I tend to refrain from writing something until I have something to say (not my natural mode of operandi, I assure you). However, I am quite chuffed to announce that I lost another 800 grams this week (1.76 pounds), bringing my January total to 2.7 kilos (5.94 pounds). Chuffed graduated to jolly, especially after spotting what suspiciously looked like an emerging collar bone in a window reflection!
As clever as I felt yesterday, the immanent arrival of a brand spanking new series of The Biggest Loser due to hit Australian screens, filled me with a mild case of trepidation. How such an arguably crappy program could provoke such an emotion says something significant about both my intelligence and my viewing tastes. I dabble in ABC (BBC equivalent) viewing when my husband is in the room but tend to mute the volume and switch to the nearest reality program while he’s on the toilet. I mute it of course, because I’m still trying to hide the fact that I’m not as interested in world news, culture and general knowledge as I once made him think, even if that was seven years ago. I’m addicted to crappy viewing, like I’m addicted to crappy food. I’m working on both.
But the show that really sends me running to the screen is and always has been, The Biggest Loser (which my husband has eloquently nick-named “Fatty Fatty”). Years ago, even as a slip of a thing (seriously, that never happened), I’d watch it late on a Wednesday night when most normal people were asleep, espousing its virtues to all my friends on the following days. The Australian version has since become somewhat of a summer-schedule-staple in the past few years.
Consider first that I have inserted a clever and interesting argument about the perils of reality television and the social voyeurism it stimulates. Now, having been blown away by all that…let me get onto the real reason why even the teeniest of fans can be found glued to the screen and phoning their fatter counterparts in a froth of interest (but usually laughter)!
The “game” in itself is made up of a series of humiliating and dehumanising exercises designed to highlight contestant flaws with a good side slap of “you can do it, don’t give up and live you best life!” yelled from a muscular gym junkie standing above them. Producers love to pit these obese contestants against each other in physical battles of uncompromising positions, such as commando crawls through mud or sand, with camera shots rights up their behinds, as they struggle to get up off their knees. Heaven forbid that their shirt rides up throughout the battle, because the cameraman is directed to shoot an HD wide landscape shot of the flabby overhang.
If that wasn’t all enough, think of the “Temptations”! Some episodes will detail a full half hour where contestants are placed at a table choc-a-block (mind the pun) full of sweet and savoury treats, tempted to consume as much as they can in order to save themselves from elimination or secure themselves an overseas holiday. Talk about mixed-messages! Eat and win the prize, eat to save yourself, eat and suffer a tirade of abuse from your trainer, eat and get fat! And then at the end of the week, we’ll put you in underwear and make you weigh in for national broadcast.
Having said all that, you will probably find me on Sunday nights, eating my dinner and pointing at the screen, screaming “Look, look!”, just in case my husband missed the slow motion replay of an obese contestant falling off the treadmill. Directly after the hum of uplifting closing credits play, I’ll then be found reliving salient moments over the telephone with my tiny sister, who I assure you, will experience equal delight in the difficulties these poor people endure.
And why, oh why, would these people go through this? Voluntarily put their hands up to be humiliated and patronised by producers and trainers? Because their desperation to be skinny, and I optimistically hope healthy, overrides their good sense. This good dollop of desperation only serves to make better viewing for us all.
But this week, when the premiere screens, I am hopeful that I don’t see my reflection. More to the point, I’m scared that I will definitely see my reflection. A young woman, my height, my weight, on a television program advertised to “save these peoples lives”, will only further illustrate the state of my ill health and obesity. Each grunt, bend, crouch and sweat pearl will make me ask the question- is that what my husband sees when he looks at me? And while 800 grams (1.76 pounds) is an achievement for me, I no doubt will compare myself to those losing weight much faster, along with ever widening smiles.
So let us not deny it any further. Many love the embarrassment, love to feel they are superior to those with weight problems, and many find the disability associated with obesity funny in a way that alcoholism and drug abuse is not.
And maybe it’s an act of self-preservation, but when I say “Many”, I mean “Me”.
And maybe, at the end of the day, I’m actually laughing at myself.
And maybe, that’s the saddest part of all.