This week I devoted around an hour, ignoring the complaints of my spouse, to watching "The Biggest Loser" on TiVo. An ad for it must have come on while I was watching the evening news or something; intrigued and horrified, I set it to record. And I'm so glad I did. Look, sure: I could have done something possibly more "productive" with that hour of my life. I could have read a book, which I did immediately thereafter, or made a list, or put something away, or paid some bills. Sure, I could have.
Instead I spent an hour stewing in a blend of compassion and inspiration, brought to me courtesy of my local cable provider. As a confirmed fat-ist, I needed that.
I'm not saying I'm proud of being a fat-ist. I could say I blame my mother and her constant dieting throughout my youth. The bookcase next to the table in our kitchen growing up contained more diet books than cookbooks. Name a whack 70s diet and she tried it: eating so many eggs that she broke out in a rash, surviving on pineapple, drinking cases of diet chocolate soda, going proto-vegan with Atkins. There were boxes of Dexatrim in the junk drawer, boxes, open, no thought that curious kids might swallow them. It's not her fault, of course. I jest. The culture contributed, as did my competitive running and my friends -- we thought nothing of running 7 miles in the morning, then counting our way through 500 calories for the rest of the day. I would visualize roughly what a cup of food would look like on the plate and endeavor to serve myself and eat only that much -- just a cup, think of how small your stomach actually is. It's a wonder I could walk around those days, let alone run, nutritionally-deprived teen zombie egghead.
It's probably because I come from that place of trying on every get-thin-quick fad, doing whatever it takes to stop the creep of the big ass, that I have such a terrible judgy thing about The Fat. Believe me, I know this is true because that terrible judgy thing gets turned on my own self the most, especially now that I'm perimenopausal and this body is responding in unexpected, novel ways.
I am not proud of it, but I admit it: I'm a fat-ist. I'm always working on it.
So, "The Biggest Loser." Such a funny American phenomenon, don't you agree: competitive weight loss. And remarkable to see men who were over 400 pounds become healthy, strong shadows of their former physical selves, pumped up with excitement about what their remarkable bodies can do. The exercise in compassion has been hearing the stories of how they ended up so big, how long they've been that way, all the ways in which it has impacted their lives and their health. The opportunity for inspiration has been their re-discovery of their physical selves, their love affair with their muscles and strength and will. That part makes me cry -- to see a formerly enormous unhealthy unhappy person yield way to a compact smiling dynamo ready to take on the world. With all that extra stuff melted away, how clearly they radiate out their playful excitement! It's like they're high on their own fitter selves, giddy, adorable.
It's a sad testimony to the epidemic of obesity in this country, too -- the prevalence of bad food choices, the ignorance of the self -- and yet holds up a mirror and the possibility. Where these people go, so can you.
That hour did me good, I'm not kidding, even with Joe joking in the background that he wants to be on "The Smallest Loser." In a way, it's one of the greatest things about tv, the way it drops into the middle of your life something you'd otherwise never see with your own eyes, some experience you yourself haven't personally had which, watching it, you take in. It becomes you.
Like the 15,000 steps, a little factoid that's been with me since the other night's viewing. Did you know that we used to walk around 15,000 steps in a day and now we walk around 3,000? This is a huge contributor to how unhealthy people are, this reduction in just basic human movement. Since hearing that, I'm seriously thinking about all of my steps and particularly savoring the morning walk with Mr Burns which gets me a large way toward the daily goal. But without being obsessy about it.
It really is constant work and care, having this body, and constant celebration, too. Yeah, you can pooh-pooh me for my lowbrow tv intake, but whatevs, I know that actually, I'm better for that hour -- more in love with people and with the gift of this physical incarnation. That's a really great feeling.
One I'll take with me out the door right now, as I head out for the first of many thousands of steps today, carrying in my mind the image of others and their suffering and triumphs. Oh, it's so great to be alive.