Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Perhaps not surprisingly, The Biggest Loser has ignited lots of debate about body image, body shaming, health, bullying, obesity and other important issues. I read this piece on The Hoopla (and the comments) with great interest. There’s other great pieces floating about the inter webs too. I am sure you have heard chatter online or in real life.
I’m really conflicted about the show. On one hand I think that the people who choose to take part passionately want to change their lives and see TBL as a way to do that. I can see that making an extremely public commitment to lose weight is a huge incentive to follow through. I can see that being out of your comfort zone and in the hands of professionals is a guarantee of some level of success in the ‘weight loss journey’. I can see all those positives. Go them.
On the other hand, I wonder about kids consenting to being on TV (and whether they actually know what they’re getting themselves in for, in the long run.) I wonder about people who are obviously feeling very vulnerable being so very exposed (perhaps to inspire or educate us… but probably just to entertain us.) I wonder about what happens in the long-term and how the contestants are supported emotionally and physically when the cameras stop rolling. (I worry a lot.)
All these wonderings point to much bigger issues which affect us all. How we see ourselves and others. Bodies as commodities. Bodies as a spectator sport. Body acceptance. What is healthy and what is not? What is beautiful? What is commercial fodder and what is not?
It’s those issues that concern me even more than The Biggest Loser.
Truth be told, I think the Body Snatchers have taken over. It’s a lot confusing and a little bit Zombie apocalypse. I think the incessant media focus on bodies over brains, happiness and health has pushed us to this point. Bodies are boss. (Apparently.)
How we filter all these mixed messages is beyond me*. (Why we even need to be told about some of them is mysterious, too.)
It’s confusing being a person. It’s confusing having our own likeable, healthy body. I think this confusion makes us red flag anything (hello The Biggest Loser!) that might be putting people’s bodies in the spotlight.
We don’t want to glorify, exploit or degrade, but it’s hard to know what even constitutes those things, because emotions come into play. We have our own feelings about our own bodies. We have our own feelings about fellow humans. We want to protect ourselves and others. We want to ensure that we’re judged on ourselves, not our outer layer. And we want that for others too.
I guess what I’m saying is this: we need to focus in and respect our own feelings about our own bodies. We need to listen to ourselves and work out what feels like a healthy, likeable body to us. We need to respect that everyone feels differently about the skin they are in too. Some of us are resilient and content. Some of us are not. Some of us have a daily struggle to accept the way we look. Others don’t. It’s super personal and it’s not something to be packaged up and sold to us. (Hello 2 Day Diet!)
In some ways, our bodies are just what houses the other good bits of us. In other ways they are the very core of our existence. The point is our bodies are really important. We need to not let our bodies become a commodity or something to divide us. Let’s not let people tell us what to do with our own fleshy bits and pieces.
My feeling is that we should not pretend that our living, breathing outers are just another thing to be renovated and agonised over. When it comes to health, fitness, shape and happiness we are all unique. It’s not formulaic. It’s not like choosing tiles or putting in a new splash back. We are not a ropes course or a cliff jump or 12 chapters of diet plans or a calorie count or a measurement.
Who cares about a quick renovation if the foundations haven’t been reinforced? Living in our bodies is totally personal, life-long project, meant to be tackled in our own unique way. Learning to live in our bodies takes time and care.
If they want to talk about this kind of Body Snatching stuff on telly or in the mags, good luck to them if everyone involved is happy with that. I’m not watching or reading, though. I’m too busy thinking about good things to do for my body (and brain… and friends… and pets… and family!)
I think we should snatch back our bodies, for ourselves…
* (I think: Do not read anything that tells you your body can/should be different! Focus on working out who and how you want to be instead.)