I caught the re-run of the first episode last night, and was just about in tears by the end of it. It's such a breath of fresh air amidst all the New Year's dieting shows, ads, etc. to have a show that shows how real women can be happy with their bodies right now, instead of dangling impossible standards in their face then chastising them for failing to reach.
It started out with the girl stripping to bra and panties and having to look at herself in a full length mirror. She looked about an average size (12/14? 16 at the most?) but definitely what Hollywood would call fat. She was asked to go over each body part to assess it in front of the mirror, with Carson standing by as coach, countering each complaint with a reality check (you have beautiful skin, all women have those flaps under their arm unless they pay someone to suck it out with some horrible machine, etc.). We did a similar exercise in a meditation class, where we had to look at ourselves naked in a full length mirror (although not with cameras on us!) and describe what we saw without value statements. So I know just how terrifying and vulnerable it felt for her to stand there.
Next they did an experiment that I hope becomes a regular feature of the show. The woman said that her "worst" feature was her large hips. She was brought into a room with 7 or so women, arranged by size from the narrowest to the widest hips. The woman was asked to place herself in the order based on what she thought her size was. She put herself second to largest. Carson pointed out that by measurement, she had added six inches to her hips in her mental image of herself, and moved her down to the correct placement...second to smallest.
This reminded me of an experiment we studied in a sociology class. Women were shown a series of silhouettes, and asked to select the one they think most accurately depicted their body, and the one that they saw as most desired by men. Consistently, women chose a body shape several sizes larger than their actual silhouette, and chose a "desirable" shape several times thinner than surveyed men had chosen as ideal. That's why the first exercise (mirror) is so crucial. Part of being able to love our bodies is knowing our bodies. Part of learning to dress to our shape is knowing what shape we are, and being completely unafraid of it.
The woman was taken to have a professional bra-fitting (and found she was wearing a cup two sizes too small). With all the info Pretty Pear has given on the subject, it's something that's gone up in my priority list. Apparently, the vast majority of women are wearing the wrong bra. 90+% of the support is supposed to come from the band, not the straps (could be why my shoulders ache when I wear certain bras?). The fitting was really enlightening.
At the end, after primping, dressing to her own body shape and style, and agreeing to a photo shoot, Carson dropped another bombshell that I think is going to be a regular. He told her the photo shoot was going to be nude. After some tears and gentle persuasion, she agrees, and they do a series of tasteful shots that turn out really, really sexy. As a final surprise, Carson takes her out into New York, where her photo was projected onto the side of a building. She had to stop random strangers, point at the billboard and ask "Do you think I look good naked?"
The response from both men and women was an overwhelming "yes". A lot of the responses said something along the lines of "That's what real women look like!" One guy got so enthusiastic in his praise that his girlfriend started shooting him glares. The show closed with the woman giving a really positive "no more dieting, I'm going to love my body the way it is" message.
It was fantastic, wildly anti-mainstream, empowering, and I can't wait to be an avid fan of the series! It was definitely anti-diet (described as "destroying yourself") anti WLS/Liposuction, pro body acceptance and love. I just hope that ratings can stay up so that this show can have the kind of life it needs.
The only complaint was that two quack diet pill ads followed the show in commercial break. Lifetime's taken a great step, but has yet to reflect it in their advertising standards.