As I watched Helen win the grand prize of $250,000 on the seventh season of “The Biggest Loser” for losing 140 pounds in 20 weeks, I was thinking about the messages that this “reality” show sends to all of us. I get why it’s so popular: the drama, the competition, the personalities and life stories of the contestants, and of course the “can you believe someone could weigh that much and lose that much weight!” shock value.
I’ll even admit that The Biggest Loser does show you what is possible with very hard work and determination combined with a tremendous amount of support. And there’s no doubt that the contestants’ lives change in a positive way over the 20 weeks of the show; not only do they lose the weight, but you see their confidence and self-esteem increase as they discover that they can do things they never imagined. In many ways, it’s a great “feel good” story.
But the problem is that the story is more fiction than fact. The weight loss that the contestants experience over the 20 weeks is unrealistic, unhealthy and un-maintainable. Unfortunately, without a focus on sensible and realistic nutrition goals, truly effective weight loss is just not possible.
If you are trying to lose weight and get in better shape this summer, what positive messages can you incorporate into your program from the Biggest Loser contestants?
- If they can workout for hours each day, I can find time for 15 to 30 minutes to be more physically active.
- Gradual but consistent changes work over time. You gained your extra weight one pound at a time and will lose it in the same way. Be patient.
- Get positive support from friends and family. Let people know what you need from them and what is helpful. A workout friend can be very motivating.
- Set challenging but flexible and achievable goals. For example: I will eat breakfast five to seven days each week and have two to three food groups/meal.
- Making a commitment to changing my eating and exercise patterns will help me feel better about myself, give me more physical and emotional energy and help me feel I have some control over my life.
They’re not as glamorous, or as quick, as winning The Biggest Loser. But in the long run, they’re worth their weight in gold!
Maureen Latanick, Dietitician – Ohio State Student Health Services