CENSORED: Michelle Obama’s “Biggest” Mistake

When I heard that Michelle Obama was going on The Biggest Loser to congratulate the participants on being role models I knew that I had to do something.  So I e-mailed my friend Darryl Roberts, filmmaker of America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments. We wrote a well-researched article pointing out the problems with Mrs. Obama endorsing the contestants as role models.  That article is below.

It wasn’t meant for this blog, but it’s now been turned down by three major media outlets.  Not because they disagreed with us, in fact all three said that they agreed with the article.  It was denied in all three cases because the White House wouldn’t like it, they were worried about damaging their working relationship with the White House, and because it it made the First Lady “look bad and out of touch.”  That confused me since I think the problem is that the First Lady IS out of touch, not that I’m pointing it out. And why does the media believe that, in America, we should be scared to question our government?

So I’m using my little forum here to get this out.  But before I do, I want to make an invitation:  Michelle Obama – have lunch with me.  I believe that you are a good person and that your intentions to improve kids’ health are good, and I don’t believe that you intend for the media to be too scared to publish pieces that are critical of you.  I’m a champion athlete, a trained researcher, and a real live fat woman and I think that a good place to start is for us to have a conversation.  Tell me where and when you’d like to have lunch and I’m buying. In the meantime, here’s the piece that the media was too scared to publish:

Michelle Obama’s “Biggest” Mistake

By Darryl Roberts and Ragen Chastain

I have had the opportunity to get to know Health at Every Size proponent Ragen Chastain after interviewing her for my documentary America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments.  I was coming home from a screening of the movie when I received an email from Ragen alerting me to the fact that our first lady Michelle Obama was going on The Biggest Loser to proclaim the contestants as role models.

I will admit that initially I didn’t quite believe this. “The Biggest Loser,” is a show that’s exploits a very dangerous aspect of American life, the unhealthy ways in which we attempt to lose weight. Surely the First Lady had to know this. But it turned out to be true and, knowing what we know about health and weight, Ragen and I decided that we had to respond.

Mrs. Obama, we know you love our youth as much as we all do and that you want to see them healthy, but we would ask you why you chose a game show like The Biggest Loser as a platform to promote “getting healthy.” and why you continue to push weight loss even though it doesn’t meet the criteria of evidence based medicine.

Have you vetted what happens to some the contestants one of two years after the show?

The New York Times did some digging and this is what they found:

“The Biggest Loser has produced some amazing results for its obese contestants, but at what cost? Many see the pounds come right back, and it’s likely because they engage in dangerous, damaging behavior in the first place in order to win the weight-loss reality show, the New York Times has learned. Season one’s winner, who’s almost back to his original weight of 330 pounds, dehydrated himself to the point of urinating blood. “I’m just waiting for the first person to have a heart attack,” says a doctor.

This season’s first episode resulted in two hospitalizations, which is scary given the content of a release form obtained by the Times. It reads: “No warranty, representation or guarantee has been made as to the qualifications or credentials of the medical professionals [on the show].”

Shockingly, contestants who talk about being completely inactive sometimes for years have to attest that they are “in excellent physical health”. And while the Times got some tidbits — contestants apparently work out in as much clothing as possible when the cameras are off — few were willing to talk. After the paper started digging around, former contestants were emailed a reminder of the serious consequences that come with unauthorized interviews: fines of $100,000 to $1 million.”

A lot of our youth actually start off exercising and eating better. But when they don’t see the “desired result” on the scale, they stop because they mistakenly think that if their healthy habits don’t lead to weight loss then they can’t lead to health.

From my travels with the film and Ragen’s work as an expert speaker on Health at Every Size, we can produce health professionals from Harvard, Princeton, Michigan State, the University of Denver, UCLA, etc. who will tell you exactly what we’re telling you.

What do you think of Michelle Obama going on Biggest Loser to congratulate participants on being good examples of health?

