Q&A About Chrissy Metz and Contractually Required Weight Loss

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Chrissy Metz is one of the stars of the television show This Is Us.  As is all too often the case, she plays a fat character who is “struggling with her weight”  As is less common, the contract she signed to play the character includes a requirement for weight loss.  She says:

In our contract, it did state that that would be a part of it, to lose the weight in the trajectory of the character as she comes to find herself. That was a win-win for me. Because it’s one thing to try to do it on your own. But as human beings, it’s an ego thing: We’re more likely to do something for someone else.

I just have to be very clear. Whether or not I lose weight or stay the same, it’s purely a choice of mine for health. Not because I think that plus-size, curvy, voluptuous, big bodies aren’t attractive — because I think they’re awesome and sexy.

So I’ll just have to make sure that’s known, because I’m not selling out the big girls. I don’t do that. That’s not me.

As this has been posted to social media by frustrated fat activists I’ve been seeing a lot of questions about why this is a problem, so I thought I would give my thoughts as to the answers:

Lots of fat people do want to lose weight, why are you complaining that her character is one of those fat people?

It’s a problem because almost every fat character who we see on television and in movies is fully invested in fat-hating diet culture. Representation matters, and the fact that almost all media representation of fat people is based on negative stereotypes and diet culture is a problem.  It means that we don’t have role models who look like us (and like looking like us,) and that nearly every time that fat-positive fat people find out that we are actually going to represented (which is, in and of itself, pretty rare in television and movies) it’s not long before we find out that the we aren’t going to be represented at all – the only fat people who are represented are fat people who don’t want to be fat any more.

There are plenty of fat people who aren’t interested in weight loss and we would like to see ourselves represented as well. It’s not just important for fat people, but also for everyone we interact with, whose beliefs and opinions about us are shaped by our media representations as self-loathing stereotypes.

She said that this is about her health, don’t you want her to be healthy?

She is allowed to do whatever she wants with her body for whatever her reasons are, and she is allowed to believe whatever she wants about health.  She is allowed to try to manipulate her body size even though the evidence suggests that the most likely outcome of her weight loss attempts is weight gain. But let’s be clear that she didn’t say that she was losing weight for her health. First she said she had to lose weight per the contract that she signed to be on a television show.  Then, later, she said that it was about her health.

Also when she says “That was a win-win for me. Because it’s one thing to try to do it on your own. But as human beings, it’s an ego thing: We’re more likely to do something for someone else. ” it makes it seem like that’s some kind of factual statement when, in fact, there is no reason to believe that being forced to lose weight for a contract or for “someone else” will have any more chance of long-term weight loss than any other motivation (which is to say, almost no chance at all.)

What will happen if she doesn’t lose weight?

This is a damn good question. She says it’s about her health but what will she be doing to lose the weight – especially if it’s a contractual obligation?  It’s bad enough to eat less than you need to survive in the hopes that you body will consume itself and become smaller, but we also know that over and over again doctors and pharmaceutical companies have been completely fine with killing fat people in attempts to make us smaller so I can only hope that this doesn’t spiral into something horrific just so that television can create yest another shitty “before and after” weight loss as self-discovery fatty story. And even if she is able to lose weight short term, if she’s like the vast majority of people who regain the weight, what will happen then?

She said that big bodies are awesome and sexy, why isn’t that enough for you?

It’s nice if she thinks that, but my fight isn’t just to be seen as beautiful or sexy, it’s to be seen as a human being and not a walking “before” picture. It’s about having the chance to get actual health care based on evidence-based interventions rather than being prescribed a bag of not-so-magical weight loss beans. It’s about fat people no longer being hired less and paid less than thin people with the same qualifications.  Being seen as sexy is nice, but what I’m talking about here is seeing people who look like me represented in media as fully actualized, non self-loathing human beings, rejecting diet culture and leading amazing lives.

But she says that she’s not selling out big people! She says it right there!

She may well believe that, and that’s great, but I don’t think her actions are necessarily in line with her goals here. If she really doesn’t want to sell out fat people she could say something like “I signed up to play a character with a weight loss trajectory and I agreed to be contractually obligated to manipulate my body size to portray that character.  I want to be clear that weight is not the same thing as health, and that neither weight loss nor health are an obligation, barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances.  While I may choose to attempt weight loss, I understand that weight loss doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else, and I also want to celebrate fat people who reject diet culture and live amazing lives in fat bodies.”

Once again, Chrissie Metz – like everyone – is allowed to do whatever she wants with her body for whatever reason she chooses, but that doesn’t mean that those choices don’t add to the diet culture that oppresses fat people. I wish her all the best and I hope that she will work hard to fully support fat people and to reject anti-fat culture even as she tries to manipulate her body size to fulfill her television contract.

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16 thoughts on “Q&A About Chrissy Metz and Contractually Required Weight Loss

  1. Wow. First Gabourey Sidbibe now her. She “is” allowed to do whatever she wants with her body for whatever reason, but it would be nice to have fat bodies normalized in film and not have their characters be “comedic” one’s or centered around weight loss. Our culture is extremely obsessed with thinness, weight loss or being skinny, and these beliefs systematically, socially and emotionally oppress fat people. So promoting through television just further adds to the stigma of being fat, and continues to push anti-fatness in our society.

