Weight Loss is Not Revenge

Angry FrustratedReader Rachel let me know about a new show called “My Big Fat Revenge” where women are encouraged to lose weight to “get revenge” on people who bullied them for being fat. Here are some quotes from the press release:

After being discounted, humiliated, and rejected because of their weight, these women are ready to take control of their lives, put their painful pasts behind them, and finally stand up to the people who inflicted the hurt.

The premiere episode features Jennifer, who met Hiren on a plus-size online dating website. At first Jennifer thought she was living her fairy-tale romance with a man who accepted her, but Hiren soon started suggesting she lose weight, dye her hair blonde and change other physical characteristics. After never introducing her to his friends or family, he finally told her they could never truly be together because she was fat

For these transformed women, this is their golden opportunity to settle their scores and hopefully get the apologies they deserve.

From their intense workout regimens to dietary changes and weigh-ins, the [companion] web series will reveal the powerful transformations and show how the two women featured in that week’s episode lost the weight and found their confidence.

I was contacted for this show – or a show like it. they didn’t give me a name – and I asked the PA what the weight loss had to do with it.  She said it was “the point.”  I said that if I were going to confront my bullies I would demand an apology because they were wrong to bully me and that it had nothing to do with my weight then or now.  She said she didn’t think I was a fit for the show.  No kidding.

I’ve seen this done on talk shows and I’m not a huge fan of revenge shows for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that I’m not sure if someone who would meet a woman on a plus-size dating site and then not be willing to date her because she is fat  is going to be capable of grasping the message.  It can also do more harm than good for the person who was bullied when it turns out that they have been thinking about this incident and that this bully has been affecting their life since 10th grade but the bully doesn’t even remember being their lab partner.

Even if I was excited about an “eye for an eye” revenge show, the women losing weight has literally nothing to do with it.  The show would work perfectly well without the dieting, and mixing weight loss with confronting bullies comes dangerously close to suggesting that weight loss should be the cure for social stigma when, in fact, ending social stigma is the cure for social stigma. I do not think that losing weight is getting revenge on someone who bullied you for being fat  – I think that it’s the equivalent of giving the bully your lunch money and then insisting that they apologize for demanding it.

It also sets us up for having to deal with people saying “See, bullying ultimately lead to these people “getting healthier” (because people are confused that weight loss and health are the same thing) so bullying fat people is a actually a great idea, and for their own good – giving people and corporations another chance to be  “brave” and make the sacrifice of bullying fat people.  This is not hypothetical, it’s already happened. People are allowed to do what they want for the reasons that they want, but I think making a television show about this is wrong.

Finally, this show, like all weight loss shows, is setting these women up for all kinds of later issues.  First, by reinforcing the information that changing one’s body size is the same thing as, and the only way to, improve one’s health. Then by encouraging and cheering short term weight loss which at this point everyone should know almost always ends in weight regain. Finally by tying their “confidence” and willingness to stand up to poor treatment to being thin.  None of this is doing them, or anyone else, any favors.

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49 thoughts on “Weight Loss is Not Revenge

  1. It also misses the point of what revenge is supposed to be all about – making the other person suffer! Losing weight to fit some bully’s ideal is hardly revenge. Even if the bully doesn’t get the girl because of his nastiness, he still gets to say ‘she now fits the social normal because of the shit I gave her! Woo me!’

    Revenge can be a very powerful motivator. A lot of people in the arts are motivated to go right to the top as a revenge on all the people who said they couldn’t make it. So the vengeful impulse itself isn’t always bad.

    But there are more powerful uses for it than weight loss, that’s for sure. See how the bully feels about dumping the woman going past in her chauffeur-driven limousine on her way to her next multi-million dollar deal, or her prize ceremony, or her wedding to some really great person.

    1. Or worse they’ll justify thgeir bullying by saying, “See, now if I was nice to you, you’d still be fat. You should be thanking me!”

      1. That was the only way I could handle one of the two worst bullies. I’m not kidding when I say she was a sociopath. She used to crawl under the bus seats to stab me and whisper threats, and she led a group of children to pull me off my bike by my hair and stone me in the street while threatening me with rape. If I succeeded in fighting her off, she came back the next day with more people. If an adult did to another adult the things she did to me, they would be in jail on felony charges. But since I was a fat kid and therefore must have done something to provoke her, like exist, she hurt me with impunity throughout grade school.

