Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On My Soapbox

So as many of you know, I watch the Biggest Loser a lot and in the past, I have called them out on nutrition. I like the idea of the Biggest Loser in that I love building a supportive community around each other, working through issues that have caused one to gain that much weight, and teach people how to work out. I like that it helps build confidence because a lot of times, people don't realize that they can be athletes. Anyone, and I am saying anyone, can run a marathon. It just takes a little focus and training and Biggest Loser helps people realize that and gives them hope.

But then I see little snipits like was Tara Costa (a former BL contestant/winner) tweeted last night:

Tara Costa
Never ate grapes when I was losing weight- way too much sugar! 
13 hours ago via UberSocial for iPhoneFavorite Retweet Reply
no. No Tara, no. 
This is where I have a strong issue with the Biggest Loser. I know that it's a game show. I know they are trying to get viewers. I realize that they are dropping large numbers and it's all for the drama of it. But there is danger here, in my opinion. 
I get little updates from Daily Om and today's post was called Redefining Health. It was a perfect compliment to what I was already thinking. You can choose the link above to read the whole thing, but I wanted to put a little excerpt below - 
"Health is not a numerical concept and cannot be defined using statistics. Human beings, however, tend to want to quantify well-being into easily understandable figures. We feel compelled to ascribe numbers to every aspect of wellness, from the qualities of our food to our fitness levels to the physical space we occupy. As a consequence of social pressures, we turn our attention away from health and focus instead on the most contentious of these figures—weight—checking our scales to see how we measure up to our peers and role models. Yet each of us is equipped to gauge our relative healthfulness without any equipment whatsoever. When we have achieved a state of wellness, we feel buoyant and energetic. Some of us are naturally slim, while others will always be curvy. No matter what our weight, we can use the cues we receive from our physical and mental selves to judge how healthy we really are."
With tweets like this and when one of the contestants was talking about not using oil to cook the fish because of extra calories, I feel there is a danger in what we are communicating to the world about health. I am not a nutritionist. I have not studied the human body and nutrition at length. But what I do know is that as human beings, our goals should be focused on how healthy we can be, not how many calories we can cut in order to look like Jillian Michaels. I cannot speak for others, but THAT IS NOT MY GOAL. 
I honestly think that this is part of America's problem with weight. It's either all or nothing. You either are a glutton or you only eat food that is bland because it has the lowest amount of calories/fat/carbs/sugar. There seems to be no grey area. It's this all or nothing mindset that I feel, sets us up for failure. 
What I have learned in my weight loss journey - nothing is black and white. One tip they gave was that when you add heavy cream and sugar into one's coffee, it adds up to 10 lbs per year. There are so many variables that go into that equation that there is no way one person can say if you do this, this is going to happen. The information is misleading. 
Obsession with body image
We are obsessed with body image. It seems like our goal is to look a certain way - 

and worry less about health. I hear more often than not when talking to my friends concerned with weight loss, oh that has a lot of calories and then they eat a lean cuisine. I would MUCH RATHER have authentic food with no chemicals that are high in calories, i.e. fruit, healthy fats, than a friggin' chemically altered, synthetic meal kept in the freezer section. What's killing me more, the natural sugar in grapes, Tara Reid, or the aspartame found in many low sugar products? 

Long term maintenance
Being healthy does not mean that you do something for 6 months and go back to the way you were before. So while I appreciate Tara was trying to win a game, if her plan is to win the 100k and go back to the way she was, then it was all for nothing. If her plan is to never eat a grape again because it has lots of "sugar", then she's fooling herself. And if her plan is to allow herself to finally eat grapes because she reached her goal weight, but she still is associating being healthy with maintaining a goal weight and counting calories for the rest of her life, then no thanks on that. 

I want to live a life where I can be flexible and where I am not ruled by food. I am not going to limit myself to one meal a week to go out to eat because I'm trying to be skinny. I'm not going to never eat a cookie again because I want to look like a super model. That does not mean I'm going to eat a bag of cookies every day either. Not doing one does not imply that I will do the other. There is balance in life. Sometimes, my balance is going to teeter towards not eating as healthy because I've got a lot going on. Sometimes, it won't be difficult to choose the right things at all. 

So... again, to remind myself why I am here, my goal in this journey is to be healthy. While I would love to be thin, if it means that I have to avoid certain fruits because they are high in natural sugar, or eat a piece of fish soaked in water because the oil is fattening, then no thanks. 


  1. AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! I too am frustrated with the world's perception that "health" equals a number and that it is better to eat some chemical-laden, processed, man-made foodish item rather than something that's natural. Preach on!

  2. Hey Wendi, it's Kayla. I have to tell you that I absolutely agree with everything you said! Sorry, I can't type much because it's difficult on my phone. We rreeeally need to get together once I move there, and often! Ooh I have a lot of strong opinions on this subject, but more importantly, I am also on a mission to be as healthy as possible to, hopefully, give me more control over my chronic pain and fatigue. I am constantly doing research on how to achieve that. I would love to have your input! Great post. :)