Realize Lap Band: Lose weight, get kissed in public

I can’t find a link to a commercial I saw yesterday for Realize, which is some kind of gastric band surgically implanted for weight loss, so I’ll just describe it. The commercial featured various people sharing the reasons why they wanted to lose weight.

The man wanted to lose weight so he could do karate with his little kid. That made sense. Doing karate would be easier if you weren’t obese. I get that goal.

The woman wanted to lose weight so she could kiss her boyfriend/husband under the Eiffel Tower.

I’m sorry, did I miss something? Is she so overweight she can’t travel to Paris? She didn’t look it. Does the Eiffel Tower have regulations against fat people visiting and/or kissing under it? Not to my knowledge. What’s the big holdup? That he would be ashamed to kiss her there? He was fat, too, and it’s hard to imagine a man being too concerned about the opinion of people in a foreign country he’s never going to see again. That she would be ashamed to be seen there? Well, maybe. We women are so conditioned to self-shaming we can generate a good case of it without any material to work with.

But even if you can find a (really sick, sad) reason to make sense of that goal, it’s hardly a healthy weight loss motive. What if he breaks up with/divorces her before she gets the weight off and they make it to Paris? What if the Eiffel Tower finally gets taken out by terrorists before she makes it? Will she be happy being fat then? My guess is no. So what’s the real reason she wants to lose weight, and why didn’t the commercial dig down and get to it?

The real reason is probably just that she knows it’s her duty as a woman to be slender even though her husband/boyfriend is not, and the reason they didn’t dig down to that is that the Eiffel Tower crap sounded so much sweeter.

Newsflash: women can have real, legitimate reasons for wanting to lose weight. We’re not all just brainwashed into thinking we must be a size zero. Some of us are perfectly happy with how we look at higher weights, but learn from a doctor (not a magazine or the press’ bullshit, please) that it’s causing us health problems. Some of us are 100% confident in our sexual appeal at higher weights, but have discovered we feel better generally or can better engage in certain activities at lower weights. Not all of us who want to lose weight are concerned about our sex appeal or romantic fantasies.

Some of us have lives beyond that, just like the man with his karate kid.


  1. sbg says

    Silly rabbit – everyone knows the only way a woman feels sexy (read: worthy of public affection) is if she’s thin(ner), and that appearance is the only reason a fat woman should ever want to lose weight. Helping health conditions is just bonus.

    Forgive the sarcasm.

    On the plus side, there is a commercial for a center up here which features a woman hiking and doing other activities she hadn’t been able to do prior to lap band.

  2. says

    I put off travel for over five years on the theory that I was too “ugly” (read: fat) to do that.

    Then I got pissed off and went travelling anyway, but I can get why people think that way. And it’s awful.

    That aside – oh goodie! More things that will confirm that initial feeling of “too ugly” was the right way to feel!

  3. sbg says

    I put off travel for over five years on the theory that I was too “ugly” (read: fat) to do that.

    Then I got pissed off and went travelling anyway, but I can get why people think that way. And it’s awful.

    That is awful. :(

  4. says

    Anna, I can totally understand where you’re coming from with that, and that’s precisely why I don’t like seeing it reinforced as a legitimate viewpoint.

    As a kid, I was never more than 20 pounds overweight (but very curvy in a way that was not acceptable in the 80’s), and yet I thought I was too fat to buy clothes, to be seen in a bathing suit, to wear a shirt tucked in, or to be attractive to any sane guy. I got a LOT of reinforcement on the first three when slimmer girls than I moaned about how they couldn’t possibly buy clothes/go swimming/not wear dumpy clothes because they were “so fat.” I also seemed to get a lot of reinforcement on the last one, though one can never be sure what’s the real reason(s) one doesn’t get asked out as often as someone else. (I’m now a good bit heavier and 35, yet I get approached by men more often now than I ever did as a young woman/girl, which defies all traditional “wisdom” about what heterosexual men are looking for.)

