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'Fit to Fat to Fit' fan recap: A&E's new experiment tackles weight

Season 1 | Episode 1 | “JJ/Ray” | Aired Jan 19, 2016

Fit to Fat to Fit is the latest recorded experiment A&E has added to its roster of critically acclaimed reality shows, and it would appear that the show is just what the doctor (and fit coach) ordered.

Why? Because it finally shows the truth about how tough it is to get in shape when you’ve got an in-shape person looking over your shoulder, criticizing you for not being in shape. This time, it puts the in-shape fit coach in the shoes of the overweight. Finally, a member of the “beautiful people” gets up close and uncomfortable with the reality of being considered less than by society.

If it feels like there’s a lot of vitriol in my opening paragraphs … there is. The recapping opportunity for Fit to Fat to Fit comes at an interesting time, a time in which I myself am getting my body right for good. A lifelong struggle with unwanted weight around the middle has made me not value my pear shape as much as I should, and with that lack of value come a lot of self-esteem issues—especially when it comes to comparing my extra girth to some other members of my family who haven’t had to struggle with weight so much. When viewing this show, I wanted to see exactly how a fitness coach was going to deal with gaining four months’ worth of weight and trying to get it off. To be fair, I’ve never been far off from my goal weight; for years, I’ve had about four months of weight—about 50 to 60 pounds—to lose.

But looking out toward four months in the future, with every day of that future involving backbreaking exercise, is difficult to get the mind around. I wanted to see just how much the trainers would struggle with the 60 pounds that a lot of insensitive folks purport is so easy to lose.

However, I was sad at the idea of these already fit people purposely gaining weight. Don’t they know how hard it is to get that weight off? But that’s the whole idea of the show: teaching people who have always been in shape about the real struggle of weight loss. The first episode, featuring trainer JJ and client Ray, perfectly illustrated the physical and psychological ups and downs of weight.

JJ is clearly a great guy. He has a wonderful wife, he has wonderful kids, and he cares a lot about his clients. But at the start of his fit-to-fat-to-fit journey, he still thinks that losing weight should be an easy process, that the client just has to be educated enough about weight loss to get with the program. Easy for someone who has always been in shape to say. Meanwhile, his new client, Ray, says in his confessional how such a mindset is insulting for someone who has been trying to lose weight his or her whole life. It’s not just about knowing to eat less and exercise more, he says.

As he intimates, it’s a lot more about mindset. More specifically, it’s about self-worth. In Ray’s introduction, we see him eating tons of food, especially burgers. As much as I like a good burger, I was honestly disgusted by seeing Ray in his car, chomping down on that fast food. Ray was disgusted with himself too. “Tastes good, but it doesn’t feel good anymore,” he says while he looks down at his half-eaten burger. His disgust lies far beyond just eating fast food: He wants to be a dad, and until he loses weight, he fears an adoption agency wouldn’t place a baby with him and his wife. He also feels bad because his bad eating habits propelled his wife on a fast track to weight gain too. His parents, who don’t seem to have a weight problem, want the best for their son, but they don’t know how to help him anymore. He feels worthless, and until he can get his spiral in control, he fears he’ll never feel like the hero he wants to be.

JJ and Ray meet at Ray’s house, and it’s already clear that the two will get along great. They already seem like they’re on the same page, and that feeling triples when Ray shares that he just wants to feel like a hero in his own home. Ray’s dream for a child to look up to him makes JJ tear up. He tells Ray they have the same goals in life, and to help him, JJ is going to gain weight over the next four months to better empathize with Ray. The four months after that will be the two of them working together to get the weight off. Ray is visibly touched, but he’s also clearly scared and sad for JJ. He doesn’t want JJ to have to go through what he’s been experiencing his whole life.

JJ probably starts having second thoughts about the experiment when he eats his first fat meal, which consists of several pizzas. He has to gain 60 pounds, and eating tons of pizza is the first step to that goal. But after getting overly full, JJ thinks he’s going to throw up. Ironically, this is a feeling many people have had after doing an excruciating workout. Both sides of the equation involve pushing your body beyond its initial limits.

JJ perseveres, and soon he’s on his way to losing his cut abs and ripped arms. He also gets smacked in the face by fat-fueled depression. I’m sure there are studies that equate an overweight lifestyle to depression, but we can see the clear anecdotal evidence when JJ, a person who has never experienced an emotional breakdown, begins feeling the effects of a lack of self-esteem. He can’t play with his kids the way he wants to, he doesn’t share the same life he used to with his wife, he wants to stay in bed all day, and he feels like he’s looking at a stranger in the mirror. He’s literally shackled to food. JJ tells the camera he’s never been a person who broke, but now he feels like a failure as a father and husband. He says he feels fat and sad. “Is fat an emotion?” he asks, surprised at his own response.

JJ finally makes it to that 60 pound mark, which means he can start exercising again. But when he meets up with Ray, he finds that Ray has already lost over 40 pounds! JJ is stoked by that news, and even more stoked that Ray shows more strength in the assessment workout than he expected. The real test, though, is the strength-and-cardio workout that takes place the next day at an outdoor stadium. JJ pushes Ray beyond his limits and teaches him how to make and keep commitments to himself. But when it’s JJ’s turn to do the same workout—which involves jogging around the track, running up and down the bleachers, moving a 200-pound tire across half of a football field, and then bear-crawling the other half of that field—JJ realizes how hard it is to move with extra weight holding you back. JJ says afterward that it was the lowest he’d ever felt.

Over the course of the next four months, JJ and Ray rely on each other to lose weight. Ray does his workouts with JJ three times a week, and the other three days he’s working out at home, determined to be accountable to JJ. Ray’s goal is to go from over 300 pounds to about 250 pounds, which means he has about 100 pounds to lose. He wants to stay on track, but during the midpoint of his journey, it seems like he wants to lose weight to impress JJ more than to be a future father. But JJ, who is having worries about Ray’s motivations, sits him down and tells him that Ray is already the hero he wants to be; he doesn’t have to look into the future to see the hero he wants to be. At this point, Ray still doesn’t feel like a hero and still idolizes JJ, but at the end of the episode, we find that not only has JJ returned to his former ripped glory at a lean 184 pounds, but Ray has lost more than his 100-pound goal, reaching 242 pounds. His family hasn’t seen his final reveal, and when they do, they are shocked. JJ, who had been crying before Ray even walked in, is over the moon with pride. Both men hug, now brothers-in-arms.

The aftermath of the episode is that Ray is now full of self-confidence and does feel like the hero he’s always wanted to be. Ray can even out-bear-crawl JJ, something I’m sure JJ is proud of. JJ, on the other hand, has gained a new level of empathy for people struggling with weight. Having been on the other side, he knows how demoralizing it can be to have weight literally stuck on you. He can now better help his clients, and really, that’s one of the goals of the show. The concept was created by Drew Manning, a coach who put himself through the weight-gain-and-weight-loss regimen to become a better coach.

But the other goal of the show is to illustrate that there isn’t a certain sect of people destined to be thin and another sect destined to be fat. No one deserves to feel horrible about themselves, no matter what size they are—and no one deserves to feel like they should remain shackled to a lack of self-worth. Losing weight is often just reduced to the physical aspects, but Fit to Fat to Fit highlights how the weight-loss journey is just as much about building up one’s mind as it is about building up muscle.

What did you think of the inaugural episode of Fit to Fat to Fit? Share your thoughts below!

Fit to Fat to Fit airs Tuesdays at 10/9C on A&E.

TV Families | EW.com
February 23, 1990 at 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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