Weighty Matters

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Weight Loss Shows

on July 5, 2013

Mary note:  I wrote this post last Tuesday but only now discovered that it stayed in Draft format and didn’t post.  Sorry!

I watched my first episode of Extreme Weight Loss tonight.  I’ve seen several episodes each season of Biggest Loser.  Maybe it’s because I don’t watch these series week after week after week, but it generally appears to me that the coaches/mentors/trainers put the main emphasis on exercise.  Particularly in Biggest Loser, the workout routines are extreme as they strive to knock off as much weight as possible in the shortest period of time.

As you know, I’ve really embraced exercise along this journey, so I would never devalue its importance.  I’m just left feeling that these programs don’t show enough of the healthy eating aspects of losing weight and then maintaining the loss.

While watching EWL tonight, toward the end I found myself getting really annoyed. They kept pounding home the crucial need to “step up the intensity” of the workouts in order to make up for a less than expected weight loss at the previous weigh-in.  Run harder, lift more, do more sit ups and pull ups, run some more.  Go, go, go, go.

The really sick thing is that while watching I jumped totally into the frame.  I caught myself thinking, “Hey, maybe I need to step up my intensity.”  I started to wonder if I should join a gym or sign up for sessions with a personal trainer.  I reminded myself that I hate going to the gym and already am short on time in my daily schedule.  No matter.  I could go full out with exercise at home with my DVDs and pilates machine.  (A machine I’m still learning to correctly use.)  Nah, I should rethink that gym membership idea.

The thoughts ran around in my head like a hepped up hamster on a wheel.  That kind of frenetic mental process does not make for clear analysis.  I gave myself a figurative head smack to stop the cycle.  I still exercise a good amount.  Do I need to get obsessive and take on additional routines at a gym?  Honestly, I don’t think so.  Have I slacked off a little from what I was doing a couple of months ago?  Probably.  It’s significantly hotter out so the walks are a little shorter.  Normally, I’d compensate by getting in the pool and jogging/dancing for an hour after work.  Time-wise, that’s been hard.  Still, if I embrace the “don’t let the little you can do keep you from doing the little you can do” approach, I know that I can make some time somewhere to add more minutes of activity each week. So, that’s a goal for the rest of the week.  Seize workout opportunities.  An extra ten minutes a day adds up to a whole extra hour plus in a week.

Back to tonight’s show.  In the last half hour or so, I started to get really annoyed.  Not only did I not feel like they showed enough about the participants learning and practicing better eating habits, but it seemed like all they talked about was the skin removal surgery.  When anticipating the next weigh-in, the trainer/host actually said that if the couple hadn’t stepped up their weight loss, he didn’t feel comfortable taking them in for the consultation with the skin removal surgeon.  The couple, a husband and wife, expressed stress and anxiety over whether they’d lost enough to get approved for their operations.  The wife was practically in tears about whether she’d qualify or what would happen if she qualified and her husband didn’t.  She finally said that if he didn’t qualify, she wouldn’t have it either.

Hello!  What about being delighted because you were on target to lose well over 100 pounds and your husband more than 160 pounds?

Look, I dream of the day when I’ll have my skin removal surgery.  That’s at least a year away, perhaps more.  I need to lose the rest of my excess weight and then maintain the loss for an as-yet-unknown period of time.  (I haven’t asked, but I’m guessing I probably will be told to wait a year after hitting my goal.)  However much I want to have it, that is not the priority.

I can’t believe it was actually the priority of the couple on the show either.  Sure after losing so much weight, they wanted the surgery so they could look their best, but I’m sure that improved health and overall quality of life had to be the prime motivating factors.  Don’t you think?  I’m willing to bet it just seemed like the priority because of the way the producers/directors edited the program.  They probably cut out a lot of other things in order to build the drama.  Will they or won’t they qualify to have their skin removed??  (Cue tense organ music.)

I’m not really sure why this show set me off tonight.  I’m trying not to come off like I’ve learned it all and know it all.  That’s not the case, believe me.  I’m still figuring this out.  I learn more as I go along.  All I know is that the presentations seem wildly out of balance.  I’m concerned for the message.  I’d feel the same way if anyone did a show about dieting that only discussed the eating plan and didn’t discuss the importance of increasing physical activity.  I know I’d howl with anguish if a show about weight loss surgery didn’t delve into both eating and exercise.

Whatever the case, I was annoyed and not inspired by the program.  I think next Tuesday I’ll put the time to better use and exercise instead of watching.

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One response to “Weight Loss Shows

  1. Skye says:

    My mom watched The Biggest Loser religiously. I couldn’t watch it because it was all produced to up the tension and the drama and it was honestly painful for me to watch. Yes, it was very unbalanced and I felt they pushed too hard on stuff that made or showed the contestants crying or having anxiety over something, rather than the “gee, you’ve done such a good job” sort of message. I don’t want to watch this kind of drama. And I feel bad for the people who experience it for the whole world to see.

    I don’t think the shows are really meant to be inspiring. I think they set up unrealistic expectations among the majority of watchers, help the trainers (and the advertisers) sell products and services, and act as voyeurs into very private dramas.

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