  5. says

    Thinking about this in light of your latest post, this is just another illustration of the same thing, Woman exists to reflect the glory of Man (“he for God only, she for God in him” right after ” “For contemplation he and valour formed / For softness she and sweet attractive grace”– it’s a very old set of tropes!)

    Why not have the female character now tackling a rock climbing ascent in a gorgeous wilderness setting, for example?

    Ans: Because, as Milton says, men are formed for valour, as well as intellectual pursuits, and we are not!

  6. remy says

    Interesting post…I think the point of that commercial was that overweight people are often uncomfortable traveling. i read somewhere that airplane seats are made for people 150lbs so it’s easy to “spill” over into the seat next to you. can imagine having to sit with your arms crossed all the way to paris? I a big guy – 6’3″ and I hate flying for that very reason. But at any rate, i liked the commercial. and i thought the girl was pretty.

  7. says

    Remy, it’s definitely true that travel providers usually fail to consider the comfort of big people, fat or otherwise. I can’t quite buy that this was the commercial’s point, however, because there was no mention of travel being the obstacle. So even if they were thinking what you’re thinking, I’d say they fell short in delivering the message. It’s very common for people who perceive themselves as overweight to put off goals and dreams for “after I’ve lost the weight”, no matter how many years go by without enough weight loss to make them feel better. That’s how this came across to me, “I want to kiss him under the Eiffel Tower… as soon as I’ve lost the weight.”

  8. remy says

    I guess i just don’t see what all the animosity is about. Besides, I remember the beginning of the commercial saying “your reasons are your own”…who’s to judge whether or not someone else’s reason is “legitimate”. Even if the commercial was implying that she wanted to wait to go to paris until she lost weight – be it to not have to buy two airline seats or otherwise who’s to say that’s a “good enough” reason or not? It’s quite common to want to lose weight for a special occasion – a wedding, a party, whatever – because you want to look and feel your best. In fact, a lot of over weight people don’t even let themselves be in pictures. My sister Katie was like that for a long time as she struggled with her weight and has lost over 100 lbs – her motivation? She wanted to look best for her wedding and wear a bikini on her honeymoon. Should she be attacked and judged for that? I hope not.

  9. says

    Remy, the animosity is directed toward the makers of the commercial, not fat women. They chose to feature a man losing weight for a practical, health-friendly reason, and a woman losing weight out of shame. These are the people responsible for fat people not wanting to be photographed. For your sister feeling shame unless she looked good in a bikini. Those are the people the article is criticizing.

    You may want to read the homepage and get a feel for what this site is actually about.

  10. remy says

    Jennifer, I did read your website and from my understanding this site started because you didn’t like how women were portrayed in the media – correct? Well, no one said anything about my sister feeling “shame” – that’s a label you put on her. In fact, if you ever met her you’d know she’s a fairly confident person – very outgoing, actually, life of the party. I think she’d be very offended on how you’re portraying her motives to lose weight. You’re upset about the media reinforcing negative stereotypes, but aren’t you in fact doing the same thing by judging someone else’s motives? Just because someone wants to look their best doesn’t mean they are ashamed of themselves right now. Isn’t the argument that “fat people” (by the way – “fat” is an offensive term – many prefer “over weight”) who want to lose weight for a special occasion “must” be ashamed of themselves now is very negative and judgmental. In regards to the commercial – I found it something I could relate to, and so did my sister, because we’ve both been there (over weight & bigger, I mean). So from our perspective, it made sense to think her reason was because she would be uncomfortable traveling there. Never did it cross our minds that she was “ashamed”. So all I’m saying is that since your website is geared towards breaking stereotypes, maybe you should re-think any of the ones you have towards people of weight and give them the benefit of the doubt as you are asking others to do the same for you. Just my two cents.

  11. says

    This post explains why we have made a choice to use the term “fat” on this site, and it is part of a larger movement called “fat acceptance.”

    Re: shame. I too am tremendously confident in general, but I was taught from early days to be ashamed of my plump curves (and I’ve never been more than maybe 30 pounds overweight). I’ve avoided being photographed and put off living “until I lose X pounds” many, many times, and every time I expressed these motivations, women around me nodded with understanding. If that’s not shame, then I don’t know what is. But in any case, I assume you and I can agree no one should ever be made to feel that way, whatever you call the feeling.