RAGEN:  This is an illustration of good intentions gone horribly awry.  Calling these contestants good examples of health and fitness is deeply problematic.  There are already firsthand accounts of Biggest Loser contestants being encouraged to engage in incredibly unhealthy behaviors, including working out against doctor’s orders and manipulating their weight through dehydration

According to an interview with Golda Poretsky (http://www.bodylovewellness.com/2010/06/09/kai-hibbard-biggest-loser-finalist-part-1-of-3/) with former contestant Kai Hibbard:

“They start teaching you that because you are overweight you are sub-human …There was a registered dietician that was supposed to be helping … but every time she tried to give us advice … the crew or production would step in and tell us that we were not to listen to anybody except our trainers.  The doctors had ordered us to take [a solution to re-balance our electrolytes] and the trainers were like, “Throw it out, right now.”  So I got to a point where I was only eating about 1,000 calories a day and I was working out between five and eight hours a day …   And my hair started to fall out.  I was covered in bruises.  I had dark circles under my eyes … My period stopped altogether and I was only sleeping three hours a night.  I tried to tell the TV show about it and I was told, “Save it for the camera.”

Exactly what’s wrong with the “lose weight” to be healthy approach?

RAGEN: Teaching kids about healthy eating and helping them develop a lifelong love of movement are excellent intentions.  Focusing on the weight of kids in order to do that is simply horrible execution.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) stated recently that a program that shames kids carries  “a great risk of increasing stigma for those children who are overweight or obese which, in turn, can reinforce unhealthy behaviors (e.g., overeating),” and also said:

“Studies suggest that overweight children who are teased about their appearance are more likely to binge-eat or use unhealthy weight-control practices, and weight-based victimization has been correlated with lower levels of physical activity. Not surprisingly, stigmatization of obese individuals, particularly adolescents, poses risks to their psychological health.”

Hospitalizations for eating disorders in children younger than 12 years old rose by 119% from 1999 to 2006 according to a report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published in the journal Pediatrics.

It’s not just that focusing on kid’s weight might hurt them, it’s also that it doesn’t help.  According to research from the University of Minnesota “None of the behaviors being used by adolescents (in 1999) for weight-control purposes predicted weight loss[in 2006]…Of greater concern were the negative outcomes associated with dieting and the use of unhealthful weight-control behaviors, including significant weight gain.”

Meanwhile there is not a single study that shows that weight loss works for more than a small fraction (about 5 percent) of people.  The cold hard truth is that there is absolutely no evidence that supports the idea that the majority of fat people can become thin through diet and exercise.

Is There a Solution?

RAGEN:  Absolutely.  The fact that I’m a healthy fat athlete isn’t a surprise or a paradox, there are lots of us.  A great deal of evidence (Matheson et. al., Wei et. al, the Cooper Institute etc.) points to the conclusion that healthy habits make healthy bodies in a wide variety of sizes.

Matheson et. al. People who participated in four healthy habits had essentially the same hazard ratio regardless of their weight. Obese people who participated in four healthy habits had a dramatically lower hazard ratio than thin people who did not participate in healthy habits.

The worst thing is that all this focus on the weight of individuals is distracting us from the systemic issue of lack of access.  Many people do not have access to the healthy foods that they would choose to eat -including foods that are not genetically modified or full of hormones or government subsidized high fructose corn syrup.  Many people do not have access to safe movement options that they enjoy, or to affordable evidence-based health care.  But as long as we focus on little Johnny’s BMI, we don’t have to address the real problems here and we can just keep shaming and blaming fat kids and adults and misinforming them and everyone else about the odds of becoming permanently thin.

We admire Michelle Obama and we believe that she is a strong woman.  In fact, we believe that she is strong enough to step up to a microphone and say “I truly believed that I was doing the best thing for kids’ health.  I now realize that I was wrong, and I am going to lead the charge in fixing it.  We are going to start focusing on supporting the development of healthy behaviors, and access to healthy safe movement options, and affordable evidence-based healthcare for kids of all sizes, and we are going to stop focusing on the weight of any kids at all.”

We look forward to seeing it.


So that’s the article that was “too controversial” for three major media outlets.  I’ll end the way I started.  Mrs. Obama, I’d like to take you to lunch.  No need to spend government money – I’ll come to Washington DC at my own expense, we’ll go to lunch and I’m buying.  I think that we both believe in giving our citizens the opportunity to achieve their health goals and I think that if you are trying to eradicate obese people, it is worth talking to one and seeing if we can learn from each other.  What do you say?

