My youngest daughter is to blame, of course.
She’s the one who introduced us to The Biggest Loser and the celebrity fitness gurus, i.e. Jillian, Bob, and Dolvett. We watched the 15th season on Hulu and finally caught up with the regular TV broadcasts so that we were able to see the Live Finale this past Tuesday, February 4, 2014.
You just can’t watch the life stories of individuals, their failures, triumphs, brokenness, strivings . . . without becoming emotionally involved. And, of course, the thing we all look for, the thing that enthralls us the most perhaps, is their transformation. We watch them morph before our every eyes in a matter of weeks.
We lamented the exit of several contestants (yes, this is a game, a competition isn’t it?) we had grown to love, and cringed as some others returned or remained (names will be withheld to protect the innocent – actually, to protect me).
But results are results. And television is television. So, in the end, three were left standing, each one vying for the $250,000 prize money. And then a larger group of others who had previously exited the show competed for the $100,000 prize money (the ones who had been forced to continue their training/weight loss at home, on their own).
When Tumi appeared on the stage we were so impressed; she had lost just over 54% of her original body weight, and she looked tremendous. She had become a distance runner. And when she won the $100,000 prize we were so pleased (even though we rooted for Craig as well).
But when we saw Rachel we were shocked (to put it mildly). Evidently, Jillian and Bob were shocked as well (the camera caught their surprise when she appeared on stage). We had rooted for her throughout the season, because she was relentless in her training; mentally she was a tigress in her ascent toward the goal.
And I will not in any way take that away from her. She worked hard to achieve what she achieved. The last time we saw her before the Finale she looked like a vivacious and vibrant 24 year old. But that night – she appeared old; her face was drawn, without color. And her arms hung by her side like slender sticks. She had been around 150 pounds, but on the night of the Finale she weighed in at 105 (losing 59% of her original body weight).
This thought occurred to me: I wonder if she could survive even one day of training on The Ranch in this condition?
Opinions expressed in social media have multiplied exponentially on this subject in the last two days. And I hope Rachel is able to weather this divergent attention emotionally; it would be hard for anyone. Ironically, the lovely and talented Karen Carpenter died exactly 31 years ago to the date (February 4, 1983) as the result of a heart attack brought on by rapid weight gain as she recovered from anorexia.
But what concerns me more is this: what do we lose when we catapult the appearance of our body to a status it was never meant to have?
I know this is controversial. And I must admit I go to the gym as many days per week as I can arrange; I hate to miss. Last week a friend of mine and I were discussing whether or not this was an “addiction” or “dedication.” Ken said, “All right, let’s do this! We won’t come to the gym to exercise for three weeks. If we can do that, then it’s not an addiction!”
We both declined to participate in the test.
We all want to look good. And we all want to be healthy. Extremes are what we need to avoid. We all know this. But we also sometimes consider the proverb, “if a little is good, then more is better.”
What is good . . . if taken to excess, can become bad. A beautiful story of struggle and triumph . . . can morph into a tale of corruption and unspeakable disaster. There is a reason Overeaters Anonymous says that overeating and anorexia are two faces of the same disease.
One thing I appreciate about The Biggest Loser is that the trainers focus not only on the outward shape of the contestant’s body, but on the internal struggles and failures that cause them to overeat. Not without surprise, this above all things, makes the show fun and rewarding to watch.
In my pursuit to be the biggest loser, i.e. to conquer the demons that hold me down in my life, I do not want to Lose Big as well. That is, when all is said and done, and I stand on the scale that measures my true self: my body, my spirit, my emotional well being, my psyche, etc., I don’t want to see the body of Adonis with the spirit of Aporia.
We have become enamored with the shape of our bodies. And in large part we evaluate our relative worth by our appearance. If we look good, we are good. If we look bad, well . . . we need to get help. Soon. But inside . . . in our heart of hearts . . . we can be in an endless desert.
When that desert is depicted visibly in our bodily shape, others may encourage us to get assistance, and come to our aid. But when that desert is covered over with the mirage of physical fitness, our six pack may obfuscate the disillusionment that lies just beneath the surface.
So . . . I am off to the gym! I have about 10 pounds to lose (yes . . . , again). I know I will never be the biggest loser.
And . . . I plan to live in a way that assures I will not lose big.
The only way to avoid losing big in this life is to integrate body and soul, flesh and spirit, sinew and psyche.
My best to you on your journey, Rachel.