Several months after completing a “90-Day Challenge” for a supplements company, Ruby Gettinger spoke to Oprah in an episode of the OWN series, “Where Are They Now.” Ruby says she weighs 316 which is down 13lbs from the weight she recorded at the end of the “challenge” in April. The interview was interesting because she’s finally admitting that doing the reality show was causing her to put weight back on. Like doing a reality show was ever a good idea for dealing with a profoundly serious weight problem. With all the focus on “the number,” she says she would starve to get the scale to move, then binge after a weigh in. She also talked about having to disguise herself to go out for food in her own hometown of Savannah.
Ruby is now saying that she’s happy to work out regularly because she’s doing it without cameras watching or anyone telling her what to do. She says she’s losing weight with the supplement products she’s been selling online since the beginning of the year. When a person weighs over 300lbs, I have to wonder what’s going on if she could lose 50lbs through the three-month “challenge” and now just 13lbs in the last five months. She gave an interview to the Savannah newspaper recently. The one comment to the article is rather interesting. Read it here.
Making a public figure out of a person who would reach 700lbs is exploitation. A person like Ruby Gettinger is dealing with a complex set of conditions that should be treated, not put on TV. But reality television glamorized her. People believe that they relate to her even though she does not represent the typical person who deals with obesity, including those of us who are or have been into the 300s.
Biggest Loser started its new season this past week. Trainer Bob Harper described the first day in the gym as “appropriate” that contestants were throwing up and passing out. At the weigh in of course they all take their shirts off to put the rolls of fat on display.
Reality TV is anything but. There’s really no such thing. It’s not unscripted and it isn’t real life. Reality television presents weight loss under conditions that most people couldn’t duplicate in any way. People on reality shows have nothing to do but focus on their weight exclusively for weeks and months with every possible resource including full-time professional trainers. And of course there is the ever-present camera and the awareness that they are being watched by millions. Oh, just a tad bit of pressure, wouldn’t you say?
Weight loss reality television treats the struggles of overweight people as “entertainment.” Television audiences want to see fat people suffer and pay for being fat. They want to see them pushed through brutal workouts. They have a train-wreck fascination with seeing fat people humiliated and forced to admit how terrible their lives have been and how it’s all been their own fault. These shows reinforce the paradigm that people get fat because they are emotionally weak and they stay fat through their own lack of self-discipline and motivation. They also foment exceedingly unrealistic expectations. In this week’s Biggest Loser, a contestant who lost 13lbs in one week was disappointed in his results. What is the Biggest Loser really about? Never before has a television show created such a brand, selling food products, food delivery services, equipment, and books and DVDs. Every episode of the show is jammed with product placements, sponsorships, and in-show commercials. Four Biggest Loser “resorts” will give guests the ranch experience for $3000 a week. A WEEK.
People on weight loss reality shows are not an inspiration, they’re not motivational. They are placed into a manufactured and manipulated environment. We are shown what the producers want us to see. Weight loss reality shows are for ratings and selling products. It’s naive to believe they’re about “changing lives.”