        When she came up to me in high school all dewey-eyed bubbles and asked me if I remembered “how we used to play together all the time,” I responded, “No,” firmly, and began to leave the room.

        When she tried to follow me with, “Yes, we did!” I said “I do not remember you,” in an even more firm tone and shut the door in her face. I unloaded about the incident to my therapist later- a therapist her torment was partially responsible for my having to visit- but she stole enough of my time when we were younger and I wasn’t volunteering a second more. I still don’t know what she hoped to accomplish by approaching me, and I don’t care. If it was a veiled apology, I didn’t accept it. If she wanted a scene, she wasn’t worth it.

        That wasn’t the revenge, though. The revenge came when she tried to repay my “snub” by telling everyone *I* bullied *her*… and nobody believed her. There she was, beautiful, blonde, willowy, THE FAIR HEROINE, and there I was, fat, ugly, socially stunted (thanks to the endless barrage of cruelty), THE WICKED WITCH… and the school unanimously refused to participate in her narrative or believe in her fantasy world. THE HEROINE suddenly found herself living in reality. She wasn’t the star of a movie in which I was the cackling villain for her to defeat and humiliate before sailing off into the sunset. She was a kid in a high school where everyone was wise to her bullshit… and sick enough of it they’d even take my side over hers.

        Now that’s some good revenge, and I didn’t have to do anything to get it but refuse to talk to her.

        1. I’m so sorry you had to deal with such horrid treatment. I’m glad you are taking charge of your health and well-being.

    1. Exactly why I have never gone to a high school reunion. Those people put me through absolute hell and I would bet that they don’t even remember my name now. What a waste of time to plot revenge against those who don’t even think of you ever again. I think it’s more harmful to the ploter than the plotee!

      1. I have to say I had a rough time in high school, but I went back to my 10-year reunion (and all others since) and I’m SO glad I did. We’d all grown up and things were amazing. I love these folks like family and have more fun with them than most of my friends at home. It’s a blast and I love every minute. You might think about giving them a chance. They just might surprise you.

  2. Yup, that was the breaking point for me in a relationship I had with a high-functioning autistic bloke. We got on pretty well, considering his stunning lack of social skills, because I was willing to fit around his disability… until he told me that I was no longer desirable because I’d ‘been packing it on’. In fact, I’d been losing weight – it was his perception of me changing from ‘Exciting-new-female-that-actually-seems-to-like-me’ to ‘Established girlfriend’, and yes – he seemed horrified at the thought of introducing me to his friends, let alone his family. He couldn’t ‘see’ a fat woman as acceptable in his life – I was okay for dating, but not for joining the rest of his world.
    So much for THAT happy romance.

  3. I had revenge on a guy that tried to control me through my depression and threats, I got pissed off, called the police and got him kicked out of his place for long enough for me to collect all my stuff and go back to my flat (I was lucky I still had a place to go back to). Once I got pissed off I stayed that way and when he tried to mess with my head in front of a bunch of mutual acquaintances I calmly laid down why I didn’t want anything to do with him. The people there were disgusted by his behaviour and he never tried that again (and also kept away from me after that).

    Once again I’ve been lucky, I was just going to ignore him but he pushed the issue and I had enough support to be confident how the people would react. After that I gave zero fucks about him and he’d kept away from me ever since, but like I said I’ve been lucky.

    As for the people who harassed me back in school, well I haven’t bothered keeping in touch with them and don’t really give a damn what they do, but I hope for the sake of their families they grew the hell up and became better people and if they did that then why would I dredge up the shitty things they did as a teen, it’s not going to achieve anything and if they haven’t then being such annoying doucheweasels is it’s own punishment.

  4. I can’t help but think about this guy who I dated very briefly who told me that we only had sex because he had “never had sex with a fat chick.” Soon after that he moved across the country and asked me to mail some of his things to him. He said that after he got settled that maybe I could come out there. Yeah, right. Anyway, I mailed a couple of boxes to him but the more and more I thought about it the less I wanted to send him the rest of it, so, yes, I got revenge by keeping the rest of his things and some of them I am using to this day. Yes, I did enact revenge, but what he said had no affect on whether I chose to lose weight or not.

    1. Hey, this guy insulted you like that, and then asked you to do something nice for him? I don’t think I would have done it, either. Good for you.

  5. Wait a minute! I’m going to get revenge on you when I essentially agree that you were right in bullying me? How does that make sense, whether you’re talking about my size or the color of my hair?

