Columbia College The Biggest Loser and Roxane Reading Questions Answer the questions due to the reading. SHould be around 9 questions. It will not be hard.

Columbia College The Biggest Loser and Roxane Reading Questions Answer the questions due to the reading. SHould be around 9 questions. It will not be hard. Name _____________________________
Reading Comprehension Quiz #11
1. Was Roxane Gay a contestant on The Biggest Loser? Why or why not?
2. Is the woman in the picture Roxane Gay? How do you know?
3. Gay says, “People like me don’t get to eat food like that in public.” What does Gay assume
about people “like me” and about what is expected “in public”?
4. How does the meaning of “The Biggest Loser” shift throughout the essay? What makes it
5. Gay writes that “diet foods… are means of disciplining the body that will also fatten the
coffers of one corporation or another.” What does “fatten the coffers” mean? Why does Gay
use the word “fatten” rather than “enrich” or “fill”?
6. What vocabulary does Gay use to describe obesity and overweightness? Is this the same as
the language you would use or that you feel comfortable using?
7. What does Gay mean when she says that Frederickson’s “body, like most women’s
bodies, instantly became a public text, a site of discourse”?
8. What are the important issues that inform how we discuss weight in society?
My Body Is Wildly Undisciplined And I Deny Myself Nearly
Everything I Desire
Q xojane.conVissues/my-body-is-wildly-undisciplined-and-i-deny-myself-nearly-everything-i-desire
April 9, 2014
I watched the first few seasons of The Biggest Loser avidly. The show offered the ultimate fat
girl fantasy—go to a “ranch” for a few months, and under the pressure of intense personal
trainers, low caloric intake, the manipulations of reality show producers and the constant
surveillance of television cameras, lose the weight you’ve never been able to lose on your
During those first few seasons, I often toyed with auditioning to appear on the show though,
realistically, that could never happen. I’m too shy. I would go through Internet withdrawals. I
can’t work out without music. If trainer Jillian Michaels screamed at me I would shut down. As
a vegetarian, I don’t eat Jenny-0 turkey. Appearing on the show is simply not workable for me.
The longer The Biggest Loser has been on the air, however, the more the show has disturbed
me. There is the constant shaming of fat people and the medical professionals taking every
opportunity to crow about how near death these obese contestants are. There are the trainers,
with their perfect bodies, demanding perfection from people who have, for whatever reason,
not had a previously healthy relationship with their bodies. There is the spectacle of the
contestants pushing themselves in inhuman ways—crying and sweating and vomiting—visibly
purging their bodies of weakness.
This is not a show about people becoming empowered through fitness, though on the surface,
the show’s slick marketing would have you believe that. The Biggest Loser is a show about fat
as an enemy that must be destroyed, a contagion that must be eradicated. This is a show
about unruly bodies that must be disciplined by any means necessary, and through that
discipline, the obese might become more acceptable members of society. They might find
When we watch shows like The Biggest Loser and its many imitators, we are practically
begging some power beyond ourselves: “Take these all too human bodies, and make what you
will of them.”
If you watch enough daytime television, particularly on “women’s networks,” you are treated to
an endless parade of commercials about weight loss products and diet foods—means of
disciplining the body that will also fatten the coffers of one corporation or another. In these
commercials, women often swoon at the possibility of satisfying their hunger with somewhat
repulsive foods while also maintaining an appropriately slim figure. The joy women express
over fat free yogurt and 100-calorie snack packs is not to be believed.
In her latest commercial for Weight Watchers, Jessica Simpson says, “I started losing weight
right away. I started smiling right away.” This commercial is one of many weight loss
advertisements that equate happiness with thinness and, by default, obesity with misery. In her
commercials for Weight Watchers, Jennifer Hudson shrieks about her newfound happiness
and how, through weight loss, not, say, winning an Oscar, she has achieved success.
Gossip magazines keep us constantly abreast of what’s happening to the bodies of famous
women. Their weight fluctuations are tracked like stocks because their bodies are, in their line
of work, their personal stock, the physical embodiment of market value. When celebrity women
have babies, their bodies are intensely monitored during and after—from baby bumps to post
baby bodies.
Women, for that is whom these ecstatic diet food commercials and celebrity weight loss
endorsements are for, can have it all when they eat the right foods and follow the right diets
and pay the right price.