    So, yes, I can say it’s not a proper way to feel without condemning people who feel that way. I am condemning the culture that encourages it.

    Consider this: the man’s motive for weight loss is purely practical, but the woman’s involves a layer of psychology we’re supposed to infer. As I said above, being too heavy to move around comfortably would directly impact the man’s ability to play with his kid. But being too heavy does NOT stop people from going to Paris and kissing under the Eiffel tower. There’s something missing in their explanation, which we are left to infer. While your travel discomfort theory makes sense as well, the first thing that leaps to mind for me and it seems everyone else in the comment thread is “Ah, yes, the old ‘must lose weight before doing X’ routine.” Because even those of us who don’t feel it and those of us who’ve always had the body we’re told we should have are familiar with that motive. It gets pushed on us every day.

    So all I’m saying is that since your website is geared towards breaking stereotypes, maybe you should re-think any of the ones you have towards people of weight and give them the benefit of the doubt as you are asking others to do the same for you.

    Criticizing the media for normalizing motivations no one should feel is not stereotyping the people who feel those motivations. If you can’t see the difference, then I doubt we’re going to make any further progress here.

  12. remy says

    Jennifer, I think the main disconnect here is perspective. You said yourself that you’ve never been more than 30 lbs overweight so you probably don’t know what it feels like to have to squeeze into a seat a theater, or ball game, or airplane for that matter and therefore wouldn’t necessarily make the connection to not wanting to travel overseas feeling like you’re being shoved into a sausage casing. But for the target audience of that commercial – those who are morbidly obese (and I’m talking 100 lbs or more, not a max of 30), I’m thinking that the issues around traveling are pretty familiar. The fact of the matter is that weight can and does prevent people from doing things that more slender people can. Traveling (unless you have so much money that you can buy two seats, or a first class seat, private jet or whatever) can be one of those things. So bottom line is, while it’s not wrong that your interpretation was focused around “what you know” it also isn’t wrong for someone in the target market who can relate to the character in the commercial to feel the way he/she does about it either. So again, since your website is geared towards broadening perspectives, I hope you take a moment to look at a situation from multiple angles rather than just your own before you start to criticize.

  13. says

    No, Remy, I assume I’ve the only valid perspective on earth and never consider other people’s. /sarcasm

    Forget people my size. Only consider people who are, say, 75 pounds or more overweight, and answer the following:

    Which motive do you think more often holds these people back from doing things they want to do? The “I’ll do it when I lose the weight” motive, or the size of airplane/theater/etc. seats? Does the size of airplane seats stop fat people from buying flattering clothes? Does it stop them from going to the beach? Does it make them embarrassed to go out at night for fear hecklers will harass them on the street? Dread going grocery shopping because people shoot them dirty looks if they buy anything but broccoli? Does it make them want to avoid aerobics classes?

    No. It makes them want to avoid restaurants, theaters, and travel, and quite possibly a few things I haven’t thought of or don’t know about.

    But in either case, the size of airplane/theater/restaurant seating is part of the entire shaming process I’m criticizing. It ALL boils down to society shaming those who don’t manage to conform to its arbitrary standards.

    Furthermore, which is the correct response to the seating issue? For fat people to lose the weight, or for society to recognize that people have a right to come in all shapes and sizes and still accept equal treatment?

    Either way one interprets it, the commercial is still saying, “It’s okay to want to lose weight because someone has shamed you into it by making it embarrassing/inconvenient/extra expensive for you to be the size you are.” And, of course, it’s the woman they portray as having that reason when it could as easily have been portrayed the other way around.

    I would go so far as to argue that you should NOT want to lose weight in order to conform to an arbitrary standard. I get it; I may not have trouble fitting into seats, but I always wanted to lose weight because I thought then clothes would fit me properly. But you know what? It didn’t work. I realize now that for a while in my 20s, I was slim. But I didn’t know that at the time; the clothes still looked bad on me, therefore I had to still be “too fat”, I thought. That’s why these motives concern me so much, and anything that is left open to be interpreted as normalizing them needs to be criticized.

