Now, Mae has already heard me go on about how awful I think shows like A&E's Hoarders and Intervention are -- I've always felt they capitalized on others' suffering, and fed their audiences' appetite for tsk-tsking at others' weaknesses and failings. For the same reason, I've never been able to watch NBC's The Biggest Loser.
But my interest was raised when I heard A&E was doing a reality show following obese people in their efforts to get healthy. So I gave this one a chance: not because I wanted to judge the participants, but because I suspected they might be a lot like me.
This week's episode followed 600+ pound Tom and 370+ pound Jodi.
Tom (I didn't catch his age, but he didn't look much older than 30) is a self-described food addict. While he was obviously further into obesity than I was when he found the motivation to do something about it, he seemed to have entered the program fully accepting his own responsibility for his poor health.
Jodi, who I think they said was 36, was a drama queen. I came to quite despise her, actually, because she seemed unwilling to do what needed to be done without making a great big hairy deal about it. She seemed to always be in tears, making great declarations about how she couldn't possibly go further, the workouts were killing her, she was doing this for her kids, she never does anything for herself, her mother is "a cancer" in her life, her husband isn't a good listener, her friends make her go to restaurants where there aren't any healthy choices, etc. etc.
News: not all fat people are damaged.
I have struggled with my weight my entire adult life (well, really, since adolescence), but I still haven't figured out exactly why. My parents taught me to eat properly and be active, and I was a skinny kid. I had a happy childhood and continue to have a loving and supportive family. My marriage and my home life are happy, and filled with love.
My weight is my fault, the result of conscious decisions I make, and behaviours I consciously undertake. Jodi's weight is Jodi's fault, too, whether she wants to admit it or not.
I'm still trying to figure out how I became a chronic overeater.
I remember being a size 12 in high school and thinking I was fat -- so fat, in fact, that I was embarrassed to be in pictures, didn't want to wear shorts, wore big puffy sweaters and turtlenecks most of the time. I wasn't fat, but I thought I was; and then of course I made my own negative thoughts come true.
I first had to wear plus-sized clothes sometime around the end of my undergrad degree (during which I had been both large and small, having likely gained, lost and gained the same 40 pounds a few times). For about 10 years after graduation my weight steadily climbed, and then in 2002 I did my first (and only successful, until now) trip to Weight Watchers.
As I reached my goal weight, I remember the faithful Mo telling me she knew I'd never be overweight again -- but I knew she was wrong. And because I had decided that, I think, I was doomed to gain it back (and then some). In fact, I was so sure my success was temporary that I insisted she take me to a meeting in her hometown, where I was visiting when I hit my 6 weeks of goal weight maintenance -- I wanted Weight Watchers to get my accomplishment of "lifetime" status on the records right away, because I wasn't confident I could hold it until I got home from my visit.
The problem was that I continued to binge. I wasn't bullimic -- I had a phobia about vomit, so just binged and held on to what I ate. I ate healthy food, and lots of it. I ate crap, and lots of it. I hid wrappers from no-one in particular (I didn't want to be reminded of my failing), I lied about what I'd eaten when no-one would have made me feel badly about it (not wanting to have to admit to my completely unreasonable behaviour out loud).
It was me. It wasn't anyone else, it wasn't pressure, it wasn't stress. It was a problem in my brain, with the cooperation of my hands and my mouth.
The more I listened to Jodi assign blame for her weight to everyone around her, the more I realized how important it is to take responsiblity for my behaviour. So here I am, admitting to very embarrasing lack of control (not that anyone looks at someone my size and is surprised to hear she has trouble controlling her eating), because I know it's on me.
Jodi's mother wasn't force-feeding her; her friends can't make her eat the crap at the fatty tex-mex restaurant. It's on her; until she figures that out, I fear she'll still be in trouble. She may lose a lot of weight (as I did), but unless she accepts responsiblity for her behaviour, she'll be likely to gain it back (as I also did).
Wow, that's some review. I won't be watching Heavy again, because it confirmed my impressions of what follow-the-weakling-as-she/he-tries-to-become-normal-like-you reality shows are like and for.
As we say on Facebook, "dislike."