Why Mama June's Weight Loss Show Really Concerns Us

Photo: MediaPunch/REX/Shutterstock.
I adore reality TV, so it pains me to say that the Mama June: From Not To Hot show on WeTV really isn’t doing it for me. Generally, I have a one episode threshold to determine whether or not I can let my brain rot in perpetuity (or at least until the season and reunions are over) and somehow not feel like a troll. But the whole thesis for Mama June’s new show is just a humongous bummer, and that’s coming from someone who dressed up as a Toddlers & Tiara girl for one Halloween in college.
Here's the gist: After hearing that her ex-husband, affectionately nicknamed Sugar Bear, is engaged to a woman he’s been dating for eight months, Mama June is convinced by her niece Amber to "diet until you're sexy" to get revenge on Sugar Bear. Her niece seems like a bit of a jerk for planting the seed in the first place, and even June throws shade and says Amber’s “gotta be adopted; she’s got perfect teeth and no tattoos, she's a freak.” Amber insists that revenge diets are “the next biggest thing in Hollywood,” which is unfortunately true, but that doesn't mean we're not tired of hearing about them. Plagued by yo-yo dieting and weight loss plateaus, Mama June decides she's going to get weight loss surgery, and the journey begins.
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Before we get into everything that's wrong with this picture, it's worth noting that I genuinely don't think it's all Mama June's fault. After watching the first episode, from what I can tell, it seems like she's a victim of manipulative producers and an enticing TV deal — but then again, that's how she got here in the first place. Let's unpack...
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June's motivation is skewed.

For all we know, June had been planning on getting bariatric surgery for a while, and the show gave her the financial push she needed, but that's giving her the benefit of the doubt. Deciding to have weight loss surgery isn't just like deciding to get bangs on a whim; it's a change that effectively alters the rest of your life, so there are mental and logistical hurdles. And if you're doing it all for someone else's approval, not only is that a crazy way to spend your money, it's also a recipe for disappointment. Why? Because your self-worth should not be wrapped up in how someone else thinks you look.

"Her motivation isn't exactly right to begin with," says Jenny Choi, MD, director of bariatric surgery at Montefiore Health System. "People have different motivations for losing weight — obviously looking good to look good is one — but it's hard to maintain that feeling for a lifetime."

June doesn't even really seem to be sold on her niece's plan to impress Sugar Bear at the wedding. "I don't want him back, but I want to show him how hot I can be, and I'm not going to sulk," she says. June even tells her niece that she thinks she already looks good, which is further proof that maybe revenge wasn't her plan at all.
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She needs her family's support.

You probably remember Alana, aka Honey Boo Boo, the child who coined the term "vajiggle jaggle" and drank "go-go juice" from Toddlers & Tiaras. She's in this new show a lot, for comedic relief and apparently to be the voice of reason. In the preview, Alana doubts the whole thing and tells her mom she likes the way she looks as is. When her mom starts exercising in the first episode, Alana asks, "How did we get roped into this revenge diet?" Honestly, wondering the same question, Alana!

In other previews, Alana gets teary-eyed when June asks if she's nervous that she won't come back after the surgery. Alana commiserates with Big Mike (their neighbor who helps out around the house) that there's "nothing wrong with being fluffy," especially now that she's not doing pageants anymore. While, ultimately, it is a personal decision whether or not you get weight loss surgery, Dr. Choi says people underestimate how much family support is required to keep up the lifestyle after the surgery. June asks Alana, "Are you afraid you're going to have a new mama?" She shrugs, "Yeah, I know I am!"
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Exercise is not therapy.

Mama June and her ex-husband Sugar Bear haven't exactly had the easiest relationship. For the past decade, they've had a pretty volatile relationship that ended on the show Marriage Bootcamp when he revealed that he was cheating on her.

