The TV series “Huge” includes Nikki Blonsky, who starred in Hairspray, plays Willemena (Wil) on Huge. She’s been sent to the “fat farm” by her parents, who own “Excalibur Gyms” and she is seen as an eyesore by them. She is not happy about being at the camp and smuggles food in and charges the other camp attendees to buy from her private store.
She decides to leave the camp in the middle of the first episode, but after hearing her camp counselor who is sitting in the booth behind her, tell her father to quit drinking and that she knows it isn’t easy, Wil decides to stop selling the food, come clean and try and get slimmer.
The other stars on the show range from being mildly overweight to obese, with Nikki fitting in somewhere in the middle. The show is funny and attempts to break the rules. Along with dealing with obesity, the campers are also dealing with hormones and their feelings about their families, and themselves.
In the second episode, a new camper, Dani arrives, and she is with her parents, who stay with her. The other campers kind of laugh at the fact that her parents are there, but when they leave, Dani has a panic attack. By the end of the episode, Dani and her parents have gone home. Ari Stidham plays Ian Schonfeld, and he reminded me a bit of my husband, and the way he looked as a teen.
I have to admit I don’t know what it is like growing up fat. In our house, we had the opposite problem with my sister and I both battling anorexia. My mother was always concerned about weight. We grew up in a household where work was revered and food was a reward to keep you sustained for more work. We rarely had desert: we had small portions of meat, a starch and lots of vegetables. If we got the teeniest bit of fat on us, it meant we needed to work harder. Many times in my life, I’ve had people tell me I wasn’t eating enough, but as soon as I got to a normal weight, I felt fat.
I’m not sure where I got it, but my impression has always been someone who was fat had no will-power and no self-control. Even today, I battle with judging people this way, even though I now know it is wrong.
My husband grew up in a home where he was adopted. His mother doted on him, and I think he was probably given whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it. His parents divorced when he was 10 and I think his mom spent very little time with him after that as she was either working or at the bar. He has a sweet tooth and loves pies, cakes and cookies.
As a grade-school kid, he was tubby. In middle-school he was over-weight and by high school he was obese. In his late twenties he tells me he started exercising and watching what he ate; he was able to get his weight down to about 250 lbs when I met him. He jokes that he has no ass, but it’s because he’s carrying 4 to 6 inches of belly fat that makes his ass disappear. He tells me that all through school people were mean to him because he was fat, and I believe it. I remember in school that the over-weight kids were left to fend for themselves, often alone or they were bullied.
Body type, social stigmas and understanding
Teens and adults face the same issues when dealing with obesity. There are health problems and there are social stigmas that make living harder than it needs to be. One of the lines that Wil opens up with in the first episode on Huge is “They want us to teach us to hate our bodies, and I’m not going to do that.”
Obesity and anorexia, just like alcoholism and drug addiction affects not just the person, but the family and their community. To me, it’s not about hating the fat, it’s about wanting more opportunities and health benefits for that person; just like with an alcoholic, it’s not about the alcohol, it’s about the effects.For me, once I underwent counseling, I realized that I was using food as a weapon to self-destruct. Recognizing and dealing with the underlying issues enabled me to overcome my eating disorder.
Hopefully the impact of this show on teens will be educational, endearing and uplifting. For so many years, all we saw on television were the perfectly, almost too thin, people. With obesity continuing to climb in the United States, I do think awareness is very important and it’s good to see “realistic body types” on TV. I hope the show melds tolerance and acceptance with education and providing a way to change habits, and reasons why they might use food as a control mechanism, for those that want it.