Fitness Protection: The Podcast | Running, Life and The Biggest Loser Controversy
The Biggest Loser is coming back. AND COACH MK IS FLAMING MAD. She has said on multiple occasions that The Biggest Loser had a huge, measurable impact on our society before it was finally cancelled in 2016. It was not a thing to train for a marathon in order to lose weight before that flaming pile of garbage blew smoke into 8 million homes each week for a totally unhealthy dose of fatphobia, fat-shaming and abuse thinly disguised as 'tough love'.
Onscreen, the show was terrible. We knew it was edited to bits but no one cared. We pretended it was real, just like Survivor and The Hills. Offscreen, we are learning that the situation was WAY worse. Producers were accused of giving THE MAGIC SKINNY PILL to contestants to accelerate weight loss on top of having them work out 5-8 hours per day on 1200 calories (or LESS) to lose weight and gain...willpower? Self-improvement??? Confidence????
We like to conflate ‘needing structure’ with ‘lacking willpower’ and it’s INANE. Coach MK hates this. Not one of these clients lacked willpower. They were not given tools for lasting success. They were doomed to fail as soon as they left the house, and Coach MK will tell you why in no uncertain terms!
Coach MK and Alex chat around their kitchen table about the one time he successfully lost a large amount of weight: how he did it, how long it took, how long he kept it off. Click HERE to watch!
Willpower is a bollocks construct. It’s lazy management. It’s lazy coaching. If someone comes to you as a coach, they are looking for structure that will assist them in succeeding. Success doesn’t come from MOAR STRUCTURE. It doesn’t come from the pressure of a BIG GOAL. It comes from wanting something enough to make space in your life for it. That’s much harder than it sounds. https://fs.blog/2017/06/habits-vs-goals/
The coahces talk about the Nightly Checklist PDF (click here to download when you sign up for our mailing list!)
Cut here, pivot to Social Media- some say it’s a productivity time-suck, Coach MK disagrees. SM has democratized marketing in ways Joy could have only dreamed of in the 1990s. Read this article carefully, “when QVC allowed her to go on tv to sell it herself.” Barriers to entry were HIGH AF. We like to pretend that all markets were perfect and cream always rose to the top, but nothing could be farther from the truth. We no longer need permission to create and sell, just look at all the things that have gone viral or spawned the growth of small businesses and ideas like the Miracle Mop. So, sure like anything else SM can be very, very bad, but the notion that it’s categorically bad is disingenuous from us since our company is possible due to social media.
This is where social media intersects with running and with weight loss: lots of folks, specifically folks who think they lack willpower will use social media to keep them on target, entering the, ahem, panopticon, hoping that being watched will change their behavior, keep them on track.
Ask any sober influencer how well that works. The thrill of tricking people, of cheating and getting away with it, of sneaking around- that is embedded in all of us to varying degrees. It can be a slippery slope from doing the work and getting the feedback, to posting the photo and getting the same feedback for less work, to falling off of the wagon completely.
NONE OF THIS IS NEW. NONE OF IT. I remember Rick Moranis’ wife in the movie Parenthood smugly stuffing her face with forbidden snack foods after a fight with her husband, that movie is from 1989. We got to go there again in Fried Green Tomatoes and see Kathy Bates’ character crying into junk food after being called a fat cow by some kid in a grocery store. These women didn’t lack willpower, they lacked agency and control. Social Media could have been a tool to re-assert some control over their lives, connect them to others having the same experiences.
I, Coach MK, stand by Sue Bird's Assessment- social media is an amplifier. Once upon a time, that amplifier lay in the hands of a select few gatekeepers- DJs like Howard Stern (back when he was starting out) on local radio, your local reporter or news anchor: you had to perform well in a small market to gain access to a larger platform.
Disordered behavior is not new. The incentives have not changed. Producers have always been trash, only caring about ratings with zero consideration of social responsibility. What’s different in the age of social media is that anyone can be a production manager or showrunner, we have the tools for success and failure in our own hands now.
WITH ALL THAT SAID- The Biggest Loser was fat-shaming garbage and needs to be forgotten. The things it did to create terrific television and tell great stories tore its contestants apart.
Sudden weight loss isn’t good for anyone. You cannot trick biology. Losing weight too quickly can be more dangerous than gaining it too quickly. Remember how my husband’s knees blew out? It was from the rapid weight loss from his crash diet, his joints couldn’t adapt. Coach MK remembers watching an interview with Matt Damon in an airport around 2003, where he described the fallout from the crash diet he undertook to get his first big role: a soldier addicted to heroin. He said something she never forgot, “that was nearly a decade ago and my metabolism STILL hasn’t recovered, my endocrinologist may never release me.” That story is what got him is next big break, though (The Rainmaker).
Would this story horrify us in a woman? As long as she loses weight, who cares about her adrenal gland or overall health? Is it noteworthy, honorable, or just what women are expected to do? Is disordered eating so common we've now normalized it? Would we read a story about a diet that nearly killed someone with horror and empathy at the forces that drove her there, or look for tips?
More questions than answers here in this episode...but all we want you to do is see the ugliness around you and realize: what's messed up is not, and has never been, you. You are spectacular and it's incredible that any of us have managed to emerge healthy and normal.