You Didn’t Sign Up for This

by Golda Poretsky, HHC

It’s been more than 8 months since I first published this series of posts on my interview with Biggest Loser finalist, Kai Hibbard.  And yet, those posts are still swirling around the Internet, and account for about a third of the comments I still receive.

As you can imagine, not all of those comments get posted, even though I do approve a lot of comments that I don’t agree with.  One of the most common comments I get is that Kai and the other contestants volunteered for the show, signed an agreement, and could leave at any time if they weren’t happy.  For example, here’s one I received last week:

“Whilst I accept that some of the treatment of the ‘stars’ does sound unsympathetic at best and very harsh at worst, as many people have already pointed out – it is voluntary. I’m sure if Kai wanted to leave at any time she could – she was not being held prisoner.”

As to the contention that Kai wasn’t being held prisoner, I don’t really know.  I can’t imagine that if she had gone to the producers and said “I don’t care what you say, I want off the show, I want a ride to the airport, I’m out,” whether they really would have let her go or used the same brainwashing tricks that she alleges were used on her from the first day.

But here’s the thing, would anyone sign up for The Biggest Loser if they knew the truth?  And more broadly, would anyone sign up for Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, other diets, bariatric surgery, etc. if they knew the truth of the serious complications, weight fluctuations, and head trips that they were really in for?

I would contend that they would not.

Shows like The Biggest Loser and their ilk, the American Medical Association, the pharmaceutical industry, the diet industry, the bariatric industry, the plastic surgery industry and others spend billions of dollars a year convincing you that being fat is deadly, causes disease, makes you unattractive, unacceptable, unworthy.  They make you think that until you change your body and lose weight, you are less of a person.  They make you believe that you should be spending your precious life hating your body and struggling with food.  This sort of brainwashing is big business.

But since so many commenters have focused on the fact that deciding to be on The Biggest Loser (or diet, or get surgery etc.) is a voluntary agreement, let’s talk about the law of contracts.

It is settled law that there are certain instances where a contract, even if signed, is not valid.  These factors void an otherwise solid-looking contract.  These affirmative defenses include fraud, undue influence, and duress.

I believe that the diet/pharmaceutical/bariatric/plastic surgery industry has had an undue influence on people as a whole, and I believe they are committing fraud every day.  Diet ads should come with huge warnings about the fact that if you go on their diet, you’re going to gain the weight back, and likely more, unless you’re a statistical anomaly.  Bariatric surgeons should tell you that you’re going to have serious issues assimilating food, that complications are extremely common, and that you’re probably going to gain a lot of the weight back.  The pharmaceutical industry should let you know that their diet drugs don’t work and cause more side effects than anything.

If this reality were laid out on the table, in essence, if you were treated like an adult and given the truth, would you ever sign up for a diet, or diet pills, or the freaking Biggest Loser?

I know that I wouldn’t have.  And I truly hope that this blog will keep others from making this same mistake.

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Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.

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18 thoughts on “You Didn’t Sign Up for This

  1. This is such a great post. I love the legal angle!!! This article helped me shift (a little) of the negative self talk about my size. I will take what I am dealing with right now as far as my health goes at 405lbs anyday instead of being 250 with all those complications from the stomach amputation surgery.

    Another thought comes to mind. If I knew all the consequences the would result when I accepted as gospel what our thincentric societal beliefs about fat, I would have never signed up. Therefore, just as your commenters point our that the BL participants can choose to leave anytime, I choose to “just leave” … to just stop buying into those societal beliefs

    Easier said than done, but easier with people like you out there, Golda!

    1. @Ivan, Rock on, Ivan! That’s exactly it. If you had been told about the consequences, you would never have signed up for any of it, including agreeing with those societal beliefs. And I’m so glad you felt a little shift from reading this. That means the world to me!

  2. I do agree all of this products should tell the truth about their side effects specially the drugs, this is such a problem in my country, people will drink anything that promises to make them loose weight in a”natural way” the less dangerous of the products do not work and just regulate their digestion (hey is not bad to get to eat more fiber, but you surely don’t loose weight like the product promises)and the most dangerous products are those “all good natural products” secretly additionated with amphetamines, thyroid hormon (yum! cause is so delicious to die, or have serious or permanent damage)
    there where some recent deaths of women in my city who where drinking a very popular product last year. so the product was “ban” (they just change the name and put it on the market again)
    would I sign on a dietary program like weight watchers? NO, NO NO never again after calorie counting screw up with my brain for good, Im not saying that eating healthier is bad at all! or that visiting a nutriologist would be a bad idea( I mean, visiting some one who can talk you about food, nutrients and properties of food would be awesome), but certainly I wouldn’t count calories or points never in my life again; is obsessive and at lease for me was damaging, and since weight watchers is based on counting points I wouldn’t do it, now that I know what I know.
    and of course I think that contestants wouldn’t sign to the biggest loser if they knew that they where going to humiliating like that

    1. @sonia, That is so horrific. It’s crazy how products are marketed and people don’t really know what’s in them and yet they’re allowed to stay on the market. Horrific.

