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Clean and Jerk —

September 9, 2013

Weight LossFat HealthExerciseDickweedDiet Talk

Trigger warning: All about weight loss.

There’s nothing quite as heartbreaking as watching an outspoken advocate for self-acceptance and body love make a complete 180 degree turn and begin promoting the status quo of “Get thin quick!” and “Get your new body now!” It feels like the ultimate betrayal, an abandonment of what once seemed an integral part of that person’s core strength and conviction. How can a person love themselves unconditionally and express such unwavering self-confidence one day, only to turn around and speak Dietese the next?

Carrie Fisher Middle Finger

“BLOW MY BIG BOVINE tiny dancer COCK!”

Here at Fierce, Freethinking Fatties, we experienced our first great disappointment with Carrie Fisher. As you may recall, Fisher flipping the finger used to be our patron saint, as she graced our header with gleeful abandon. Fisher unapologetically told the fat haters who whinged about her bygone gold bikini days to shut the fuck up and get the fuck out. Her profane pride struck a chord with me, personally, and I upheld her as a model of radical self-acceptance. Carrie Fisher was the fucking bomb.

That was until Fisher turned her body over to Jenny Craig in 2011 and became their latest of eight or nine celebrity guinea pigs who would be propped up as PROOF that Jenny Craig works. One year later, Fisher regained the weight, and a year after that she is now undergoing a second weight loss attempt in preparation for the new Star Wars trilogy. So much for self-acceptance.

I wrote about my disappointment at the time of Fisher’s announcement for Jenny:

Here’s the thing: as I’ve said countless times, I completely understand why she’s doing this. If the success of your career, if the amount of money you are capable of making, is dependent upon your weight (and that is exactly what agents and promoters tell their clients), then the incentive to pursue weight loss, even to the detriment of your health, is strong.

Add to that the financial incentives of becoming the spokesperson for Jenny Craig, and I really don’t hold it against Carrie. If she’s not aware of Health at Every Size, then being paid to lose weight has got to seem like a pretty sweet deal.

The same holds true for this second weight loss attempt. Fisher’s beloved Princess Leia is returning and producers reportedly told Fisher and co-star Mark Hamill that they want them “as close to their appearance in the earlier movies as possible.” They are no doubt paying Fisher handsomely for her efforts, and the opportunity to reprise her most famous role would no doubt make the decision that much easier for her.

Sadly, the same dynamics are at work for another one of our idols, Olympic weightlifter Holley Mangold, who has joined the 15th season of The Biggest Loser.

Holley Mangold

Clearly Holley is out-of-shape and needs help.

We’ve been covering Holley’s weightlifting career since early 2012, and I even had the pleasure of interviewing her about competing in the 2012 Olympics in London, as well as her upbringing as a fat athlete. Watching Holley compete, despite a sprained wrist, was the highlight of the Olympic games for many of us, as we got to witness a fellow fatty performing at the highest athletic level. Of course, we also discovered that there were at least a hundred other Olympians who defied the lean stereotype of the international athlete.

So, why does Holley’s weight loss hurt so bad?

For one, you all know how I personally feel about Biggest Dickweed, as I covered season 14 exhaustively. The show is exploitative, misleading, and unhealthy in every sense of the word. Contestants are pushed to their breaking point, then beyond it. When those contestants actually do break, their injuries are blamed on the contestant’s weaknesses and faults, rather than callous trainers who only care about the number on the scale. There is absolutely nothing healthy about Biggest Dickweed. NOTHING. It is universally recognized as a hateful representation of fitness and health, yet it has somehow gotten the stamp of approval from none other than the First Lady, Michelle Obama, who stabbed Americans in the back with her shameless appearance.

This is why Holley’s participation hurts worse than Fisher’s Jenny Craig shill, in my opinion. It’s not that Holley’s attempting to lose weight, it’s that she’s lending her credibility and her reputation to a show that promotes dangerous and unhealthy practices. If you want to become an Olympian, you don’t listen to Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper. Fuck them. They’re only in it to win the gladiatorial weight loss competition. And yet, here’s Holley, spending months at the Ranch, skipping the Pan American Championships and the World University Games, to turn her body over to the worst physical trainers on Earth, where she will eat less than 1,200 calories a day while vigorously exercising for 42 hours per week.

TBL Team

On the Ranch, your number matters more than your abilities.

And why? So that, in her own words, she can prove that she can be the “in-shape, smaller girl” she’s always wanted to be. Mind you, Holley has been heavy since she was a child and she has always used her size to her advantage. That’s how she was able to get her varsity letter on the boys’ football team in high school. Holley never let her size determine what she could and couldn’t do. She found what she could do and she did it. That was an amazing message and one that kids of all shapes and sizes needed to hear.

