Reality TV vs Reality: Who Is The Biggest Loser ?

America is obese, or half the population is and we are collectively looking for inspiration to lose our unwanted pounds and join the ranks of the healthy other half. Many are turning to the reality shows like Biggest Loser and Extreme Makeover Weight Edition. These shows take morbidly obese individuals and they transform them over approximately a years’ time. Now we are not talking about a fifty pound weight loss, we’re talking over a hundred pounds.  Many people find the stories inspirational. I’m not one of those people.

Why you ask? I mean losing weight is a good thing, right? Yes and no. Yes losing weight sensibly is a good thing. Healthy living and a healthy weight is certainly worth striving for. But losing large amounts of weight in a very short period of time is not a good thing. It’s been proven that there is a high chance of that weight coming back on plus additional pounds. Slower weight loss generally means long term success at keeping it off.

Having lived through this experience I can say that it is unpleasant, demoralizing and extremely unhealthy. I lost 80 pounds in ten months, the reality shows lose more.  My body and my mind weren’t in sync at all. There hadn’t been enough time to catch up with each other and when I was thin, I still felt fat in my head. I also wasn’t ready for life as a thin person. The world relates to you differently when you are a thin person. I wasn’t able to handle the additional attention. Fat was my comfort zone. I also ate a restrictive diet with no carbs or sugar. Well, when you give in to the cravings for both, you end up acting like a starving person. You eat as though you’ll never eat again at every meal and throughout the day and night. The weight comes back on faster than you can imagine. And then you are miserable again, but comfortable.

It is well documented that the healthiest weight loss amount per week is one to two pounds. Not ten to fifteen or more like on the reality shows. On the shows, contestants are working out four to six hours day and eating very low calorie intakes of food, similar to my experience with the no carbs and no sugar diet. And many of the winning losers are heavy again because they lost weight in an unrealistic environment without the challenges and pitfalls of real life living with a job, family, friends and life.

I recently watched Extreme Makeover Weight loss edition and they featured Ashley, who weighed in at 323 lbs. In one year’s time she lost over 150 pounds. They put her in unrealistic settings and with an unrealistic schedule to accomplish this weight loss. When she was in a real life setting, surrounded by family and food that non-dieters were eating, she only lost a small amount of weight. When they took her out of that environment and put her in a living situation where she focused solely on weight loss, she lost the unrealistic numbers.

I did take away the fact that exercise is vitally important to losing weight, and that I need to do more for my weight loss journey. But having watched both reality shows and researching failure stories I have reached the conclusion that the shows do more harm than good. I know I am losing in a healthy way, but my feelings watching the show were that I was a failure because my numbers weren’t as good as the shows. Ridiculous, and unrealistic, but real for me in that moment. I have to say, you don’t need this negative influence when you are trying to lose.

We are a society where bigger is better and apparently we believe that to be true in our weight loss as well, no matter how unhealthy that belief is. We are striving to be like the unhealthy and unrealistic models we see in magazines, and we need to have the largest numbers in the shortest amount of time when we attempt losing. It’s a sad commentary on our society’s propensity for gimmicks and unrealistic expectations. There was a weight loss show called Ruby on the Style network that ran for four seasons. She was losing weight slowly, and the show depicted her life as realistically as a reality show can. But it was cancelled before she hit her goal weight.

My story will not be on a reality series, nor will yours I’m guessing. But we won’t be setting ourselves up for failure. We will not be fodder for the unrealistic expectations of an obese nation. We will lose slowly, and be the healthy loser, not the biggest or most extreme loser. But I believe we are the ultimate winners.


