competing with women around you just because your body is next to theirs, and is not the same! There is without question some scientific evidence that comparison was an evolutionary process; in order to attain a male and produce healthy babies, you were in fierce competition with the women around to win his attentions. But when you take the time to label women as “real” and “fake” based solely on their physical structure, you are moving about eight steps backwards, away from healthy encouragement and towards intolerance of every women on this earth.

Real, real, and real. Awesome.

Real, real, and real. Awesome.

I support a healthy perspective of the human body. We were not all made the same. I may never look like Kristen Hedges, but that does not give me permission to criticize her for her appearance, regardless of how “real” she is. To quote Miss Hedges, “We are all real women. We, the rail thin, are just as lovely as the curvy goddesses, the big-boned beauties, and the strong and sexy athletes.”