Size Matters: Before and After

Tasha Fierce
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Tasha Fierce is a Black feminist writer from Los Angeles. You can follow her on Twitter at @MissTashaFierce and read more of her work on her blog, Tastefully Ratchet.


It's pretty much limited to reruns on the Style Network now, but when it was on ABC, one of my favorite shows to watch was Extreme Makeover. The show was hardcore; when they said "extreme" they meant it. From nose jobs to liposuction and body "resculpting" to butt implants, boob implants, tooth veneers and LASIK, they will turn your "ugly" into an artificially constructed version of what society deems attractive. For the fat participants on the show, an extreme weight loss plan was constructed that the participants had to complete to qualify for the plastic surgery procedures they so desperately needed. Besides the whole "carrot and stick" factor to the weight loss programs, they didn't particularly revolutionize the participant's eating and exercise habits for the long term, and if they didn't lose all the fat they were required to, they'd pretty much just liposuck that away.

They never followed up with the formerly fat participants to see if they'd been able to maintain the weight lost both through diet and through surgery. Of course you would hope that after an ordeal like that, they would be able to sustain the results. Sadly, the odds are stacked against them. On another makeover show the Style Network plays over and over (I think it's Dr. 90210, but I can't find a link), I saw a story about a 16-year-old girl who lost 80 lbs. solely through a tummy tuck and liposuction, then mentored a much larger 13-year-old girl through the same procedure by the same doctor (however, she was unable to get the surgery due to "noncompliance" with losing 10 lbs beforehand). Flash forward a year or so later, and the 16 year old girl had gained the weight back. Clearly, plastic surgery doesn't circumvent the fact that diets don't work—apparently having the fat "magically" removed from your body doesn't work either.

Let's think about what it means to live in a society where teenage girls are given the OK by both parents and surgeons to have drastic, expensive procedures done to live up to an impossible beauty standard. If we're going to talk about an obesity epidemic among young people, we have to discuss the epidemic of media bombardment with images of celebrities, male and female, with bodies that the majority of the population can never hope to attain, but are programmed to berate themselves and others for not attaining said body. And when doctors get in on the act, well, bad things happen. Things like doctors removing 80 lbs of fat from 16-year-old kids only for them to gain it back and start hating themselves again, and spurring said doctors once again to urge them to lose weight for their health.

Sometimes it's all too much.

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22 Comments Have Been Posted

Risk disclosure fail

On a somewhat related note, since you're talking about the promotion of cosmetic surgery for weight has always deeply bothered me that these shows very rarely mention the serious risks and complications associated with WLS. Nor do they point out that with things like stomach stapling, the patient has to make difficult, and permanent, dietary adjustments to get enough nutrition and avoid rupturing the stomach. WLS is starting to be marketed like...tooth whitening or other very noninvasive cosmetic procedures, instead of what it is, which is traumatic abdominal surgery.


<i>WLS is starting to be marketed like...tooth whitening or other very noninvasive cosmetic procedures, instead of what it is, which is traumatic abdominal surgery.</i>

I agree, from what I've seen -- which I'm sure is a small sample, since I just see TV I seek out online -- and I've also noticed the opposite, eg. cosmetics and clothes marketed with surgery-related language. "Give yourself a whole new body" and "learn to sculpt your face" (ick!) sound like slogans for plastic surgery, and I don't think it's accidental: in addition to stomach stapling, etc., being posited as less drastic, there also seems to be an assumption that these procedures are ideal, and thus that people want their (comparatively cheaper) beauty products to mimic the effects.

The fact that Sharon

The fact that Sharon Osbourne had the surgery when she was nowhere near an extreme state of fatness that would even make the fat shamers suggest surgery just blows my mind. It is like some kind of panacea for weight loss. And with this "gastric band" surgery that is supposed to be reversible (but I've seen shows where the stomach has grown around someone's band so it's not exactly easily removable), people are acting like you're stupid to not get it done since its SO SAFE! Which is total bullshit.

A healthy alternative

When I had BBCAmerica, I used to love watching Gillian McKeith's show "You Are What You Eat." She, armed with her Ph.D. in hollistic nutrition, would go into the homes of some VERY unhealthy individuals, and create a detox diet and exercise plan, and give them 6 weeks to follow it. The results were really good, and often she would come back later to see. It was a case of hard work and dedication making over people's lives, and done in such a way that they could continue down a healthy path. I think that show is a much healthier viewing choice than Extreme Makeover.

Yes!! My favorite part of

Yes!! My favorite part of that show was when she would show the participants a table w/ all the food they had eaten the previous week. It was always so bland, brown, and unappealing--especially in comparison to the table with the foods she wanted them to eat (lots of variety and beautiful colors).

It's all the same

How is it "much healthier"? It's no different than what's happening on <em>any</em> show where some vaguely credentialed stranger imposes their version of "health" on some unsuspecting individual who has been promised all those <a href="">fantasies of being thin</a>, if they only put all their food and nutrition needs in the hands of some freeze dried, camera ready malcontent.

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"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Vonnegut.

Uhm, because it promoted a

Uhm, because it promoted a healthier diet and lifestyle rather than surgery? I'm not personally a fan of the show, mainly because at least the Swedish host was a bit of an ass, and used/s a to spout bullshit newagey crap as much as proper science, but honestly, a bunch of the participants weren't even particularly fat by standard measures, they just had really, really bad eating habits (like a woman who drank several 2-litre bottle of diet coke a day.)

Again, how is it healthier?