      Thanks for this comment!

  3. I agree that it’s all a scam and I think it’s morally reprehensible to exploit women looking for a quick self-esteem fix. The problem is our culture’s obsession with weight and the way we’re constantly bombarded with messages about how a woman should look. After years of struggling with my weight, developing an ED (anorexia), yo-yo dieting and unsustainable exercise regimens, I’m finally beginning to develop a healthy relationship with food. I’m constantly having to reframe food choices and exercise time as “what is good for my heart/mind/what will make me strong and build stamina” and learning let go of “how many fat grams/calories does this have/how many calories can I burn off today”. It never ceases to amaze me how hard it is to vanquish dieter’s thinking.

  4. Would anybody sign up for Weight Watchers…if they knew the truth? Well, I did, and was/am happy. I lost what I wanted to, and kept it off. I didn’t expect it to be easy, but being fat was hard, too, so I was fine with it. It took a long time, but that was o.k. I didn’t expect it to revolutionize my life, or make me beautiful or wildly popular. I expected to live differently for the rest of my life. I’m o.k. with the idea that nobody is oohing or ahhing over me any more–my body is now old hat with everybody, and that’s fine. So yes, you can go in with eyes wide open and be happy.

      1. @Golda Poretsky, H.H.C., my saggy, baggy bod? Not hardly. It moves around better, but the exterior could, in our perfection-driven society, always use more work. But isn’t that what society pretty much says all the time?

        1. @Linda, Yeah, your saggy, baggy bod! Saggy and baggy as it is, isn’t it still yours? Doesn’t have the capacity to move, to feel, to give and receive pleasure? That is worthy of some oohs and ahhs, right?

    1. @Linda,

      I am very happy for you that you were one of the five percent of people who manage to lose weight and keep it off. Congratulations on achieving a goal that was important to you and that is valued by society. However, I believe that what Golda meant by her post was that the risks of dieting and other interventions do not outweigh the benefits for 95% of people who choose (or are coerced into) to pursue a weight loss plan. As a a matter of fact, for 95% of people, the weight will be regained along with a few bonus pounds, the intervention will have negative side effects, and the failure of the intervention will result in lowered self-esteem and a feeling that the person has failed as opposed to the intervention itself. The realities of trying to reduce your body have been well documented by researchers in a variety of fields. For some reading on this subject, I would recommend Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon PhD, Fat Politics by J. Eric Oliver, and The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos. These books are very accessible texts that cover what critical researchers have found about the various components of the weight loss industry as well as the realities of metabolism and biology. There are many more books out there, and references to these resources can be found in the texts that I mentioned above. It is wonderful that you managed to achieve this long-sought and culturally valued goal. But at the same time, it is important that you realize that you are in the statistical minority – not because other people don’t have what it takes, but because the interventions to “cure” the broken, fat body (as perceived by medicine and culture) have failed, and will continue to do so. Undoubtedly what will actually give most fat people better health and a better sense of well-being is acceptance and the removal of discrimination and barriers to full participation in society. That is the reality that most people are unaware of when they sign on.


      1. @Fat Grad, thanks for hearing me out and giving me a polite, well thought out answer. Losing weight is not for everybody, nor should it be. There is a cost/benefit analysis, and the only person who can decide if it’s right or a good idea for them is the person themself. As the car ads say, your mileage may vary. Cheers!

        1. @Golda Poretsky, H.H.C., Glad to be of help! Teaching without alienating is one of my favorite activities. :)

  5. GREAT post!! My mom had bariatric surgery years ago (more than 10). She has not gained back all the weight – when she had surgery she was well over 400 lbs and was VERY sick. She is thinner and healther now, but she’s still over 250 lbs. She has had MAJOR complications and has almost DIED on more than one occasion as a direct result of the surgery she had and doctor screw-ups. Her body now does not absorb nutrients properly, she still throws up after many meals and has a long list of foods her body can’t tolerate anymore – not things you’d think, like high fat fast food, but things like turkey breast and other very lean meats because they are too dry – and she’s considered a bypass surgery “failure” because she never got super skinny like so many of the people who have that surgery do.

    And, despite bearing personal witness to all of this, there was a time when I DESPERATELY wanted to follow in her footsteps! Now, you couldn’t pay me to take those sorts of risks. I’ve learned so much better from this blog and other the other HAES resources I’ve found.

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