  14. Elaine says

    I found it really odd reading the posts about the Realize Band commercial. As a formerly morbidly obese person I was part of a study group on that commercial before it came out and I have to tell you that out of a room full of people there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when it was shown to us. We all related to it. Every single one of us… male and female. Maybe it takes one that has really been there to truly understand the commercial. And, as part of their target demographic, I will vouch that it is highly effective.

  15. says

    Elaine, thanks for sharing your reaction to it. I would note, however, that just because we relate to an ad/movie/etc. doesn’t eliminate the possibility that it’s problematic. For a totally unrelated example, a lot of viewers can relate to a female character who has long-term unrequited romantic feelings for a man she can’t have, but that doesn’t mean such a portrayal is okay.

    The crux of the problem for me with this commercial is the difference between the man’s reason for losing weight and the woman’s. The man’s reason seemed to be about his child. The woman’s seemed to be about her boyfriend. Now, if you read comments, you know someone suggested it was really about travel, and someone else came across a slightly altered version of the commercial which made that more clear. Had I only ever seen the altered version, I would not have written this post. It wouldn’t have been immediately clear to me why she couldn’t travel to Paris at her current weight, but I would have had enough information to realize I was missing something and ask around, at which point someone would have informed me that at her weight, plane seats can be very uncomfortable, etc. And since the travel problems are not a gender issue, there would have been no reason to bring it up here.

  16. Elaine says

    But at the base of it all, their reasons are really the same. Their disability caused by their weight keeps them from living their life the way they want to. They can’t comfortably be themselves. My point is, the makers of that commercial were not trying to sterotype men or women. Those are actual real people who came up with those “wants” themselves. That is truly what that beautiful girl wants to do. What she feels deprived of. That is not a scripted commercial in the sense that the writers came up with those ideas for them. If you look at their website, there are many more actual patients that are featured that are portraying their own “wants”. I know many of them personally and I can guarantee you that they were not told what to say just like the man and woman in that commercial. The commercial was built around their wants, not vice versa. Who are we to say that she’s wrong for longing to do something that she feels she is deprived of because of her weight?

  17. says

    But at the base of it all, their reasons are really the same. Their disability caused by their weight keeps them from living their life the way they want to.

    I disagree. It will never be as easy to play with your kid if you’re out of shape than if you’re in shape. But what makes it difficult to travel if you’re a certain size is that the travel industry has decided accommodations should be for a different size person, and everyone else can fuck off. I actually think the answer is for the travel industry to change, not for people to lose weight to fit its arbitrary standards (large, slim people can also have trouble with travel). So even with the understanding that her problem is travel, not boyfriend-related shame, I still read his motive as totally pragmatic and hers as the usual conditioned female response of “I must conform to the world instead of expecting to be treated equally.”

    My point is, the makers of that commercial were not trying to sterotype men or women.

    Yes, 99% of the things we review on here aren’t “trying” to stereotype. You’re missing the point of the site. The problem is that they DID put across a stereotype, through their lack of clarity, and for that the makers of the commercial deserve criticism.

    Obviously they agree, since they changed the commercial to make it more clear.

    Geez, if the only people who caused trouble were those who actually WANT to stereotype or hate, we would have no prejudice in the world. It’s all the many, many people who unthinkingly pander to those stereotypes who perpetuate them.

  18. Carlton says

    Yes, the commercial has changed and the fat woman says (in a different voice than before — and with a lisp):

    “I want to fly to Paris with my husband”

    At first, I figured they did it because (assuming that the commercial is shown in other countries, including France) there are probably plenty of fat people in Paris right now who could take the bus to the Eiffel Tower with their spouse and kiss them under it, but now I can see that they probably felt the need to be more specific about why the fat woman felt she could not do what she wanted to do. They could have gone a bit further and had her say “I want to fly to Paris with my husband and I don’t want to have to pay for two seats to do it” but that probably would have been overkill.

