Every Wednesday morning for the past 10 weeks, we have been kibbitzing at the water cooler, excitedly poring over NBC’s hottest new dramedy: This is Us.
When we first starting talking about it, it went a little something like:
Shiri: “Hey Kari, did you see it last night?”
Kari: “Yeah, I LOVED it!”
Shiri: “It was so good. You know….I think this is US.”
Kari: “Absolutely, this is definitely US.”(Our meaning, so much of this show touches on what we do at Green Mountain and the women we serve.)
The Lifelong Struggle
What’s most profound about the show is how eloquently it portrays the lifelong struggle women of larger size contend with in our size-obsessed society.
When we first started talking about the show with esteemed peers in the body acceptance world, many objected, “But this struggle really isn’t about the weight!”
We can completely see that perspective, it’s not about the weight…AND…at the same time, it totally is about the weight.
- From the time Chrissy Metz’ character Kate was young, it was ALL about the weight. She felt different and inadequate because of her weight. In an effort to “help”, Kate’s mother restricted Kate’s portions and types of food.
- Kate was outcast and teased by her peers because of her size.
- Kate felt inadequate as she noticed her mother’s clothes being much smaller in size than hers.
But when we say it isn’t really about the weight, we’re talking about this: It is about others’ perceptions and influence regarding weight and size.
At the root of that is society’s thin-ideal obsession, which made weight, from her earliest years of life, an ongoing distraction to Kate — or any person of larger size — interfering with the full enjoyment of life.
In a refreshing turn, Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Kate’s father, encourages her throughout her young life to focus on living a happy, healthy life at any size. He loves Kate and the rest of the family fully and completely, regardless of size or any other socially-judged matters.
The acceptance of size is not something we see pictured often in modern-day stories.
The Back & Forth of Weight/Not Weight
Kate’s present-day struggle as portrayed in the show depicts the common issues of keeping it all about the weight. She continues to carry the torch of weight obsession that was handed to her in early life.
Unfortunately, her focus on weight has not worked out so well.
- As part of a weight loss group, which Kate visibly loathes, she fears stepping on the scale, so much so that her tentativeness winds up in a sprained ankle.
- Despite her best efforts to diet and over-exercise for long periods of time, she still only loses minimal weight, while her new boyfriend Toby manages to shed many more pounds than her.
- Both wind up unhappy, and both end up bingeing after the weigh-in. There’s no winning when it comes to weight: Toby binges as a repercussion to deprivation, as well as fear of losing Kate for having lost more than her. Kate binges out of a sense of shame and failure.
But again, we see where it’s not at all about the weight.
- Though Kate’s father is no longer there, Toby represents an ongoing reminder to live life fully regardless of size. His constant messages of loving Kate for who she is — at any and every size — encourages her to focus on living fully.
Yet despite Toby’s best efforts, his reminders continually fall on deaf ears until Kate eventually breaks up with him so she can focus on weight loss…for her, it remains all about the weight.
Binge Eating as a Natural Result
Throughout the show, the theme of binge eating continues to emerge. It’s clear that the show’s writers understand that binge eating is natural outcome of food restriction as well as an emotional salve for people who struggle with weight.
In the season finale as Kate contemplates gastric bypass surgery, the doctor inquires about binge eating and depression, which Kate confirms. But the doctor asks no further questions about this struggle.
How We’d Write the Rest of the Story
Here at Green Mountain, we’re so excited over this show. We feel it beautifully tells the unspoken story that millions of people of size need to tell about what it’s really like to grow up fat in our size-obsessed society.
Fitting into miniscule airline seats, walking into boutiques where clothing sizes start at XS and stop at size 8; magazines touting melting fat towards ultimate happiness. It’s ALL about the weight in our society.
And though we don’t want it to be, the show depicts that. It really is all about the weight.
But what we want to tell you is, it really, truly is not about the weight, ladies.
We understand why people want to lose weight.
But we also know very clearly that focusing on weight won’t get you where you want to go.
We know that when people balance their lives with supportive behaviors – like balanced, mindful eating; pleasurable, regular physical activity; stress management and other forms of self-care – these behaviors do take us to positive places, physically and emotionally.
This is actually the way to attain and sustain YOUR healthy weight.
When binge eating is part of the story — which it is for so many people who struggle with weight — it’s critical to address other factors that may be involved, such as depression, anxiety, perhaps trauma.
When someone is considering gastric surgery, it’s vital that they understand these issues need to be healed. If the relationship with food and self has gone awry, it will remain in play regardless of weight loss if it has not been addressed. Further, without healing the relationship with food and self, sometimes gastric surgery can lead to new eating disorders and even addictions.
We Want You to Know
If any of this resonates with you, here’s what we want you to know:
- First of all…OF COURSE! Of course, you want to lose weight. There’s no shame in that and definitely no shame in having tried and “failed”. The world keeps telling you you’re not worthy until you do and you may have physical concerns contributing.
- There’s a way to step into living that’s not all about the weight. You don’t have to wait until (fill in the blank) to start living fully. Whoever you’re waiting to become when you lose that weight, we want you to #BEHERNOW. You’ve waited long enough.
- Lastly, we know you’re out there and we see you. We’ve seen many of you. There is a way out of the madness. And we’ll keep working to help people understand the way out.
We’re so looking forward to the next season of This is Us to see how Kate continues to grapple with this very real struggle.
In the meantime, we’ll keep doing what we do at Green Mountain at Fox Run and our Women’s Center for Binge & Emotional Eating, helping the many ‘Kates’ that walk through our door every day or visit us online.