What the heck is a ‘revenge body’?
It’s a Thursday morning and I’m drinking my coffee as I watch the Today Show. That’s when I heard it for the first time – “Revenge body.” I chuckled, thinking “What the heck is that?” As the hour went on I learned that I’d be seeing Khloe Kardashian talk about her new show, and that was the name of it: Revenge Body. Excuse me, what!?
I had to know more about this, as it seemed so ludicrous. Khloe talked about her own weight loss journey and how she hoped to help others too. She reminisced about being the “fat and funny” Kardashian, but now that she had lost weight, it was almost as though she had gotten revenge on her former self and on those who criticized her. My jaw stood open as I listened to this. I knew that it was only a matter of time before I was to hear the phrase “revenge body” in my office.
I tuned in for a couple of episodes. They included people wanting revenge on an ex-friend, an ex-boyfriend, a mother, and on “life.” All participants met their personal trainers and were given specific diets to follow for the 90 days. By the end, they had their big reveal where they also made cosmetic changes – a leg makeover, dermatological services, a haircut, new clothes, and makeup.
There were several moments in which I rolled my eyes, however a couple really stood out. One of the participants was fired by her trainer and asked to leave the show for not only failing to lose enough weight but also at one point gaining weight. What a clear message to send: If you are not getting skinny, you are not worth our time and money.
Another participant had experienced the death of both her mom and dad within a short period of time. Her reveal included a tear-filled moment with her sister where she proclaimed something like, “See you don’t have to worry about me anymore…I’m fine!” With little mention of the counseling that was needed to help her grieve these losses healthily, the show did not give emphasis on healing the mind, but assumed that one is “okay” when they are skinny. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
There were moments in the show where participants talked about “the new me” and “the old me” as if they truly were a completely different person. One participant mentioned, “I just want to be a better person” in association to weight loss. Yes, because losing weight makes one a better human being.
That was the major point of emphasis that stood out in these episodes: losing weight brings happiness and a sense of self-worth.
I’m sure that most of us have had the thought “I’ll be happy when I lose the weight,” or “I’d feel so much better if I could drop 10 lbs.” In her book Women, Food and God, Geneen Roth references receiving a letter from someone who had included a Weight Watchers ribbon that said “I lost 10 Pounds.” The person had added “And I Still Feel Like Crap.” Isn’t this more like the truth? The fact is that while working on a weight loss goal might bring temporary purpose and distraction from painful emotions, it is very different than a feeling of happiness. The pain and hurt is still there whether we lost 5, 10, or even 30 lbs.
Khloe Kardashian still has the same struggles she has always dealt with, however viewers are lead to believe that she is much happier. In fact, in her interview on the Today Show, they actually spent about 1 minute talking about Revenge Body and then went on to ask how Kim was doing. I think it’s interesting that even after her “successful” revenge body, the perception of her in the media doesn’t seem to have changed. I’d be curious to know how she truly feels about that.
American culture feeds us this line that somehow our self-worth, lovability, and value are connected to our appearance. This myth tells us that we will feel whole and have self-esteem if we achieve a certain weight and look a certain way. Revenge Body speaks as if this inner transformation is solely dependent on the outward transformation, which incidentally only takes 90 days on the show. The reality is that the shape and weight of one’s body does not equate to their worth in this world. Knowing that you are precious and valuable and being comfortable with yourself regardless of external factors is knowing true self-worth.
I’d like to think that this is the only show that reinforces these ideas, but the reality is Revenge Body is one show in a long line of shows doing the same thing (remember The Swan!? What a disaster!). The consequences are vast not only for the actual participants but the viewers as well. Weight loss can seem like an attractive fix to our problems, but we set ourselves up for failure when we subscribe to this myth.
Mind Body Co-op Team