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62 thoughts on “CENSORED: Michelle Obama’s “Biggest” Mistake

  1. Seriously, I’m really beginning to see the entire campaigning thing as nothing but a HUGE popularity contest. I mean, we’re talking about candidates going on Letterman, on Saturday Night Live, etc. I’m sorry, these people are supposed to be leaders, NOT followers but sadly, they do whatever it takes to win. I don’t know, I’m getting SO disgusted with politicians these days. And wow on the censorship. Wow on the fact that the news media so strongly caters to the White House. What happened to the truth? It all just disgusts me. But I guess I shouldn’t expect much from a government that’s okay with keeping the status quo, with not making any changes to the school lunch program, to giving money to farmers who grow crops of wheat and soy and corn when we need more vegetables. I am just honestly disgusted with it all. Keep at it Ragen. Keep fighting and getting the word out because the word needs to get out about these things. I will keep reading and learning and trying to get the word out too when I can.

  2. Dunno why, of alll of the causes Mrs. Obama could have chosen, she chose childhood obesity. Of COURSE the health of our kids is important, but given alll of the other causes she could address, why that one specifically..? What AIDS? Cancer..? National poverty or homelessness..?? What about childhood HUNGER, mental health issues & the stigmas that surround the mentally ill? Uy… Yes, our kids are vital, but what about bullying or fat discrimination..?

    1. Well let me guess…Maybe because she has two young and lovely daughters and god forbid they should cecum to that horrible socially and health debilitating first world issue of being FAT OMG….what could be worse? This is total nonsense…and Ragen you are outstanding. I wish I had the tools and words to use to fight this battle. I pray that with all this pressure to be ‘First Family Fit’ Michelle is not giving her daughters a healthy dose of ED!

        1. While I am happy and appreciative when readers help me proofread my work and send me e-mails and such about errors, I seriously dislike this kind of comment. So someone committed a homophone error, I’ve done it hundreds – maybe thousands – of times. Fat Feminist Activist took the time to leave a comment about the subject matter of the blog bringing up something that I had overlooked (Michelle Obama’s use of her own daughters in a way that is dangerous for their body image.) What have you added to the discourse by publicly correcting this person? And if you feel the need to police other people’s grammar why not do it politely?

          Fat Feminist Activist – Thank you for your insightful comment, I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to keep this space safe for you, I’ll do better in the future.

          Everyone reading this – I appreciate that you are a reader and I hope that you will continue to be, but the comments section of this blog is intended to be a safe space for discussion about real issues, not a place to shame people for grammar and spelling – to me this type of comment feels exactly like snarking other people’s bodies to make yourself feel better/important/etc.

          Feminista – I appreciate very much that you are a reader and I have no idea what your intentions were, obviously, and this may have seemed completely lighthearted and flippant to you, but I didn’t read it that way.

          This is for everyone who reads it – don’t do this to commenters on my blog.

          Thank you,



          1. ick sorry again Regan I think I called Feminista / Fashionista…either way the computer says they are spelled wrong. Not sure if you can change my comment to the right name? I can’t find it now…once again I have succumbed (sic’m) to snapping in my brain. And I wouldn’t want to bite some poor Fashionista when I meant to clamp down on one Feminista.

      1. succumb…wow…Fashionista…I’m sorry you are so offended by bad spelling and grammar, my brain was on the ten other things when I typed this…Thanks Regan, for defending me. Artists don’t usually write their own psycho babble anyways, we are interviewed. Besides I’m quite sure I could paint Fashionista under the table, or paper mache her eyes shut so she wouldn’t have to see all those disturbing mistakes. REALLY!

  3. BRAVA. You have delivered a well-considered, well-written plea for sanity in the weight-loss arena. As always, Ragen, you are my hero. I sincerely hope that Michelle Obama gets wind of this article – and also of the fact that the media didn’t want to run it out of fear of the backlash from the administration.

    I am sickened by what’s been described by these contestants. Just … I have no words.

    Ragen, you are amazing. In fact, you are truly one in a million. I wish we were all a little more like you – but because you’re out here modeling for us, we CAN be. Thank you. Deeply.

    1. Helena,

      Thank you so much, I’m completely flattered and honored by this. I really appreciate the support. When Golda first published her interview with Kai I was absolutely shocked. This is personal for me because when I was diagnosed with my eating disorder I was engaging in the exact same behaviors as the contestants on The Biggest Loser. We have to stand up to this.


  4. This is a beautifully written article. I am just confused because politicians are criticized and bashed everywhere. I can turn on the tv right now and find someone talking smack about someone in our government, so why was this turned away? Am I missing something?