    I will prepare for many media outlets to be gushing over her smaller frame, if she does meat her goals, and talk more about her being smaller than he actual profession or her being a awesome actress like they do all for plus size women.

  2. Being obligated to someone else for doing something sometimes leads to resenting the person you are obligated to. What happens if she’s in breach of contract?

    Also, I agree that fat people, especially women, need to be seen as people first. We don’t always want to be seen as sexy or funny. Being competent and talented are also important.

  3. As soon as I saw the previews for this show of her character going to weight loss meetings I decided I wouldn’t add to the ratings of this show by watching it. This aspect is exactly like Mike and Molly and I’m not here for that show either.

  4. Just on a practical level, I wonder how much weight she’s obliged to lose? Because on a body like hers (and mine) it takes an awful lot of weight loss to be visible at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if the contract were written by people unaware of that, meaning that their dramatic weight loss narrative isn’t going to come across near as well as they think it will.

      1. Oh Lord, do I know it. I used to have a coworker who would actually *argue* with me that I had lost weight when I very well knew I hadn’t. I still don’t understand the desire to win and argument about the state of someone else’s body– I feel like the person living in said body probably knows best.

  5. (Fictional) African American actor wiling to bleach his skin like his character does in the show because of increased value to others for him being less black… Show would be Shut Down! Hey he may even be more healthy too, most stats do show African Americans are “less healthy” over all, have less access to health, are under-insured, less likely to get pre-screenings for serious illnesses…

  6. Now, if in Season 2 they were to show the results of all that weight loss, including the change in treatment, and a change in attitude with her becoming just as mean to fat people as the thin people were to her, and then, despite ALL her efforts, the weight coming back on, and having to deal with the stigma all over again PLUS the health issues that come from yo-yo dieting…

    Yeah, I might watch Season 2.

  7. “to lose the weight in the trajectory of the character as she comes to find herself. ”

    Oh, it just occurred to me. They are probably going the “there’s a thin woman inside that fat shell” route, here, aren’t they? Chipping away the fat, to find the “real” person underneath?

    How about, she loses weight, as she comes to find herself, only to realize that she never needed to lose the weight, in the first place? That she was always awesome?

    1. Or (at is closer to reality) she doesn’t lose weight, or loses weight and regains it, but realizes that has nothing to do with “finding herself?”

      Seriously, the Weight-Loss Hero’s Journey is a hard-sold narrative that’s never had so much as a weak handshake with the truth. It doesn’t empower fat people to lose weight. It empowers abusers to continue treating us the way they do by showing them a fictional world where their twisted actions make fat people thin and happy instead of miserable, sick, and dead, and it gives us false hope of escaping their abuse by fighting our own bodies so we don’t fight them. I’m not saying anything about the fat actors that participate in this stuff, but I’m not interested in watching it.

      1. Yeah. It would never occur to the writers to have the fat character go on a weight-loss journey to “find herself,” only to find herself miserable, sick and possibly dead. Although, I must say, it would be a refreshingly new way for producers to write a character off of a TV series.

  8. This is actually making me sad to find out. Because to be perfectly honest, while the commercials made it seem awful I was half convinced after watching the show that they were going to pull it into a body positive angle. She has been dating someone who doesn’t care about weight loss, She has been unable to lose much of anything despite all of her ‘good fatty’ behavior. And the show’s lens actually seems quite critical of fat stigma and diet culture. Of course, I suppose that was my own biases. Because here I was thinking that her character arc was going to be about learning to love herself and believe she is worthy of love. But now I learn that nope. Weight loss.

    Also, to spoil for all the people who probably aren’t watching this anyway, she has just decided to get bariatric surgery. So apparently the scene where a woman at the weight loss meetings contemplated if vomiting whenever she overtaxed her stomach was worth the weight loss and the leader said ‘of course it is!’ was not the criticism I thought it was. Weight loss achieved by body part amputation is ‘coming to find yourself’!

    I think I’m going to be sick.

  9. I honestly have no interest in this TV show or the one titled “Mike and Molly” but that is because I don’t generally like such programs anyway. Does the fact that fat people are seen on the air experiencing love at all provide evidence that things are changing in our society regarding the way large bodies are perceived?

    I also find it a bit…er…unoriginal that they gave her character a fat partner because it may play into the well-known stereotype that fat people are only or mainly able or “allowed” to date each other, the former of which has not been true in my experience, since most of my lovers have been thin.

    Heck, I am a fan of the TV show “The Simpsons” and anyone who watches even one episode knows that Homer and Comic Book Guy are brightly-colored stereotypes of large folks.

    I have a step-sister I’ve known for nearly two decades who is on yet another weight loss journey as I type this comment. I fully agree with Ragen when she says that we alone ultimately have sovereignty over our bodies so, barring an unlikely lapse in judgment and/or moment of immaturity (I am human, you know), I will wish her the best, if only in my own mind, since we don’t talk much nowadays. She is on this journey “for her health” and has changed her habits which will, of course, most likely lead to a better outcome health-wise.

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