Now, Holley’s message is that being thin is something worth proving. Forget joining the Olympic team after a few short years of training, forget defying injury and doubt to place 10th, forget busting your ass with the body you have to accomplish your dreams. What really matters? Getting smaller.

Hearing this from Holley hurts. It hurts bad.

And Biggest Dickweed knows it.

We already know that companies like Special K are eager to exploit the language of Body Acceptance to sell it’s magical skinny flakes, so it should be no surprise that Jenny Craig wanted Carrie Fisher to renounce her self-acceptance or that TBD wanted Holley to go from proud fat girl to Jillian’s rented mule. There’s no more powerful message than to witness an outspoken advocate for self-acceptance essentially say, “Nevermind, I was wrong, weight loss was the real answer all along.”

And Holley admits it was NBC who approached her in this interview. Holley wasn’t searching for someone to save her, TBD needed her. The question is, why would Holley say yes?

There’s no way to know what went into Holley’s decision, but there are circumstances that help us understand it a little better. Most prominently, Holley has spoken openly about her financial struggles and has repeatedly reached out for help raising money to go to competitions. Unlike the traditionally slender and attractive Olympic athletes who can sign lucrative endorsements to fund their trip, Olympians like Holley must resort to self-funding, as well as begging and pleading for support from fans. We helped promote Holley’s t-shirts to raise money for the London Olympics. Later, her efforts fell short when she raised less than $1,000 of her $5,000 goal to attend the World University Games.

Considering that NBC carries both Biggest Dickweed and the Olympic games, this arrangement should come as no surprise. Holley needs money and TBD needs legitimacy. It was a match made in Hell. Personally, I’m curious how much NBC offered Holley. We already know that Biggest Dicweed paid season 3 contestants a $500 weekly stipend, so how much was it worth to turn Holley to the Dark Side?

And who knows, maybe it didn’t take much pushing. Maybe Holley was simply pretending to be self-confident all along (although I seriously doubt it… if there’s one thing that comes through, it’s Holley’s authenticity). Maybe Holley saw this as a golden opportunity to achieve something she always thought was impossible. We’ll never know. But we do know that when someone spends the bulk of their career promoting one message, then turns on a dime, it’s called selling out.

In my post on Fisher, I included the following song from Tom Lehrer:

The verse that we should all keep in mind when considering Holley’s situation is this:

It’s so nice to have integrity, I’ll tell you why
If you really have integrity It means your price is very high
So remember when you start to preach and moralize
That we all are in the game, and brother its name is compromise

As I said in the case of Fisher, I understand why Holley did this. I’m not going to judge her personally for her decision. She was in a difficult position and NBC approached her to promote its  weight loss show. Holley compromised in order to achieve her personal goal of reaching the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and I wish her all the best in her career. But I cannot in good conscience continue to support her career. I can’t. The compromise she made runs counter to everything I believe in. I don’t think Holley is a bad person for accepting this compromise, but I certainly don’t have to support her for it. The message Holley’s compromise sends, both in terms of her previous messages of self-acceptance and her endorsement of Biggest Dickweed, are too much for me to turn a blind eye.

The one thing I will be curious to see is how weight loss affects Holley’s performance. In my interview with her, she explained how her weight was an advantage in weightlifting. Does that mean losing weight will have a negative impact? I have no idea, but we shall see.

Also, given Holley’s genetic inheritance, how difficult will it be for her to lose weight and maintain that loss for three years? Because it sure seems like the whole point of this endeavor from NBC’s perspective is to get Holley as thin as possible (despite having a high proportion of muscle) and keep her thin until she competes in Rio. One thing is for certain: it will be a constant struggle for Holley to train for the Olympics at the same time as she is severely restricting her diet.

I haven’t decided whether I will watch and review season 15, but I am curious how TBD will treat Holley. For instance, we already know she’s strong, so will they focus on Holley’s cardio work to show that she wasn’t really in shape since she can’t run a five-minute mile? Because the one thing TBD will want to “prove” to the audience is that you can’t be fat and fit. But how will they do that with a woman who already works out nearly every single day?

While we wait for this grotesque experiment to play out, we should turn our attention and admiration from Holley, and instead focus on some of the other fat Olympians who will be in Rio in 2016; athletes profiles aren’t big enough to attract NBC’s attention, but whose performance will nonetheless be inspiring.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2013 12:25 pm

    This one does really hurt. But thanks, atchka, for your compassionate and clear-headed analysis.

