Imagine this: a gym where it is common practice to literally throw cupcakes at clients during their workouts while insulting them through a bullhorn. Or handcuff the gym-goers to a stationary bike – their punishment for not living up to the standards of their trainers. Or the owner of the sucky establishment proudly strutting around wearing a “No Chubbies” t-shirt while relishing in the filming of his abhorrent TV commercial where he heaves a pie into an overweight lady’s face.
You would think that a gym like this would close down faster than one could say “douche bag,” but at the time, it flourished, gaining more than 600 clients in its first year of opening. A person had to be “accepted” into the facility by passing a personality test. If they failed, they were handed a cupcake and a rejection letter.
There are three lists that adorn the walls of the gym. The “Dean’s List,” where the clients names go who meet the owners expectations. The “Jimmy Dean Sausage List,” for clients who still have work that needs to be done. And then there’s “Fatso’s,” the list reserved for the clients the owner considers failures.
What I want to know is, who the hell would ever voluntarily go to this gym? Did the people on the “fit list” keep coming back because they craved validation, had such low self-esteem that they felt as though they deserved to be degraded and screamed at, or were the clients led to believe they couldn’t maintain their physique without the guidance of the owner or his trainers?
And what about the people who endured cupcakes being flung at their face? Had they exhausted all other options? Did they justify paying close to $9,000 in annual membership fees because they were simply desperate for help? Maybe they felt like being overweight merited such punishment. We’ll never know since the gym closed its doors due to failure to pay back taxes.
Let’s switch gears a tad to reality TV. And when I say reality TV, I mean The Biggest Loser. And when I say The Biggest Loser, I mean Jillian Michaels. She may very well be a wonderful lady when the camera is turned off, but from what I see, she is downright abusive to her clients. On YouTube I watched clip after clip of her scream, physically threaten, humiliate, break down and ABUSE the people she trained. Jillian takes pride in the fact that she makes the contestants exercise to the point of puking. She’ll yell that she’s going to kill you. Going to KILL YOU. She will threaten you with breaking every bone in your teammates body if you don’t get back on that treadmill. Jillian will blatantly tell you she doesn’t care if you die on the floor you’re lying on.
If you do say you are going to throw up, she wants to see you do it, as if…no, not as if…BECAUSE it’s some sort of sick reward for her. And then, then Jillian will come up to you as this comforting, motherly figure, spouting off some, “I’m doing this for your own good” mumbo jumbo, and you will believe her. You begin to believe that being treated that way is humane, because Jillian SAYS she does it out of love. Blah, blah, blah.
Am I alone when I feel remarks such as, “You’re going to die, just like your mother,” or “We’ve picked out your fat person coffin,” utterly disgusting and unacceptable? Does anybody else think “You will cry blood,” is a little excessive?
Now try to look at it through the eyes of a person at home who may not be a regular exerciser. They’re watching The Biggest Loser searching for any shred of motivation to help them on their weight loss journey. Some say it is inspiring. However for many of us, we begin associating exercise with humiliation and torture. In a .Mic article, they stated that an “investigation found that viewers were less inclined to exercise because of how it’s portrayed on the show.” We watch the show and see this horrific experience and wonder how a contestant has never given Ms. Michaels a swift punch to the crotch. We then continue not to exercise because it looks like hell on earth.
At first I thought she was playing to the camera, that nobody could be that monstrous in real life. Then I read an article about a writer at XO Jane taking one of Jillian’s classes. She “threatened to come down into the audience and ‘beat the shit’ out of someone who wasn’t lifting their elbows high enough.” For crying out loud, that is another human being she’s talking to. You know, these people are probably a little nervous, feeling unsure of themselves and thinking about a hundred other things she’s telling them to keep in mind. They showed up and they’re working hard for her. A simple, “Lift your elbows” should suffice. I don’t care if Jillian says she abuses…er, I mean, yells at her clients because she cares. I have taught hundreds of people during my career and managed to achieve my desired result without screaming obscenities at them. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t stern and persistent at times, but that’s a long way from physical threats.
Exercise should not be about feeling shame by some ignorant idiot hurling cupcakes at you or feeling fearful as an abusive trainer shouts threats six inches away from your face. Fitness should actually be enjoyed. It’s about going out and experimenting with different physical activities and/or fitness classes until you find one that you mesh with. Could it take you a while to find “the” activity? Sure it could. Or you might run out and discover your perfect class tomorrow. The point is that people are hesitant to even begin exercising because of what they’re viewing on television.
What’s too bad is that The Biggest Loser does have positive aspects to it. In my opinion though, the negatives outweigh the positives, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Because as long as the masses keep tuning in, they will continue delivering their nega-drama to hungry customers.