Again, how is it <em>healthier</em>? All those shows do is fat shame and reinforce the "cals in/cals out" and for some people that's NEVER going to make them thin, which if thin = health, means they are never going to be 'healthy'. Also, I was being rather fatuous, because I knew you wouldn't be able to answer the question without regurgitating a bunch of fat shaming talking points. I find it hilarious that folks without any experience with fatness always think they know how to make fat folks thin.

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"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Vonnegut

If we can't agree that

If we can't agree that nutritious food and workout is healthier than liposuction, I don't think there's any point in having this discussion.
Not saying it's ideal, or good, or even objectively healthy, but it's a hell of a lot better than cutting into people.

I think the issue here isn't

I think the issue here isn't so much that Snarky thinks nutritious food and exercise is no healthier than liposuction, but that she objects to the media's framing of thinness as being equal to health.

We can all agree (I hope) that liposuction is not healthy. That being said, let's refrain from discussing the ins and outs of healthy eating habits in this space—there are plenty of other blogs out there where that conversation is more appropriate.

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You are what you eat - but not only what you eat!

"How is it "much healthier"?"

The way it was "healthier" was that the host/Dr. made up a whole new menu for the participant and required them to eat super-healthy food only, and got them to have more regular exercise. That's as far as the "health" went.

Among the many problems with the show (I've only watched the BBC ones with Dr Gillian? - is that her name?) is that they focused too much on weight loss, they went with an entire sudden change in diet (though supervised by a doctor, it's pretty unrealistic to do or expect such a thing), there was a puritan attitude about what constituted healthy food (almost like you could never eat cookies, bread, cheese, or a hot dog again).

And the shaming, oh, the shaming language the host/Dr used! Sometimes about the person, sometimes about the food they had been eating. That really bothered me. And I kinda liked the show for a while because it had fascinating reality tv elements (like the speeches telling off the participant, ritual examination of the pre-diet poo, the whining and complaining, the falling-off-of-the-wagon, the amazing-and-miraculous-turnaround, the shedding of the health problems, etc.). But then it all started bothering me too much.

But yeah, it had some of that carnival aspect -- you could look at what the participant typically ate in a week (the infamous table spread) and marvel at the badness (they picked participants who seemingly only ate meat, bread, cheese and sweets). And you could contrast and compare it to what you imagined your own table to look like, if the host/Dr barged into your life... Such is reality tv exploitainment!

So yeah, she did get people eating much much healthier food. But the way it was done-- not especially healthy in my book.

I don't really know about a

I don't really know about a "healthier viewing choice", it's not like you're personally being harmed by watching either. It's still a weight loss show. And that "hard work and dedication" crap is how people justify "The Biggest Loser". Also, when did we start talking about eating habits here?

I think she means more

I think she means more realistic. I've seen that show before, and it's not extreme weight loss, it's small and gradual, and it's more like education for people who want to eat healthier, but might not know where to start. It's so you can feel like you can do it at home.

The Biggest Loser, however, is nearly impossible to do at home. The amount they exercise, no person with a demanding full-time job could do that.

I gathered from You Are What You Eat is that it's not necessarily about weight loss perse, (and where I think snarky was misunderstanding) is that it's for people seeking help on how to eat better. The show isn't saying that thin = healthy, it's saying that eating right and exercising = healthy. Which you can't argue against.

I am really getting tired of

I am really getting tired of the band-aid approach to health care.
I had seen an article,(possibly through here) about Dr's prejudicing against 'obese' people.
Shortly thereafter,I accompanied a friend to her Dr's office because she was too afraid to speak up on her own.Every time she had a health problem that doctor would tell her she was too fat and that if she got bypass surgery she would be fine.
She even requested (with my help) what she would like to do about her weight problem,and asked for counseling and psychiatric help with underlying issues that were most likely hindering her ability to achieve a safe and effective diet.
Her doctors answer....'A psychiatrist will do nothing for you but give you the band-aid of pills and kick you out the door after 1 visit.Your diet and exercise are too late and a useless effort.The only way for you to be healthy is to get a bypass surgery.'...Who is the one offering a band aid here..????!!!

Yeah, that's pretty messed

Yeah, that's pretty messed up.

I know of only one woman who

I know of only one woman who has had the stomach-band surgery done, and, because of the serious constraints it puts on her eating habits, as well as the threat of the thing rupturing (I don't actually know the exact likelihood of that happening, but she worries about it, and frankly I do, too), she deeply regrets the choice.

It seems like the "band-aid" surgeries like the Lap-Band, etc. provide is not so much for physical problems but psychological ones, eh?


I meant "I know only one woman," as in I know her personally, not "I know OF only one woman." Sry.

When I was fifteen, I lost

When I was fifteen, I lost about 60 pounds. I don't know what factor made me lose it, or if it was a combination of many (puberty, a hard break up, better eating habits, spending more time outside moving around, etc.). Now, three years later, I've gained all of the weight (and more) back.
One of the things they don't address in drastic weight loss TV shows is that, a lot of the times, you don't feel any better afterwards. I felt as fat and ugly as I did when I was larger. I didn't feel like the weight loss showed on my body at all.
Sure, it was probably healthier for my body, but my emotions were the same. Losing the weight doesn't automatically make you feel beautiful.

I absolutely agree

I've been on the yo-yo a few times and am currently living in the middle of my two highest and lowest weights. What I found is that there is a lot of pressure internally and externally to either be losing weight or gaining weight and then something propels me to go back in the opposite direction and start the cycle all over again. But there isn't much excitement or good feeling when you're just staying the same, which is so much harder to do at any weight.

Amazing article I really

Amazing article I really appreciate It. I was searching this kind of info now I got it. There are all concept of health is very crucial for health life
Regards <a href="">Mike</a>

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