A couple weeks ago, former Biggest Loser contestant Tara Costa found out she was being sued by the fitness company, FC Online Marketing Inc, for whom she’s a spokeswoman, because they claimed she breached the “fitness clause” of her contract and started gaining weight. How much weight has been disputed, FC says it was 40-50 pounds, which made Tara not fit enough to keep her 15 speaking engagements that the company was paying her to make at events across the country. Tara was a contestant in 2009 for the NBC diet show, losing 155 lbs and finishing second. Since then, she’s started running, cycling, swimming and gaining quite a following as devotees of the show continue to keep tabs on her through twitter. Last year, they watched as Tara trained for and completed the Kona Ironman Triathlon, an event you can’t fake your fitness to finish. In a recent Fox News (I know, I know) interview, discussing her lawsuit and the alleged weight gain, Tara discussed her Ironman training by saying, “I was by far the most fit I have ever been in my entire life. So It’s defeating when someone tries to attack you and say you’re fat again…How did I put on 45 pounds training for an Ironman?”
Michael Pirella, FC’s chief executive, talked about how he and his company saw the issue,
“She might have been more fit in the sense that she could run faster or run longer, but… it’s irrefutable that when you look at the photographs, she gained a lot of weight. She didn’t gain 40lbs of muscle, she gained pounds of fat.”
Now, if you read enough about the lawsuit, you find out that Tara and her lawyer had sued FC first for unlawfully using her image after her contract with them ran out or something like that. And, from what I’ve read, it sounds like FC fired back with this lawsuit about Tara gaining weight. As of this post, Tara has filed a countersuit against FC stating that she had maintained her “current level of conditioning” for the entire time she was under contract. Big ugh. All that legal drama gets annoying/tedious/sad pretty quickly. And it’s honestly not why I’m writing this. Let’s put the Who-Sued-Who-First-And-Why aside.
During the Fox interview, the question quickly came up, what does it mean to be fit? Great question. For Michael Pirella, he was trying to capture an image with Tara, that’s obvious and there’s nothing new about the fact that the right images sell your product. It’s advertising; everyone does it.
For Tara, it’s obviously a much deeper issue. She’s trying, -and kicking ass at- really creating a healthier life. Tara’s gauge of fitness, as I know it is for most of us athletes, isn’t necessarily tied to how she looks anymore. How awesome is that?! How powerful is it to stop worrying about how others see us and truly focus on the joy of participating in events and experiences we enjoy. That’s phenomenally important, denizens of Gnar. Because once we dispel the heinous stench of worrying about what others think about us, we’re free to truly enjoy something that’s meaningful (did you get a little teary eyed there? Sorry). True that we all want to look good. And looking fit is a happy byproduct of what we do. But what’s really cool about Tara’s fitness is that she’s had her gauge switched. You can tell by how she talks about her accomplishment. I’ll bet she realizes that a better gauge of her fitness is that she finished the Kona Ironman. I’ll bet she realizes how amazing eating real foods can make you feel. That’s her gauge now. It’s how she feels when she’s riding her bike, or running, or doing kickboxing; it’s how she feels after fueling her body right. Just like it is with everyone else that has the courage to truly take on some big life changes.
Folks that tune in to The Biggest Loser watch contestants lose weight and start to become different people. Although the show does make a decent effort to focus on what’s going on inside their bodies, –why it’s so dangerous to be obese and how their body is becoming healthier, fitter, as they progress through the show– just like in all advertising, it’s the images that sell the show. We tune in because we want to see fat people get skinny. We want to know what they look like. If you’re obese, and you decide that you want to look different, and that’s your motive for starting to exercise and eat better, great. You should feel good that you had the courage to start. It’s not easy and alot of people can’t do that. But I promise you this, denizens, anyone whose primary motivation is still to look a certain way after, say, a year of exercise, is missing the point and probably isn’t enjoying what they’re doing. I bet they’ve stalled. I bet they don’t get how running, lifting, climbing, swimming, and pushing could ever feel good.
Go out and find what you love to do. Focus on how it makes you feel. Enjoy how it feels when new muscles, with new power, are tested and refined. Enjoy the natural endorphins and good vibes exercise gives you. Enjoy the new friends it introduces you to, the places it takes you, the challenges it puts in front of you. Enjoy that oh so fleeting moment athletes get every once in awhile where they feel absolutely invincible. I’ll bet Tara know’s what that feels like. And I bet that’s why she keeps doing it.