Frances Kuffel


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The Littlest Loser

February 11, 2010

Tags: The Biggest Loser, waiting, book proposals, Twitter, weight loss, anorectics

Gad, have I been remiss with this blog or what?

The time to strike is while you're "hot" (I wish!), so I and my Oscar-winning ankle have been home working on two new books proposals, one for a group of essays, and the other another memoir that I'm not yet confident about discussing. I had an essay to write and the bulk of it took about two weeks, then I pressed home by finishing it and the other proposal in about three days.

I sent it all off to my agent on Monday night and have been lurching around in a coma/post-partum thing since. I'm determined to be more productive today while I wait to hear back. Waiting is hard at any time. When you're in a cast & you're hit with a sleet-snow storm that produces many inches of icy snow, waiting is f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

Many thanks to the comments from my last post. The yo-yo is tiring, isn't it? The worry about what to eat, whether you can pull yourself together the next day if you eat THAT -- I'm amazed at how we live.

I've kind of gotten the drift of how to use Twitter as a marketing device. I find an interesting person or product, follow it, then look at who is following that Twit. When they follow back or someone initiates a follow, I have a canned response pointing them to my book.

Ninety-nine percent of the people who follow me are weight-loss/fitness experts. My response is always, if you want to know more about why people have such a hard time with this, read my book. (The other one percent are women associated with chubby porn sites. I learned only this morning that there is such a thing as a double-L bra cup...)

I only have some hundred characters to make my point. If I had more, I'd say, "Look, Mr. Abs, you work with flabby, desperate people who have a history of trying, succeeding, failing. Why don't you think about the underlying causes of eating?"

A terrific radio interviewer recently asked me what I think of THE BIGGEST LOSER, and in particular an incident in which a coach berated a contestant during a work out.

I tried to contain my fury on the radio. We don't get fat because, gee, life is swell. We get fat for a lot of reasons, but one of the very big ones is, as a commenter said about the last post, we're stuffing down anger. What is anger but a reaction to being hurt? And being hurt is a reaction to being denied love and/or respect.

So when a coach viciously attacks an obese contestant, I freak out. The coach is pushing exactly the button that says, "Eat!" but expecting that the pressure of the show will keep him or her from doing so.

Making weight loss a competition is a crime. I could no more watch THE BIGGEST LOSER than I could a dog fight.

I remember that some years ago there was a recovery clinic for anorectics that claimed phenomenal success rates because they smothered the girls in love. This was long before I began the process that became Passing for Thin but I thought, "THAT is what we need. We fatties need to be held, reassured, coddled, LOVED. We need to be touched. We need to learn that we have all the reasons in the world to fight for our lives."

So I get furious at THE BIGGEST LOSER & the comments about laziness. If I ran a clinic for obesity, I'd have massage therapy every day. I wouldn't let patients see the scale. I'd make my staff hurrah for every clean meal eaten, every effort made to build self-respect & self-confidence. You made your bed? Gold star! Washed your hair? Aces for you! Put on EARRINGS? Go to the head of the class!

Anyone who forgoes any substance that represses scary feelings is THE BEST LOSER.

Fuck the biggest. Rejoice in the small gains & losses.


  1. February 12, 2010 3:31 PM EST
    "I wouldn't let patients see the scale. I'd make my staff hurrah for every clean meal eaten, every effort made to build self-respect & self-confidence."

    This is so huge..I would come to your clnic!
    - Enz
  2. February 13, 2010 5:52 PM EST
    Frances, have you ever taken the MBTI (the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory)?

    Reason I ask is that I found it offered considerable explanatory power for the reasons behind my own overeating. I tested as an INFP (Introversion-Intuition-Feeling-Perception), and my mother and sister were ESTJs (Extorversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judgment)-- i.e. the POLAR OPPOSITE in every dimension of personality. In one of the classic INFP coping strategies, I sought to please these family members, trying very hard to be the vigilant, undemanding daughter my mother wanted. It was at a cost; I had to repress all my own needs in order to meet hers, and I used food to self-medicate and anesthetize the feelings I was not permitted to express.

    Granted, explanations help only so much. But is it just possible you were also an INFP in a lion's den of ESTFs, using food to drug away your feelings?
    - Andrea Bell
  3. February 19, 2010 12:07 PM EST
    I think the Biggest Loser is such a psychologically damaging show. Like most reality t.v., it exploits people, and its extreme diet/exercise regimen has an element of danger. The producers better be careful that no one dies on that show!
  4. February 21, 2010 1:04 PM EST
    Frances, This letter is WAY late. I ran across your book Passing For Thin this morning and thought wat a difference it made in my life when I read it. I didn't get skinny but I knew that I could do it because you did. For one thing I loved that you were from Montana and I live in Wyoming so that made us kindred spirits in my book. Next I learned that I wasn't the only one who felt awful because of her/his weight. I had read about you in a magazine before that and finally found your book.

    Today when I ran across your book I decided to look you up on the net and make sure you were doing O.K. I see I have a LOT of reading to catch up with.

    I hope you're well and that life's treating you well. Diane, Wyoming
    - Diane Davis
  5. February 24, 2010 7:48 AM EST
    Frances... I just re-read "Passing For Thin" for the third time, as I'm recommitting myself to my weight loss plan of choice.

    I'm 42 years iold, 5'9/350 lbs, and been on the yo-yo for years. I was down below 200 back in my late 20's. My body's been through a lot.

    As a writer and lover of affirmation, I try to read about as many struggles of others as I can. Yours is the most inspiring to me. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story in a way that makes me want to be you.

