I know I’m behind with this post, but my DVR was backed up, the show was 2 hours long, and the Olympics have been on. Anyway, I just watched The Biggest Loser finale, and FEELINGS:
I do not consider myself skinny. I have a weird body shape that will never give me a feminine waist, rowing for 6 years made my back broad, one shoulder higher and one calf significantly larger, and I have the upper-arm strength of a ball of cotton. I am constantly self-conscious about my size and shape. Yes, I’m active, I run and bike and take the stairs and I prefer to walk a mile instead of taking the subway 1 stop. Most days I feel good, but that doesn’t mean I’m always happy with what I see in the mirror.
When I watch The Biggest Loser (a guilty pleasure of mine), I often go from seeing people who start much bigger than I am, to looking much like me. They don’t end the series looking like society’s notion of “perfect,” is what I mean. Except this time, Rachel did. And I have some mixed feelings about that:
Firstly, why didn’t anyone notice that Bobby was also SUPER skinny? 170lbs is pretty small for a guy who is 6’3. I thought he looked gaunt, his face had totally changed shape. But everyone said how great he looked – Jillian and Bob didn’t look negatively stunned to see him. Did we not freak out because he didn’t win? Or because he’s a man?
Secondly, before I saw the finale, I read around that Rachel was “skeletal.” Actually, what she is, basically, is Hollywood Thin. I’m not saying that Hollywood Thin is healthy (because it’s not), but let’s keep that in mind here. She is no smaller than any of the stars you see on the silver screen — with the exception maybe of Jennifer Lawrence (who demands your attraction but refuses to be Hollywood Thin, and it’s not impossible to tell that she’s sticking to her guns. AND SHE IS STILL VERY VERY THIN).
Mostly, what I’m interested in, after all this, is what television does to our minds. Women in particular, really. Women that I see on TV who are my size seem to look bigger than I am. Are we just so used to Hollywood Thin that any lady over 110 lbs looks fat on TV? If I saw them in person, would they look more like me and my friends? I think this is where the crux of the discussion sits – the obscene standards that society holds women up to (and let’s face it, that women hold themselves and each other up to too). I mean, the host of the show, Alison Sweeney, is so compelling because she isn’t super thin, and has struggled with weight publicly. Except, according to her Wikipedia page, the biggest she got was a size 12. If you’re not aware, SIZE TWELVE IS NOT BIG. But when you look at her on TV even now, you don’t say to yourself, “man, I wish I looked like Allie.” Instead there is a part of your brain that goes, “Ehh, I’d rather look like Natalie Portman.” That part of your brain is an asshole, but it won’t shut up.
I feel like size standards for women is a topic that has been beaten to death by so many women on the internet over and over and over. It’s terrible, it’s horrible, we have to change it. We want untouched photos. We have to teach our children differently. And yet, when I look in the mirror, I still think “ugh. my flabby arm fat. gross.” WHY DO WE DO THIS TO OURSELVES? I know it’s ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean I can control my brain.
Is it too late for some of us? Can we still change how we see ourselves?
A side-note: A financially-driven competition to lose weight was eventually going to get out of hand. We should have all known that. Someone, at some point, was going to lose more weight than they needed to, because they wanted to win. Often we see contestants who are physically ready to leave the show stay to “win.” The Biggest Loser does a pretty good job about pushing the importance of strength and endurance over size, but it’s not perfect. I mean, it’s still a numbers-based game. And it’s a big deal to make it to “make-over” week. A BIG DEAL.
Of course, at some levels, having confidence in your body IS important. I love that during make-over week, Tim Gunn is super proactive about saying how great they look AT THAT MOMENT (not projecting how they’ll feel “at the end”), and asking contestants how they feel about themselves. But Tim Gunn is one small cog in the Biggest Loser wheel.
And at the end of the episode, you hear every contestant say, “my time here isn’t done yet.”