I don’t know how many of you watch NBC’s The Biggest Loser, but it is great. I swear, I sit there and am amazed every week at what these people are able to overcome. It is truly an inspiring and powerful reality show. Plus, because I am a total “no pain, no gain” kind of exerciser, Mark and I both fantasize about having those trainers kick our butts in the gym.

Of course, the contestants are often dealing with a variety of emotional issues that lead them to become so obese in the first place. This season alone has had one grown daughter of a now-dead herion addict and a woman whose husband, five-year-old daughter and six-week-old son were killed in a car crash, both of whom turned to food for comfort. (I bet you’re really wishing you watched this upper of a show, huh?)

Last night, one of the contestants revealed that his sister had died of cancer when he was a teenager. This was the first time he had mentioned it, after ten weeks on “the ranch.” Well, Jillian Micheals, one of the trainers, jumped on this and insisted it was the root cause of his obesity. Not just the cancer and not even the death, but what she dubbed his “abandonment” by his parents. He never said he was abandoned, simply that he had been shuffled around between friends and family while his sister was in treatment. Jillian hounded him, literally following around behind him, insisting over and over again, “You were abandoned, you were abandoned so your parents could devote all their attention to your dying sister.”

Now, I have no idea what went on in this man’s family and I am certain that many children with sick siblings do indeed feel abandoned, but I take serious issue with the assumption that it is an automatic reaction of families. Breadan, for one, was not abandoned. And yes, he was shuffled around between friends and family. And yes, it was difficult for us to spend as much time with him as we wanted to. And yes, it would have been worse if we had lived farther from the hospital or if we hadn’t had such a tight network of people around us to help take care of him. And no, I cannot guarantee that he may not look back one day and think of it differently. And no, I can’t say how differently it may have turned out if Austin had indeed died.

But I suspect that this man’s weight problem was due, at least in part, to the sadness and loss that inevitably existed inside his family following the death of his sister. Sadness is automatic when a child has cancer. And sadness is automatically doubled, tripled or quadrupled when that child dies.  

Abandonment is not automatic.

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