In today’s episode of Body Kindness In today’s episode we’re talking about The Loser Letter. As Bernie watched the confetti drop on the recent Biggest Loser finale, he was filled with a complex mix of emotions. This inspired him to write a powerful open letter about all he’s learned in the eight years since his time on the Ranch. His thoughtful advice is not only for his Biggest Loser Alumni – but for all us striving to live a healthier life and practice Body Kindness.
For those who don’t know, Bernie was the At-Home Winner of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, Season 5. His goal was to transform his life and get healthy, but if you know the show at all, you know the focus is on who can lose the most weight through extreme exercise and dieting. Bernie lost a lot of weight on the show, but also lost who he was in the process. He didn’t really become the healthy person he hoped, especially when he obsessed over excessive exercise and rigid food rules in the name of “health.” If you’ve ever been through significant changes in your habits, weight loss or not, you may be able to relate to what Bernie went through in his personal life.
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Listen to Episode 7 below…
Here’s what we talked about…
- Bernie shared his Letter To My Fellow Losers. You can read the full transcript at the end of the show notes, and here’s a summary:
- Take time to unpack. After the whirlwind of information and emotions on the show, Bernie strongly recommends finding a therapist or other professional to help you understand the full impact of your transformation and ensure your long-term success.
- Out with the old, in with the new (sort of) – Bernie suggests examining your environment and relationships to identify any changes needed in order to support your new lifestyle. Communicate openly and honestly with your loved ones about how they can support you, or consider if some relationships may need to be redefined.
- Redefine your definition of health. You’ve gone through an extreme experience – from your pre-weight loss life to an intense TV competition with strict diet and exercise regime. It’s time to decide what sustainable good health will look like for you now.
- I shared my thoughts about Bernie’s letter. I emphasised that The Biggest Loser is above all an entertainment show, and that the competition and gameplay can overshadow doing what it takes to truly get healthy from the inside out.
- We talked about inspiration. It is up to you to choose who and what inspires you, but the best inspiration comes from a place of love – you can’t hate yourself healthy. Comparing your efforts to a contestant’s rapid results or weight loss methods can be a harmful brand of inspiration. Make sure you focus on what health means to you, in your life, for the long term.
- I mentioned that the show often reflects our culture’s problem of stigmatising people based on their size. Studies have shown that we’re less likely to practice self care if we’re bullied or stigmatised.
- I loved Bernie’s message about taking the time to unpack the Biggest Loser experience. Healing the mind is an important and integral part of taking care of your body.
- I asked Bernie if he missed anything about his pre-Bigger Loser self. He said Bigger Bernie had a lot of fun and he misses not thinking about everything he eats. He’d love to be in a place where he’s nourishing his body without having to think about every single step. I assured him this will come as he builds more trust in himself – finding balance, practicing body kindness without judgement. Being healthy is fun if you’re doing it right!
- I challenged Bernie on his point about avoiding difficult “food occasions”. It’s natural to want to run from that discomfort, but avoiding the party doesn’t solve the issue. The way to become the kind of person who says no cake when they don’t want to cake, is to practice being the person who says no to cake when they don’t want cake!
- This led us beautifully to our current book club selection, The Upside of Stress (you can read more about it here.). As Dr. McGonigal writes, stress is energy. Dealing with food pushers at a party will create stress. If you choose to avoid the party, you’re saying you can’t handle it and you’re not using the energy the stress gives you. If you go to the party and practice tolerating that discomfort, the energy of stress can help you grow stronger.
- We wrapped up by talking about one of my favourite words… fear. You can choose what this word means to you: Face Everything And Recover, or F*** Everything And Run! Which one will you choose?
What did you think of Bernie’s letter?
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Read Bernie’s Letter To My Fellow Losers in full…
Another season of The Biggest Loser has just wrapped up, and we saw two brothers from the great city of Chicago crowned as both the at-home winner and The Biggest Loser.
Seeing them win reminded me of my experience on the show. The sense of pride and accomplishment that I felt for having dedicated myself to getting healthy and the recognition that came along with it.
In just a few days I‘ll be celebrating my 8-year anniversary of having been crowned the at-home winner on Season 5. I can’t help but look back and think of all the things I wished I knew then that I am just beginning to fully understand about my experience now.
So it’s in that vein that I write this letter of encouragement and advice to the new alumni of the show, in hopes that they will find a sense of peace, balance, and a greater sense of self -understanding. Below are three pointers, that I wish someone would have shared with me as I boarded the plane for home.
