My Obsession with The Biggest Loser

I do believe that fat people are often discriminated against and mistreated in society. I think there is too much of a stigma attached to fatness and an overglorification of thinness. That said, some people are overweight, and I love seeing those people work hard to lose it and actually succeed. I realize reality TV shows are manipulative and always have the main purpose of getting high ratings, no matter what the cost to the participants psychologically, but I feel that The Biggest Loser is probably one of the best reality TV shows out there in that it actually helps people get healthier.

Yes, it does that silly thing where some contestants have to vote off other contestants. I think that’s ridiculous. The only people who should be eliminated are the ones who lose the least amount of weight. There should be no voting.

And, of course, they do the duh-duh-duhn focus on faces in reaction to scale readings right before the commercial break for maximum manipulative suspense-milking.

Oh, and the whole show is a just a long advertisement for 24-Hour Fitness gyms.

Nevertheless, when I see these people going from 350 lbs. to 180 lbs. and also getting rid of their health problems (diabetes, heart disease, etc.), it’s pretty inspiring, especially when I know many of them probably have a genetic predisposition to gaining weight. Anyone who knows me well knows I am a nurture person all the way, and it’s not because I don’t believe in the power of nature—I just don’t believe in giving in to nature if you also have the power of nurture. I’m genetically predisposed to being diabetic, but I’m not going to just throw in the towel on that one. As long as I can, I want to avoid being diagnosed with diabetes, and when I am finally diagnosed, I want to put off needing insulin shots as long as I can and also avoid losing my eyesight or limbs as long as I can. My wife and I had together all four of our grandmothers outlive their husbands, so, as a male, I’m genetically predisposed to dying earlier than she does, but I want to maximize my life as long as possible.

If you’re fat and happy with yourself and healthy, that’s great. Stay that way. But if you’re fat, have related health risks, and think that your genetic predisposition cannot be overcome, then I think you need to start exercising and eating healthily and fight what nature has thrown your way. You may have to exercise more and eat more healthily than some folks who are naturally skinnier, and that’s life. And some naturally skinnier people may actually have health issues despite society telling them they “look” a healthy weight, and shame on them.

It is an injustice that anorexics get treatment and pity while overweight folks get mistreatment and ostracization. That doesn’t mean they don’t both have problems. Would I love to see a The Biggest Gainer? In theory, yes. But people who are excessively skinny and have an eating disorder could gain weight just for the show and then still remain psychologically anorexic or just add bulimia to anorexia. You can tell when you watch The Biggest Loser that these people are already psychologically ready to be thinner. The problem is purely physical, and psychology comes into play only as far as competitiveness and motivation are concerned.

Waiting for my DVR to record the next episode…

Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality

Mother Nurture

“I can’t run.”
“I can’t draw.”

I’ve heard these phrases over and over again and I wonder if they’re consciously devised excuses or simply naive delusions. This (excuse or delusion) notion of “can’t” stems from the unnecessarily polarized nature v. nurture debate. Where did the “v.” come from, anyway? Do they have to be fighting each other? I tend to, if forced to choose a side, side with the nurturists. After all, if something is to some extent genetically predetermined, why not fight it (if it’s bad)? Someone with a genetic predisposition toward diabetes does not shrug her shoulders, give up, and eat unhealthily in the hopes that she might speed the “inevitably” predetermined “genetic” condition.

Neither should someone who thinks she’s non-athletic not participate in sports or someone who thinks she’s not artistic not practice drawing. If public education forces every student to learn math and English, and try her (theoretical) best, whether or not she thinks she’s a math or English person, why not encourage all potential artists and runners to draw and run?

I pick running and drawing in particular because from an early age my family, peers and teachers encouraged me to draw. And, ever since high school, I’ve suddenly become “a runner,” even though I’d had no athletic promise before high school, I never became that great a runner, and I’ve gotten severely out of shape since. Not only that, but I’ve seen other “non-runners” (like me) become record-breaking cross-country runners. And I’ve seen non-artists practice and practice and practice, eventually becoming amazingly skilled artists.

Now the discussion of ability in art is interestingly ironic. When artists are children (whose abilities presumably are limited by their young age) society judges the degree to which they are artists based on the quality of their representational art. Then, when an adult artist produces a piece of expression (at least in this day and age), society often judges the quality as being proportional to the apparent childishness of the “artwork.” In other words, in order to prove yourself to have artistic potential as a child, you need to draw as much like an adult as possible, and in order to prove yourself to have artistic potential as an adult, you must be able to draw like a child. It’s not just a joke of polite society—much of modern art does indeed look like the work of a kindergartener.