    1. Hi Ashley,

      Thanks! I think that Mrs Obama gets special protection because as the First Lady she is not officially a politician and her work is sometimes seen as altruistic (however misguided it might be), but that’s just my guess. I think that’s a problem because she is using her power and her position to run a National campaign and so I think that she should be subject to the same scrutiny as other high ranking government officials.


  5. “They start teaching you that because you are overweight you are sub-human …”
    This is how I feel, to one degree or another, every day of my life. This is how I’ve felt ever since I gained my hundredth pound and could no longer fit into size 9 boys’ trousers. And for what?
    Mrs. Obama is one of those clueless “normal” weight people (sorry, I couldn’t think of another word for it) who has NO IDEA IN THE WORLD what it’s like to be fat. She thinks that it’s just a matter of putting down the fork. But eating 1000 calories a day and exercising 3-5 hours a day is not healthy. I know because I’ve done these things.
    I hope that Mrs. Obama does meet with you. I hope she has the sense to realize that what she is promoting is not health–it is thinness at any cost.

  6. Nice article. Wouldn’t it be good if she did agree to meet you. Let’s cross our fingers. Because if she did champion such a thing in the US the UK would start to notice.

    I’ve only seen a couple of UK Biggest Looser shows. I thought them terrible. A horrible way to loose weight. In the one I watched an older woman collapsed on a very gruelling task and had to be given oxygen. Then, still looking ill and crying with the strain, she carried on so as not to let her team down. I was aghast that the TV company let her carry on. She needed to be taken to hospital and checked over. I’m with that doctor you cited. It’s just a matter of time before someone has a heart attack or stroke on this stupid programme. It also encourages the viewer to vilify fat people and only celebrate the return to “normal” however brief. It’s undoing all the good people like you are trying to do and the average TV viewer just takes it in and never even thinks about it.

  7. Great article. Hope u get that lunch date. Gave me hope this morningadter I saw the trailer for hbos upcomimng special on obesity in america….a four part series, which was so offensive I cant even begin to describe it. Suffice to say and I quote “obesity will crush america……” Really? Here is my personal vow…i will not rest until my right to live and exist as a citizen of this country is recognized. I dont know what I will do but I know this I have a brain, a healthy fat body access to the internet and am a good fundrIser. I have given money time and walked miles and miles for a lot of other causes. Now its my turn…..today I figure out how to use my voice for me….

  8. First Lady’s FB page here (I sent a link with a polite request that she read, and re-think this thing)
    Link to contact the White House here (no direct link to First Lady on this page, but we gotta start somewhere. Second link and request sent)

    While I don’t foresee much shaking up of the status quo before the election, if enough of us request the First Lady’s attention, maybe we’ll get something we wouldn’t get if we never asked.

    1. This is the very information that I was getting ready to post.

      Folks, if you REALLY want the First Lady and the White House to see this blog, to start understanding what we’re talking about, then you HAVE to let them know about it.

      If they get one e-mail or two with the link, it won’t go anywhere, but if each and every person reading this sends the link to the Contact Us e-mail address with a POLITELY worded request for the First Lady and her staff to follow up on it, AND if each and every one of you posts the link to her Facebook wall, then there is at least a small chance that the volume of responses will at least get it looked at.

      Be pro-active, not reactive. Post a polite request for attention to each of those places today!

  9. Hi,

    have shared this post on my facebook, as it is truly inspiring. The biggest loser and Obese, a year to save my life, are truly frightening programmes.

    My hope with HAES is that people learn to be healthy and therefore not hurt themselves.

    I also wanted to share this bbc article with you about girls phys ed in schools. I know that I remember being ridiculed at my lack of ability in hockey (even though a champion swimmer outside of school) and such and I ended up withdrawing from the class. If you weren’t a hot shot your were ignored or taunted. Thought you might like this article so here it is.


    Thanks, Mel.

  10. Ragan,
    Good Morning and thank you for making every morning for the last six weeks (since I found your blog) a celebration of life for me.

    Normally I don’t comment, but I believe in what you say and want to live life as we all deserve, so thought perhaps you would welcome a thought that might improve the chance to have the Mrs Obama article heard. It is just my simply thought.