    Even if I was motivated to get revenge on anyone, for anything, this wouldn’t be the way to go about it. Getting revenge on a fat-hater would be for me to have a long and happy marriage to a man who didn’t care what the scale said. It would be going out and having a successful career, or a house full of children, or a high political office, or anything else that would prove that you don’t have to be thin to be happy and successful.

    1. And I’m going to give up all other pursuits in life to make my body a part-time to full-time job. Yep, got revenge on you, all right.

    2. Yep, it’s basically agreeing with their bullies and saying Look! I did what you told me to do…I now fit into what society considers “ideal”

  6. For this to work, the bullies would have to admit that they were wrong to bully in the first place. It requires an admission of guilt…which you won’t get. Because they will see the New Thin Person as different and say, “Well, you were SO FAT we couldn’t help but do it. But you’re not now, so go you!” They’ll see you as two different people–one who deserved the shame, and the other who doesn’t.

    And the point that Ragen made–See? Apparently the bullying motivated you into losing weight, so we were right to do it!–is the most salient one, in my opinion. It justifies the wretched behaviour, not hold it accountable.

    Bad, bad form.

  7. I think it plays into the dysfunctional “Whoever gets the prettiest guy/gal WINS!” theme. Now that they’re pretty, the other person is a loser because they can’t have them.

    (possible TW – not sure)
    I lost “revenge weight” as my first marriage ended because I was severely depressed and not only lost my appetite, but flirted with orthorexia. Didn’t do much for me.

  8. When I’ve seen the promos for this show, I’ve been wondering what the real purpose is. Do the women lose weight in the hopes of scoring the rejector? Or is it just the revenge of being thin? Because I’m pretty sure “getting” the person who rejected you for being fat isn’t really a prize at all.

    Someone who goes on a dating site for fat people and then doesn’t want to date is fat person is a douche canoe of the first order. Good riddance is what I would say!

  9. Living well is the best revenge. In order to live well, you have to let go of bitterness and hate toward other people and toward yourself. Ironically, that often means letting go of the idea of weight loss and definitely means letting go of the idea of revenge. This should be called the “Moot Point Show.”

  10. Hey, I’ve got a great idea for another revenge show! Contestants who were bullied in school confront their nemeses and triumphantly hand over their lunch money while stuffing themselves into their own lockers!

    Maybe they can tape ‘kick me’ signs to their own backs, too.

    And that’t what I think of this show.

  11. I hate the way this show diminishes these people (who are no doubt mostly women) by re-establishing the power the bully had over them in the first place. If we think the object of our vengeance doesn’t control our actions and thoughts, even if they don’t know they are, we are fooling ourselves. Nothing good can come of it, as Ragen so eloquently describes here. It’s just sad and manipulative.

    1. I found out the show is on Oxygen, where they host a whole lot of “revenge” shows. I just sent off an email to them telling them how I feel about that type of show. i told them that by doing this show they are just showing the bullies that they still hold the cards. They are not empowering women and men who are fat.

  12. My step-father once told me that to get revenge on my father I should lose weight. I was so baffled I couldn’t form a coherent response.I also 18 and unequipped to deal with it. This stupid show just reminds me of those stupid hurts. It’s a terrible, awful, no good idea. I hate weight loss shows, but this is particularily terrible.

  13. Dear Regan, I so enjoy reading your blogs. You are my “wake up and get going” message every morning. I so appreciate your writing ability and your constant reinforcement of healthy life styles. As I mentioned to you before, I will be 75 this month and since I was 18 have never been under 200 pounds and most of my life 275 was my “fighting weight”. It saddens me to hear of the bigoted and prejudiced views and conversations in the world. I personally haven’t felt it as I traveled through life. Maybe because my father who was over 6’5″ and 425 pounds always said “Bigger is Better”, or the fact that everyone in my family appreciates and loves me. I was married for 47 years, have 2 sons, and seven grandchildren, I am now in a fantastic partnership, own a business and am minister of a free thinking church. . . and enjoy my life daily. I know there are thousands of fat women and men out there in the world having a wonderful life – would it be possible to share some of their stories? Keep up the good work, Blessings, D

  14. 1. Someone has completely missed the definition of “revenge,” and I’m pretty sure it’s several someones. Revenge, for instance, usually involves the person who inflicted pain doing the suffering, not the person who was wronged suffering further.

    2. This is going to be on one of those “lesser” networks like CW, isn’t it? Or maybe MTV.

    3. Please tell me there’s a twist at the end, like the show is really produced by Dickhouse and instead of losing weight, the wronged person just tells the asshat’s most embarrassing stories, and then they drop a hornet’s nest in the jerk’s pants.

