“Fit to Fat to Fit” Is a Real Show That Somehow Makes Fat and Fit People Feel Awful
Reality T.V. is a scourge on modern art because it presumes that all we need is stripped-down stories with minor characters braving small struggles. And that’s why I love it. There’s no fiction that rivals how terrible real life has been, especially for the past two years.
The genesis of YouTube has helped reality T.V. thrive anew. I watched the show “Fit to Fat to Fit” last week, which exists in the space between social media and television. The premise asks a militant personal trainer to gain 40% of their body weight and then to lose the added pounds alongside an already-heavy client. That’s all the makings of great YouTube (a progress-and-process tale set to a long duration) and the hallmarks of low-brow reality (goons and a heroic sob story). I took keen interest in the trainers because they start, of course, as fat-averse jerks with little interest in the mental or physical composition of their clients. They look at human beings through a prism of “Are they fit or are they trash?”
I often see myself as either fit or decaying waste running down a drain. I didn’t know there was a term for it until I started talking with Alexander Hardy and he told me about “body dysmorphia.” Up to then, I thought it was reserved for the anorexic struggle or for plastic surgery addicts. But body dysmorphia means that you look at your body and see a shape or size or flaws that aren’t true to what’s there. Alex is a writer and dancer I met in 2014, closer to his stint teaching movement classes in Panama. That night in Inwood, fresh off another crash diet, with Alex at my place, I rolled up a fat joint and ordered a fatter burrito. I feared how he might see me. So, to break my own tension, I revealed that this Mexican food foray was going to set me way back on my dietary path.
But the only path I’d set was one of obsessive fitness, a 6 a.m. trip to the gym would include 30 minutes on the treadmill, 30 minutes with free weights, and then some kind of pliometric activity for 15. (Hopping up on ledges with dumbbells in my hands in the Washington Heights Planet Fitness wasn’t my best look.) Regretfully, I have many shirtless pictures from this time. To outsiders, I was “athletic” or “slim” but my brain called me fat relentlessly, focusing on pockets near my nipples or under my belly, impossible places from which to remove fat…