    I have learnt, that if you have a message to be heard, you have to mold the message to the intended audience. It seems to me that most often your messages are for fellow full figured people who enjoy a rich healthy life without the quest for thinness. This article that you would like to be read, heard and actioned on by Mrs Obama is similar in that message, and while it resonates with me, it is fairly condemning of Mrs Obama. Although I am happy to read your article, it sounds like you would like Michelle to “hear” you and respond to your request for an interview. Michelle might not respond well to the way you posed the statements, and in fact be turned off and stop listening.

    I don’t agree with censorship of any kind, rather believe in open communication. In order for a message to have the desired outcome, the writer must write with the target audience in mind.

    Michelle Obama’s “Biggest Opportunity” could be a starting point to get her interested and open to future discussion on this topic.

    The statement right at the beginning of the article sets the tone for me. “Mrs. Obama, we know you love our youth as much as we all do and that you want to see them healthy, but we would ask you why you chose a game show like The Biggest Loser as a platform to promote “getting healthy.” and why you continue to push weight loss even though it doesn’t meet the criteria of evidence based medicine.”

    This implies that Michelle is wrong and bad in her pursuit of Health. I feel that the statement could be reworded to celebrate her pursuit and reveal that there is room to build on her mission with more information than she had before. Arm her with information and knowledge rather than shame. We (the full figure world) have a life of shame to beat down, and I would hate to see the same shame to make people listen.

    Perhaps(I am no writer)
    “Mrs. Obama, we celebrate your pursuit of healthy, and as you prepare to promote “getting healthy” with the television show “The Biggest Loser” we would like to arm you with the best information possible. There is an opportunity here for you to make a difference for many people and we can give you evidence and statistics that will make sense to everyone.

    I hope I have made sense. I really believe in you and your words, and hope that you don’t mind the suggestion or comments.

    In the meantime I will continue to spread your word, and share your site with anyone who will listen.


    1. Hi Bernie,

      Thank you for the comment, the kind words, and the suggestion. I absolutely understand where you’re coming from. I’m going to keep it how it is and here is why: The First Lady already went on Biggest Loser, the shows were taped before I found out about them. I said in the article several times that I think that she has the best of intentions and I do. However, after declaring herself a leader in children’s health and then putting the focus on children’s weight, she went on this show and told kids to look up to people who anyone can see are involved in extreme practices – people were hospitalized THIS SEASON. She has a staff of people and finding the information contained in this article does not exactly require crack investigative skills. She made a mistake that is irresponsible and dangerous and in doing it she put the health of millions of people, and millions of kids at risk. I can guarantee you that somewhere right now a parent is setting up a “Biggest Loser” situation for their child based on Mrs. Obama’s endorsement. In the past I have reached out to her via letters and this blog in the tone that you suggested and it’s gotten me nowhere. I think it’s time to call the mistake out in strong language, and if she chooses not to listen at least perhaps it will wake some other people up to the issues.


  11. I would love it if Michelle Obama would palaver with you. I am certain it would be enlightening, but she’d have to see this, wouldn’t she? May I humbly suggest a change.org petition so we could all chime in and show our support in a more visible forum? You could rally the troops from smaller, alternative media outlets and blogs. I’ve never done any activism of this nature, so I have only cursory knowledge of making something like this work. Maybe someone else would know more about how to proceed and to whom you might speak.

  12. The article is spot on, but it’s about the Show and uses the First Lady as leverage to get the word out. I think the business sense concerning playing nice with the White House during campaign season easily trumps the potential fallout from publicizing the First Lady’s ignorance. Try sending it to Fox News, they’ll greedily eat up the opportunity to slander the First Lady.

    1. Hi azeroth2b,

      Sorry, I think you missed the point. This article is not about the show. It’s about the fact that Michelle Obama has declared herself children’s health leader in this country when she started her National “Let’s Move” campaign. Then she went on television and told the people who think that she is an authority on children’s health that the people on this show should be their role models. That’s dangerous and irresponsible and by using Google for 10 minutes she (or any of her many advisors) could have known better. She is the one who promised to wipe out childhood obesity in a generation without bothering to research that we have no idea how to do that. She is the one who put the focus on kid’s weight. This is about her. Also there is no libel here (slander is verbal, libel is written). I did not defame her character – I simply stated the facts and included a call to action.