1. Take Time to Unpack
The last several months have been a whirlwind and you have been inundated with not only the BL’s version of the “Do’s and Don’ts” of healthy living, but more significantly a wide range of emotions that you haven’t really had time to fully unpack.
I know what you’re probably thinking, “I already talked it over with my trainer or other various staff from the show and I’m good”. Believe me when I say you’re not. I’m sorry to have to tell you but the experiences and emotions that contributed to your past state aren’t going to magically be resolved because of an on-air breakthrough. Although significant, your ability to identify some of those unhealthy contributing factors was just that, a breakthrough, needing further exploration, awareness, and will take time for resolve to be found.
My suggestion is to identify a professional psychologist, psychiatrist, or certified life coach that you can work with to better understand the full impact of the transformation you have just undergone. I’d like to leave you little room for misinterpretation here, this is a professional much like an RD or certified personal trainer that you will need to have continual interaction with if you are going to see results. Please don’t overlook this tip if you are truly wanting long-term success this is just as critical as working out or eating healthy.
2. Out with the Old, In with the New… well, sort of
Upon arriving home you’re going to be subject to all those familiar places and faces that played a part in your past life. Do not put off identifying, which things will serve to enrich your life and which things are better left in the past. I know…this is easier said than done, but take it one small step at a time. For example start with the easy stuff… that buffet style restaurant that you love to go to because it’s such a great deal. Let’s face it – you’ve already tried everything it has to serve up, it’s time to discover a better choice. How about getting rid of old clothes that no longer fit, in exchange for new better fitting ones…not only can that be fun, but it also allows you the chance to personally celebrate how far you’ve come.
Now for some of those not so easy decisions, those personal relationships; you know the ones I’m talking about, that friend or family member who has been waiting to see you, so that they can celebrate your transformation by taking you to an old stomping ground or treating you to your favorite hometown treat. Redefining your relationships with loved ones can be tricky; it all comes down to communication. How would you like to incorporate that person into your new life? What role do you see them playing, that will contribute to the new you? How can you go about communicating that to them in a way that won’t harm the relationship?
If it’s a casual relationship perhaps it won’t be that difficult but if it’s a loved one this can prove more difficult. My advice is to be open and honest with them about what you would like their new role in your life to be. Ask them if they are willing to work on your relationship so that it reflects the new you. If they are up to working with you in achieving your new goals then great, if not don’t be afraid to lessen your interaction with them, or if you have to, let it go altogether.
How about those relationships you can’t simply let go of, a life partner, your kids, parents, a brother, or sister…this can prove extremely difficult. I’ve found some success in being unwavering in your dedication to living healthier. Plan your interactions with them to ensure they involve activities you are comfortable with and sit out those family get-togethers that you know are going to put you in a place that your not ok with. You owe it to yourself to communicate to those around you that this change wasn’t merely for the sake of the show.
3. Redefine Your Definition of Health
Lastly, it is critical that you take the time to redefine what health means to you. Prior to your experience on the show maybe you thought that being healthy meant seeing a certain number on the scale, or seeing a slimmer you in the mirror. On the show, it was all about grueling workouts and a strict diet. You literally went from not completely knowing what it was to be healthy to the total opposite extreme of counting every calorie you consumed and worked off.
I hope by now you have begun to realize that health is more than a number. For me being healthy is a feeling; a state of being (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically), the ability to be an active participant in my own life.
If you would have asked me to define what it meant to be healthy after my time on the show, I might have given you a similar answer as the one above, but the difference now is that through hard work and careful self-reflection, I have moved past the rhetoric and actually understand and value what I was just sort of spouting off back then. Knowing that working out 3 to 6 hours a day isn’t realistic or that counting every single calorie you consume will eventually get old, how will you choose to define “Health”, so that the definition contributes to your wellbeing rather than stands for something you are in constant fear of not living up to.
Redefining the term “Health” in your life will serve to help you identify and overcome the inevitable barriers you will encounter along your journey. Most importantly knowing what role health plays in your life, should you allow it, will provide you room for true self-reflection, complete self-care, true body kindness and lasting happiness.
So there you are a few pointers from a fellow “Loser”, I hope this brief letter and the contents shared within help to shed light on some of the many things you might encounter along your journey in the years to come. I wish each and every one of you the very best and most of all continued Health.
At-Home Winner Season 5
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Nothing in this podcast is meant to provide medical diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. Individuals should consult a qualified healthcare provider for medical advice and answers to personal health questions.