(Editor’s note: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education and performs research surrounding online degrees. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop. If you’d like to write a guest post, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Admittedly, “Huge” is about more than that. It strikes an odd balance between “The Biggest Loser” and a sapped-up Lifetime movie, making fun of itself just enough to strike a chord of reality among its viewers, some of whom are among the 170 million Americans who are obese or overweight. Undoubtedly, they can relate to the cast and characters, who suffer the humiliation of being a fat kid at fat camp.
When Being Huge Is Sick
In the show, Wilhelmina, one of the attendees of Camp Victory, is determined not to lose weight and not to feel bad about herself. This is the girl that snaps, “Can we, like, take a moment and ponder how sick this is?” when every camper must strip down to a bathing suit to take the first half of a “before and after” picture.
It is. Sick, that is. Sick in the sense that Maura Kelly, in a a blog for Marie Claire about “Mike & Molly” meant it when she told “fatties” to get a room, and sick in the sense that the show “Huge” smacks a bit of fatsploitation. Just sick enough to keep us watching.
Although Kelly later added that obesity is first and foremost a health issue and that endorsing it on TV was bad politics, neither she nor the writers of “Huge” sufficiently addressed the fact that obesity is a serious health issue. America is both the fattest nation on the globe and the one with the greatest number of deaths from eating disorders including anorexia and bulimia (218 in the most recent study year).
The number 218, however, would be in the thousands if NationMaster’s definition of “eating disorder” was not limited to “skinny” disorders. Compulsive overeating, binging and other disorders are classified by organizations like ANRED (Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders) and Renfrew as eating disorders. These produce more deaths from heart disease, diabetes, and various cancers than do anorexia and bulimia combined.
America, the Dieting Nation
It is no coincidence that America is both the fattest and skinniest nation on earth. How? We are the dieting nation.
The logic is simple: when you tell a kid not to eat any of the cookies in the cookie jar, you’ll soon find that all of the cookies are gone. Our society and media encourage thinness and dieting, so we diet. We lose weight, but we do so only by exercising and “disciplining” ourselves to steer clear of foods we crave, like meat, bread, cookies, ice cream, salt, etc. We can’t have these foods so we crave them more, and more, and more, until the fateful day that we snap and eat an entire room of them and feel ashamed of ourselves for gaining a whole pound.
Geneen Roth, “Good Housekeeping” columnist, “Women Food and God” author and renowned speaker on eating disorders, says, “For every diet, there is an equal and opposite binge.” This is why 95-98% of dieters gain the weight they lost (and more) within three years, and why anywhere from 15-50% of individuals enrolled in dieting programs suffer from BED—Binge Eating Disorder.
When Huge Isn’t Enough
“Huge” attempts to make the statement amid a culture enamored with plastic Heidi Montag and skeletal Kate Moss that what matters is on the inside, no matter what (or how much of it) is on the outside. A noble goal, but “Huge” falls short.
Audiences become aware through the season that as tough and independent as Wilhelmina seems, she’s as insecure as the rest of the campers. It’s Amber, the token skinny girl, who gets the (skinny) guy. Everyone, at the end of the day, embraces the idea that they need to lose weight via fat camp (read: organized dieting).
Statistics, stereotypes and predictable outcomes at the camp are no better there than anywhere else in America: The skinny people win, even in a show about fat kids. In defense of the makers of “Huge,” their goal may have been higher, that only by truly loving one’s body and respecting it (ie, listening to what you body tells you it wants instead of what your mind tells you you can’t have and by doing exercise that you enjoy instead of being a slave to a gym and a bathroom scale) can you lose weight naturally.
With the show being canceled after the first season, however, it seems “Huge” wasn’t making a big enough statement for much of anyone.