    3a. ‘Cause if you want some serious revenge, talk to Johnny Knoxville and Company. Hornets + fire hose + high-velocity headbutt to the crotch.

    3b. I should stop re-watching Jackass now.

    4. In any case, weight loss is a horseshit excuse for revenge. Good revenge is a divorce lawyer who spent 15 years as a defense attorney with the federal government. Good revenge is solid documentation. Good revenge is speaking up when the asshat tries to bring you down again. Good revenge is living well. Terrible revenge is doing exactly what you were told and going, “SEE? I DID WHAT YOU WANTED, SO NE’ER!”

    4a. In fact, the correct term for doing that is “GALACTIC FUCK-UP.”

    4b. Or, if it causes you to get back together, “MULTIVERSAL FUCK-UP.”

    5. Just remember, every time you try to get revenge by doing exactly what your bully pressured you to do, Lord Vader blows up a planet.

      1. “5. Just remember, every time you try to get revenge by doing exactly what your bully pressured you to do, Lord Vader blows up a planet.”

        I so need this on a tee shirt, RIGHT NOW!

  15. Wait…I’m completely missing the point of this show because it makes no sense. To me it seems like all these people are doing is showing the bullies how much power they had over them. Like some have stated, those bullies probably don’t even remember their victims’ names and yet these “victims” are going to all this trouble to prove something?? AND I can see the bullies saying, “See, I HELPED you! You’re skinny now (which everyone equates with better and healthier) all because of ME. So, you should be thanking me. I’m awesome!” So basically, revenge is reinforcing the bullies already warped ideas and making THEM feel even better about themselves and JUSTIFYING their bullying. ?????

    1. I feel exactly the same every time I see features (and I’ve unfortunately seen a few) about the former fat kids who, now they’ve lost weight, are ‘friends’ with the kids who used to bully them. Uh, seriously? Because never in these stories is there ever any trace of any of those bullies saying ‘yeah, I’ve apologised for what I did because hey, everyone, bullying people is wrong!’ Never. Likewise the woman whose school ‘boyfriend’ was ashamed to be seen with her in front of his mates or his parents, but now, some years later, after she’s had WLS, they’re apparently blissfully happily married… and his attitude has actually changed how? And what happens when the weight gets regained? Thinking you can eradicate any form of hatred by eliminating the victims is a dangerous road to be going down.

  16. The best “revenge” as someone else mentioned in another topic is living happily, regardless of what your weight is (since when is their a weight requirement for happiness?) saying: see? You were wrong, and i didn’t need you…Wait! who are you?

  17. Why am I going to expend any effort looking for someone who wronged me? I’d rather live well. You know, the best revenge.

  18. it’s not revenge in any definition of the word. it’s just plain old bullshit devised to make money for weight lose industries, Big Food, Big Agriculture, and Big Pharm: Big Bullshit. I don’t watch these kinds of shows, waste of my precious time.

  19. For fucking real? Is this a joke? That is what they think “revenge” is? Someone treats you like shit because of your weight and then you go out and lose weight as ..revenge? LOL WTF? That’s like saying people who are bullied for being a woman should get a sex change and become a man as “revenge”. Or people who are bullied for being gay should try and be straight as “revenge”. What the hell are they thinking pretending this is anything other than giving the bullies EXACTLY what they want? Being bullied for being fat and then becoming thin as if that’s revenge? LOL Yeah, that will really teach the bullies …teach them that what they did was a “good thing”. I’m done.

  20. I hope my English is (still) good enough to express my thoughts about this…. dangerous rubbish.
    Connecting weight loss with the idea / goal to take revenge on somebody, what _seems_ – on the other hand – to supply the dieting people with “better” oder even “enviable” characteristics or attributes, which their enemies should be admire, is -from my point of view- a straight way to getting a eating disorder.

    People should know that they already have (or can develop and improve) their (good) characteristics independent of their weight or silhouette.

  21. If there is a petition to get this off the air, please point me at it. This show is just going to make things worse for us fatties. It will just show the concern trolls that what they are doing is “good”, because it drives these people to lose weight. This is going to give the bullies more fuel and “evidence” of why they should “keep it up”.

    1. Once there are a number of signatures I will send it to Oxygen network.

      I am hoping that what i wrote on it is good. I could use some feedback on that. 🙂

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