Holley Mangold on The Biggest Loser

Jillian MichaelsSuper Heavyweight Olympic weigh lifter Holley Mangold has signed up for the next season of biggest loser.  I’ve received a lot of e-mails and messages from blog readers asking me how I feel about it.  I had considered Holley a fit fatty role model and even participated in her fundraising for the last Olympics so it was rough for me when I found out that she had chosen to go on the Roman Colosseum Gladiators  the biggest loser.  It took me a while to sort out my feelings but here’s what I’ve got.

Holley is allowed to choose to try to lose weight.  I do not believe that I can be in integrity by demanding the right to practice Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size while simultaneously attempting to limit other people’s choices.  Holley has information and world class coaches available to her and she has made her decision to, in her words, “be the in-shape, smaller girl.”

Holley is allowed to go on the biggest loser.  Whether it’s because she genuinely believes it will help her with her next Olympic bid, or they gave her a bunch of money, or she wants to solve social stigma through weight loss and by bowing to the tremendous social pressure to be thin, or whatever her reasons are, it is absolutely her right to choose to go on the show.

I think that the Biggest Loser is a horrific show that emotionally and physically abuses fat people as entertainment. For a first hand account, I highly recommend Golda Poretsky’s Interview with former contestant Kai Hibbard (“I believe that  . . . most of the contestants, felt like it was okay to treat us like we were subhuman when we were there, that the ends justify the means.  If they were going to make us thin, then it was totally worth it to humiliate us and treat us poorly all the way along.  I just don’t feel that way.”)  But Holley isn’t required to subscribe to my beliefs about the show.

So what it comes down to for me is that Holley Mangold is not a role model for me.  And she’s not required to be, Holley never asked to be my role model, she never agreed to be my role model.  I picked her and, it turns out, I chose poorly – or more specifically, she used to meet my criteria but no longer does.   So now the only question is what to do about it.  Holley’s choice to lend her name to a franchise that I strongly believe serves to stigmatize and oppress me and other fat people leads to my choice to no longer lend my support to Holley.  Like all of my decisions around money and activism, I do my best to support things that support me in return.  Now it’s time to go role model shopping.

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58 thoughts on “Holley Mangold on The Biggest Loser

  1. perhaps, a follow-up blog will expose all the gain backs by previous contestants (there are many), and in a year or so, this woman will be back to remind us how diets don’t work.

  2. The show purports to be one of education – teaching a healthy lifestyle by improving nutrition and exercise habits. Uh-huh. Nobody in their right mind thinks that this is how you teach people ANYTHING. It’s absolutely barbaric and so damaging all the way around. I think everyone associated with producing this show should be taken out and, well, covered in honey and put on an ant hill or something.

    1. It also doesn’t promote healthy nutrition or exercise habits like it claims it does.

      A starvation diet and exercising until you puke are dangerous.

  3. I wondered why she was doing it so I went and looked up some articles. She says she needs to lose weight to be competitive. It’s her right to do as she pleases and maybe there are also financial issues, or she’s looking to build a celebrity career for when her time as an athlete is over. OK, fine, whatever her reasoning.

    What worries me more about this, to be honest, is whether the kind of workout and training offered on the Biggest Loser are appropriate for a weight lifting Olympian. I can’t imagine the Jillian Michaels of this world having the kind of expertise required to put together an Olympic program.

    1. Interesting that she says that she needs to lose weight to be competitive. I wonder if that’s purely from a physical point of view, or if it’s more financial. I remember reading about her saying how hard it is to get sponsors when you’re not a conventionally attractive athlete. And she has to sacrifice a lot financially and do a lot of fundraising – at the London Olympics I believe she had to personally fundraise to be able to afford to bring her coach with her?

      So maybe the weight loss (and raising her profile by appearing on the show) would make her more competitive, by allowing her to get more sponsors and therefore be able to afford to train more and with better resources.

    2. I would be interested in watching a few episodes just to see how they handle the workouts.

      Usually they pick people who don’t exercise, or who exercise very little, and when they get to the house they tend to drop a lot of weigh quickly because of the sudden increase in activity (in addition to the starvation and dehydration).

      Holley is already extremely active, so what exactly are they going to do to make her MORE active, have her exercise 24 hrs. Yeah, that’s healthy. And it might not make much of a difference anyway.

      So then, the question becomes, will they try to make her (an OLYMPIAN) feel like a failure because she doesn’t lose?

