The premiere of The Style Network's reality show "Ruby" was the channel's most-watched and highest-rated original series premiere ever, drawing 545,000 viewers and a 0.66 rating, according to officials.
Following the life of 500-lb Sunday school teacher Ruby Gettinger, the show documents one diabetic woman's journey to lose weight, defuse the "metabolic time bomb" that doctors say threatens her life, get healthy and battle discrimination.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Gettinger shared her feelings about the show and its potential to strengthen and encourage those with struggles and addictions beyond obesity.
The following is an edited transcript of the interview:
CP: In your opinion, what are some key reasons why the show did so well?
Gettinger: I think it's because there's an epidemic out there. I think it's because there're 96 million Americans who are suffering from obesity. And I believe it's because I'm telling the truth about obesity and correcting the misconceptions out there about it. I think it's because there's so many people who want to conquer this. It's not only this battle with obesity. I think it's many other battles that we try all our lives to battle but never can. And so I'm revealing the truth about it. I think people want to see the truth. And I think they can relate to me. Because when I look at the message board, it's outrageous. And it's such a great way because I feel like it's looking into a mirror. They feel like they are me. They feel like I'm telling their story. And that's how I feel when I read their stuff. I feel like we're all family and walking the same shoes. And it's the most amazing thing because I knew when I was going to do this that there were so many people suffering.
CP: In the first episode, you compared the problems of obesity to that of drug addiction or alcoholism. Have you thought about the influence your show could have on people dealing with struggles other than obesity, like even homosexuality for example or pornography addiction?
Gettinger: The thing is, I feel like all of us have a struggle. Ours are different because we wear ours on the outside. And so, I just sit there and I'm just amazed because there are people who are there [on the discussion board] who are talking about other things. People that were raped were bringing that up and I guess it's because of the therapy session that I had with my doctor, where we talk about my childhood memories how I have a loss of them and don't remember them. You never know what God's going to do. I feel God totally orchestrated this whole thing for happening. He triggered something in me where I would put myself out there and tell everything about me that I never knew then that unexpected surprised would come. I didn't think it was mental, but a lot of the things we go through are mental. Even addiction like alcoholism or porn. Think about when men talk about how – well, men and women have that but it's mainly the men – they get on the internet and the one time looking at porn will hook them for the rest of their life. It can mess up their marriage. Marriages can end in divorce because of something like that. That's how outrageous addiction is, how something can control you so easily at just one look with your eyes, one taste with your mouth, one feel of your skin – anything. It's outrageous to me how severe something can take control of your life. And we don't really know why. We don't know what happened at childhood. We don't know what triggered these things.
But I know this is my goal … every alcoholic, drug addict, whatever they go through, I just feel like they don't define who we are. The drugs do not define. You are a still child of God. You are a beautiful human being. Just because you have something that is controlling you, this habit doesn't define who you are, no matter how ugly someone wants to make it to you. We just have to conquer it. I felt like I had to find a name for mine. I call mine 'the beast.' I've been dealing with the beast but I don't know its name. I felt like once I can put a name on the beast I'll be able to confront it. Until I know where it came from – and that's what we're searching out. 'Where did this beast come from?' 'When did this happen to me?' When I put a name on it, then I can confront it and kick it out and tear it out forever. Anything can take control over us. It's just amazing to me. The flesh is so hungry for something that's not good for us.
CP: Could you share more about how it feels for you personally when the "beast" emerges from within you?
Gettinger: Well, I describe it like I'm in a boxing ring – well, the thing took me into the boxing ring; I didn't take this thing into the boxing ring – and when I find it, it's huge. And when I look at it, it's the biggest monster you've ever seen in your life. And for some reason I fee l like I can conquer it and I fight it, but every time I fight it and I feel like I'm winning, it sneaks up on me from nowhere and it kicks me out of the boxing ring and it takes me forever to get back up, to crawl back in again and fight because it takes everything out of you – all your strength. You feel like you just can't win. And then you find that strength inside you once again to try to fight it again. So, I feel like this beast that I keep fighting, it takes you to a place where you're weak. It takes you to a place where you don't know, you're blind. You don't know what you're fighting but you know you're going to keep fighting this thing. But it keeps sneaking up on you and keeps taking you down. And before you know it, you don't know where it comes from. It's like it's always hiding.
CP: You said that you became overweight as a child, I think, around 13 or so. At what point in your life did you feel your weight went beyond normal? Or, to make that question clearer, when did you feel you had gone from overweight (as 65 percent of Americans are) to obese (as 30 percent of Americans are)?