  2. September 9, 2013 12:30 pm

    Shannon,

    I cannot speak for Holley. I can understand why it hurts. Because I’m more unusual then most size acceptance and fat acceptance advocates, because I also still co-exist in the weight loss surgery community as a long term weight loss surgery patient who had complications, but as a means of support and resource without advocating for any of the weight loss surgeries.

    We see people come and go in SA/FA who do try to lose weight and or then choose to have weight loss surgery and we think of them as “sell outs”. I’m not justifying because I can’t speak for you or for Holley but I have to say it may have been in her case, as much as she tried to be an example for size and fat acceptance, I don’t think her going TBL, is financially motivated. I think with a lot of people who cycle in and out of SA/FA, they are looking to finally accept themselves as they are, but in the end, they want to take up less space in a society no matter how great their achievements are, in the end they can’t accept the acceptance within themselves, and they go on to either have weight loss surgery or do something like Holley is, going on the TBL.

    She should know better as an athlete what a diet and exercise regimen on the ranch or at home is going to do to her body. It’s going to go into starvation mode. She’ll probably lose a lot of muscle mass on such as stringent caloric intake. She’s probably thinking that though this will be her one and only hope to get smaller working with “world renowned obesity experts” (barf) in making her even fitter and better then wining an Olympic gold medal, she’ll finally be thin. She might get thin, how fit and thin she’ll remain, will be dependent upon how long she agrees to punish her body to maintain the ability to take up less space.

    I’ve never been able to watch TBL. I think it’s horrible, even though I understand given the type of advocacy I do, of seeing many people being desperate not to have the fat stigmatization we do by engaging in dangerous means to lose adipose. That’s why I give you and so many of our peers, your relentless work in trying to remove the stigma and the bigotry. I think HAES(tm) is great, but it’s not even something I follow even though I recommend it.

    In the end though, I feel sorry for her that she felt the need to do this. While it’s her life and it’s in the end up to her to do what she wants with her body, she already appeared to be in great health. Giving a television show like TBL her body and her story to twist and turn, in the end saying it’s impossible for someone to be fit and fat, I feel upset about, but have to realize it’s her choice to make and I don’t think it’s meant to be at the expense of the support she’s received from SA/FA.

    I think doing this will hamper her ability as an athlete, greatly. But no matter how eloquently you put it, or any of our mutual peers, can be upset or concerned on what she is doing, in the end the choice is obviously hers. It will only though be a matter of time, to see if she made the right decision she did. In the meantime, those of us who find these methods repugnant, should still keep fighting. But just like anyone who does a 180, I don’t have to support her, I can worry about her, but in the end realize that it’s her body, it her life and as sad as I am that she’s willing to torture her body like this, I can only hope for her, it accomplishes what she thinks she is setting out to do.

    But truthfully, while if it’s something she feels she must do, she won’t know until a couple of years from now, of what harm she’s subjected herself to (that’s if she doesn’t get horribly sick on the ranch), and the potential of not being able to compete like she has in the past, by choosing to go on the show, but that’s something she’s going to have to find out the hard way……….. Peace, Lisa

  3. September 9, 2013 1:42 pm

    Shannon, the news about Holley saddened me, too. I loved her attitude, the twinkle in her eye, her mischievous smile, and everything I saw about her leading up to the ’12 Olympics. To hear that she’s decided to go on TBD brought tears to my eyes. But…I do understand, especially if it’s financially motivated. Athletes in less glamorous sports, especially female athletes, don’t get the lucrative endorsement contracts that other glamorous athletes do. It costs money to train, to travel, to compete, and that money does not grow on trees. If she did it in order to get money in the bank for training and competing, she did what she had to.

    If she’s doing it for other reasons, for the need to appear smaller, my heart breaks a little more. Yes, it’s her body and what she does with it is her business, but I can’t help but feel sad and even a bit disappointed when I see another fat person who seemed to be a beacon in the darkness of a perpetually dieting world, decide that they want to look like everyone else and be accepted by a narrow-minded, shallow society. Most of all, I hope that this does not damage her ability as an athlete.