      Also, most of the contestants they get for the show are the self-loathing type. They believe they are useless and that they can’t be fit unless they are also thin, and here comes an Olympian in the mix. A bona fide fat Olympian, not a “I was really active in my (thin) heyday” Olympian. So I wonder how that will affect the dynamic in the house.

      Also, is she still training for the Olympics, or is she done with that? Because I can’t see HOW the starvation diet, dehydration, and overtraining that the Biggest Loser subscribes to is in ANY way conducive to her maintaining her Olympic edge.

      If anything, it will do the reverse.

      So I would be interested in seeing, first hand, how this pans out. If she has an epiphany and realizes she’s fucking up her career, and that she was HEALTHIER before she started her “journey” on BL… Or if the nutritional deficiencies and fat-shaming brain washing have her thinking that it’s OK that she can no longer clean and jerk 500lbs (and could possibly be setting herself up so that she never will again), because she now looks “cute” in that little black dress..

      I should add that I don’t care that she wants to lose weight. But the Biggest Loser is one of the unhealthiest ways to do it.

      I’m betting this will not end well, but I’m hoping I’m wrong.

      1. There’s no way her competitive edge won’t be destroyed. Supposedly she’s already at a below-average level of fat in her body composition. Any weight she loses will be muscle.

      2. Interesting points & well put! Does anyone know if she has retired from weightlifting? I’m guessing yes or this would just be DISASTERROUS!!

      3. I was wondering the same kinds of things. This woman is already used to rigorous workouts… I really don’t know how that is going to play out on the show.

    3. Olympic weightlifters have very demanding training schedules, often training 5, 6, 7 days a week. There’s no way that halting these workouts for months to do The Biggest Loser won’t hurt Manigold in the long run. I don’t know what her coaches are thinking to let her do this. The $$$$ must be very sweet indeed.

  4. Of course we can’t guess what her motives are, but she could pose a real challenge to the whole style and premise of the show — they can’t just tear the weight out of her with unsustainable techniques because she’s also got to maintain her muscle mass to be competitive.

    1. I totally agree with you. Looking at The Biggest Loser Wikipedia page, competitors lose about 2 to 5% of the body weight EACH WEEK in order to remain on the show. I don’t see how she can do that without sacrificing a LOT of her existing muscle mass. I’ve seen a few episodes of the show, and as far as I’m aware, all of the participants are usually quite sedentary their whole life, or perhaps former athletes who’ve been sedentary for quite a few years before the show. So you see ridiculous amounts of weight lost in the first week (10, 15lb or more).

      I don’t think the show’s approach is a good fit for someone who is already an elite athlete and weightlifter, who wants to remain competitive in their sport and not just look “good” in a bikini. I guess we’ll find out.

      1. According to the Minnesota Starvation Study in 1944, those who were most fit went downhill the fastest. And according to a book I was reading about starvation and poverty, weight loss from any starting weight is deadly, with losing more than 35% of your mass being almost 100% fatal.

    2. Also, she already trains several hours a day, what are they gonna do, strap her to a treadmill 24/7? Have her lifting trucks? What?

    1. Including me. I was totally upset by her change in stance, and I wrote her a note and made a blog post about it. I got a HUGE amount of flak over it from 2 dieting friends, both of whom defriended me in the process. But I can’t not stand up when I see something I think is genuinely wrong.

      1. That’s sad that they can’t disagree with you without destroying a friendship. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, no matter how wrong it is. I’m kidding!

        1. I found it amusing that they came to tell me I shouldn’t have an opinion on someone else’s choice, but um….wait. Isn’t that what they’re doing RIGHT NOW??? Aaargh! ><

          Life is too short for me to cry over folks who don't respect me enough to respect my choices while insisting I respect theirs.

        1. Both of the women are engaged in personal weight loss efforts and they couldn’t see that I wasn’t trying to “shame” Holley or judge her choice to lose weight, but rather the arena in which she opted to do it. They felt that what I was saying about her individual choice was applicable to them. It’s just where they are right now.

  5. Do you know of Dawn French, a UK actress, comedienne and writer? She is utterly wonderful, and, I would say, around the same size as your goodself, Ragen. To me, she is a wonderful example of someone who is happy with who she is, what she is and how she is. I think she’s beautiful. A couple of years ago, she lost several stones in weight, but has regained them, and appears to be totally happy with that. Indeed, she recently spoke up about her size, because she felt that people had implied that, when she was slimmer, she was no longer funny, no longer herself (rubbish, obviously). If you ever get the chance, watch her TV series, The Vicar of Dibley – it is a masterpiece, in my opinion! It’s full of quirky characters, not least her own, and without exception, all the male ones find the vicar (Dawn) incredibly attractive. All of that said, I agree about The Biggest Loser – hideous programme. Demeaning, condescending, patronising – need I say more?

