the biggest loser, is anyone really winning?

I can’t begin this post without first stating that in no way is this about Rachel Frederickson. I don’t know her, I never met her and I’ve never had any contact with her. I am also not a part of The Biggest Loser and don’t really know what goes on the behind-the-scenes.

While writing this, it feels uncomfortably clear that Rachel will likely be reading much of what is written about her and her body. She will read the criticisms, concerns and maybe even how impressed and inspired people are. I want to express that the intention of this post is to draw attention to the larger issues at hand and not to criticize Rachel in any way.

However, Rachel is at the center of this long overdue firestorm around The Biggest Loser and is an example of what I’ve been ranting about for years.

260lbs to 105lbs (a 59.62% loss of total body weight) in 7.5 months time. At 5’4″, that equates to a BMI of 18 – clinically underweight.

I have enormous respect for the men and women who choose to wage their internal battles and to do so publicly, is another level of courage. We all need motivation and if going on a reality television show is that for someone, then who am I (or any of us) to judge.

Some are entertained and maybe even motivated by these heartfelt stories. The network and staff make money from these same stories. It’s a fair trade. Participants get services for the fee of doing it publicly. As long as everyone is consenting and willful, so be it.

I do, however, have an enormous problem with the treatment of those who are willing to be vulnerable (body and soul) in front of an audience of millions and share the innermost struggles that have haunted them for years, most times decades. Their willingness to do this does not give license for inadequate and improper treatment.

To my knowledge, most (if not all) of these participants at some point in their journey have an emotional epiphany that their relationship with food is actually related to their relationship with themselves and that this is the root of the problem. This is an eating disorder defined! So if we acknowledge this, now we have a show about men and women who are struggling with eating disorders and we are watching them deal with the food and exercise part of their treatment. Except… where is the treatment? Where is the intense psychotherapy that is necessary to deal with the underpinnings of eating disorders? We know that a positive prognosis for eating disorder recovery has to do with three things: specialized treatment, adequate amounts of treatment and long-term follow-up. The Biggest Loser offers none of these things. So in essence, The Biggest Loser is treating the symptom of the eating disorder (the food piece) without addressing the things that will actually affect real, long-term and meaningful healing and change.

My other concerns are about the fitness professionals on the show offering some sort of intermittent therapy throughout these weight loss journeys. Offering any type of therapy falls outside of their scope of practice and is in direct conflict with their Code of Ethics.

We also know that losing a large amount of weight in a short period of time is dangerous. Additionally, having formerly sedentary individuals take on rigorous and intense exercise regimes is also dangerous. I realize that there is a full medical staff who monitors them but the fact that this is necessary is my case in point.

I can go on and on about how these types of shows are exploitative but the fact remains that these are the types of shows that bring in ratings and money to those involved so there is an investment in keeping them alive and running. I will table that for another time.

But I will say… if we are going to have shows like these, despite my stated opinion, then they need to be done responsibly. The issues need to be dealt with appropriately and the participants need to be taken care of.

The Biggest Loser finale seemed uncomfortable for everyone. Rachel Frederickson’s transformation was undeniably extreme and the looks on the trainer’s (and everyone’s) faces reflected that. I can understand the way the show unfolded because it would have been even more awkward and even unfair to Rachel for the show to have been halted and an intervention be made right there, on the spot, in front of millions. The show progressed as it needed to.

Since then…

Jillian Michaels’ Twitter response was this:
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The Biggest Loser’s Twitter response was this:
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Rachel’s The Biggest Loser trainer’s, Dolvett Quince’s, Facebook response was this:

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Rachel Frederickson had a media conference call yesterday morning (you can see the transcript at realityworldtv.com) and when asked about her food and exercise routine, Rachel explained that she was given a 1600 calorie budget by her “support system” at The Biggest Loser and would take “maybe three or four classes a day and just really have fun with all the people in the room. It was pretty cool! I’d be in Zumba and then I’d be going to spin class, and actually, I never used to like running. And so now, I really like running.

The interviewer’s response: “That is a lot of exercise in one day though! Impressive.

“Impressive?!?!” – REALLY?!?!?!

What is critical is what happens now. I don’t point a finger at any one person in particular but collectively, there is a huge problem here. Do we accept this transformation as “impressive” or do we dig a little deeper and stay with the uncomfortable truth that there is more here than what meets the eye? And will “we” as a society turn the other cheek and thus, sign off on the irresponsibility that is happening here with The Biggest Loser and shows of the like?

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What do you love about your body?

