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.

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