    1. Richard Armitage falls in love with the Vicar. Love at first sight.

      That was just the final cherry on top of all the reasons to love that show. 😀

  6. This kind of shift of a ‘role model’ has happened several times for me. Many actresses who seem to embrace who they are and the size they are subsequently end up buying into the diet industry stuff and become the new face of Jenny Craig, Weight watchers, etc. I saddens me. Just when I think there is someone i can look up to for being proactive and successful as a large woman.. they become dieters and diet failures (as often shows up in the rags at the checkout stands). I’m role model shopping, too.

    1. Your response, in conjunction with Ragen’s post here makes me stop and think. The only role model I need in my life is me. The God I worship designed me uniquely to be in His image, so why should I seek to model another human being? I think I’m gonna stop shopping for role models altogether. Weirdly, just having made that decision? I felt instantly better about my life and me and everything. Wow. Now THAT’s what I call empowering! Thank you, Ladies!

  7. I think we have to think for ourselves & be our own role models. I refuse to ever watch this so-called tv show which is a glorification of torturing, humiliating, bullying, & of practices which destroy the health of those who are on it. I do believe that Ms. Mangold will have reason to regret her decision & that her health, fitness & ability to compete in her sport will be damaged by what she is doing. This so wrong & so totally the opposite of what we should be teaching & modeling for our young people.

    As for ‘the underpants rule’, yes, we own our lives & bodies & how we live is our business, but I will always speak up & point out that dieting is not only useless, it not only results in temporary weight loss & permanent weight GAIN for most people, it is just plain unhealthy. It is a myth that there is a ‘healthy’ way to lose weight, because deliberately attempting to lose weight always inflicts some kind of damage on your body, as well as your emotional & psychological health. Dieting can kill you, as can excessive exercise, & the older you are, the more likely it is to increase your mortality risks. Yes, you can diet if you choose, just as you can also smoke four packs a day, drink a gallon of whiskey, snort cocaine, or jump out of a plane without a parachute, but I will be damned if I will give my approval or NOT speak up & say how foolish, self-destructive & dangerous it is to do so.

    I have known a lot of people who have dieted & a few who kept it off…very few. I have not known one whose health was not in some way damaged by doing so & the ones who keep it off are living their entire lives on a diet, as well as often turning maintaining a thin body into their life’s work, exercising MANY hours daily & measuring every bit of food & drink they consume, panicking if they gain two pounds, etc. Some of those whom I have known have had what they termed ‘minor’ side effects, such a problems with digestion, or need to have a previously health gall bladder removed.

    “The Biggest Loser” is evil & I agree with the person who said that those involved should be covered in honey & staked out on an anthill.

  8. That just depresses me. Your right she gets to do what she wants but boy I don’t get it. I also chose poorly.

  9. I’m going to be cynical. This isn’t about health or competitiveness. This is about money and selling out.

    NBC is also the Olympics broadcaster. The Winter Games are approaching. This is a cross-promotional opportunity for NBC. I wouldn’t be surprised if Holley Mangold got offered a deal to do this. Let’s face it, women’s weightlifting probably doesn’t get a boatload of sponsorship dollars. Whatever Mangold gets from this deal may be enough to keep her going until 2016.

    1. To continue…

      I hope this blows up in NBC’s face even more than the Rulon Gardner fiasco did.

      Part of me wonders what role her coaches will have in terms of what she does in terms of exercise and nutrition. She will need to compete in the time leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics. If she continues to maintain her muscle mass for competition, she may not be able to lose “Biggest Loser” levels of weight. If she goes all cardio, all the time, it could affect her strength for lifting.

      She may be rolling the dice thinking she’ll get some $$$, and will have enough time to physically recover before having to qualify for the 2016 Games. We’ll see.

      1. My cynicism continues. I think this is rigged. There is no way in hell her coaches would put a potential Olympic star in the hands of hacks like Jillian, Bob and Dolvett, and walk away. Viewers won’t see them, but there will be a presence from the bodybuilding community there. They won’t let her say or do a thing without their approval. My bet is that she’ll stay on long enough to be an “inspiration” (gag me with a Subway footlong) and then conveniently get injured or be eliminated.

