January 14, 2013 by Darlene McC
An Open Letter to Our Amazon Crew
A few weeks ago when we were previewing our projects for 2013 I said we’d start reviewing Biggest Loser this season. We were all excited about the idea and thought it could be a lot of fun – make dinner together, cuddle up on the couch with my cat, and live tweet it together, right? One big Urban Amazon & TBL love fest.
Well… not so much.
Since Urban Amazon started I’ve wanted it to be a positive place. I’ve wanted a home where women could come for reliable health and fitness advice and not feel like they weren’t <blank> enough. Good enough or skinny enough. Flat-stomached and big-titted enough. Where the shape of your eyebrows didn’t matter (see this month’s Women’s Health if that confuses you… or better yet, don’t.) Where whatever you bring with you is all you need. My response to last weeks 2 night TBL premiere isn’t really fitting that vision.
I’ve only watched one full season of The Biggest Loser before. It was while I was in training school and every week I would nose up to Hulu and soak in the process. I would watch Bob Harper with awe, praying for the day that I got to help someone realize their potential. Every time someone lost a big number I would cheer and every time someone accomplished a task they didn’t think they could I would cry with them. (And when Ramone and Jessica hooked up I was so very happy!) I watched their workouts with awe and excitement, so proud of the way the contestants would grow as people, too.
But that was a season without Jillian Michaels. This is not that season.
There are as many different ways to train as there are trainers in this world. Each one of us creates a unique blend of our personal style, the education we receive, our certifications, and the environment we work in. I would never tell another trainer how to do their job just like I wouldn’t Ann what to do for her EATS post next week. That’s not my place and who the hell am I to say any different?
However, what I watched in the episodes last Sunday and Monday is not ‘training’ as I know it. It is not what I or my colleagues do for a living, nor what I signed up for when I decided to be a health and wellness coach. There are so many things wrong with just the first 5 minutes of them being in the gym, let alone both episodes. I have been having trouble writing this post ever since.
I understand that this is a TV show for ratings. I get that they’re playing it up for drama, and the drama of her yelling at these people and then them getting kicked off it “better” to some people than before. But it’s like the selection episode of American Idol for an entire season.
What I say was a person set up other people who’ve had a sedentary lifestyle so they would fail at a task, then berate them for it.
I saw that person talk down to these contestants like they were nothing, like they had failed at life. No doubt many of them are successful parents, business people, and members of their communities who just happen to have not been successful at weight loss. That doesn’t make them pathetic, that means they need her help.
I saw a group of people make themselves incredibly vulnerable and then be beaten down almost immediately.
I saw someone convincing a national audience that this is what training is supposed to be like. That if you aren’t puking in the first workout you aren’t doing it right.
And I’m scared that I saw someone setting an example for up and coming trainers that they are allowed to treat their clients like garbage.
I have been a little distraught over this. For many months I have looked up to Jillian. I listened to her podcasts and followed her tweets. I have bought magazines to read her interviews. One friend who watched TBL for the first time last week texted me “I can’t believe you looked up to her!” I can’t either. I just didn’t understand what they meant when they said she was a hard ass. I didn’t know!
And so I’ve decided that Urban Amazon is not really the place to glorify The Biggest Loser; at least not this season. I’m sad to have lost a female trainer I could admire, and disappointed in NBC that they have also glorified her methodology. I don’t understand the people who try to justify her actions with a “tough love” explanation. They used to say that about hitting your wife and kids, too.
Love is not what I saw. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts if you have any.