    But maybe it’s because I’m a guy that the guy’s reasoning in the commercial bugged me more than the woman’s. He wants to do karate with his “little warrior” and he can’t because he’s fat?? Has he ever taken a karate class before? Well I’ve taken plenty of them and believe me, the students AND teachers come in all sizes — I’ve seen guys as big as he is in my classes – some holding black belts. Fat people can still be very agile as well as powerful.

    And in similar fashion to the way the fat woman is looking into the eyes of her husband with a lusting at the end of her appearance, the fat guy is shown with his arms wrapped around his “little warrior” at first from a distance, and then the camera does a zoom of his arms and how tree-trunk like they are compared to the “little warrior’s”.

    OK, I’m not fat, but I used to be and I find this commercial pretty insulting. What else are these people depriving themselves of because they are fat? I’m of the feeling that maybe if these people just started doing what they wanted to do, despite whatever “uncomfortableness” there may be, and keep doing the things they want to do, they might find the weight starts coming off without the need for a band. The commercial plays into the “victim mentality” big time.

    And you know, if the woman wants to fly to Paris that bad, she can always use mileage to upgrade her ticket to first class and get a bigger seat – or if hubby cares enough, he’ll flip the bill for first class. But I still have this strange feeling that if she did get to Paris and got to kiss hubby under the Eiffel Tower, in the back of her mind she’d be thinking “and this was so important to me because … … … ???”

    • says

      I finally saw the new version of the commercial, and I think just having her mention “fly” removes my issues with it. I think there’s been enough publicity about the two-seat crap the airlines are pulling that most people would know what she’s talking about there.

      He wants to do karate with his “little warrior” and he can’t because he’s fat?? Has he ever taken a karate class before? Well I’ve taken plenty of them and believe me, the students AND teachers come in all sizes — I’ve seen guys as big as he is in my classes – some holding black belts. Fat people can still be very agile as well as powerful.

      That’s a good point, Carlton. I am aware that fat people can be very strong and agile, depending on other aspects of their body and build, but there are other people who can’t move very well unless their size/weight is below a certain level. I just sort of assumed the guy had tried karate and found he couldn’t do it in his present shape.

      And you’ve hit on an overall problem I have with the commercial. I get that these are real people offering their real reasons for wanting to lose weight, and I don’t judge them. But I am someone who’s been 20-50 pounds overweight since childhood, and I’ve put off doing a LOT of things because I was “too fat.” It was really quite neurotic, and I can see that now, but at the time doctors were encouraging me to think that way and starve myself and do whatever it took to lose the weight. Mind you, I come from a long line of much heavier people who all live into the 90s with very good health.

      I – and this is part of what I was trying to say in the article, and maybe didn’t get across – would have felt better if the commercial at least included another woman who offered a really logical reason, like, “I don’t want to have a second heart attack.” Emotional reasons are valid, and again I’m not judging at all, but they can be products of this warped fat-shaming culture we have that thinks it’s morally wrong to be fat and right to be skinny, even when the skinny person is on death’s door from self-abuse and the fat person’s bloodwork indicates she’s healthy as can be. Women are especially subject to that shaming process and the emotional thinking that follows it (i.e., my own “I can’t [whatever] until I lose 20 pounds”). I felt the commercial reinforced that, whether it meant to or not.

  19. Elaine says

    Carlton, let me start off by saying I found your post very offensive. I have a Realize Band. OH, and by the way Jennifer, your title confuses two brand names. There is no such thing as a Realize Lap Band. Lap Band is the brand name for a band that is made by a different company. Realize is made by Ethicon Endosurgery, a division of Johnson and Johnson. But, that aside, let me get back to my response to Carlton. Carlton, you like many others that have never suffered from severe morbid obesity, seem to have the misconception that the people in that commercial (and their target audience) are fat because they gave up on life because it was too uncomfortable to live. Your statement that they might not need the band if they just got up and started moving is very short sighted and basically ignorant of the effects of this disease. When you can’t reach your feet to put on your own shoes regardless of how little you eat or how much you move THEN you can judge as to who needs this band and WHY they need it. Luckily, this commercial wasn’t meant for you or, apparently, the other readers of this blog. People like you contribute to the very “victim mentality” you seem to want to bash. To tell someone that their own personal version of hell isn’t a legitimate reason to want to improve their lives by having this surgery is insulting to all of us who have made the decision to improve our lives by having this band or any other type of weight loss surgery. We all have our own reasons, alot of which you may not agree with, but that’s the great thing about it. You don’t have to.

