In my continuing effort to comment on television shows weeks after they’ve aired, I finally watched the PBS documentary Fat: What No One is Telling You which is also available to watch online. (Up next, my comments on the second season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wasn’t that heartbreaking? But how come TV shows always use the Sarah McLachlan music when something sad happens?)
I felt like this show should have been called Fat: What Everyone Is Telling Me because after it aired several people asked me if I’d watched it, only I hadn’t. I felt like I’d skipped doing my homework so I could drink Slurpees down at the 7-11 with my friends. I suppose it is now my unofficial duty as a weight-loss blogger to watch all obesity related programming and comment on it. Thank God I don’t have cable and I’m limited to only reviewing PBS specials. The number of loose skin operations covered on the E! Network alone would put me in a backlog until 2009.
The documentary is well-done and doesn’t oversimplify the issue of obesity. They frequently kept the camera on someone for at least a minute without cutting, letting them talk in-depth, which is not something most late-night new magazines would do. However, if you read a lot of dieting and fitness information and keep up with the weight-loss blogs, you probably won’t learn anything you didn’t already know. The only new thing I learned was the theory that the gastric system has its own “mini-brain.” One doctor theorized that part of the reason gastric bypass surgery is successful is not only because of the reduced size of the stomach but because nerves are severed during the process that help regulate hunger. The show was compelling mostly because you got to hear the stories of several people who are trying to lose weight or keep it off.
One woman who had gained over 50 pounds was upset because she thought her body didn’t reflect who she was. Another guy said he wanted to lose weight so people would see him for who he was. Well, yeah, wouldn’t that be lovely? Too bad that’s never going to happen no matter how thin or fat you are. It’s odd that we think that if we become thin or ripped with muscles people will suddenly be able to look directly into our souls. It’s kind of silly that we think our bodies are going to be reflections of who we are. You can certainly choose what image you project – your clothes, your haircut, your make-up, the way you walk, the way you talk – all that sends a message of who you are. But you’re never really going to know what someone is like just by looking at them. It’s like Wednesday said in The Addams Family when she didn’t dress up for Halloween, “I’m a homicidal maniac, they look just like everyone else.”
So I understand why someone thinks being thinner or fatter will better project the idea of who they are. It changes the image other people see, but ultimately “thin” is just another costume you wear over your bones. It’s not you. If there’s anything I learned from being fat it’s that I was a cool person then and I’m still a cool person now. I certainly prefer being thinner, but even if I got fat again it doesn’t reflect negatively on who I am. It just reflects the lifestyle I’m currently living. People see it as a disguise, but it really shouldn’t be. Yet we’re all still kids playing dress-up out of the costume box in the classroom corner.