Maybe part of the appeal is what Wendy said in I'm Not the New Me:
Tell us where the food came from, where you kept it, how greasy it was, or how sweet, or how much butter was involved. Don't skimp on the butter.The sort of weird, vicarious food porn pleasure of reading about someone else's unrestrained indulgences? I think that's what they were getting at, in the olden days of "The Biggest Loser," when they had the contestants have a free-for-all binge in the first episode, cameras rolling. The producers thought that the home viewers would want to watch this so they could nod and say, "Yep, that's how they got that way." The food frenzy would set up the morality tale of the Bad Fatties becoming Good Thin People. But somewhere along the line, they realized that the viewers could identify more with the contestants than with Bob and Jillian. So they started making the show nicer, and just ran more food and diet ads during the show.
There are two things about these books, and the show, that fascinate me most. One is the sense of transformation -- of someone who felt sad and hopeless but somehow found a way out. The sense of a transformation that goes beyond fat to thin, and is really more about finding a life that makes sense than about fitting into smaller jeans. The other thing that is interesting to me is the disorientation that comes with losing Big Weight, and an account of how someone makes sense of that.
The lure of a weight loss that runs into Big Numbers is that it exaggerates and highlights the drama of weight loss in a way that might not seem as compelling and interesting when talking about 20 pounds, or even 50. The person losing 100 pounds or more may have to learn her way around several new Selves, and figure out where the core of her is that doesn't change when her dress size does.
I think this is the central challenge of weight loss for all of us. I think that one of the reasons that a lot of us are overweight, maybe the most important reason, is that we're focused on the idea of a fat self, and the weird relationship with food that goes along with that. We don't know how to choose food outside a rubric of Good and Bad, beyond Being on a Diet or Not Caring.
I would really be interested in a study that explored whether overweight people with amnesia lost weight because they were free of the memory of that fat self, and might not remember all the rules they should follow. Because I think that we not only are fat because we eat, but eat because we're fat.
I remember in the Fat Old Days, when I had maybe 50 pounds to lose, scoffing at someone who was complaining about her 10 extra pounds. I said I dreamed of 10 extra pounds. But here I am with 10ish extra pounds, and I still feel really, really fat. I'd do the amnesia experiment on myself if I could only figure out how to conk myself on the head like they did in sitcoms.