"I Used To Be Fat" was a reality series that followed recent high school grads as they spent their final summers before college on the treadmill.
The series premiered in 2010, and by that time the network already knew that insecure teens looking to lose weight was reality-television gold (thanks to the show's infamous predecessor "Fat Camp").
The participants on "I Used To Be Fat" were desperate to shed their unwanted pounds before starting college, so they teamed up with personal trainers and set lofty weight-loss goals that required them to spend three solid months in the gym.
Some of the episodes were inspiring; others were heartbreaking. But as sad as some of the backstories were, viewers simply couldn't turn away.
I'll admit: I, too, was hooked on this series.
But looking back, it's clear to see that — like "Fat Camp" — "I Used To Be Fat" was incredibly problematic.
For one, the premise of "I Used To Be Fat" was sad AF.
Most of the episodes took place during a high school student's last summer before college. These overweight teens students expressed a desire for a total transformation before they started their
"real lives" away at school.
In other words, their current bodies weren't "good enough" for the next chapter.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight and develop a healthier lifestyle, but the majority of these kids were undergoing extreme, rapid weight loss for the wrong reasons.
More often than not, these teens wanted to lose weight so they could be perceived as "cooler" or "hotter." Simply being "healthier" was not prioritized.
On the show, arriving to college with a little extra baggage was portrayed as a horrific situation.
Going to college with an overweight body seemed to be the absolute worst-case scenario for the majority of the show's participants.
Many of the teens truly believed they wouldn't make friends, find a romantic partner, or enjoy college in general if they arrived to campus as their present-day selves. They let their current bodies dictate their self-worth and overall happiness.
However, these teens failed to realize that a number on the scale meant nothing if they still had warped body image and low self-esteem.
"I Used To Be Fat" normalized extreme weight-loss.
On the show, the kids lost a huge amount of weight (usually around 100 pounds) in a ridiculously short amount of time (roughly three months).
In order to lose half of their body weight in one summer, the participants took on rigorous exercise schedules and consumed as few calories as possible.
The meals and workout routines were, of course, "approved" by their trainers, but the plans were unsustainable. Once college started and the trainers took off, these kids were left even more confused about what constitutes a normal, healthy lifestyle than they were before their weight-loss journeys began.
The show forced kids who never worked out to exercise for six hours per day.
Remember, these were teens who almost never worked out before the show started. Suddenly, the participants found themselves exercising upwards of six hours per day.
The teens were "shocking" their bodies to the point that most of them puked after their first few workouts. There were very few conversations about hydration or how to "balance" their new workout routines with their everyday lives.
Regular exercise is important for our bodies, but going from one extreme to another is simply not healthy.
"I Used To Be Fat" failed to provide healthy tips that viewers could apply to their own lives.
Instead of thoroughly explaining why a participant's extreme diet (temporarily) worked for them, the show highlighted far too many negative eating examples.
Seriously — one participant ate half a piece of baked fish at a restaurant and literally had a melt down. Dietary changes certainly needed to be made if participants expected to meet their weight-loss goals, but a person's overall mental and emotional health shouldn't have been ignored in pursuit of a "hot body."
The show's name is offensive.
The show was called "I Used To Be Fat," which basically says "I was fat, which is bad. But now I'm not fat, which is good!"
Being fat is not something that is inherently "good" or "bad." Fat is just a descriptive word (that's oftentimes used offensively).
But a person is not defined by his or her "fatness."
However, with a name like "I Used To Be Fat," the show did a terrible job of reminding impressionable teens of that fact.