    I also loathe Biggest Loser. I consider it a win when I ignore those little voices in my head that tell me to go eat something crunchy and salty. I won about 15 times yesterday. :)
    - Melzie in PA
  6. March 5, 2010 10:06 AM EST
    Well said. The show should have a rating that underscores the violence,isn't is inappropriate viewing for all audiences? One of my greatest hopes is that we all get (ok, "all" may be pie in the sky - look, Mom, food is acually everywhere!) that when someone is eating, whether they are hungry or not, it's because are keeping a promise to themselves.
    - Karen Paritee
  7. March 9, 2010 8:13 PM EST
    I, too remember seeing a show about the clinic for anorectics where they just got smothered in love, and it SO resonated with me. I think that anorectics and those who are obese are emotionally, two sides of the same coin. I have often wondered what happened to that clinic. I have only seen coverage of clinics that have a strict regimin, much like the drug rehabs are depicted. Fat people are reviled just as drug addicts, if not worse. I got fat on purpose, to create a wall, or coat, of protection from men. I took off the fat once, only to have it return from PCOS, and now can't seem to get it off unless I starve. I didn't eat after my Mom was killed, and lost weight, but now even if I eat normally, I don't lose weight. I think I need to make peace with being fat, but I don't know how, especially in this culture. I think it's the country of Mauritania where fat women are really desirable, and it's the men who have to be skinny. So I know partly it's for health to be of a certain weight, but it's a LOT cultural, and a LOT MORE the marketing machine. Just as the cosmetics companies make a lot of money making women feel ugly without a painting on their faces (I stopped wearing make-up almost 20 years ago, so they don't get that money from me), diet books, excercise machines and gadgets, etc. and that industry get a lot of money making us feel badly about ourselves. There is credible information that shows that within reason, I think it's 50 to 70 lbs, one can still be healthy and "fat." I think "60 Minutes" did a piece on this a few years ago, and I've seen bits on the subject on the national news now and again since then. It's just not the popular point of view for the industry that needs to make money off our desperate need to be thin and beautiful if we buy into it. If you take a step back, it really becomes strange to put stuff on your face that is the equivalent of painting a picture. Maybe you look "better," but what is "better"? Men, no matter what they look like, don't have to look "better." Why do we? Putting on make-up, all the while I did it, what was going through my head was "You're ugly. Make sure you get this right because you have to hide the ugly spots," and the like, and worse. And when I was done, I knew I wasn't measuring up to the gorgeous women in the magazines and on the billboards. And the quest to be thin is the same rat race. It mainly started when Hugh Heffner stated Playboy. Yes, there were pin-up girls before that, but women weren't so compared and "out there" before that, and advertising really exploded in that decade. Where does that message come from that we have to be "that" thin? The whole time I'm eating whatever certain way, I'm thinking "I'm ugly. I'm not enough." That's exactly the reason the anorectic clinic's method of showering with love and kindness would be so wonderful. It's said that it takes 100 compliments to counteract 1 cruelty, and I really think that's one piece of the puzzle. And to put away what "healthy" BMI weight number on the scale the medical or insurance industry prescribes (because as you say, one's body continually wants to put on weight, so there is that constant struggle, and I really do believe that one can be "fat" by their standards and still be healthy), and especially throw away what this U.S. culture wants us to believe about thin equaling beauty. I believe we should create a Mauritania of sorts in our minds, where we are at least accepted. Be healthy inside, a la that medical train of thought, and it is out there, and whatever fat is outside is more than fine. Yes, obesity can kill, but thin isn't the end all be all. The pendulum has to swing to the happy medium at some point.
    - Julie
  8. April 25, 2010 6:20 PM EDT
    Amen sister!
    - Ann Marie Charest
  9. May 2, 2010 5:36 PM EDT
    I agree with you wholeheartedly on this post. In fact, while watching this show, I ironically find myself enjoying an enormous BINGE session, feeling like a BIG loser having "only" been able to "pull" a 2 pound loss on my own without Bob nor Jillian barking at me. It is such a slap in the face when a contestant bemoans the fact they only lost 6 pounds this week. I am lucky if I will lose that in 3 months time! I just finished reading your Angry Fat Girls book, and very much enjoyed it. I am over 350 pounds, gained about 80 pounds in the past year, am 34 years old and have been on WW since I was a fetus it seems. I don't have the mindset or the money to invest in surgery but that is the only option my doctors seem to throw at me. I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and bipolar disorder - I like to not use them as excuses for my super-morbid circus freak fatness (ha, ha) but they certainly aren't helping the matter any. Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your book and could relate to each and every one of you ladies as my weight loss/gain journey has seemed to span the universe on the scales' digits. Best of love and luck to you as you continue to touch so many peoples' minds, hearts and lives with your books.
    - Kimberly Oczkowski
  10. February 10, 2011 6:29 AM EST
    There are also lots of digital products such as CDs, ebooks, and videos that can teach you how to utilize hypnosis for weight loss. It is true that some providers of these educational materials are just out there to make a quick buck. However, paul mckenna have numerous products on hypnosis that were created based on accepted medical standards.
    - Tisha Crane
  11. June 25, 2013 12:49 AM EDT
    Amen sista!! I have copied these words and sent them to those who have belittled, berated and demeaned me for my weight gain. Never mind that at the time I was on huge doses of steroids and fighting an incurable neuro-muscular disease. Your words in this blog made me feel less alone. Thank you
    - Martha
  12. June 25, 2013 12:50 AM EDT
    Amen sista!! I have copied these words and sent them to those who have belittled, berated and demeaned me for my weight gain. Never mind that at the time I was on huge doses of steroids and fighting an incurable neuro-muscular disease. Your words in this blog made me feel less alone. Thank you
    - Martha

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