The Fat Trap and Other Truths and Discoveries

I found this article on Dave Kirchhoff’s blog (ManMeetsScale)  the other day,  The Fat Trap by New York Times writer Tara Parker-Pope . It is a difficult article in that it is so honest and dead on. It speaks of the connection between obesity and genetics. This information was sobering, as I look at my family and the weight between the four of us is impressive. I am reminded of the man talking to his friend about his fiance. He wonders if she’ll always be as beautiful as she is now. His friend says look at her mother, that’s the path she could take. You could be seeing your fiance look like her mother in twenty years.  OK, so I surpassed my mother, but not by much. One size. I’m not really into the studies on obesity simply because the information they contain is too negative for someone in my position to process. My intellect is peaked, my ego, not so much.

The article also speaks of the work that it takes to remain thin once you have been overweight. This brought home the realization I had when I started plateauing. This is a challenge you will have forever. Since I have to think in small increments of time to be successful in this loss, I will push this thought to a closed compartment in my mind. It’s simply too daunting and depressing to think about now. No, now is the time for thinking a day at a time, a week at a time. More is out of the question. A couple of pounds at a time is my speed.

A positive I found in all the negative regarding obesity and loss is a blog by Lynn Haraldson Lynn’s Weigh. She has lost 166 pounds and is keeping it off. She’s been on Oprah, the morning network shows, and in People Magazine. I have found a new hero, just when I was looking for one. I’m sure I will link back to her blog frequently. She also has an impressive blogroll that I want to explore. She is in a club I aspire to be in, and in two years, will be. Her original blog during the weight loss was Lynn’s Weight Loss Journey.

So, the stats for this week are four pounds lost. I’m back to where I was before the plateau and gain. My activity points were fifteen. That’s pretty good for me, but this week I’d like to see better stats. This week, my goals are to lose two pounds and to get to one hour on the eliptical three times, workout four times for the week and reach an activity points goal of twenty points.

Food Addiction – Don’t Believe Me? Believe My Body… Part One

About three years ago, I found a 12-step program for food addiction. It was regimented in a very strict way, with a sponsor, early morning phone calls, meetings three times a week and no carbs or sugar. At all. I stayed on the program for 8 months and I lost 80 lbs. So what’s wrong with that? Well, cravings are what’s wrong with that and I craved sugar and carbs even after 8 months. I gave in and had some and then I was off and running, eating them like I was starving. I later found out I was starving and that’s why I couldn’t stop. The body needs a balance of all foods. I was devastated by the relapse and subsequent weight gain. And I felt like I was free from a certain amount of brain-washing that was going on. The program may work for some, but no doctor will endorse it I’m sure. No trainer will endorse it, and my body didn’t endorse it.

But the question remains, “Can Food Be  Real Addiction?” Why Yes, Yes It Can…

It’s no secret the United States has an obesity problem. You only have to go grocery shopping or people watching at the mall to see the evidence of this. With the numbers rising, and no end in sight, science has been studying the problem and has found that  excessive sugar, fat, and  salt  given to animals  activate the same receptors that drugs trigger. The brain is craving dopamine, whose receptors maybe lacking in many addicted people and sugar/salt/fat trigger dopamine and the “high”. But it doesn’t last and the person is off craving it again, obsessing over the foods that will make them feel good again, even though this behavior is wrong, even though it is making them fat, miserable, and in some cases diseased. For those that say just say no and exhibit some self-restraint, imagine telling a drug addict or an alcoholic to just say no, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work with food either.

Dr. Oz has a list of questions to ask  if you suspect you might be addicted to food:

  • Are you hiding and sneaking food?
  • Are you thinking about food for more than an hour a day?
  • Eating after arguing?
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you go without food?
  • Do you eat despite not being hungry?

The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale has these questions:

  • Do you spend a lot of time feeling lethargic after eating?
  • Do certain foods trigger you to eat to excess?
  • Do you find you have  to eat more of a food to get the same good feelings from it?
  • Do you have trouble functioning because of food and your behavior with it?

Unlike drugs or alcohol, which you theoretically can walk away from, food must be the tiger played with everyday. So how do you do that if you are addicted? See my post tomorrow for more information on food addiction…