        1. I think you’re absolutely right. And though the “nutrition” advice may be whack, I’d be willing to bet they can’t even THINK of a workout that’s harder than what she already does. All she has to do is act a little bit, and she’s golden. Plus, she’ll have plenty of time to get back to her own routine, at least I hope.

  10. I am sure that you are right, that it is all about the money & I guess serious competitive athletes are used to risking their health or even their lives in order to get more money, more fame, do whatever pleases those who pull their strings, etc. And it is true that competitive weight lifters do not get the publicity or endorsement deals & certainly do not earn the money of athletes in the more glamorous sports. I guess there is virtually no one who will not sell out if the price is right.

  11. Since a lot of us can’t bear to watch The Biggest Loser will someone be so kind as to fill Ragen in on what happens with Holley Mangold and have her let us know here on her blog? I am really curious as to how they’re going to manage this, considering all the issues that have been brought up above.

  12. I do think it’s important to realize in the end you can only look to yourself when choosing how to live, but I think fat, athletic, successful role models/heroes are far from unnecessary. Holley, among others, helped me realize that while I had enjoyed being active, I never took myself seriously. I never thought I could be actually good, because I am fat. Even after practicing HAES for years there were many limiting beliefs about my worth and my potential in regards to my physical ability. While becoming elite is not really possible for me, I have improved vastly in my sport since deciding I *could*– because of heroes like Holley. And that is no small impact on my life. I deeply regret all the years I was younger/more able and too ashamed of my body to be active when i wanted to be, and wish i had some heroes like Holley to help me out of that mindset. Representation of success is important for people who are marginalized and negatively stereotyped.

    Holley is of course not obligated to be anyone’s hero. But did she have to pick the scummiest show around in her quest lose weight? She is actively working against fat people being treated like actual dignified humans by making that choice, whatever her motivations and intentions were. It just broke my heart.

    1. “Holley is of course not obligated to be anyone’s hero. But did she have to pick the scummiest show around in her quest lose weight? She is actively working against fat people being treated like actual dignified humans by making that choice, whatever her motivations and intentions were. It just broke my heart.”

      I simply have to echo this. I feel the same way.

  13. We can only hope she is a plant, that she has mentally committed to hanging in there, even in the face of their dehumanizing tactics, and maybe having something to say about it after the fact. Hopefully she’ll take a hidden camera in…we can dream.

    1. That’s what I’m hoping. I would also love love LOVE it if footage surfaced on Youtube of her striding into one of those horror sessions saying, “Stop yelling at her like that! Back off! Okay, look, here’s how you lift, and here’s how far you push it. Are you hydrated? Do you feel shaky? Grab a sandwich and come back, and I’ll set up the weights.”

      Disclosure: I have never, but never, made it all the way through an episode of BL. It makes me literally sick at my stomach to see what they do.

  14. Ragen, you are so amazing. I really admire that you can still hold on to your underpants rule and how you express your opinion on this matter. You make clear what you think about the show, but still manage to speak respectfully about Ms Mangold and her decision.

    I have rarely seen anyone being so tolerant. I take my hat off to you, hoping that some day, I am able to treat everybody as respectfully as you do – talking of role models, you are definitely a role model for me! (sorry for this fangirling, but it needs to be said!).

  15. I really just can’t even begin to fathom this choice. It’s 100% hers to make, and even when I disagree with people’s choices, I believe as long as they don’t hurt others, they are theirs to make. I suppose you could argue that a prominent former Olympian making this choice has the potential to hurt others, but those people also make a choice to have her as a role model, or to appear on the show with her. But I digress.

    There is NOTHING even slightly healthy about this show. The idea they are trying to “educate” people is utter and total horseshit. It’s the fungus that grows on horseshit.

    So, I can’t help but think that this athlete – who should certainly know enough about physiology, especially as a weight lifter – is in this for the money. Which is fine. She’s entitled to do that, if it’s what she feels she needs to do. It is definitely a disappointment, though.

  16. When I first heard this was happening (via Helena’s FB wall), my very first thought was, “It’s probably the money.”

    Even if she was conventionally athletic-looking, she STILL wouldn’t get many–if any– advertising offers because she didn’t medal in her event. If she had medaled, she isn’t “athletic enough” for Madison Avenue.

    I don’t think the offers are rolling in for her. This is probably a way for her to make a living. I’m betting there are some SERIOUS offers in play, all hinged on her losing weight.

    It’s a big gamble all around. It’s a choice I never have to make, and I don’t envy her life one bit.

    All that aside, girlfriend can do whatever she wants with her life to live and move and have her being, and it’s none of my beeswax.