Gettinger: Well, I don't remember anything from 10 or under but I think when I look at the pictures, around 10 or 11, I started becoming a little overweight for a child – maybe about 30 lbs overweight. And at 13, I became about 100 lbs overweight, to 150 lbs – losing 50 here, losing 100 here, but always being around 100-150 lbs overweight. My biggest I was over 715 lbs, believe it or not. And that was shocker to me when I found out because I always wore big ol' dresses. People wear jeans or pants that are fitting to them, and when you gain 10 lbs you can tell because you can't zip your pants up or you can't fasten your buttons. But I always wear big ol' dresses, so I gained the weight, I was growing, but the dresses were big so they didn't feel tight. And when I weighed, I went in shock because the scale said that's what I weighed. I had no idea.
I [eventually] lost that because I fell in love with this guy. He wanted to marry me. I tried to do it for him, and I did. I lost at least 200 lbs for him but I just couldn't continue to keep doing it. And I just didn't really know why. I didn't want to lose the love of my life. But he was walking out of the door and I knew right then that this was so much bigger than me. Nobody wants to lose the love of their life.
CP: You noted that you made many several other efforts in the past to lose weight. What do you feel went wrong with the past attempts?
Gettinger: I think the reason why I didn't succeed at it is because I was always doing it for somebody else. I was doing it because of this guy who wanted to marry me. Or some guy who was saying 'You're beautiful.' I have a lot of guy friends and they would always say stuff like that for me, 'You're beautiful.' Then I thought 'I want to marry one day,' 'I want to have babies and I can't have babies at this weight.' So I would try to lose weight, but I still couldn't conquer it. [This time], for the first time in my life, I'm doing it for me – to get better, not for a reason but to get healthier, to live, because I feel like I want to live and there's so much more I want to do. I have this passion that I want to help other people. There's this passion that comes from my soul. I really want to conquer it so I can look at some body in the eyes and say to them 'You can do this.' Right now I can't look at someone at the eyes and say to someone 'You can do this' because I haven't done it yet. So if I do it, then I can look at somebody else and they will believe. Sometimes it takes something like this; it takes seeing to believe.
People have lost hope in this. Just like how many times I've tried to conquer an addiction, I've felt it. You lose hope when you never beat something like this. You start thinking 'I'm never going beat this,' 'I'll always be this way,' 'There's nothing I can do about this.' Especially if you get to a place where your doctor tells you you're going to die and you go to a place where you're thinking 'Well, maybe I'm supposed to die because I can't beat this.' You should never go to a place like that. But you do because when you fell as much as I fell at trying this, it's hard to believe again. I do believe in the impossible once again and I thank God once again.
CP: As a Christian, how have you related your weight loss struggle with the Word of God, if you have?
Gettinger: Well, the thing is He is my source of strength. That's the number one thing I always tell people. And the fact that I do not give up is because of God. And the fact that I can go out in this world where people look at me and laugh at me and they're so prejudice against this is because look at myself through God's eyes; I'm not going to look at myself through their eyes. My weight does not define me. That's not who I am. I am a child of God. I had great parents, great siblings and friends. And they love me. They gave me the power of love. And I believe it's because they do have God. They are not judgmental people. They don't look at the outside; they look at the inside. I'm all about not judging people. The person of God does not judge anyone. The only person that can judge a human being is God. He's the only one who knows the heart of man. We do not. I'm all about that too. I'm all about showing the love of God instead of judging someone or criticizing them or tearing them down. I think the first thing you have to do is show the love of God. And so that's what I'm hoping to do. I hope to do this my whole life. I hope I have done that. By me facing the world in the way that I'm facing – revealing everything about me – the only way I can do that is because I have the power of God behind me.
CP: In closing, is there anything else you wanted to add for our readers?
Gettinger: I just want to ask people … I just want to beg every Christian person – and I mean beg, when I say that – to pray for me on my journey. To pray for everyone, because it's not my journey alone – there's a message board and it's really outrageous how many people are hurting – and to go on there and tell their own struggle, but not only that, show how they conquered it. And if they don't have a struggle with something, go on there and pray and help people find God. Pray for them. Give them verses. Go and be the light and help these people find God because this is everyone's journey. I really believe that. And that's what I ask of everyone – to please help these people. I'm going to be on there too, but this is everyone's journey. And every Christian out there, I need them to go out there and give them verses to show them God, to show them the love of God.
To coincide with the premiere of "Ruby," The Style Network, which will be exclusively airing the series every Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET/PT, launched a robust and informative Web microsite, mystyle.com/ruby, devoted to Gettinger's weight-loss journey. It features additional show information and highlights, blogs and video blogs, behind-the-scenes interviews with Gettinger, and a message board on which visitors are able to communicate directly with Gettinger using postings.