What if your struggle with weight was followed by millions? Every pound you’ve gained or lost, chronicled online and in the tabloids, an obsession with your body that overshadowed everything else you did?
So goes the opening dialogue from Saturday’s Dr. Oz Show. I rarely watch daytime TV; sometimes I’ll watch The View. Though it’s been on since fall, I only recently became aware of this show, and set the DVR to tape the new ones.
Dr. Oz’s intro referred to guest Carnie Wilson’s life. She’s the one who broadcast her gastric bypass surgery live over the Internet 10 years ago, dropped over 100 pounds, and then went up, down and back up the scale. She was seeking help for her food addiction. Interesting, in that she’s also starting a cheesecake business.
Remember Kirstie Alley’s bikini reveal on Oprah? She was a Fat Actress before dropping 70+ pounds and becoming a spokesmodel for Jenny Craig. She’s now gained all that back and then some. In March, Kirstie Alley’s Big Life bows on A&E, chronicling her attempt to drop all the weight. Online is abuzz with her unrealistic goals, tantrums and fake weight-loss updates.
This Sunday, Valentine’s Day, red-headed Ruby returns for season three on the Style Network. She used to be 700 pounds, but was around 500 when she signed up with Style. Now she’s around 350, her reality series making her a “weight-loss superstar.”
And there’s always Oprah—both African-American and everywoman—representing the truth: You can spend millions on doctors, diets, personal chefs, personal trainers and elaborate home gyms and still struggle with obesity.
Question: If Oprah can’t do it, what possible chance do I have?
Answer: I ain’t Oprah.
I rarely watch her show, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t start grinning like an idiot if I met her in person, just like I did the first time: on a press junket about 20 years ago to her then-new Harpo Studios. When we left, each of us received a photo of our name in lights on her marquee. I think she’s fab, a true humanitarian—emphasis on “human.”
Oprah. Carnie. Kirstie. Ruby. We’re all human, and that means we get our collective asses kicked by biology every time we attempt to diet, which is why diets don’t work. Eating healthier and exercising a great deal more, does. The brain likes it, and brain chemistry rules everything.
But brain chemistry is not responsible for my food choices, thank God. If it were, I would be eating a handful of dirt right now because my brain is sending signals that a big ol’ hunk of red clay sure would be delightful. Translation: I’m dangerously low on iron; pop some ferrous sulfate and mention it to Dr. Bean next week.
Back to Dr. Oz: The message was that Carnie had been passive in her weight-loss efforts, consulting only with so-called experts, and not really playing an active role in ensuring her own success.
At first, that didn’t make a lick of sense. I mean, the girl was cut apart and stapled back together so she could lose weight. They went on to say she wasn’t doing anything to help herself, using words like “baby weight” and other clichés to explain away her failure. In other words, if Carnie were me, she’d be eating dirt right about now instead of taking an iron supplement.
A woman was brought on to mentor Carnie, someone who’d lost more than 200 pounds and kept it off (now that is an expert). She said it was important for Carnie to have a support system of fellow sufferers and “wounded healers”—people who’ve succeeded in losing the weight and know all the mind games and excuses.
Carnie Wilson has a new show on the Game Show Network called Unstapled. It’s allegedly about her family life—she’s starting a cheesecake business (hello, food addiction?)—but the show’s title smacks of reprobation and failure.
Um, I won’t be taping that.
Folks, my brain wants its experts, but I know in my heart that what I truly need is support from fellow sufferers, those who are taking this path with me, and those already at the finish line, waiting with a pat on the back and a glass of water.
Translation: This blog. Thanks for all your personal e-mails, as well as the positive comments posted on each entry. Means a great deal.
—LESLIE J. ANSLEY
Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.