If you've ever struggled with weight loss or aspired to maintain a healthy weight, you have probably watched a weight loss reality show a time or two. Many have come and gone through the years. Some have been train wrecks while others remain American household favorites. Among them are: The Biggest Loser, Celebrity Fit Club, Ruby, Dance Your *** Off, My 600-Pound Life, I Used to be Fat, and Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition.
Sometimes the shows can be inspiring. People are vulnerable. They are desperate to finally make some changes in order to save their lives. These are feelings that most Americans — about two-thirds — probably identify with.
Not only are these random people attempting to shed a lot of weight, but they are usually shown shedding emotional weight as well. For many folks watching, this is the root of excessive weight gain.
At least one positive has come of all this. People have taken weight loss challenges — like that of The Biggest Loser — to their jobs. Coworkers lean on each other to drop weight and get fit in a fun, competitive way.
But before I shout the praises of these shows, I have to say that we must be careful when using them as a springboard for our own weight loss efforts. It could lead to disappointment and failure.
There are a lot of things we don't see in the shows' "week" leading up to weigh-ins. Throughout the years since these shows have become popular, former contestants and reality show subjects have revealed secrets, and/or the alleged abuse and shaming at the hands of show producers. They tell of the show's editing to make contestants seem lazy, although they were refusing to push their bodies when doctors told them to refrain from certain activities because they had an injury.
Some people lose 10 pounds or more each time at each weigh in, which is an unrealistic amount of weight to lose continuously. They are losing so much because they exercise for several hours a day. With personal trainers pushing them around the clock and pre-measured food suggested by a nutrition expert, a great weight loss is inevitable. Plus, there's money at stake. Folks will do weird things for money, even if their health is at risk.
See, the problem is that there's not a lot of reality in reality weight loss shows. Some of it is an illusion. Reality star Ruby Gettinger has admitted that she found ways to manipulate the scale in her favor, while in reality, she was gaining weight.
In real life, we don't have time to spend several hours on a ranch, on a field or in a gym. It's hard enough just squeezing in one hour. And in real life, we don't have the accountability of television cameras and millions of viewers to keep us in check. Most of us won't have an opportunity to put our lives on hold to tackle that one area we want to fix. We don't have people barking orders or feeding us (free) small-portioned nutritious meals. Instead, we have to constantly make choices about what we can afford to buy and learn to balance.
So, what happens when the cameras are off and there are no restraints? Because judging by the shows — minus whatever is on the cutting room floor—participants aren't really encouraged to create healthy habits that could last for a lifetime. But there are plenty of bad habits perpetrated on the show: comparing self to others, overtraining, and dehydrating or other things to "trick" the scale.
The goal is to get the weight off fast at any cost. Some former reality stars gain the weight back because they have a tough time maintaining the same rigorous activity and eating the same way they did on the show.
I say all of this because it's easy to feel discouraged when losing only one or two pounds in a week (which by the way, most health experts recommend anyway) after watching contestants on these shows drop a lot of weight. You'd believe something is wrong with you because you can't lose 10 or 12 pounds in one week.
Last week, I talked about how adopting a healthy lifestyle is an evolution. For most people, they are successful because they made choices they can live with for the rest of their lives, one step at a time.
These shows pull on our heartstrings because we want to see people who struggle just like we do enjoy a remarkable victory.
"If they can do it, so can I," we say. That's mostly true. It's just not going to happen in six weeks.