Ruby: Telling My Truth
- Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP Pauline Center for Media Studies
- 2008 6 Nov
Ruby Gettinger, a thirty-something Sunday school teacher in Savannah, GA, received a death sentence from her doctor when she reached 700 lbs.
Battling obesity since the age of ten, she “socialized her way out of college” after two years. She later thought of going back to school but realized she wouldn’t fit in a seat. Several years ago Ruby saw an episode of Oprah that showcased the dilemmas of overweight women who had stopped going out in public because people stared and ridiculed them. Ruby realized there was both an obesity epidemic in the country and that she was part of it. She had also met a man about the same time and started to lose weight for him. But after eight and a half years, when neither over-the-counter diets, discrimination, Oprah, nor romance, proved effective motivations, her doctor’s dire prediction got through to her.
Ruby, a nine-episode reality show produced by Gay Rosenthal Productions, is about one woman’s life and death battle against obesity premieres Sunday, November 9 on The Style Network at 8:00 p.m. E.T.
I interviewed Ruby recently to find out what’s different about her reality show.
RP: Why did you permit the cameras into your life in such an intimate way?
Ruby: Because I wanted to be the guinea pig and find out the truth about this disease, this obesity – the physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological aspects, all of it. I wanted to make a documentary at first that explored the missing link between the diet industry and the obesity epidemic. But I met some television people in Los Angeles who had the passion to tell my truth with my faith. The crew believed in me and shared my vision. At first, it was difficult being vulnerable and exposing my private feelings and emotions in front of these strangers, but it didn't take long to know I was blessed to have a crew who believed in me and saw my vision
RP: Many people think reality TV is phony and constructed. What is the most real about this TV show?
Ruby: It’s the most amazing thing. I thought this, too. But these people came into my life to follow everything I was doing. I had to believe they were sincere and not judgmental. They were so quiet sometimes I didn’t even know they were there. As long as they were telling my truth, it was ok.
RP: Did this production experience change your view of television?
Ruby: I will never look at TV the same way again! The long hours and amount of work the crew put in was very eye-opening. It is amazing the amount of work and time that goes into producing a TV show. Everyone, from the executive producers to the director of photography, to the sound guy, runners and talent (TV word for who the show is about) are working nonstop! Blood, sweat and tears have gone into this project; everyone is so passionate about the message of this show. It is really humbling. To me, God orchestrated this crew. I would have never been so open in front of the producers and crew that followed me around 24/7, unless they were nonjudgmental people with huge hearts. Above all, I have made friendships that will be with me throughout this journey and the rest of my life.
RP: When you started researching obesity what did you find out?
Ruby: There are so many prejudices against obesity. When I went to restaurants I had to find armless chairs. Even in the ER at the hospital, I had to find a seat to sit on. The world wasn’t made for big people, but we need to realize there are 96 million people in the U.S. suffering from obesity. The thing is that unless we do something 75 percent of our population will be obese by the 2010. This is an epidemic. The market is selling every diet product possible but we are not winning this battle. What is going on? What’s the missing link? Although it took eight years, that Oprah episode was a turning point for me. I wanted to find out the truth about myself and this condition. Then my boyfriend left me, so I had another reason to find out the truth about why I couldn’t lose weight. And then the doctors told me I was going to die.
RP: In the television show your doctor tells you that you are a metabolic time bomb, threatened with diabetes, kidney failure, sleep apnea, and pre-mature death because you may stop breathing while asleep.
Ruby: When he said this, the first thing I told myself was: maybe I am meant to die. I have been happy. I haven’t really suffered because I have been loved. I thought “I cannot beat this.” It took me two or three weeks to tell myself: “I am not going to give up; God has a bigger purpose for you than death. Faith in God will keep you going. You can do this; you can conquer this.” I still believe this that I will conquer this condition once and for all, for me and for everyone else. And I want to find out why: if it is physical, spiritual, mental, all of it … maybe [through the television show] we can find out what the problem is and the cure at the same time.
RP: Why do you want to get back into shape?
Ruby: I have been battling obesity since I was a kid. I remember realizing when I was 13 that I was 100 lbs overweight. But I have always been happy and accepted. I wonder if this is why I never did anything to change. On this television journey, everything that you find out on the show from doctors, trainers, and therapists, I am finding out. This is the first time I ever went to a therapist and it was very emotional.
RP: What is the link between God and your journey to weight-loss and a healthy lifestyle?
Ruby: At first I went to that dark place…. It’s a place of survival but I felt defeated in my mind. And then my faith said, no. I felt God telling me that this change is possible but I am going to have to go down the hardest road of my life. Before it was quick fixes: now I need to find out why. What got me here and why? What strengthens me is that God sees our addictions and he does not judge. He is with us if we will let him.
RP: What specific aspects of your life, or your lifestyle do you want to change to reach your goal?
Ruby: I am going to have to change the way I eat, I am going to have to exercise more and change the way I even think! I am really still learning all of this. But, this time, I am going to the experts and letting them tell me how to do all of this so I can learn and everyone else can learn along with me!
RP: What is your support system? Who is in it?
Ruby: My support system consists of my family and friends, my family doctor, an expert on obesity, my trainer, nutritionist, therapist and my new family at The Style Network and GRP productions.
RP: What’s the link between God and this journey?
Ruby: God has always been on my journey but this is about bringing everything together and examining those parts of my life, all the parts of my life, including the spiritual …
RP: How is your diet and new lifestyle a spiritual journey?
Ruby: Because I could never do this without God and the prayers of my family and friends. I have to get control spiritually of what has taken control of me. Only God truly knows my heart soul and mind. He is the only one who truly can direct me on my journey and bring the right people into my life.
RP: How have you experienced God in your life?
Ruby: I am still alive and that I can even get around; that I am here; I have not died and the power of God, faith in God, I cannot explain it… God is for real. There is a God. Because of God I have the strength never to give up.
RP: How do you get your body to go with your spirit?
Ruby: A great question. I think what I am finding is that my spirit wants this change so much; it is about discipline. On this road I am finding out for the first time how to make the body and spirit meet; the hardest thing to do. Like Paul says in Romans 7:24: “Christ acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind but I am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” (The Bible in Contemporary Language, Peterson.) The very thing I want in life is the very thing I stop myself from having because I can’t get control of it; I have to find a way for the spirit to lead the body. This is the why of the television show.
RP: How would you articulate your end goal of this journey?
Ruby: This life that I have is not the dream I had for my life. I love being outside, you’ll see this in the television show, I want to ride a bike, to sit on the ground, to take a bubble bath. So my end goal of this journey is to beat the beast once and for all! And, to be able to look someone else in the eye and say "You can do it!!"
RP: How do you see yourself a year from now?
Ruby: Stronger and healthier and doing things I never ever have before. And my biggest dream is helping many others cross over to a healthy lifestyle. We will all be on this journey and we will be winners.
RP: Finally, what would be the one thing you would share with others in the faith community who are challenged with weight problems?
Ruby: Do not give up no matter what. Trust God and believe again in the impossible. And no matter how many times you have failed, start over and try again. Live your life! Go out and enjoy times with your family and friends. Have people pray with you. Do not stay alone and do not keep your addiction to yourself because that is when it becomes bigger and controls you! No matter what, there are people out there that care. Do not let your obesity or whatever you battle with define who you are.
An online microsite, www.mystyle.com/ruby will follow Ruby’s journey with blogs and vlogs (video blogs). You can also visit www.Rubysjourney.com.