Personal reflection · Quick and easy

Watching the Biggest Loser as a recovered anorexic

Maybe I like to toe the line or play with fire, but I like to watch “The Biggest Loser” with my roommate. I guess part of the appeal is being glad that we’re not that big and that we don’t have to spend 8 hours being yelled at by Bob, Dolvett and Jillian. Schadenfreude is a powerful emotion. I suppose it’s the driving force behind most of the popularity of the show.

Oddly, watching them work out is my favorite part, since I like to imagine being challenged to do the same physical feats that they face.

Since I can’t run, I like to imagine being able to run a marathon or even a 5K. One of my favorite challenges this current season was an navigating an obstacle course through chewing gum while carrying bowling ball-like objects. I like to wonder what it would be like to navigate that obstacle course or dig through piles of sand, or walk a balance beam while avoiding swinging pendulums.

Sounds like fun.

What isn’t so fun is listening to them count calories or make spinach smoothies and low-calorie versions of high calorie foods.

My long-time love/hate relationship with food raises its ugly head repeatedly, no matter how many months, years, and days it has been since I last had a disordered thought that led to a sudden 20-minute cookie binge or perhaps a 2 week salad-eating spree. Sometime s**t happens and I have to start again.

0 days since the last food…incident.

A recent Cracked article (see article) revealed that most past season Biggest Loser contestants gain back most, if not all, their weight back. Well, that’s discouraging. All this positive thinking and rhetoric about long-term weight loss sustainability, and for most of these people, it’s all for naught.

When contestants face the “challenge” of returning to their daily, normal lives and maintaining some degree of weight loss, I think, “why is this a ‘challenge?'”

Shouldn’t we be able to see that the “skills” they learn at the Biggest Loser ranch are not suitable for long-term maintenance? Like any fad diet and weight loss regime, the Biggest Loser uses extreme exercise techniques and extreme healthy diet measures to attain radical weight loss in a short time period.

But if it comes off so quickly, it can come right back, just as quickly.

The trainers are aware of the psychological change that needs to take place in order for long term healthiness to happen. Jillian in particular, through her own personal experience, knows that the key to maintaining a healthy body is cultivating a healthy thought pattern. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the show dedicates nearly enough time to that part of the process; likely because it’s not very interesting to watch.

The human mind is complex and strange. It can take years to discover your personal pathology and sometimes longer to figure out how to change destructive thought patterns. Admitting you have a problem is step 1 of a multi-million step process, eventually leading to long-term life change. As strong as your willpower is, I doubt you can keep up a strict regimen of diet and exercise forever if you don’t enjoy some aspect of it.

I like to exercise. There, I said it.

But I also like lasagna with Italian sausage and macaroni and cheese, and flaky pastry with cream.

So in the process of my eating disorder recovery, I had to re-learn how to listen to my body. If I want to eat pizza, I am able to eat 2 slices and stop because I recognize the feeling of satisfaction. Similarly, if my wrist is sore, I can avoid push-ups and still get a good workout without further injury– a lesson that, believe me, I wish I had learned earlier.

Watching the latest episode of the Biggest Loser, I don’t know that the contestants have overcome that particular mental hurdle, yet. I don’t know how many of them will.

Today’s recipe is brought to you by Jackson, who mentioned low-sodium marinara sauce and inspired me to share the following. Here is a recipe, handed down to me by my friend, who got the recipe from her girlfriend.

Lizzy sauce

1 28 oz. can tomato sauce

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 6 oz. can tomato paste

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp. dried basil

1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

cayenne pepper to taste

1 tsp. salt

1/4 cup sugar

water or red wine

olive oil

Saute garlic, basil, and oregano in olive oil until fragrant. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste, stir to combine well, and add water or wine until desired consistency is achieved.

Add salt, sugar, cayenne, and garlic powder. Stir to combine and simmer for several hours, for best results.

This recipe makes a vast quantity of sauce, and you can freeze it in 1 quart freezer bags for up to 2 months. You can thin it out and add cream to make an excellent tomato soup, or you can use it as pizza sauce, dipping sauce, add meat and make bolognese, do as you will.

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