Men and women spend an enormous amount of time using negative self-talk to minimize, judge and criticize themselves. Most people aren’t even aware of how incessantly this internal tyrannical tape plays. Think about it in your own life – how much negative self-talk to you engage in? If you engage in any, it’s already too much!

I decided to reach out to a bunch of women and ask them what they love about their bodies and why. While this question was easy for some, it posed a challenge for others.

Here are their unedited responses. After you read them, I encourage you to take a moment to pause, reflect, answer the same question and give yourself some love! Feel free to share your love in the “comments” section below!

What do you love about your body and why?

Wow. My gut response was so overwhelmingly negative – I love NOTHING! – that now I have to do this and come up with a list, not just for you, but for me. 

I have always wanted to be able to fold over and touch my toes… I have discovered ballet barre and now I can!!!

Today I love my legs because they are strong and powerful and look super cute in my patterned tights right now!

I love that my body carried my children and gave them life. When I see my stretch marks and scars I try to remind myself of that rather than pick my body apart.

I love my body because it is made of the same stuff as the stars we wish on. It allows me to dance and move out into the world with you. My female body is so beautifully complex it reminds me that it has allowed for all human life to exist. Now how could I hate on that?

This is a really hard task and cause for a great deal of reflection. I think it has different meanings for each age and stage and for me causes me to look around and internalize all that is happening around me. I love my body because (so far) it is keeping me healthy and whole. It is allowing me to maintain my family and home, and giving me the opportunity to actively engage with those I love. My body is giving me the gifts of running in the park with my grandchildren and taking an 11 mile walk with my daughter, when we thought we were going for a stroll. How lucky I am. Thanks for affording me this wonderful time for reflection. Yes we take so much time in our lives using “fat talk” and hating our bodies….but rarely do we hug ourselves to say thank you.

I love that my body is so strong and resilient. It really doesn’t fail me and I feel blessed. I love that it’s petite but still womanly, not skinny. On a more superficial level I love my flat stomach.

My instinctual answer would be my smile and laugh because that is what most people recognize about me which I find is a really nice thing, actually cause it exudes more than an exterior appearance.

I love that my body is strong and healthy!

I love that my body can dance because I am never happier than when I am dancing.

I can touch and feel and love up my babies.

What I love about my body is that it has/had the miraculous ability to grow a child! Despite the changes from my pre-baby body, every time I see the differences in my body now, as a mother, I look at those changes with gratitude. I think about my body as having the ability to grow an adorable and wonderful little boy! What a wonderful thing!

I love my legs because they are strong, take me to places, let me dance, and keep me grounded.

As a mother of two daughters that mean the world to me, I am blessed to have a body (regardless of what it looks like) that has allowed me to produce and care for my two precious girls.

My cleavage.

I love my lats! I used to be upset that they make it tough for me to find dresses that zip up all the way. But, then I realized that without them I couldn’t do pull ups. I don’t know a lot of women who can do pull ups so I will keep my lats and stick to skirts, woo!

I love my body because it’s strong and unique, and it hasn’t failed me yet.

One thing that I really love about my body is that it is strong.  I like to feel the muscle tone in my legs and ass.  It feels good to think about our assets for a change.

I love that my body could still support me in a headstand when I was 8½ months pregnant! I feel so healthy and strong knowing I can support myself and my little guy now whether he’s inside or outside of me because of all my years of yoga and Pilates training.

I love that my body is able to move and engage in activities that I love to do.

I actually do love how it can grow in strength and stamina, even sometimes when I am not initially convinced that it can.

The one thing I love about my body are my legs, because they are long and somewhat fit. 

This feels weird but here goes: I like my feet. I was always too klutzy to wear heels, but as a result nothing is misshapen or bent or bony growth where it shouldn’t be. I actually like my rear. A little dimply now but still shapely. Collarbone — nicely defined. Veiny hands and arms like my dad’s, so I’m partial to them.

Right now, I LOVE my belly!!  It’s huge but I’m growing another little person inside. And yes, with the big belly comes some extra cushioning, which can be, at times, harder to accept, but I know that all of it is for a higher purpose – to create a healthy, happy and strong baby!

I’m learning to love that my body is mine and unique to me.. comparisons need not apply!!!

I have loved my body most when it was doing something–skiing, surfing, yoga, Zumba…..having a BABY.  That is when I am grateful not critical.

I love my collar bones. They make me feel sexy.

