Thursday, February 10, 2011

Heavy vs. I used to be Fat

Over the last month or so I've spent time watching the tv shows Heavy on A&E and I used to be fat on MTV. I went in skeptical watching these tv shows because I really hate when show portray those who are trying to loose weight in a specific light - I really don't like when they generalize that all fat people have no self esteem, don't feel pretty, and can't be successful people unless they are coupled and skinny. That being said these two shows had a lot to prove.

First I had the opportunity to watch Heavy. A&E takes 2 people each episode and provides them a month at a ranch (similar to Biggest Loser), they have nutritional counseling, and then they are sent home with a personal trainer for 5 months. During those 5 months if they gain weight back, they are brought back to the ranch. The last 30 days aren't filmed and you see the final weigh in. Though going to an exclusive weight loss ranch is almost impossible for the average person, I do like that they are receiving nutritional counseling, therapy for issues, they are being taught exercises, and they are being prepared to do this on their own. When they go home there is a realness to the show. A&E shows that it is hard to lose weight. The show presents the pain and anguish that overweight individuals go through to loose 10 lbs, make significant life changes, deal with food addiction, deal with bad habits, and deal with life on top of all of those things. A&E also shows the work out regime needed for overweight (morbid and super obese individuals) need to lose weight. Again, this is not he same as a regular size individual hopping on the tread mill twice a week. A&E also doesn't portray those participants as glorious individuals that will drop all this weight in 100 days. The show takes their weight loss journey seriously realizing this is a jump start to a healthier life rather than just a quick fix.

When I watched I used to be fat, my hope was MTV was not going to portray these young overweight people as non-confident, single (and hopelessly only wanting a relationship), without dreams and motivation, and only if they lose the weight will they feel complete. At the beginning, from my own personal perspective this is all they did. It was quick fix. It was a message that you can't go to college overweight. If you do, then you won't have a good life. If you are overweight, you won't have a gf or bf you will be alone. If you are overweight you have no confidence and you can't reach your dreams. If you are overweight you aren't much of a person. They also portrayed parents not caring about the weight of their children and the fact that the parents were not supportive of the changes overall.

How this was portrayed disturbed me. It still does. I've watched more episodes and lately (at least the last 2) they have showed girls that have not lost all the weight in 100 days. They followed the girls and watched them loose a majority of the weight in 6 to 7 months. They followed and watched the girls want to do this for them and their health rather than a bf, but yet there is still this underlying message that their parents only "love" and "support" them after they have lost the weight. They only become confident after they lost the weight. Where is MTV getting this?

I think one of my issues with the MTV show is that it is so contrary to the real truth. There are skinny people that present that they are not confident and have no bf or gf and want those things yet they aren't giving the excuse to the weight loss. I also know plenty of overweight young people that are confident, articulate, have bf and gfs, and are having amazing collegiate lives. This message also hurts me because for me and my personal journey this is the exact opposite of how I've lived my life. I've been overweight since I was 10 years old. I've lived a life that was full and though at some points in my life I allowed my weight to rule my mood and my outlook on my relationships with men, I was raised and supported that no matter what I looked like I could accomplish anything. I am a very confident person and it has nothing to do with what I look like! Never did I think I could have a bad college life if I was fat. Looking back for me college is where I blossomed. I was 300 lbs + through college and had the time of my life. Sure, I had the insecurities of a girl not always having a bf and the thought of my weight crossed my mind, but in all reality that was foolish. When I really think about it I fell in love and got married at 300 + lbs and never did Justin ever ask me to loose some weight. He loved me and saw through my outside exterior.

When I look around at the students I work with in college, I know many students that are not perfectly fit. They are outgoing, dynamic, fun, and driven. They have normal doubts like every other 18-24 year old. They aren't hiding in their room because they are overweight. They are leaders on campus. They are speaking up and out about things on campus. They are leading dynamic lives and taking on collegiate world. I have not met one student that is overweight that states their college experience has been horrible because they are fat. I have seen the opposite. I have had students come in overweight and leave skinny. I have had students come skinny and gain the freshman 50. I've had students do many different things and not be anywhere near what MTV is presenting them to be.

Overweight people are more than what we look like. We have feelings, issues, and dreams just like everyone else. We are just in a heavier body. Some of us do it to ourselves. Some of us have medical issues. Some of us gain weight because of behaviors. There are so many reasons, but please don't put us all together and lump us as one. We are individuals with individual issues. We are not all non-confident, food binging people that sit around and watch Jerry Springer and eat bon bons all day. We are leading amazing lives... super sized for now.

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