  20. says

    That’s not how I read Carlton’s comment. I thought he was saying that there are fat people who do just fine at karate. Not ALL fat people suffer from the inability to move as they would like to move, but even the slightly overweight (women, anyway) are so discouraged from attempting athletics of any sort in front of a public that’s likely to ridicule the effort that they don’t realize their body’s size/shape is actually not a problem.

    I come from a long line of people who build muscle easily and don’t burn fat with anything short of 20 hours/week of aerobic exercise and about a 1000 calorie diet. But we live into our 90s with nary a health problem. Even when we’re quite low on body fat, we look chunky because of the muscle. Do you have any idea how many times doctors have told me *I* need to lose weight? Even when I weighed 114, and the chart said a girl of my height should be 108. The extra pounds and then some were all muscle, but did doctors check this? No, they just assumed I was eating 3k calories a day and gave me advice based on that assumption. Just the other day I went through this with an endocrinologist, for fuck’s sake.

    There are a variety of weight issues people have, and a variety of problems with the medical and weight loss industries: doctors overlooking health problems because they think slender = healthy, doctors ignoring health problems because they assume them to be caused by fat, doctors advising lap band and other types of solutions to people who don’t need them, doctors failing to advise them to people who really do need them. The target demographic of this commercial is not the only one that has a right to analyze it and take issue with the messages it puts forth.

  21. Carlton says

    Elaine – You are off base – my comments were directed towards the actors in the commercial who I do not consider to be “morbidly obese”. There are guys on my volleyball team who are fatter than the guy in the commercial who wants to get the Realize Band (So he can do karate??? Give me a break) .

    The commercial plays on emotions and image and doesn’t even hint about the health aspects of being overweight.

    Morbidly obese people are in a different category that what is represented in this commercial and I would be the last person on earth who would dream of “bashing” them. If the Realize Band is working for you, that’s great.

    btw – until my hypo-thyroid condition was (correctly) diagnosed and I was given the (correct) dose of medication, I had a hard time putting on my socks let alone my shoes.

  22. wilma powers says

    my problem with this commercial and the people who have their own “ideal” wishes for being thinner, is that they appear to be mentally challenged. I mean, look at their faces!

    there is absolutely NO EMOTION!!! if these were REAL PEOPLE with REAL desires, hopes, dreams, fantasies, whatever, then there would be EMOTION!

    gosh! so now what are we also being told? that not only are we “fat” if as women we weigh more than 115, or “useless” if as men we cannot “do” karate? no, no, no! now we are also mentally challenged robots who have plenty enough fat to go around, but obviously not enough upstairs in the faculty department?

    get real!!

  23. Ted says

    I don’t mean to be harsh, but it’s obvious the reason she wants to lose weight to kiss her “husband” under the Eiffel Tower is because he told her he won’t be her “husband” until she loses the weight. That’s how we took it up here in NY. Pretty common too. – ESPECIALLY in couples where the man is fat too. I’m sure you all know the horrible things women try to do to get an unworthy man to think twice about them. She sound find another fat woman and they can go to Paris together :-)

  24. B says

    I saw a new version of this commercial today-the first guy still wants to do karate with his child, but the young woman now wants to “fly to Paris with her husband”.

    As a woman with an officially obese BMI who flew nonstop from Chicago to Rome in February, I can tell you that it was not pleasant. However, I can’t say that being a healhier weight would have made it any better.

    Interestingly, in Rome, there were no overweight people, except other tourists. I felt self-conscious about it after my husband told me.

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