When I stop and think about it, what I truly love about this body that has carried me through this life so far for better or worse for the last 40 years is that it is absolutely uniquely mine with all of its quirks, beauty and perfect imperfections. It’s been the vehicle through which my persona, spirit and soul has had the good fortune to experience everything from the extraordinarily mundane to the awe and the profound and I am utterly grateful for its functionality and intuition and guidance as well as all of its strength, exhaustion, muscle and flab, power and flexibility, aches, pains, tension and the relaxing, the calming, the sheen and the freckles and wrinkles, and yes even the wrinkles… ok well im still practicing with those 😉 

At the age of 36 I now love more than anything else that my body has the capability of growing life. When I was younger loved the freedom of movement, and ability to fully control my actions. While I still love those things, giving up control to let someone else grow is my amazement.

A few years ago I probably said I love my arms, abs, legs, butt, strength. Since not being as active and able to workout like I used to, not eat the same as I used to and with the medication I am on….my body has changed. I am feeling better mentally than I was last year as I am learning to love me and my body again… but it has been a struggle. I was so mad at ‘my body’ for failing me. I was so angry and felt like my healthy lifestyle was a total waste. I am thankful now, and think differently. If I didn’t have the healthy lifestyle I would have been more ill and unable to deal with this darn Lupus. I loved the body I created from working out and eating well. To be honest, I feel like I have lost my identity as a trainer. My body was proof of my lifestyle. Sounds crazy but this is how I feel. In the last few months I have made some mental breakthroughs and am learning that I am just as strong (even stronger) than I ever was. I work out daily and do what I can. I always eat healthy and that is all I can do.
What do I love about my body? My smile and positive outlook.

I love my body because it carried and delivered my children with such health and perfection, and it now allows me to hug them and chase them and carry them and love them. I am so grateful to my body for allowing me to do this that I feel like I owe my body lots of love and, in return for all it has done for me, I always really try to take very good care of it.

I love that my body has survived two major surgeries, adapted to the complications, and ultimately healed itself. I am truly amazed at its response to trauma and feel blessed that my body didn’t fail me and gave me second chances.


replace your resolutions with personal resolve

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Year-end is a marker of time and offers a natural moment to both reflect and look forward. During this time of year, it seems most people are talking about resolutions. What kinds of decisions, changes, etc. they will be making in their life beginning January first.

While these tend to be done with good intention, the truth is that most of these new year’s resolutions are quickly forgotten or broken, leaving behind a feeling of failure. While many remain entrenched in the new year’s resolution cycle, some sway in the complete opposite direction by making no resolutions. And of course, let us recognize that there are those for whom these resolutions stick.

No matter what your experience, I invite you to make this year different by replacing your resolutions with personal resolve.

What is personal resolve? A lifelong commitment to yourself. Knowing your own personal truth no matter what. It parallels the age old existential questions, “who am I?” and “what defines me?” When we know our own truth we become grounded in ourselves. Thus, less likely to become emotionally wiped out by other people or events. When we know our own truth, we make better choices and decisions, as they match our internal value system, ultimately creating more satisfaction in our lives.

This year I challenge you to get to know yourself better and to understand what makes you tick. I encourage you to cultivate your own personal resolve. Begin by noticing your actions and reactions. What gets you excited? Angry? Sad? Passionate? What are your intentions?

Take a moment and consider your own personal resolve. What do you know to be true about yourself no matter what?


Happy, Happy, Merry, Merry

Happy + merry whatever holiday you choose to celebrate. If you don’t celebrate a holiday during this time of year, chances are that you are surrounded by holiday hoopla, events, parties, food, obligations, family and friends. If you’ve chosen to skip town and managed to escape it all, have a fantastic vacation!

So for those of us who are in the midst of so-called holiday “bliss,” I’d like to acknowledge that holidays can be a difficult time for many. Frequently people experience a mix of emotions ranging from joy to sadness, from connectedness to loneliness. The best gift that you can give to yourself is to make room for these emotions to move through you and out of you. Squelching them can actually make this potentially complicated time even harder. If you feel joy and love, express it! If you feel sadness and loneliness, express that, too! Keep talking and keep sharing. You might realize that you are not alone and this, in itself, can be very powerful!

So I wish for you an authentic holiday season (that has already begun, so apologies for my tardiness!) that is replete with what makes you smile!


The Holiday Stress of a Guy with an Eating Disorder

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Photo by James Bland
(courtesy of Brian Cuban)

by guest blogger Brian Cuban!
Brian Cuban is an author whose best-selling book “Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder” chronicles his first-hand experiences living with, and recovering from eating disorders, addiction and Body Dysmorphia Disorder (BDD). Brian speaks regularly about his recovery and breaking the male eating disorder stigma.