      1. YOu are so right with the blog and this reply is “spot on”. She did declare herself an expert with knowing what she was doing. I hope you can make some headway and get some information to her and society in general. But to be honest, no news is going to put a bad light on her showing that she doesnt know what she is talking about. Maybe there will be a way. I hope we will find it soon. And I hate the show and never watched it. It is awful.

  13. Excellent piece, Ragen. I wish the national media would do something about this, but like you said, it’s all about maintaining a good working relationship. I wrote a post outlining a few of the instances where The Biggest Loser has intentionally jeopardized the health of their contestants for “good television.” The most horrifying example was time a woman collapsed from heat stroke when they made contestants run for one mile in the sand on their FIRST DAY. After she collapsed, the medical team responded, then the other contestants, who she had JUST MET, insisted that she’d be “disappointed” if she didn’t finish. Once they hauled her the remaining 100 yards, she was rushed to the hospital, where she stayed for two weeks for undisclosed complications.

    This show is not about health, it’s about using fat people as pawns in a game show where the *real* players are the trainers. This show is a horrific experiment in the limits of the human body, and Mrs. Obama has now given a powerful seal of approval to its methods, both for the contestants and for the nation. She ought to be ashamed.



  14. I was absolutely horrified when I heard Michelle Obama was goign on that shaming, unhealthful terrible show! Thanks so much for writing this article and sharing it here. Too bad the media were too chicken shit to publish this. Seriously, what are we living in Russia during the cold war??!!

  15. I sent @MichelleObama a tweet with a link to this article. Maybe if enough people do the same she’ll actuall read it. Won’t hurt to try.

  16. How can we get Michelle Obama to see/read this? And how can we encourage her to accept your luncheon date with her? If the media will not show this (in today’s political climate, no one ever says they “made a mistake” – it’s appaling and unrealistic, EVERYBODY makes mistakes! Some of us, frequently!), can we facebook it somehow into reality? One suggestion: if the title (and in other political times, the current title would be clever and good) did not say “mistake” but rather something like Dear Ms. Obama… (with necessary changes to the text, of course) perhaps it would get people into the meat of the article (and the issue) without having them choose sides/make immediate gut level judgments right from the get-go. Do you read dailykos? It’s a huge progressive political blog that is attended nationally, and the content is all community-generated. It would be a fabulous forum for these ideas.

    That said, I’d like to jump on the Ragen Chastain bandwagon and tell you how much I respect you, that I have been changed and challenged by your ideas and insights, and that I read your entertaining and informative blog daily! Keep up this extremely important good work – body shaming hurts every body.

    1. I used to be a frequent reader and commenter on Kos and I found them to be super fat shaming. I left after a particularly bad fat shaming diary. I am a progressive Democrat, but generally, I don’t find a lot of acceptace for fat people in that part of the party.

      Nevertheless, I love the idea of getting this out as far and wide as possible. And I’ll chip in for airfare for Ragan.

      1. I was afraid Kos might be like that – it’s discouraging to see otherwise caring people unable to see past the lies. Thanks for trying to enlighten the Kos readers; I’m sure you reached some people and made them think. That is the key, we need to make people think! It’s harder than it sounds. I ended up linking the article from my facebook page, I hope it helps.

  17. My contribution was to re-post to my facebook page with the note “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Mrs. Obama had a lunch-and-learn with HAES as the topic?” Anyone else game?

  18. I’ve often talked/written about how the government’s focus on bullying never ever mentions weight based bullying, even as they have links on their official web page about bullying against LGBT and disabled kids, for example. The statistics out of GLESN shows that more kids get bullied for size and personal appearance than any other form of bullying, and even there, they don’t bother to seperate out the numbers for body size bullying from general ‘personal apperance’ bullying. I think other studies show that weight based bullying is the most prevalent form of youth bullying in the US, and so when I saw this the other day: http://news.health.com/2012/04/24/many-first-graders-shun-overweight-obese-kids/, I had proof of what “Let’s Move” is really doing to the youth of America. Instead of making kids healthier, it teaches non-fat kids to stigmatize and discriminate against fat kids, which is why body size is never mentioned on the government’s bullying webpage, as it would undercut the ways that “Let’s Move” is serving purposes other than the health and wellbeing of fat people. So much of “Let’s Move” is about partnering with big business (NBC/Comcast/Universal and Wal-Mart, among others), not about working in the community to find solutions to food deserts, lack of safe play grounds and other outlets for fun movement, and the persistent gap between rich and poor that keep many from finding the time to do the most basic of self-care behaviors, like gardening, cooking fresh food, or going on an evening stroll. I don’t think Ms. Obama cares too much about the facts, but figures this is a non-partisan issue that ‘everyone’ agrees with, so it will win her husband votes so he can have a second term.




