Some time ago, while snuggled with my husband on the couch, no doubt with some snacks on our lap (you’re welcome, Irony), we finally got around to watching the concluding episode of Biggest Loser, one of the few shows we make sure to catch regularly. Every so often we’d lean over to each other and chit chat, with our mouths full (again, cheers Irony), about how good someone looks, or how much I like that dress, or the loose skin that needs to be cut off, etc.
For the past several years, we have fallen into the habit of watching the show because we like the show. It motivates us; it inspires us. We especially like the prior season when they worked with the kiddos to combat youth obesity, a problem in our country that bothers us both.
Which is why, when we saw this, we were so shocked. When the ghastly remnant of Rachel walked onto the stage, a mere fragment of her once muscular and sturdy frame, we both gasped. As did Bob and Jillian.
There has been much talk since then (here or here), to which I am going to contribute my two cents in this post. I have not been able to get this disappointing conclusion out of my head. For Rachel the skeleton, who said she works out 3-4 times a day, it is a celebration. But for me, it is one more indictment of the message our society sends answering this question: how do we define success in weighty matters?
Clearly, The Biggest Loser’s endowment of the award to the sickly skinny Rachel indicates it is not about health, but about frailty. And all I keep coming back to are Bingo, Sunny and Lindsay–especially the female youth ambassadors. I hope, as they watched that waif walk across the stage, they didn’t immediately go to a place of: “wow, so that’s what I gotta do?” And if one of them did, shame on you Rachel, shame on you Biggest Loser.
Our society is in desperate need of a redefinition of beauty and health and success in weighty matters.
And as a member of that society, I also need to transform that definition in my own life. I wish I could say all my issues with weight are external, a mere result of society, but I fight my own personal battles as well.
a very fit teenager
In high school, I was athletic, but never skinny. My Mom always excused it by saying I was “big-boned.” When I went to college, I didn’t realize I was gaining a bit of weight. That is, until a very special person in my life, from a very skinny and beautiful family (who probably should not have been the one to broach this topic with me), said I was getting chubby. I was devastated. It changed who I was and how I viewed myself. No longer was I the compass of health; now, an external model, an unreachable model, dictated my self-esteem.
me at my heaviest
Fast forward a few years, when I married my best friend. The years went by, and the pounds came on. When people asked me how long I’d been married, I used to joke and reply: “5 years and 50 pounds.” But sadly, it wasn’t a joke. Our lifestyle of eating and becoming coach potatoes as a way of spending time with each other showed in our stomachs. Before I knew it, my rolls competed with my chins for some sort of prize, all of which I had to lean around to even see the scale looking back at me in fear with this number: 235.
But something clicked. I realized I didn’t want to be that much of Mary. It wasn’t healthy, and I sure wasn’t proud. This epiphany coordinately nicely with our move to Colorado–a state where people bike, run, hike, play outdoors and eat organic granola regularly (JK).
Slowly, I shed some pounds. Then I was inspired to sign up for a a 5k, then a 10k, then (gasp!) a half-marathon, and I shed more pounds. I got a dog and walked him. I started a regular practice of yoga. And before I knew it, the first tenet which defines success in weighty matters gradually formed in my life:
This tenet has led to the second definition of success:
I’ve found myself now thinking of food as fuel. I intentionally eat a smoothie full of veggies and fruits and goodies in the morning, knowing it will start my day right. I eat lunch considering if it will give me the energy I need to get through afternoon yoga. I eat on the weekends thinking about what will fuel my run.
Now, before we get all congratulatory, I am in no way there. I still suffer from an addiction to sweets, and I enjoy eating too much to become an ascetic. My day starts very healthy, but typically discipline and mindfulness wane as the day progresses.
But what I do celebrate and take pride in is that I have redefined what there is in my life. It is not to look like Rachel. It is not to please the ghost of my past. It really is not even to lose weight…though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that.
Success in the weighty matters, arriving there for me, means embracing an active lifestyle while eating mindfully. And I’m pretty sure even Bob and Jillian would agree with me there.