Anyone who has suffered from an eating disorder is probably skilled in the art of hiding it from his/her loved ones and friends. Such deception is an integral part of the disorder, a part of dealing with the shame of self and fear of being discovered. For me, this caused extra stress and increased depression during the holidays. While everyone else was celebrating the love of family and the anticipation of the new year, I was worried about my disordered eating behaviors being discovered. Ashamed that I felt I had to hide my “dirty secret.” That’s what it was to me. For many years, I had no idea there were words such as “anorexia” or “bulimia.” It was just a routine I engaged in like breathing. I also knew it was not something guys were supposed to experience. It was a “girl thing.” Guys are leaders. Guys watch football on holidays. Guys don’t stick their fingers down their throat or starve themselves. This was 1979, before Karen Carpenter tragically passed away from complications related to anorexia, putting eating disorders into the national spotlight but also solidified the stereotypes of eating disorders being a female issue.

While there has been some progress since then, for the most part that perception remains unchanged. It is the perception of many men going through it. The perception of those who have heard about it and read about it. The perception of the media who report on it. The hard reality? I was anorexic, then bulimic for twenty-seven years staring in 1979. More hard reality? Depending on which study you look at, 15-25 percent of those diagnosed with eating disorders are male and recent studies have indicated that that percentage could be even higher.

For me and most other sufferers it was not about percentages. It was about loneliness and shame. I thought I was the only male suffering, especially during the holiday season. How could I feign a normal relationship with self-image and food during a time when it was deemed acceptable to not eat “normally?”

Fortunately, in 2007, I was able to begin recovery and gain control of the thoughts that led me to believe that the only normal relationship with food was through eating disorder behaviors. Through considerable amounts of therapy and self-discovery of how my childhood filled with fat shaming and bullying over my weight led to those feelings, I became able to channel them in to positive thoughts about myself and the reality of how I deal with food and self-image.

A positive thought for me is the realization that even if I eat a little too much or way too much holiday food, it’s only one or two days out of a long life filled with other days of a relatively healthy eating routine. It has no effect on what people think of me, and their thoughts are none of my business regardless. I still have tough days. Recovery is a process. During the process I have found that the following mental exercises help me avoid extra eating related stress during the holidays. Stress that can trigger unhealthy disordered eating thoughts:

  1. Going into the season I plan to have a regular exercise and eating schedule. I force myself to eat regular meals during the day. This prevents me from easing into thoughts of binging and excessive exercise. I am aware that the binging can lead to thoughts of purging. I am also aware that trying to make up for a binging session with extreme exercise routines can trigger me into an exercise anorexia mindset.
  2. I rely on the support of family, friends and my shrink. They are the primary system of trust that I developed once I realized that there is no shame in seeking treatment and speaking out about my disorder. I allow them to support me and listen to my fears without judgment. This has been one of the biggest tools of my recovery.

But the realization that it’s okay to plan for the thoughts that have plagued my past and realize they are not me is reassuring and should be for all of us who have an eating disorder. We’re all loved as individuals and there is plenty of support to be found during the holidays. If you are ashamed and worried about the stress and guilt of this time of year, seek out those who love you. Seek out those who have been where you are. We are out here. And we are ready and willing to help. You just have to step forward, even just a little one.


Destructively Fit is a TOP PICK!

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Exciting news! Destructively Fit is one of Body Local‘s TOP PICKS for fitness professional continuing education! Click here for their newsletter!

And why is Destructively Fit so important for fitness professionals?

  • An estimated 90-95% of all college students (both men AND women) diagnosed with an eating disorder belong to fitness facilities (McLean Hospital). I strongly believe that this statistic transfers to those post-college!
  • Studies estimate that up to 42% of all gym-goers struggle with a destructive relationship with exercise!

Fitness professionals are in a unique position to begin addressing these issues with their clients and even help them get connected to the support they need in order to feel better about themselves – body + soul!

Please help spread the word about this critical training necessary for everyone in the world of fitness!


thanksgiving

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As Thanksgiving approaches, now is a good time to increase your mindfulness in taking care of yourself daily and especially through the holiday season.

Some experience holidays as joyous, cheerful times to connect with family and friends. Others experience the holiday time as tense, sad and depressing. And of course, there is the huge spectrum that exists between those two experiences. But generally speaking, holiday times are usually replete with emotion. Likely, a mix of emotions.

Whatever your experience is, it is up to you to honor it. Absent of judgment. With connection and with consciousness.

And the food… when thinking of Thanksgiving food, we oftentimes conjure up images of large tables overflowing with food. For those struggling with eating disorders, or who have a more complicated relationship with food, it will undoubtedly trigger anxiety, fear and overwhelm.