  17. This keeps happening to all of my role models! FFS I’m so tired of this happening. Star Jones, Riki Lake, Sara Rue, Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks, Drew Cary, Mo’Nique – we get so few role models and they all seam to bow under the pressure of Hollywood and actively try to change their bodies and it just breaks my heart. Who’s next? Beth Ditto and Melissa Mccarthy? The ones that hurt the most are the ones that used to say stuff like “love yourself the way you are” and “embrace your curves” and great body positive stuff like that then they turn around and actively try and change their body type to be slim and …ARGHH!!!

    1. Don’t forget the latest girlies to jump on the “Thin is in” train Christina Aguilera, Octavia Spencer with Sensa. I think Amber Riley is doing “Dancing with the Stars” so she’s gonna lose more weight too. There isn’t any more “super popular” celebrity examples, I won’t say role models, but “Examples” of size positive body acceptance females.

      I agree that they didn’t ask to be “role models” or “examples” to us, but it was nice to actually see representations of my type on television and in the media amongst the superficial preferred images.

      It is defeating to see the world around us committ to the eradication of fat bodies.

      Like there’s no pause inbetween on anything, no trying to understand or nothing.

      Recently Boris Kodjoe, a popular male actor made another anti-fat women/person comment and people agreed…..AGAIN.

  18. As much as I want to see how they treat her and how she fairs, I’m not going to give that piece of shit show my views – the higher their ratings the more they get the message that they are doing the right thing. “See, look how many viewers we have, this means we need to keep doing these types of shows”. I’m very ashamed of the fact that I used to watch this show. And I will never again give them the satisfaction of being one of the people that helps to raise their ratings.

    I’m also totally done with Holley Mangold. I used to have her all over my Fat Acceptance blog and now I’m pissed that she’s chosen to join forces with the same fuckers that teach the world that being fat is bad, and having a fat body is unacceptable, and that treating fat people like garbage is totally ok.

  19. She can do what she wants with her body, but it still makes me feel sad. I don’t really see how she could stand to gain anything competetively, besides loss of stigma (which is probably more important for being a mainstream athlete than I’d like to believe). I wonder what will happen to her weightlifting abilities. My hypothesis is that they will be greatly diminished.

  20. I didn’t see anyone else say it, so I will. I’d like to see Holley throw the “trainers” on TBL across the room; I would tune in for that.

  21. I would love for a fat person who’s as fit as Holley Mangold, or one with an incontrovertibly solid background in medicine, to go onto Biggest Loser to “compete” with their eyes wide open and then write an expose later.

  22. You must have to have some supreme self-control if you’re on this show. The picture you have along with this post of the trainer with her finger in the face of the “Loser,” just pisses me off. I would have had to punch that girl. Being someone who doesn’t watch the show, you can see the abuse just in that photo. What the hell?

  23. I THINK there is a weightlifting move called the clean & jerk. We know there will be a jerk. Maybe Holly will clean her clock! I’m mostly only making a pun here. I would like to see Holly not let a anyone treat her with disrespect!

  24. Ok, so I’ve sucked it up and watched a few episodes of this show. One thing I’ve noticed is that they don’t really feature Holley much. In fact, they barely show her at all.

    I’m on the third episode and this is the first time they have actually had any sort of interview or talking head with Holley.

    They focus a lot on Ruben Studdard and the other contestants. Probably because they’re the image of the type of fat person they want to portray — ie, the ones who parrot the whole “my life is nothing with all this weight, I WANT TO LIIIIIVE!!!!” mentality.

    That and they are more likely to throw up or be in visible physical distress vs. an Olympian who already trains hard for several hours a day.

    So, yeah. I’ve decided that this episode is the last one where I will subject myself to this nonsense.

    But Holley is pretty much invisible on this show.

    1. Although I will say that there was one guy on the show who mentioned having trouble conceiving their last child because he had Low Testosterone. He seemed to imply that his weight was to blame.

      One of the symptoms of Low T is weight gain. Yet, there are asshole doctors who went to the “Rand Paul school of Medical Misinformation” who still tell their fat patients that whatever disease they have is the RESULT of being fat… even when weight gain is a MEDICALLY DOCUMENTED RESULT of having the disease.

      This kind of crap happens all the time and it’s so damned INFURIATING!

      It’s one of the reasons that I have a serious bias against doctors.

      1. I mean, one of the most recommended “treatments” for PCOS is weight loss. How exactly is THAT supposed to work if the disease CAUSES weight gain?

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