June's plan on the show is to "take out everything she’s ever hated about him on her workouts." The trainer on this new show, Kenya Crooks, seems like a spunky guy, but I'm pretty sure that his credentials as a "drill sergeant-style trainer" and "no-nonsense fitness and nutrition guru" doesn't mean he's a therapist or in any way equipped to help Mama June deal with her anger. Exercise makes you feel good, yes, but working out is in no way, shape, or form the same as going to speak with a professional therapist who has tools to help you address and work through your emotions.

Dr. Choi says most weight loss surgery patients have to have an intense evaluation with a psychologist and a psychiatrist to make sure the expectations are realistic for what's going to happen post-op. I was pleasantly surprised by how much they showed in the doctor's office in the first episode, but I have a hunch we'll see more shots of Crooks yelling at June than scenes of her sitting and talking in therapy.
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She wants to look unrecognizable.

Like any episodic weight loss show, the goal is to have June look completely different by the end of the season, and the producers (I'm assuming) have landed on June going from 352 pounds to a size four at the end of this. Pretty much everyone but Mama June expresses interest in her shrinking. One of her daughters tells her, "Get small enough, you might get a hot guy to go to the wedding with you." In a preview, Amber buys Mama June a "goal dress" to work towards being able to wear. Sure, feeling good in clothes that fit you is totally a thing, but come on, Amber! Simply buying clothes that fit the body you have right now is the way to go.

The show's description on WeTV promises a "completely unrecognizable look" that will "shock the entire world." What's shocking is that people still think bodies need to be transformed in order to be desired.
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The pressure is insane.

June's publicist Gina says she represents a ton of reality TV stars, but she and June are actually friends, she says. As a publicist, she tells June she's "not going to be bookable" because being big is a whole part of her brand. Then, you can hear the glimmer in her voice when she talks about the possibility of a total transformation (it's icky, even though I'm sure it's not the first time she's actually hearing about it), and she says,"If you did lose all this weight, you could get a lot of endorsement deals." Oy.

As a "friend," Gina tells June that she's "pissed off" when, initially, June doesn't take dieting seriously. June says she was afraid of disappointing Gina (valid, given the way she talks to her), and that she doesn't understand the struggles as a "big person" to lose "all this weight." June's daughter, Pumpkin, chimes in at one point, saying, "Mama needs somebody to be positive towards her, she doesn't need to stress herself out." Very true, and also she doesn't necessarily need a TV crew following her around, but baby steps.
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It seems like, deep down, Mama June knows what's wrong.

This show and these family dynamics are obviously not perfect, but I do believe that Mama June knows what's important. Even though she says, "I'll find a man if I look good," she also isn't too hung up on winning Sugar Bear back or even impressing him. "Letting Sugar Bear back in my life isn't the right thing to do," she says. "It wasn't right for us to stay together for the kids; I'm just happy with me and the girls." She speculates that Sugar Bear invited her to the wedding just so she could shut it down, which shows that she knows her worth a little bit more than they let on.

There are so many outside influences swirling around her (ahem, Amber and the TV crew), including Big Mike. He tells the kids, "Your mama needs to find a man," because he's tired of coming over to fix things around the house. The show will also send Mama June on dates so she can find a new man, but she specifically says, "I don't need dates." This show is a hot mess, and I have a feeling Mama June knows it and is just along for the ride in order to get the surgery and further her personal brand a little bit.
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Sugar Bear just gets to chill.

Despite being a decidedly shitty dude, cheating on Mama June, and leaving her for some new fling, Sugar Bear doesn't have to do a single thing this entire show besides show up and stir the pot. It's safe to say that the whole point of this show is to impress Sugar Bear — and the last time I checked, his approval wasn't the litmus test for health and beauty. It's a massive double-standard, and the worst part about all of this is not only is he going to think it's okay, but this could also garner him another TV show contract.

It also makes you think about how this will all end. Will Sugar Bear walk in, give a nod of approval, and then get back to his new wife? Will he leave his new wife and repent to Mama June because she looks that good? I'm just hoping Mama June uses this as an opportunity to drop my favorite line of all time again (which I plan to use at some point in my lifetime): "I don't know her [Sugar Bear's fiancé], but I guarantee she's no me." Amen to that.
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