  19. Okay, sent the first lady a message on her facebook page, not sure if it will get to her… but, if she gets enough, maybe 😉

  20. I tweeted the link to @MichelleObama this way: Please, @MichelleObama, think about this. I know your intentions are to help, but you’re hurting real kids. bit.ly/IGVmi6

    Anyone who wants to is free to use the Tweet.

    Ragen, thank you so much for this and for your tireless work. We are so lucky to have you on our side.

  21. Here’s an angle for you – instead of “Mrs. Obama’s Biggest Mistake”, why not phrase it as “Mrs. Obama, did they try to fool you like they fooled the rest of us?” The spin is that the show tried to take advantage of Mrs. Obama’s noble goal of getting people into shape, They twisted and perverted her noble message into a ratings-grabber that actually harms people. Surely, she wouldn’t wish to be associated with such depravity! She could heroically blow the whistle on the wretched excesses and be in a unique position to show people how BEST to get in shape and “put America back on the right course” (a very good thing to do in an election year).
    Let us assume that Mrs. Obama means well and wants to do what’s best.
    Let’s further assume that TBL’s abusiveness is not as screamingly obvious to everyone as it is to us.
    And there you go! Politics is all about image, and if you could get her to do the right thing in a way that makes her look like the wonderful great caring gal you know she is, she’s more likely to listen.

    1. Hi Mulberry,

      Thank you for the suggestions, I really appreciate it. I have a background in politics both as a successful lobbyist and as a senior strategist on campaigns and so I understand how it works (and one of the reasons I left politics is so that I could write the way I do.) I said in the article several times that I think that she has the best of intentions and I do. However, after declaring herself a leader in children’s health and then putting the focus on children’s weight, she went on this show and told kids to look up to people who anyone can see are involved in extreme practices – people were hospitalized THIS SEASON. She has a staff of people and finding the information contained in this article does not exactly require crack investigative skills. I and many others have communicated to and about her in exactly the way you recommend on a number of occasions to no avail. The fact that she has access to the information and chooses not to use this makes this a willful mistake that is irresponsible and dangerous and in doing it she put the health of millions of people, and millions of kids at risk. I can guarantee you that somewhere right now a parent is setting up a “Biggest Loser” situation for their child based on Mrs. Obama’s endorsement. I think it’s time to call the mistake out in strong language, and if she chooses not to listen (as she has consistently done in the past) at least perhaps it will wake some other people up to the issues.


  22. I love the elitist hypocrites that tell us they know whats best for us, when they have never experienced what we do. MO has probably never had to lose 10 pounds, much less 100! “Tis better to not speak and be thought a fool than to speak and erase all doubt.”-Mark Twain

  23. It would be interesting to know who the media outlets were who turned you away on the basis that they didn’t want to jeopardise their relationships.

    1. Alexie,

      I would love to tell you but the media relationships that I leveraged were not just mine and I promised the people who helped connect me that I wouldn’t disclose the outlets.



  24. Thank you for this. I’m also an obese athlete. I teach group exercise; yoga, kickboxing, and a sculpt class. I’ve actually had people walk in, see me and walk out without giving the class a try because they think a fat person can’t give them a good workout, and believe me I do. I gave up dieting years ago since it didn’t do anything and I’m a much happier and healthier woman since.

  25. I can’t say I’m surprised a subset of big media is more interested in shielding their candidate from criticism than publishing an important, multi-faceted, and timely story.

    And the big news outlets wonder why they’re dying off, whining about being taken over by ‘nonobjective’ blogs. I for one welcome our new ‘nonobjective’ overlords if it means old ‘objective’ media outlets finally go the way of the dinosaur.

    On intentions: I don’t give a hoot about the intentions of Michelle Obama or anyone else. I’m not interested in having every kind-hearted interventionist crusading in my school, backyard, or refrigerator because, hey, at least they’ve got good intentions. Further, the unintended consequences of most interventions far outweigh their positive effects, cost a bundle, and usually reduce freedom in the aggregate.

