Today I stood in front of the trainer at Planet Fitness and had to admit to her why I was cancelling my membership. I mumbled something about not agreeing with the “Biggest Loser thing” but I suddenly felt like I was going to get in trouble. She couldn’t put in an option for “other” under reason for cancellation so we just put down that I moved. We did move six months ago and I have room for a home gym in our garage which is what I’m working on setting up. But, after we did that she said she was genuinely curious to hear about my opinion on TBL. So I told her. And I’ll tell you, but first some background.
The Biggest Loser has been an inspiration to many people. Over ten years ago, I was one of those people. I lost weight and I did alright at keeping it off. I loved watching the people on the show hit their goals and encourage each other. But now we know that the methods used on the show are dangerous and harmful. It is not safe to lose that much weight that fast. And doing it requires constant exercise and near starvation. This is not sustainable. And you’d see later on when they were visiting people at their homes, exactly how hard it is to sustain that weight loss in a real world setting. Because we have jobs and kids and get sick and shit comes up. It’s also really difficult to see people eating normally while you’re starving yourself. Especially if what you’ve historically done is eat as much as you want in those same settings.
This is not a matter of willpower. The truth is that we need to eat, and we’re usually enjoying the company of others when we do. Eating is a communal human activity. It is significant in every single culture. Diet culture tells us this is wrong, but social health is just as important as, if not more important than, lowering our weight to an arbitrary number. I’m not saying that you need to eat socially to bond with people. Just that if you’re with a group of people, there’s probably gonna be food there. And why wouldn’t you want to enjoy yourself? And no I don’t want to hear about, “well they deserve it for getting so fat”. Hard pass on that fatphobic bullshit.
One person I really admire that has been a vocal critic of TBL is former contestant Kai Hibbard. She went on the show to lose weight and came out with an eating disorder and severe injuries. She has given a glimpse of the behind the scenes of the show and it is not good. They starved and dehydrated contestants. They were verbally abused by the trainers. There have even been accusations of them being dosed with medications to speed up their weight loss. If you’re interested in this topic I highly recommend reading her book and following her on Facebook and other social media.
Now that I’ve sad all that, we come back to me and the trainer at Planet Fitness talking while I was cancelling. I told her, you know, I don’t support the Biggest Loser because it does more harm than good. A lot of the people regain the weight and they just spread ignorant and dangerous methods. She said that she would pass that along and look up some of the stuff I told her about.
It was difficult to me to stand up and speak the truth out loud. And I didn’t even get to the worst part of it for me: Plant Fitness says that their gyms are non-judgmental. But that’s hypocritical if they are sponsoring The Biggest Loser. That game show is the essence of judgment. They spread the lie that it is better to starve and beat yourself into a smaller body than to exist in a bigger one. They tell society that you do not have worth and do not deserve respect or dignity if you are fat. Does that sound non-judgmental to you?
If you can, I urge you to cancel your PF membership if you have one. And tell them why. Align yourself with the oppressed and speak up for them. And if you have a membership and you have to keep it because of whatever, reason, that’s fine. But you still have a voice and you can still use it. So please, say something! And if they change their ways, then maybe I’ll see you there again one day.