They are the unachievable standard toward which we must, nonetheless strive. They are
thinspiration as the parlance goes—thin inspiration, a constant reminder of the distance
between our bodies and what they could be with the proper discipline.
Part of disciplining the body is denial. We want but we dare not have. To lose weight or
maintain our ideal bodies, we deny ourselves certain foods. We deny ourselves rest by
working out. We deny ourselves peace of mind by remaining ever vigilant over our bodies. We
withhold from ourselves until we achieve a goal and then we withhold from ourselves to
maintain that goal.
My body is wildly undisciplined and I deny myself nearly everything I desire. I deny myself the
right to space when I am public, trying to fold in on myself, to make my body invisible even
though it is, in fact, grandly visible. I deny myself the right to a shared armrest because how
dare I impose? I deny myself entry into certain spaces I have deemed inappropriate for a body
like mine—most spaces inhabited by other people.
I deny myself bright colors in my clothing choices, sticking to a uniform of denim and dark
shirts even though I have a far more diverse wardrobe. I deny myself certain trappings of
femininity as if I do not have the right to such expression when my body does not follow
society’s dictates for what a woman’s body should look like. I deny myself gentler kinds of
affection—to touch or be kindly touched—as if that is a pleasure a body like mine does not
Punishment is, in fact, one of the few things I allow myself. I deny myself my attractions. I have
them, oh I do, but dare not express them, because how dare I want. How dare I confess my
want? How dare I try to act on that want? I deny myself so much and still there is so much
desire throbbing beneath my surfaces.
Denial merely puts what we want just beyond reach but we still know it’s there.
Recently, my best friend and I were drinking wine in a hotel room. She grabbed my hand to
paint my fingernail. She had been threatening to do this for hours and I was resisting for
reasons I could not articulate. Finally, I surrendered and my hand was soft in hers as she
carefully painted my fingernail a lovely shade of pink. She blew on it, let it dry, added a second
coat. The evening continued.
I stared at my finger the next day, on an airplane hurtling across the country. I could not
remember the last time I had allowed myself the simple pleasure of a painted fingernail. I liked
seeing my finger like that, particularly because my nail was long, nicely shaped, and I hadn’t
gnawed at it as I am wont to do. Then I became self-conscious and tucked my thumb against
the palm of my hand, as if I should hide my thumb, as if I had no right to feel pretty, to feel
good about myself, to acknowledge myself as a woman when I am clearly not following the
rules for being a woman.
Before I got on the plane, my best friend offered me a bag of potato chips to eat on the plane,
but I denied myself that. I said, “People like me don’t get to eat food like that in public,” and it
was one of the truest things I’ve ever said. Only the depth of our relationship allowed me to
make this revelation, and then I was ashamed for buying into these terrible narratives we fit
ourselves into and I was ashamed at how I am so terrible about disciplining my body and I was
ashamed by how I deny myself so much and it is still not enough.
With the dramatic reveal of Rachel Frederickson, the latest winner of The Biggest Loser, we
finally have a reason to be outraged about the show and its practices, even though the show
has been on the air and offering a damaging narrative about weight loss since 2004.
When her season began, Frederickson weighed 260 pounds. At the final weigh in, on live
television, she weighed 105, a 60 percent loss in mere months. She had disciplined her body
the way she was asked but, apparently, she disciplined her body a bit too much. There are so
many rules for the body—often unspoken and ever shifting.
During this reveal, even trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels gaped at Frederickson’s
gaunt body. In an interview, Harper would later say, “I was stunned. That would be the word. I
mean, we’ve never had a contestant come in at 105 lbs.” The biggest loser, we now know,
should lose, but only so much.
There was a wide range of responses in the wake of seeing Rachel Frederickson’s new body.
Her body, like most women’s bodies, instantly became a public text, a site of discourse, only
now, because she had taken her weight loss too far. She had disciplined her body too much.
In the two months since that reveal, Frederickson has gained twenty pounds and is at,
apparently, a more acceptable but still appropriately disciplined size. She has explained that
she lost so much weight because she was trying to win the $250,000 prize, but those of us
who deny ourselves and try so hard to discipline our bodies know better. Rachel Frederickson
was doing exactly what we asked of her and what too many of us would, if we could, ask of

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