Friday, January 22, 2010

"I'm just here to lose weight, I don't want to change"

I got a great comment by Robin on my recent recap of "The Biggest Loser" about the relationships that contribute to the contestants' weight problems:

Interesting when it's couples though, the very people that helped you get fat are supposed to help you get thin. But I think the dynamic of the relationship has to change first.
I think that an understanding of this on some level is what prompted Migdalia and Miggy's dramatic fight with Jillian (and to a lesser extent, Bob) on the most recent episode. They actually said something to the effect of, "We just want you to help you lose weight. We don't want you to change us." Jillian's attempt to push Migdalia in that episode was all about her belief that you can't cause lasting change just by changing the calories in/calories out equation. It's impossible to maintain those changes without addressing the reason they turned to food in the first place. She has said before that she pushes them as a way to get them to confront all that stuff. Once they realize there is a problem with the way they have been handling their lives, the next step finding coping strategies to replace food, without being able to speak up for themselves, learning to ask for and gracefully receive help.

We also see on the show that some contestants, like Shay from last season, seem to turn life into a dramatic soap opera where they are the good ones systematically victimized by everyone else in their lives. That pattern might have been true for her as a child, but to help her lose weight, the trainers had to get her to accept her adult status and to claim her own power and responsibility over her life. Without changing that pattern, Shay would always be locked in a system of reacting to her perceived victimization.

It's easy to see these patterns on an edited "reality" show where the producers decide what side of a contestant they want us to see. Mike seemed like a fun-loving, mild-mannered guy until this most recent episode, where his bratty side made an appearance as the producers had to explain the actions taken by the Gray Team.

It's harder for me to see my own patterns of stuckness. I think a big one for me is approval-seeking. I catch myself trying to impress or at least entertain other people. I need to show them I have high standards for myself, especially with fitness. I plowed through my foot injury for too long for fear of seeming like I was making excuses or just being lazy.

One of my frustrations with Weight Watchers is that they did seem to take the approach of "let's not talk about changing your life, let's focus on changing your eating." Hence, discussions about how to deal with situations like family parties focused around bringing substitute food, taking small portions, leaving some on your plate. They didn't talk about addressing the power dynamic of relationships. Sure, there were the Tools for Living, including assertiveness, but most of the examples of how to apply those seemed to focus on weight-related situations. The mostly female clientele of Weight Watchers might feel the way Miggy and Migdalia did. It's also easy to take a conspiracy-theory view of this narrow focus: If women feel too empowered, that could cause unintended consequences, for Weight Watchers and society and a whole. Some people do manage to extrapolate those strategies to other areas of their lives, and those are probably the ones who are successful.


  1. I totally agree with your perspective of the focus of weight watchers. I felt like I could curb some of the discussions during our meetings towards more aggressive topics, but it wasn't for everything. I wish that there were other resources so that we could really open up our emotional barricades and figure out how we get so far off track in the first place. I need a Jillian!

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  4. Very thought provoking post. I am going to do some mulling on it.

    At first, I was sort of irked at the exchange between Jillian and Migdalia. It seemed like she was really singling her out and picking a fight for the sake of picking a fight--unnecessary drama. But.....that statement about "just" losing weight and not making any other changes sure got my attention! We certainly do not become fat or fit overnight..that is for darn sure. Ok....I'm going back to mulling mode. I like how you addressed that issue in this post. I had the kernal of this thought process in my mind on Tuesday night, then let it slip away. It is definitely something worth more attention.

    What else have I changed/am I changing about myself and my point of view as I go through this weight-loss process. Hmm. And what else SHOULD I be addressing? Mull Mull Mull.

  5. OH! Check out the very next post I just read....this quote SO dovetails with your post!!

  6. I'm pleased that my comment brought some additional thought on weight loss :) I mean, if it's just calories in/calories out we'd all be slender and healthy.

  7. I started watching this show at the advice of my trainer. She thought it would be motivational. For a long time I objected to the very notion of making a biological process like weight loss into a contest. And Jillian's verbal abuse drove me crazy!

    But once I started watching, I was hooked! I still worry that it's unsafe to lose weight that rapidly, but I get that the contestants are there because they want to be there and know what they're getting themselves into. Jillian does manage to get through to people, even though she does it the hard way!

    Anyway, your reviews add to my enjoyment of the show.

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  9. This post really got me thinking... great stuff. I do love the biggest loser


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07