When you approach this holiday season, and the many mealtimes throughout, slow down. Become mindful. Check in with yourself and notice how you are feeling both emotionally and physically. Continue to check in with yourself throughout the day, the meal, the holiday. Take a time-out if you are feeling overwhelmed. Confide in a family member, significant other or a friend. Text someone. Stay in touch with someone who knows what is going on for you and assure yourself that you are not alone.

Become curious about which emotions you honor and which you tend not to. Become curious about when you choose to honor your hunger and satiety and when you choose not to. And above all, have a meaningful Thanksgiving and make sure to give gratitude to yourself!


the Destructively Fit Online Course is ready for you!

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I want to first thank you for all of your support and encouragement with my love project, Destructively Fit.

I’m so EXCITED to share the news that the ONLINE video version is now available and endorsed for continuing education by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)!

This means that anyone, any time and anywhere can learn about how to identify and address the ubiquitous issue of eating disorders within the fitness world!

The online course can be reached from the “Courses” page on the Destructively Fit website (www.destructivelyfit.com)!

And please, take a moment to help me share the exciting news on your social media outlets and anyone you know who is interested in fitness, eating disorders and overall health + wellness!

Many, many thanks,
Jodi


awareness

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It is said that ignorance is bliss. Perhaps this can be true for the short term, but for the long term, I respectfully disagree.

Awareness affords us the opportunity of choice. Choice offers us agency in our lives. Increasing self-awareness allows for more choice and more influence in your life. It’s as simple as that!

So why does it become more complicated? The type of active awareness that I am talking about is not discretionary. While it is fun and exciting to stay aware during times of opportunity, pleasure and peaceful times, it can be more difficult to continue this awareness during times of distress.

Now it’s up to you to practice awareness. How you feel, think, see, smell, taste and sense are all part of mindfulness and these things change every minute. You can sharpen your senses enough to notice internal shifts, the dance between external happenings and your internal experiences.

Why should you? Because when we are aware of how we are doing, then we are also aware of what we need more or less of and with this awareness, we can respond accurately to promote an internal sense of soothing and satisfaction.

I’ll leave it to you. Take this moment, right now as you are reading this. Notice what you see and then notice your surroundings beyond your computer screen. What do you smell and taste? How is the temperature in the room and how does your body feel? What noises do you hear around you? What else do you notice?

Now notice how you are feeling emotionally. Are you feeling calm? Anxious? Is your heart beating quickly or does your body feel relaxed? How are your surroundings affecting you this minute?

Keep practicing and check in with yourself throughout the day (yep, every day!) and you will cultivate a healthier, more connected relationship with yourself!


no pain, no gain?

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The idea of “fitspo” (short for fitspiration / fitness inspiration) has been on my radar for a while and I’m glad that it has received increased attention over the past few months! A huge part of my attempt to address this issue, and the issue of destructive behavior in the fitness world has been the creation of Destructively Fit®. Check out the recent press and more articles about Fitspo!

For me, it’s difficult to discuss “Fitspo” without first saying something about “Thinspo” (short for thinspiration / thin inspiration). Thinspo was first found on pro-ana and pro-mia (pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia) websites that shared eating disorder tips and tricks, blogs, journals and photos of emaciated women and men reinforcing destructive ideals and behaviors, particularly eating disorders. Oftentimes, the men and women who were engaged in these websites were those with an incredibly strong link between their identity and their eating disorder and demonstrated a significant denial of self.
(note: due to the efforts of media watchdogs, most of these websites have been removed from the internet)

While some Fitspo is truly healthy and inspiring, plenty of it is unhealthy and hauntingly similar to Thinspo, offering unrealistic and damaging expectations and fitness ideals. Many of the photos are of uber-cut scantily clad men and women.

Just to give you an idea, I’ve seen many messages like these:
“do it for the thigh gap”
“eat wise, drop a size”
“do it so you don’t have to untag yourself in pictures because you look fat”

I’ve seen an abundance of these types of Fitspo tweets:
“you can’t be small if you eat it all”
lists of foods that make you less hungry
how to have a “flatter stomach”
“diet mistakes”
lots of tips + tricks that have nothing to do with fitness – at least in my opinion!

No pain, no gain? Healthy exercise is not about getting hurt. It’s about paying attention to your body. While it has always been important to maintain a balance and groundedness in your own self and your own personal health and fitness goals, it seems more important than ever to keep these things in mind and also, to manage your expectations!

Learn to recognize healthy and unhealthy messages and ALWAYS #HonorYourBody!