Last night on The Biggest Loser (stop now if you don’t want to be spoiled), the contestants got makeovers and then got to see some of their family and friends. I loved watching the contestants have fun looking at clothes, knowing how excited they must be to see the new possibilities their changed bodies have opened up for them. What made it even better is that the contestants didn’t know they would get to see their families, so I was loving watching the reunions. Then Ron and Mike, a father and son team, were reunited with their family. If you don’t watch the show, it’s enough to say that Ron and Mike were both big guys (Ron was over 400 pounds when the show started and Mike at over 370 pounds). At the reunion was Ron’s son and Mike’s brother, Max, who is also big. Mike and Max hug, and Max’s shoulders are heaving, he is crying so hard. When Ron and Mike asked Max why he was upset, he said, “I’m the big one.”
My heart broke when I heard those words. I know exactly what he meant. My whole life, I have felt like “the big one.” I still remember times in school or at church when I would go into a room and automatically look to see if anyone else was even remotely close to being as fat as I was. If I saw someone else who was big, I felt a modicum of comfort, but if I didn’t? I felt complete misery. For some reason the fact that I was fat seemed a little bit less awful if someone else around me was also fat. I know Max feels utterly left out now that his father and brother are losing weight while he stays the same size. Misery loves company, and Max has lost his company.
The thing that bugged me about Ron and Mike’s reaction to Max was the way they kept saying they would be coming home soon and would help him lose weight, help fix him. Max didn’t need to worry because they were going to get him to be like they were. While I think it was so sweet the way they both tried to comfort Max, I think those comments were all wrong. Max doesn’t need to wait until his father and brother get home. He doesn’t need them to fix him. Ultimately, Max has to fix himself. Every person who is overweight has to decide for themselves that there is a problem. As much as loved ones may want to help or offer advice, if the person doesn’t want to lose weight, it’s not going to happen. I’m not saying Max doesn’t want to lose weight because I think he obviously does, but if he’s waiting on his brother or father to swoop in and make a transformation, he is misguided. That transformation has to begin within, and it’s only when there is true commitment and determination to change, and even a little desperation connected to the desire to no longer be “the big one,” will there be a true change.
I wanted to lose weight for years. I would look longingly at my skinny friends, my skinny mom and brother, and wish I were them. But wishing I was someone else didn’t help me lose weight, just like wishing I weren’t “the big one” didn’t magically make the fat disappear. Until I owned up to the fact that I had made choices that led to my weight of 261 pounds and realized that only I could fix the problem, I was going to remain “the big one” who hated mirrors and shopping for clothes and being in a bathing suit. Until I recognized that the only true way to lose the weight was to work hard and eat well, I would remain “the big one.” It was only when I was so desperate to be anything but “the big one” that my transformation began.
Even if I am still the biggest one in the room sometimes, I don’t feel like “the big one” anymore. And that makes all the difference.