  4. September 9, 2013 2:20 pm

    Reblogged this on Sly Fawkes and commented:
    Ugh. I’m saddened to hear that Holley Mangold made this choice. She was clearly a healthy person with a big physique. Dieting screws up your metabolism for life (take it from someone who yo-you dieted from the time they were in their teens until they were in their mid forties.) Diet foods are often unhealthy and taste like a cardboard box. (Special K, anyone?)
    At least Special K didn’t screw up my digestion. I can’t say that about Slim Fast. I’m not the only one who has had this experience.
    I have a co-worker who ranges from average weight to a teeny bit plump. He’s been trying to lose weight for years, and it always comes back in spite of the fact that he exercises diligently.
    This fellow tried Slim Fast five years ago. To this day, he still has to take medication for IBS. He never had this problem before the Slim Fast routine.
    I agree with Atchka that the decisions of both Carrie Fisher and Holley Mangold are based on internalized fat hatred. We are told from day one that being fat is THE WORST THING EVER. Nobody stops to look at overall health.
    Shaming people for lack of health doesn’t work either. But the Great Satan that is the multi-billion dollar diet industry doesn’t care. They want people to stay on the merry-go-round, trying diet after diet that doesn’t work, and hating themselves for who they are. They certainly couldn’t shill their shit to people who loved themselves.

  5. September 9, 2013 7:16 pm

    Wouldn’t it be something if Holley intentionally joined That Show (which I have never watched and whose name I refuse to utter) in order to show the world that a fat woman can be an Olympic class athlete and can blow the competition and the trainers away without losing weight?

    OK, I know that’s a fantasy, and even if that WAS her intention the show’s producers would quickly edit her out or orchestrate some means of eliminating and discrediting her. But I can dream, can’t I? Because the sad reality is that she’s more likely to damage her health, her self esteem, and her athletic career. Sigh.

  6. September 11, 2013 3:10 am

    Yet another reason to avoid that horrible show like the plague. Normally I tune out or hit “next” or “delete” at the mere mention of it. I hope Holly will be OK.

  7. September 11, 2013 11:54 am

    I sure hope Holly will come out of this OK. As a former Olympic hopeful (who had to retire due to injury), I was so blown away by her performance while injured I was alternately jumping up and down in front of the TV and biting my nails.

    Athletes at this level of training (normally not THAT far short of the 42 hours TBL forces on their contestants) generally already have some form of disordered eating- counting calories, carbs, fats, counting macronutrients, counting everything (including Tic-Tacs and sugar-free gum), maximizing the intake of much-needed nutrients, minimizing the calories. Going crazy before a competition included. In my weight-class oriented sport, I was supposed to build muscle like crazy to prepare for tournaments before being put on a starvation-level diet two weeks before the big competition in order to try and make a lower weight class, or at least be the smallest in my weight class (advantage in a draw).

    I hope the mental strength that carried her through her amazing performance in London will carry her through this ordeal- my fingers are crossed for her to have signed a contract that will give her her pay unrelated to the duration of her stay on the show. I’d love to have her show those two “trainers” how it’s done, only to thumb her nose at them at the first weigh-in and disappear triumphantly to carry on with her REAL training.

    Ah, the wonderful world of fantasy…

  8. worthyourweight permalink
    September 11, 2013 3:48 pm

    Hollywood is insane. “Of course actors in their late 50s/early 60s should be able to look the same as they did in their 20s!” Heaven forbid Princess Leia & Luke Skywalker be allowed to age gracefully, with dignity. The creators behind the upcoming Star Wars sequels should worry more about writing good material versus micromanaging bodies and the aging process.

  9. Dizzyd permalink
    September 12, 2013 5:51 pm

    3 things:
    1. I remember my cousins and I used to gleefully sing the Special K jingle (‘Good for you, Special K!’) but we would change it to Special D (‘The D stands for ‘diarrhea’!’)
    2. WYW – you took the words right out of my mouth! What, did they think Carrie Fisher – aka Princess Leia – was going to look 20 y.o. forever? So, are they gonna insist that ‘Grampa Harry’ Ford – aka Han Solo – gets a face-lift and a bunch of Grecian Formula to ‘get in character’? I admit, my 1st thought is to not want to see this movie lest I be supporting a ‘sell-out’, but we prob’ly won’t ‘cuz movies are expensive and that 3-D stuff’ll eff up your eyes!
    3. I have a theory – and my husband concurs – that the REAL Carrie Fisher and Holley Mangold are tied up and unconscious somewhere while these Stepford-bots are running around pretending to be them while they spout this conformist, ‘dieting-is-good’ crap.

  10. Dizzyd permalink
    September 12, 2013 6:13 pm

    Actually, one more thing –
    Nell, like you I’ve had my TBD fantasies – from actually having Jillian Michaels respect and then like me even as a fat person, to my personal fave: to go on and then proceed to fight them every step of the way and make monkeys out of them, Bugs Bunny- style while audiences all over America cheer me on. Ah, the power of fantasy…
    One last word about celebrities selling out: if Garfield the cat (who famously – and correctly – defined a diet as ‘die with a T’) starts hocking diets and dietary products, then bend over and kiss yourself goodbye, ‘cuz the apocalypse is upon us!

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