A lot of the blowback I get from talking about my experience and my stance about TBL comes couched in accusations of “negativity” and “anger.” I find when people do not like your stance or if you touch a nerve that they resort to things like accusing you of taking things personally or being defensive. Since this is my Blog and I can say what I like here (I ❤️ you interwebz) I thought I would issue a general response to this. In addition, bear in mind I don’t and never have made my living from my association TBL:
1. “Kai, can’t you look at the positive? TBL gave you a platform to reach and inspire lots of people?”
Yes, it did give me that opportunity. It also gave me the “opportunity” to misrepresent health, participate in sending a message that being overweight made it ok to be shamed, and to further discourage a lot of already discouraged people. I try to counteract that today with the message I give out when asked to do interviews or on social media. I’m very positive about nourishing your body and spirit and that “healthy” doesn’t have a size.
2.”I’m glad I did it/watch it because it inspires so many people and because I’m not negative I focus on that.”
That’s great, sincerely, I’m glad you are able to reconcile your participation in it internally with that perspective and turn it into something positive for you- as have I. I work very hard to spread the positive message that we all deserve to be treated with love and nurturing no matter our size. See, for me if the price of inspiring a lot of people comes at the expense of one single person resorting to anorexic type behaviors, bulimic type behaviors, excessive exercising or any other self harming behaviors? That price is too high for me. I’m not demanding you feel the same, this is how I feel.
3. “The show gives good advice, and provides weight loss help!”
It very may well do those things, however it sends a mixed message by also showing obese people being worked out until vomiting, degrading challenges, reducing complex emotional issues into sound bites, and having contestants wear demeaning attire that only changes when weight is lost. I believe the “helpful” message is lost in all these other factors. I personally choose to advocate for more healthy depictions in the media of what taking care of yourself should look like.
4. “Who are you to talk about it? I lived it too/watch the show and I feel very differently!”
Who I am is someone who believes she made a very grave mistake and after more life experiences and education is trying to remedy that mistake by speaking out about how the practices proliferated as healthy on TBL are repeatedly decried as psychologically and physically harmful by thousands of doctors and health professionals everywhere. I agree with them.
5. “If you hated it so much and it was awful why do you still talk about it?”
This is the silliest question to me. If something is continuing to represent unhealthy activities- exercising to excess- as healthy and shaming overweight people to this day, why wouldn’t I still talk about it? If my saying, “Hey! This is wrong! I was wrong!” Makes one person go, “Oh, the problem isn’t me, it’s this show.” Then speaking up is the right thing to do- for me.
6. “I don’t care that you use the facts of your experience or site scientific peer reviewed journal articles backing your stance, this is all the science I need? *followed by picture of oneself after massive weight loss*”
Just, NO. I honestly, can’t.
7.. “People make the choices they do to win the money, they can always gain the weight back if it’s too drastic! They know what they’re signing up for!”
This “point” here brings up lots of things that bear discussion. I believe there are moral and ethical issues being ignored by turning someone’s health into a game show. I believe that even more so when the incentive isn’t “get as healthy as you can as fast as you can as indicated by a myriad of medical markers for health” but is instead “lose as much weight as you can as fast as you can.” The demographic of people selected to participate in this are already to some degree physically and socially vulnerable by virtue of the distorted view our society has about weight as an indicator of health, and this makes the whole “people know what they’re signing up for” point tricky. Is it really being fully informed if there is a systemic acceptance of fat shaming and a philosophy that no matter the cost to your body, dignity and mind, the end result is you’re thin and have money so it’s worth it? I personally don’t think so. I think there is a underlying message of worthlessness associated with obesity and poverty, this show and it’s premise prey on that attitude. If no one tells you you don’t have to buy into that rhetoric, that maybe you can be the healthy you want to be and not be shamed every step of the way or that healthy looks different for everyone, then how are you fully informed?
I honestly do not understand viewers/other former contestants that get so angry that I don’t agree with the show. I’m not saying you should feel the way I do, or that your experience is the same, I’m saying that this is my stance based on my experiences during and after the show and because of my education since the show. That’s all. Much love. I hope you find peace. ❤️