This morning Emily sent me a link to this Good Morning America clip about a personal trainer dude who gained and lost 75 pounds in order to understand his overweight clients better, saying “Oh hey, it’s your empathetic trainer of last week!”
Except it wasn’t -- it’s a completely different dude. Drew Manning, author of “Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit,” and his wife turned up on GMA to talk about the experience. Manning doesn’t claim a hilarious 20,000 calories diet, however, and says he gained the weight simply by liberal application of junk food and inactivity, i.e., the proud American way of life.
(Part of me wonders if these two similar projects are the personal-trainer equivalent of two socialites showing up to an event in the same dress; do they hate each other? Would they get in a fight about it if they met?)
On Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos is very impressed by Manning’s round-trip transformation, as is the studio audience. Manning’s wife is mostly relieved, because the fat version of her husband was kind of unpleasant.
'People joke around but it wasn't about his man boobs or that he stopped "manscaping", that really wasn't what it was about.
'It was about the emotional changes, him becoming a different person,' she explained to ABC.
And it wasn't until she pointed out how useless around the house he had become with the children and domestic chores that the former muscle man realised just how acutely he had been affected. [...]
But the sacrifices made by the pair paid off in spades for the personal trainer who understood for the first time how difficult it could be for an overweight person to face the challenge of working out and eating healthily.
Yeah, let’s not pick on the man boobs. Ain’t nothing wrong with a boob, I don’t care who it’s attached to.
While I appreciate that people are drawn to these stories -- enough for multiple trainers to give this same stunt a shot, apparently -- because they provide a shiny happy successful inspiration for their own weight loss, I still think these efforts do more harm than good, as they create a narrative of fatness to fitness that is probably impossible for most folks (at least, people who don’t actually work out for a living) to duplicate.
More than that, though, these weird body experiments remind me of the talk-show fat-suit craze of several years back, in which non-fat individuals (among them, most memorably, Tyra Banks) would throw on a fat suit and lumber around in it for a day, returning to assert that they sooooo understand what it’s like to be a bigger person now. Also that fat is really heavy and, like, exhausting.
These projects were similarly stupid and insulting because gaining weight is not exactly like picking up an anvil one morning and carrying it around all day. They also ignore the fact that active bodies of whatever size are better equipped muscle-wise to carry the weight of one’s individual stature.
Have you read this excellent Los Angeles Times profile of 350-pound Olympic weightlifter Holley Mangold? You want inspiration, she has GOT IT.
"I'm huge," Mangold says with pride, not political correctness. "I love my body. I think it's perfect.
"I don't know what my personality would be like if I wasn't so huge."
She has a pretty good idea what her athletic career would be like, though. And it wouldn't include a trip to the Olympic Games this summer.
In the small Ohio town where she grew up — with an emphasis on the word "grew" — Mangold tried 10 sports, from roller skating and gymnastics to football and swimming, all with some success. But it wasn't until 31/2 years ago, when she turned to weightlifting, that something clicked.
And now she's going to the Olympics, hoping for a bronze medal.
But what do you think? Are these weight-gain stories just dumb and damaging stunts meant to sell books, or are they legitimate efforts to “understand” the difficulties some experience both with being fat and with losing weight, at least within an extremely limited scope? Would you rather hear about Drew Manning or Holley Mangold, or is there room for both of these real-life tales in your heart? Tear things apart in the comments. I know you will.