    Also: I’m tired of having to justify why I, as a fat person, shouldn’t be in some crusader’s crosshairs because they say I’m not healthy and that’s all the reason they need to target me and my children. “Health” is becoming a widely-acceptable vehicle for astounding abuses of individual liberty (like denying IVF, adoption, organ transplants, surgeries, gaining attending of CPS, &etc), especially in countries whose governments have gotten into the business of health (the UK, I’m looking at you).

    I do not need to justify my health, or argue for a better model of public health, in order to get the interventionists to stop pinging fat me and fat mine. Just, no.

    1. Thank you thank you thank you bigliberty. Well said. I am not good with word but you sure nailed it. And furthermore, MO is not slim. (not that there is anything wrong with that.) Meaning she should have a better understanding about obesity.

  26. Ragen, without having read your piece (I will) I can tell you the reason Michelle is not going to listen to you and the media won’t print, is Big Ag, and Big Pharm. The Obamas will not say anything against these industries, which have a strangle hold on government decisions and were major Obama funders, because if she did, and if he did, The Bigs would kick him out in a minute or suggest Michelle needs one of their pills.

    You know the story…

  27. I’m a bit lost for words on this. It was like when the UK presenter of the Biggest Loser was given the awared for being the celeb who is doing the most to promote positive body image in the UK (votes came from the general public).

    There is a deep rooted belief that weight loss = health and how many more people have to sacrifice their health before we (as a society) come to our senses? I feel deeply disappointed that this viewpoint won’t even be considered by the media. Perhaps it would in other countries? **she dons thinking cap**

  28. Thank you for this enlightening article! I think that the “machine” becomes so concerned with a politician’s appearance (including their family), they forget that most of us would rather have them be honest. It’s sad that a lot of us now suspect any action or cause supported as “posed” for political reasons rather than an honest concern for Americans. Maybe we could trust them if they could trust us.

  29. Thank you all so much for sharing this information. I always thought that any show called The Biggest Loser was a horribly negative title; and I have had a friend that thought it was wonderful. To finally find out that it was all based on lies verifies my thoughts. To find out how sick people became because of it and even watching it, is awful too. This reminds me of the ancient Roman events that enthralled the masses; the torture, violence, and killing in the arenas were enthusiastically supported by all; all except those who were sacrificed, right? Those who were ripped apart, torn to shreds, and killed did not benefit.

  30. oh dear ragen, how right on you are on this as always, and always turning to rightful and considerate action. this was shocking. i hope my little post brings some more people to support your work and helps shine light on the larger issues as well.
    thanks as always, elyn at lifeseedsnutrition

  31. When I shared your link on my facebook page, I was surprised at the response that I got from a friend of mine. She’s perpetually thin, so perhaps she doesn’t understand the lack of correlation between being thin and being healthy, but I was disappointed that she didn’t get the bigger picture. When I replied that I didn’t think she got the point and pointed out the show didn’t promote healthy weight loss, just fast weight loss to win a competition, her response was that people should know by now to work with a physician when losing weight. Having a life-long weight problem, I must say it opened my eyes to how thin people view the obese. Even friends. My mother’s disgust with “fat” people affected my self-esteem all my life when I couldn’t lose the weight. Now I see that this may be a viewpoint for a lot of people without weight problems. How sad. 59 years later, I’m still trying to lose weight in order to be accepted. But why should I feel this way when at 100 lbs overweight, I’m still more healthy than anyone I know? Perfect health tests, low cholesterol, low blood pressure, the works. I should be allowed to rejoice in my good health. Instead of worrying about how people perceive me because of my weight.

  32. I am starting to believe that obese athletes are changing the dynamic and we are all here, hiding in plain sight. I’ve left yoga and core classes because of the instructor’s clear disinterest to teach me (or anyone!) simple modifications to allow me to continue healthful activity, and only because I found a patient and intelligent tai chi instructor have I found my passion.

    I’m quite the committed and advancing student… and I used to leave exercise classes in tears and disgust.

    I refuse to allow the prevailing dynamic shame me into hiding, quiet me from accessing lifetime health at MY size or limit my physical presence in the world I live.

    And I truly, deeply hope that the First Lady takes you up on your generous offer one day, Ragen. This is a national conversation that is past its due date.

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